The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Thursday, May 13, 2004

I had asked my seemingly friendly, easygoing, slightly hippiefied, dynamic and youthful principal a fortnight ago for one day off to attend a funeral. She avoided the question for days. For two weeks, I haunted her door thrice daily, seeking a moment of face to face contact.
I felt like a recalcitrant fifteen year old, queuing in the hall to atone for misdeeds I had not done.

After the first week, I started leaving notes. The woman was patently very busy. Two days before the funeral, much too late to be able to purchase travel tickets, or a hotel room, I left a note asking her to respond with a convenient moment when I could ask for her response.
I assumed nothing. I cannot be refused permission legally, but it is still the head's prerogative to decide upon payment. I'm not in any financial position where I could take a day unpaid.

The principal has spent months speaking loudly to staff about the work-life balance. So far, it has proved hot air, as staff asking for, say, leave to attend a child's play, have been asked to take time unpaid. Contrastingly, to parents the principal makes a great deal of presenting herself as a long hours, workaholic. Good PR, or clues to her real sense of the responsibilities of the job?
I don't like working for workaholics, generally - it seems to me a fault on their part if they cannot get the work done (aka prioritised) in the time allowed, and it's a fault that fans out like a virus through an organisation, infecting all with the reduced health and embittered low energy levels that workaholism causes. I'd far rather work for a shirker than someone who cannot manage their time. I have no idea whether the principal falls entirely into this category. Others have been more strident in their assessment.

Myself, I do try to reserve judgement. Teachers can be a capricious, malignant lot of gossips, and it's my experience that there are two sides to every office politic tale.

Yet when I had to hover at the principal's door fifteen minutes before I needed to rush to the other side of the county to beg a free ride to the opposite end of the country, only to be told with a conspiratorial smile << the decision has been made weeks ago >> and << why hadn't X or Y relayed it to me? Those slackers in the office >> I did begin to wonder how much of the aforementioned performance had been a power play, acted out for my benefit.

No posts for a few days, until I return from the frozen wastes of the north.