Sunday, March 30, 2008
posted by Q6 at 7:05 PM
We had an incident at school last week that taught us more than everyone realizes, but it'll be some time before some get it, if they ever do. The whole matter seems, on the surface, to be about the Internet--but it really has more to do with people, with the way they see each other, and with the way they see themselves.

Students post things about teachers and administrators on Facebook and MySpace and other social networking sites. And in the same way we know that child predators post identities and statements that may not be true, we know that students do the same. While the predators do so in order to confuse and deceive, many students post statements in order to be popular. In any event, we have learned this much: what is posted by people on the Internet--even if they're posting it about themselves--may not always represent reality.

So why teachers become all flustered and panicked when they see hateful messages about them posted by students on the Internet, I don't know. Twenty kids may post something hateful, or even threatening; the fact remains, however, that as many as nineteen of that twenty may be posting in order to remain in the good graces of the "popular crowd." This is what I believe happened last week, but there will never, ever, be any way I can prove it.

One thing, above all others, is certain, however: whether true or false, whether meant to curry favor with popular students, whether done to jump on the bandwagon and not offend their peers, the statements posted will have an impact. My fiancee, who teaches at our school, has some of the same students as the targeted teacher, and she saw some of the Facebook posts. "I had no idea that so-and-so would write something like that, " she remarked. "Although she has never said anything like this to me or in my class," (and believe me, teachers get to know what a kid is like despite what they keep to themselves) "I will never look at her the same again."

And that, my friends, is what we as educators must take away from this experience: our students are not who we think they are. They are more concerned with the perceptions of others, because their self esteem depends so much on what others think. They are willing to say and do things that may not be true, that may be hateful, and that may even be offensive to themselves in order to be accepted.

Then again, this really isn't limited to students, is it?
Saturday, March 29, 2008
posted by Q6 at 12:07 PM
Being an educator, I have a high respect for social workers. Where we at the secondary level (high school) deal with the best, the worst, and everything in between, social workers get to deal with a lot of the worst, be they troublemakers or victims (or both). Their jobs, I've also noticed, don't usually end when they clock out for the day.

NPR recently reported on New York social worker Julio Diaz who, when mugged on a subway platform by a knife-wielding teenager, not only surrendered his wallet but also volunteered his coat and a meal. The two went to a diner and ate, and talked, and at the end of the meal Diaz told the youth that he'd have to pay the bill, as he no longer had his wallet. In the end, Diaz walked away with his wallet, his coat, and the boy's knife; the teen walked away with twenty bucks and another chance (perhaps with a better perspective). Said Diaz, "I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It's as simple as it gets in this complicated world."

These are the things we can't do in the classroom, but these ARE the things that anyone can do. Kudos, Mr. Diaz.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
posted by Q6 at 7:01 PM
Today I offer a topic for discussion and debate: the question of workplace longevity for administrators. In many districts (I've only worked for two districts in my 15 years in education, but I've heard about others), the district big shots see fit to move administrators from school site to school site every 5 years or so. The justification varies: strong administrators are needed at various sites at various times, the individual administrators need varied experience if they are to move up the ladder at some point, "things aren't working out," and so on. Recently I've been considering the alternative (and, it seems, unpopular) concept of leaving an assistant principal at a certain school site for a prolonged period of time--perhaps indefinitely. Here are the two viewpoints, as I see them, on this matter:

POSITION A: No one really goes into school administration to be an assistant principal forever, and certainly not at the same school site. As a district, we must consider what is best for the district as a whole, not just for one school site. When we discover those A.P.s with the potential to make great principals or district brass, we must make sure they get every opportunity for well-rounded experience and then move them (let's face it--this is a "stepping stone" job, anyway). Moreover, we should put those strong A.P.s at the sites where they'll do the most good while we still have them there. Where schools are in trouble, we move our greatest resources there. Finally, we must consider that where a certain A.P. is not strong, perhaps that person will fare better at another site.

POSITION B: If an Assistant Principal is strong at a certain school site, all efforts should be made to keep that person at that post--especially if that A.P. is well received by the staff, students, and parents. That person becomes a valuable cog in the machine, and changing that person brings an unnecessary risk to the function of the school. Over time, that A.P. develops perhaps not so much varied experience (especially if that school site has a unique demographic or other other factors that may not apply to other sites), but comes to possess a detailed knowledge of that particular site and, if that A.P. enjoys working there, develops a loyalty to keeping that school site running smoothly. Perhaps we should more carefully consider the idea of a "career Assistant Principal," if for no other reason than to retain the resources that work so well; it is unfair to assume that the A.P. position is a "stepping stone" if the person in that job is content to remain at that level.

Some of those in education have had administrators they couldn't wait to get rid of, and some have had administrators they couldn't stand to see leave. (My presentation here is specific to the position of Assistant Principal. I can't tell you why that is--not yet--but it is done intentionally.) One or more of the ideas listed above--or perhaps some I haven't even thought of--contribute to these arguments.

I'm curious to hear your feedback: let the debate begin.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
posted by Q6 at 10:33 PM
High School Baseball season is once again upon us, and so I return once more to the baseball field. No, I'm not a coach or anything--I'm on the microphone and I call the games. It's not the full Vin Scully routine (though I'm capable of that), since I can't actually talk during the plays. For the most part, it's who's at bat, what's the score, and two minutes of schtick in between innings. The crowd gets a kick out of it, though, so that's cool. (Every so often I can get the home plate umpire to chuckle, too.) About 137 years ago, when I was in high school, I had a job as an announcer at a local racetrack. It was a kick-ass gig, and doing this reminds me of that. Back then I stood next to the gal who ran the scoring computer and I just riffed. Today, I sit next to the the gal running the scoreboard and do the same thing.

Except lately.

Two days ago, she didn't show until well into the third inning (we play seven of them in high school), claiming that she didn't know there was a game. I spent the first half of the game running the microphone AND the scoreboard, which was doable but nowhere near ideal. Today, she didn't show at all.

With all the education budget cuts coming at us, all I really seem to care about is people holding up their end of the stick. Is it too much to ask for a little professional follow through? This baseball thing, though strictly a volunteer thing, is the third time this year that I've had to swoop in and save the day. I had to step up and deal with schoolwide attendance because another administrator just wasn't getting his part done, and last month I was saddled with the jobs of three different technology people because the tasks weren't getting done. Look, I like that I have a strong work ethic, and I'm happy to have a reputation for being dependable and thorough--but fuck's sake, people, do I have to do EVERYTHING around here?