When I got back to school, everyone congratulated me on my standardized test scores. I had never taught Advanced Placement before – I’d taught college, college credit courses, but never A. P. per se. So, when most of my kids scored low, I was pretty much “oh well, fuck all”. It turns out that more of my kids passed that test than had ever passed before at this school. The school was surprised that anyone had passed at all. And the boss is happy, of course, because all this makes the school, meaning him, look good to his boss downtown. That’s the good news. The bad news is that my boss is still a wanker. Summer did nothing to alleviate that.
I’ve never written about my principal. I’d like to say something funny. But he’s one of those principals, so common in this district, who presume that shaming folks into submission is the same as leadership. Over the P. A. last week, he berated the janitors for “the filthy grounds”. He called a meeting, and berated the guards for chewing gum. He commonly scolds teachers in front of the students. I hasten to say that I have not escaped this. I’ve been told, in front of my colleagues, that “there’s no education going on in your room.” I was threatened with a letter of reprimand for poor penmanship on a hall pass. I could make a vastly longer list, except it’s so painful.
One day at lunch, my buddies and I counted twenty-one people who had resigned the school, and in some cases left the profession, because of this guy. Two people just got up and walked out the door. One first year teacher simply couldn’t deal with his “nasty-grams”, as we call them, his demeaning emails, and walked out her second week on the job. I knew one guy who took a job as a jailer rather than continue under this principal. A few folks retired earlier than they’d planned. In many other cases, the principal, while not the sole reason, was a major factor in a resignation.
I don’t know what is gained by shaming someone for a mistake. Few things can disable an individual, or a workforce, quite as quickly as being demeaned. At least in part, this is because nobody can hear the critique when all they can hear is their own rage or depression. When one is demeaned, it is not the singular fault but the whole person who is demeaned.
So, the boss isn’t funny. But he isn’t simply disliked. He’s despised. I’m not without some sympathy for the guy, because he must have been, to borrow from Danny DeVito, “potty trained at gunpoint.” Such knowledge helps me a little, but, frankly, not much. Thus do I borrow from Martial for my comic relief, which is to say my anger –
We no longer love you, boss,
but the reason – it’s just hard to tell;
though there’s one thing we know,
and we can tell this full well –
we’d all love to smash your ass, boss