I feel ridiculous even writing this, but I’ve come to learn that my workplace and some of the people I work with are ridiculous. The silliness of my workplace seems based in unreality because so many of the happenings are just that: ridiculous. The goings-on over the last few years fuel many of the stories I feel compelled to write. I can see the dramatic episodes playing out in my mind… like a bad soap opera.
Amazing that these petty happenings are what take up precious teaching focus and energy in our schools. Case and point:
My couch was removed from my classroom without my knowledge, and I’m fairly certain that its current residence is at the county dump.
Let me set this up: I had just purchased this lovely loveseat from a friend who is moving on from our school. It’s been in the school for a couple of years and has brought many moments of comfort and relaxation to those who have sat on her cushions. Naturally, since my friend was moving on, I thought I could bring some of those relaxing moments into my classroom and provide them for my students—an inviting reading space they could enjoy during quiet moments.
During the last week of school I rearranged my classroom—taking out my own desk and cutting down on the amount of space I needed as a teacher—in order to create this space of comfort for my kids. They were so excited! As the kids shuffled in and out during passing periods, they showed their delight by testing out the couch and asking why we couldn’t have it sooner.
Ms… this is sick! Why didn’t you have this in here all year?! Then the students realized they most likely would not have me as their teacher next year, and their delight turned a bit to disdain. Wait… why do next year’s kids get this? I wanted this! This is awesome, and now I don’t even get to chill! Of course, I extended the offer that they could come see me anytime next year as I wasn’t going anywhere, and neither was the couch.
Fast forward to a few days ago: I headed to the school to do a little work; yes, teachers work during the summer even when they don’t have to… actually, we work 7 days a week, 365, but that’s a different blog.
I hadn’t even reached the door of my classroom by the time I had a couple sweet-natured custodian ladies explaining to me that my couch had been removed by order of the principal. Apparently, he wanted all the couches removed from the building, so the custodians took care of it. Naturally, I was irritated, but my chagrin wasn’t directed at the custodians who were just following orders, so I headed down to the main office. Of course, principals get much-needed time off also during the summer, so the principal wasn’t around for me to talk to. That was fine as I knew I could turn to the well-oiled machine that was the office ladies. Without them, our school wouldn’t function. At this point, I was told my couch had been removed and placed on the dock where a truck hauled it off: Two. Weeks. Ago.
On what planet is it okay to take something that doesn’t belong to you and send it off to the dump?
The story has since continued to evolve. The reasons behind the removal? I was told all the couches from the building were removed, but I was given different reasons from different people; it’s important to note here that all the people said the order was from the principal and so was the varied reasoning:
- Having couches in classrooms makes it hard for the custodians to clean the rooms.
- Really? I have always been told to put away things that would get in their way: my piles of paperwork or books, knick-knacks, etc. I had all these things put away and made sure things were situated in my classroom to make it easy on the summer cleaning crew. Like the well-oiled machine that is the office staff, I understand how important the custodial staff is to making my life easy, and I wouldn’t do anything to make their job any harder.
- Mice will make nests in couches.
- Hmmm… being raised in a rural area and an old drafty house, I know a thing or two about mice, and they will make nests wherever they darn well want to: desk drawers, closets, boxes… all of which can be found in any school.
- Students will… ahem… fornicate on couches.
- … I’m not sure what to say here. I wasn’t the best kid in high school, but I’m not sure I would have thought to have sex in a classroom during a school day—or anytime for that matter. Yes, students can be squirrely and make bad decisions, but I can’t rationalize students fornicating on a seating area that can be seen from the hallway in one of the busiest areas of our large school. Let’s suspend my disbelief for a moment and pretend that this is a rational reason: how about when I’m not in my classroom monitoring appropriate behavior, I close and lock the door… oh, wait, I already do that.
All the reasons aside, I can see the thinking in removing large personal furniture from classrooms. I don’t agree with the thinking behind it because I firmly believe classrooms need to be designed to be safe places for students to grow and think and learn, and teachers’ abilities to make connections with students are easier done in environments where students feel comfortable. Ok, let’s not be petty and just agree with the decision of the principal; after all, everyone’s couches were removed, right?
Out of at least four couches I know of in the building, mine included, the couch in my classroom was the only one removed and disposed of. After multiple emails asking my principal to locate my couch so I could bring it home, I was metaphorically “patted on the head” and told to step in line and drop it. This came after a blatant lie that he didn’t know I had a couch in my room and didn’t know it had been removed at all.
The lesson? This is stupid and so petty, and I’m bothered that I’ve spent any energy on it—energy that could be better spent enjoying the sunshine with my own kids. Summer vacation is meant to recover from the stresses of the school year, not begin dreading the inevitable interactions of difficult people.
My original point is how ridiculous this situation is to begin with. Perhaps we need to go back to the teachings of kindergarten: be nice, respect yourself and others, and don’t take things that don’t belong to you.
There are schools and teachers and students across the nation who have real problems, who may be fighting to have books and enough desks and could care less about my couch. I’d rather direct energy in their direction, but the principle of the matter seems to be one I can’t let go of.
If we can’t treat each other with professionalism and respect, how can we be expected to teach our students how to be respectful and make the right choices?
Is this type of unnecessary, silly drama what I have to look forward to this year? Am I being targeted by my principal? I have spent the first several years of my teaching career at this school fighting for survival, fighting for respect, fighting for what’s right for kids, and fighting against people who have no integrity and only have their own interests in mind. I am hopeful I can start this next year fresh—focus on my students learning and learning to be a better teacher myself—but after the last few days of trying to explain logic to the leader of my building, I’m afraid that may not happen. I’m afraid I’m not done fighting yet.
Here we are one month into the summer break, and I already have a target on my back for the next school year. Here we go again…