Category Archives: administrators

Two Months Off with Pay

Staff meetings usually start promptly at 7:30 a.m. at our school. Not this morning. At 7:45 a.m., everyone was glancing anxiously at the clock. At 7:50 a.m. the principal breezed into the room, apologizing because s/he had not set the alarm clock. Then s/he stunned us all with an announcement that no one saw coming.

“I’m always telling you to put your families first. Now it’s time for me to practice what I preach. I’m going to spend the next two months with my mother. She’s not near death, but she is in a wheelchair, and I want to make sure I spend the quality time with her that I didn’t get to spend with my dad before he died several years ago.

“The superintendent is giving me family medical leave. Today is my last day until January 4. You’ll have a substitute principal while I’m gone. I won’t be job hunting. I will be back. This is a fine school and I love it.”

S/he said that a substitute principal was supposed to have been on site all day to learn the ropes, but apparently one has not been found. That bit of information did nothing to allay the fears of some of the staff that this school will be left to its own devices for the next two months.

Other teachers, however, voiced their concern that a substitute principal would try to implement radical changes in the direction of the school—something that we definitely don’t need. We’ve had too many changes—especially in leadership—already. Our last principal was here for only one year and then left for another position. The current principal has been absent frequently since the beginning of the new school year. And now we’re going to have an uncertain “someone” at the helm until January—assuming that someone can be found.

Maybe I should quit teaching and seek certification as an administrator. I’m sure I could do as good a job as those who stay here for a semester or two and then move on.

Besides, I’d like to find some familial excuse to take two months off with full pay.


I woke up to snow this morning—about five inches’ worth—and hoped fervently that school wouldn’t be canceled, because I was supposed to have the first of my two annual evaluations and I wanted to be done with it.

In past years, I’ve concocted dazzling dog-and-pony shows for my evaluators, but with the recent death of my brother, I was too tired to try to impress anyone. I figured my principal could take me just the way s/he found me when s/he walked into my classroom. Apparently the casual approach was the right approach, because among the comments s/he scribbled on the evaluation form were these:

…designs lessons appropriate with adjustments to individual student needs.

Student behavior was excellent. [Of course it was—I had warned them sternly that the principal was coming and they had better behave!] All students were on task and learning.

…makes difficult concepts simple and understandable to the students.

…is always friendly to staff and students. He is professional at all times.

…takes part in staff meetings and runs a good IEP meeting.

All of my ratings were either “satisfactory” or “excellent.” Still, I have to agree with one of my colleagues, who says of the formal evaluation process, “It’s the most barbaric practice I know of.”

One barbarism down, and one to go!

Whatever Happened to Civility?

After escorting my students to the bus Monday, I walked back into the building just in time to see one of the football players run down the hall and practically tackle another of the players and put him in a headlock.

“B-Boy,” I said, “get your hands off him.”

“We’re just playing,” B-Boy said.

“I don’t care. You keep your hands to yourself.”

Grudgingly B-Boy released his erstwhile prisoner, and the two of them walked back up the hall, where the rest of the team was waiting for their coach.

I went to my classroom picked up a few things and locked the door. As I approached the still-waiting football team, I saw that B-Boy had yet another student in a headlock.

“B-Boy,” I said, “for the second time, keep your hands to yourself.”

“This is my turf,” B-Boy retorted, “and here’s the line.” He drew an imaginary line on the floor with his foot and dared me to cross it.

“That’s it,” I said, “you’re not going to talk to me or any other adult like that. We’re going to the office.”

Fortunately, the acting principal was available, and I filed a discipline referral. After he read the report, he assured me that the principal would take care of the matter in the morning. To B-Boy he said, “You’re to report here to the office at 7:30 tomorrow, with your parents.”

This morning I learned that B-Boy has been suspended for the rest of the week; he won’t return to school until Monday. Along with the suspension, I think that B-Boy should write me a letter of apology.

You think that’ll happen?

Nah, I don’t either.

Whatever happened to consequences that fit the crime—and civility?

NCLB Strikes Again

Tuesday I received an e-mail from the district’s curriculum coordinator:

NCLB requires all schools to have 100% of their teachers highly qualified. [The superintendent], each building principal, and myself will be meeting individually with each non-highly qualified teacher to set up a Highly Qualified Individual Teacher Corrective Action Plan.

You are on the … list as currently being not highly qualified or teaching out of your area of certification. Please bring your certificates, endorsement areas, evaluation plans, documentation of tests or coursework, and any other information to a mandatory meeting this Thursday, September 24th @ 3:30 pm in the District Board Room. We will be supporting your continued efforts to become highly qualified. Thanks for your attention to this very important matter.

I assumed that teachers were scheduled for specific times. That was a bad assumption. Every teacher who received this e-mail was told to report at 3:30 p.m. So, of course, everyone showed up at the same time. Two hours later, I was finally admitted into the august presence of the district administrators.

A conference phone call to the state’s “NCLB expert” resulted in my learning exactly what is required of me to become highly qualified to teach language arts to seventh- and eighth-graders. (I’m already highly qualified to teach sixth-graders.) If I can produce—which I can—transcripts proving that I have at least 24 semester hours of English credits, I will receive an endorsement to teach middle school language arts.

The state department of education has wavered back and forth since January about my highly qualified status. One week they say I am highly qualified, and the next week they say that I’m not. I have wasted countless hours talking with or e-mailing state officials—and worrying that my job was in jeopardy.

I hope today’s word from the state department of education is the definitive word. I’m tired of having to jump through hoops. I have no charitable feelings toward No Child Left Behind:

Draconian NCLB,
Why don’t you go jump in the sea?
Just leave me alone!
No one could have known
How much you would aggravate me!

© 2009 by Magical Mystical Teacher

Just Call Me Alice

I think my name is Alice, and I live in Wonderland.

Several days ago, I was told by the state that I am not a highly qualified teacher.

This morning, moments after the school day began, the principal appeared at my door. “Can I see you for a minute?” he said.

I assigned some independent math practice to my students, stepped into the hall and closed the door behind me.

“I’d like to appoint you to be the lead teacher for the special ed department,” the principal said.

My jaw dropped. “Why?” I asked.

“Because you know what you’re doing and you’re doing a fine job,” he said.

“But,” I sputtered, “I’m not highly qualified.”

“Who says?”

“The state. Speaking of which, I’d like to know when the administrators are going to get together to figure out my fate and the fate of the other special ed teachers.”

“We had a meeting about that last night.”


“There’s nothing to worry about. You’re not going to lose your job. So, are you going to accept my offer or not?”


“Good. Congratulations!”

I’m still a non-highly qualified teacher in the state’s eyes, but in my principal’s eyes, I’m competent enough to head the middle school’s special ed department.

I’m sure my name is Alice, and I live in Wonderland.

Worth Remembering

Why do administrators think that what they have to say is more important than letting teachers work in their classrooms to get ready for the first day of school?

Our Beloved Principal devoured 90 minutes of our valuable time this morning with “housekeeping details” that could have been covered in 30 minutes—tops.

Never mind. Among the chaff there were a few kernels of wheat. Here are three things Our Beloved Principal said that are worth remembering—really:

The way you receive love and respect on the job is more important than money.

My work is to make it easier for you to help kids.

Middle school kids are fun because they’re lousy liars.

One in-service down and one more to go.