The first rule of faculty meetings is never say anything. Never ask a question, never raise a concern. At best, you'll just make it go longer, and not get anything accomplished. At worst, you're labeled a whiner. This is generally the problem with faculty meetings. Today, it was much more than that, though.
It was one of those meetings where you think to yourself, "Why don't they just give us a bunch of razor blades, a gallon of vinegar, and come back and see us in an hour?" Because that would be less painful.
We were lectured for fifteen minutes on the inmportance of signing in. We were then told that last year, "about 80%" of faculty did not sign in correctly, and that if the problem persisted, then our paychecks would be docked retroactively for the days not signed in.
I have always signed in. It's not that hard. Yet, I had to hear an entire lecture about why we need to, then hear the ludicrous statement that 80% of faculty isn't signing in. A cursory glance of any daily sign-in sheet will tell anyone that this number is over the top in the worst way.
Then, the principal spends fifteen minutes talking to us about school culture. I basically like the guy, but I hate hearing him talk. This speech was no different. First of all, he compares running schools to running a business, and that we're a "Performance Based Profession." These are terminology things, but I've always bristled at calling schools a business. They're not a business. We're not churning out product. If school were a business, then you might as well just put closed captioned TV in every classroom with an instructor videoed and not hire any other teachers. And "Performance Based Profession" generally means we're being judged on testing, a tool which we have no hand in creating, and which are subject to the massive amount of variables that interact with the data. For example, a significant portion of our students passed the HSA in English, but not all of them. However, the numbers reported included students that are just on the roll - of which there are many - who didn't even take the test, they just have never been taken off roll and never show up. I have kids who miss half the time. I call home, I do all I can. I can't do anything about it if they fail the test. Lastly, I have no control over the level at which kids arrive in my classroom. I teach the lowest level students in the school, yet I'm to be judged at the same standard as the highest level? So I bristle a bit at saying my profession is Performance Based.
Anyhow, that's okay. I'm used to hearing all that crap. Then, he says, "We have to become a more diverse student body. Right now, we're 92% Black and 8% white and 2% other (uh, interesting math), and we've got to recruit white students. I'm not pulling punches here: we're going after the private school kids. I don't want anyone to be offended, but that's where I'm looking. We've got to get more white kids so we can match the diversity of our student body with our faculty body." He then talked about being the number one school in the city, in the state, and in the nation.
Our principal, who is black, meant well, I'm sure. But can you imagine a white principal saying, "We've got to go get some more black kids to increase diversity"? I mean, yeah, it's done, but it's not said like that. Maybe that makes it more okay, and maybe it's better to be more honest and direct. I'm sure I don't know for sure. But the larger problem was that the insinuation that I was left with was that, "We've got to go get some white kids so our test scores improve." Now, he didn't say it in those words. But it just felt that way. And forget about the burdgeoning Latino population we have in this city to improve our diversity. Nope, we're going after the white kids.
The more pressing problem with the meeting is the continual dodging of questions by administration. I sometimes feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone, in a world in which no questions are ever answered. The one thing I was wondering about all staff meeting is why our final exams have gone from two hours last year to an hour and forty-five minutes this year. It sucks. I've given a two-hour exam for four years in a row, and now I have to shorten it, with no explanation why? So I wanted to ask. But, of course, I'm not going to ask a question at a meeting. But someone did.
"Why are our exams shortened this year?"
"Oh, the new schedule is by the sign-in book. There was an error."
"So they're not an hour and forty-five minutes anymore?"
"Well, check the schedule."
Afterwards, we check the schedule. The only thing changed was the start and end times; the time of the exams were still the same. I then ask my department head the same question - Why were they shortened?
"They weren't. Just check the new schedule. Didn't you hear them answer that in the meeting?"
I wanted to scream. After spelling it out for her, she suggested I shorten my exam. Yup, that's a solution.
I left, wanting to scream into the night. Instead, I'm going to go run five miles at the gym. As soon as the New Year's Resolutionists clear on out of there. Hopefully around 7.
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