Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tales from the Trenches: The Early Bird Can Stay at Home

by Bronx Teacherlady

"Attention teachers: As of tomorrow, the school will not be open until 8am. Repeat: You will not be allowed entry before 8am."

Hmm. School starts at 8:30. I used to get here at 7:15, but not anymore, I guess. I wonder why? I hear in some places, like the suburbs, teachers have keys to the school. Not so much here in the city, where I have to ring the bell to be let in every morning, and I have to leave by 5pm because no one is allowed in here after the office staff leaves. *Sigh*

Two weeks later, the teachers' lounge rumor mill provides this explanation: Principal D is always late to school. She usually blusters in just as the students start to arrive upstairs from breakfast. She also has to leave the school often to go off-site for meetings, so she really likes to park right in front of the school door. This way she can get in as quickly as possible and leave quickly too (there is no school parking lot; on-street parking is limited just like anywhere else in the city). However, Senora C and Mrs L always get to school long before Principal D, and they also like to have the best parking spot, so they usually park there long before she arrives. Principal D is lacking a bit in diplomacy, so she goes to Sra C and Mrs L and tells them, "I need that spot. You cannot park there." Sra C and Mrs L have hated Principal D since she started here 8 years ago, replacing the beloved principal they'd worked with for 20 years prior. They disregard her instructions and continue to arrive early and park in her spot. Enraged, Principal D has the custodial staff paint the curb yellow in front of the door, reserving the spot for herself. Sra C and Mrs L call the city, determine that Principal D does not have the authority to do this (and the school must now, in fact, pay a fine to have the city re-paint the curb). They send her a memo to this effect and continue to park in "her" spot. The next day, the announcement reaches the rest of the staff: "the school will no longer be open before 8am." This way, it seems, Principal D can get there before anyone else, and get the spot she wants. And that is, clearly, what matters most.

Morals of the story:
1.) Kids aren't necessarily the most immature people in the building
2.) Teachers can't always work as hard as they want

Bronx Teacherlady worked at a South Bronx elementary school and a charter school in another city before throwing her hands up and retreating to academia to try to fix the problem from another angle.

Tales from the Trenches is a regular feature on the blog Thoughts on Education Policy that aims to illuminate what it's like to work in a school. All current and former staff members are encouraged to submit their own war stories. Submissions may be sent to corey[at]edpolicythoughts.com; submitters must identify themselves, but may remain anonymous or use a pseudonym upon publication.


The Educator said...

This story is disheartening. I am disappointed in the principal but I am cheering for the staff at the school. I hope that the teachers and students don’t suffer too much for the ridiculous antics of this clearly misguided and juvenile principal.

Nancy Flanagan said...

Great story, and utterly believable. One thought: this kind of behavior is not limited to the city. It happens in places with parking lots and plenty of open curb space. I taught in the same school for 30 years and never had a key or access to the building without a custodian present. I used to think it was deeply ironic that low-wage substitute custodians from the private cleaning firm who'd worked in the building for two weeks had access to every room in the building, but I couldn't work in my classroom.

Anonymous said...

That's completely insane but, as Nancy noted, "utterly believable." Whenever I hear non-educators talking about schools as businesses, and assuming all adults (including the principal) will act as rational actors for the betterment of the students, I'll be tempted to relate your story. Good luck!