Exercise Restraint

I wrote a while back that I would be teaching the broadcasting class this year.

The woman who's taught it for 14 years is not a certified theater teacher, which is the technicality the administrators used to bring me in, though the real reason is that it has been nothing more than a pile of horse turds for several years, and it showed no sign of improvement. Any complaints from teachers, students, or administrators just led to excuses and tears. And nothing ever got done.

This is supposed to be a transition year, in which I am the teacher of record (which means MY name is attached to everything), and she is supposed to "advise" me. I had expected that "advise" would mean "teach me how to use the equipment," but apparently SHE thought "advise" meant "treat me like a student teacher."

So this year, I came in all excited, with tons of ideas, and almost immediately she shut me down on EVERY SINGLE IDEA.


The blank hit the fan because of couches.

Last week, I was at the school getting books so I could work on curriculum, and I asked the janitor to remove the ratty couches from the broadcasting room. I will now use the power of your imagination to give you a picture of these couches.

Imagine the stuff that crawls out from under a pile of rotted leaves.
Imagine a teenage boy's bathroom.
Imagine a cow's butthole.
Imagine athlete's foot.
Imagine a possum's guts.
Imagine a yeast infection.

There are certain members of the faculty who will swear on the Bible that several illegitimate children were conceived on those couches. And despite the fact that they are almost the grossest things I have ever had the misfortune to be in the same room with, every time I enter the broadcasting room, there are fifteen kids all lounging around on them, doing nothing.

So there are actually two reasons I wanted to get rid of those couches:

1. They are disgusting.
2. They breed laziness.

Yesterday the other teacher (Mrs. OT, from now on) and I were discussing plans for this year when the janitor came in and apologized for not being able to remove the couches yet. I said it was fine, as long as it was done by next week.

Well, Mrs. OT just about fell off her chair. "Can we talk about this?" she asked.

"I've pretty much made up my mind," I said.

"What will people sit on?"

"I'm moving in tables so it will be more like a conference room. It will give the kids a place to work and it will be more professional," I explained.

And the kraken, it was released.

"Is this how it's going to be?" she asked. "You making decisions and I don't have a say in them?"

"I made an executive decision," I said. "You weren't here to have a discussion, and frankly, those couches are a health hazard."

She began sputtering and moaning, and I sat. I did not say a word, and I did not roll my eyes, which was quite a feat, actually.

"If this is what's going to happen, I think I may have made a huge mistake in turning this over to you," she finally said.


Fine. FINE. Whatever. She is allowed to feel like she's being pushed aside, I can understand that. And I do have a tendency to bulldoze, I admit it.

If she had not just spend 30 minutes telling me why every idea I had was utter crap, I might have been more sympathetic. But I was not.

She continued along the same lines, and I interrupted her: "What, exactly, is your goal for the class?" I asked. "What do YOU want to see this class produce?"

She proceeded to give me a HISTORY of the class, a detailed account of the many times both the school board and our own administrators had screwed her over, ten thousand excuses for the class's increased suckage, and a grandstanding speech about the importance of arts in the school. In addition, she burst into tears. Twice.


Once again, I sat without saying a word, stone-faced. However, in my head, I was definitely saying, "ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME."

When she finished, I said, "Let me tell you what I envision," and I gave her detailed, specific changes I wanted, plans for enacting those changes, and a timeline for said changes.

She began to protest, and I cut her off. "I do know a little something about making something out of nothing," I said. "I also know that creative people NEED structure, or nothing will get done. Furthermore, from my own experience, I know that if someone is not standing over my shoulder, or if someone gives me the ability NOT to work, I will take full advantage of that, and so will these students; I HAVE SEEN IT FIRSTHAND. I recognize that I am a control freak, but I have learned to put that to good use in motivating other people. I have high expectations and I intend to be watching every move these kids make or they WILL NOT WORK."

"Do you think I don't do that?" she asked.


I told a blatant lie: "I'm sure you do that." LIES LIES LIES. "But given the amount of talent, given the amount of creativity that I've seen enter that room every year, the production level falls far short of both my expectations and their potential, and I intend to change that." [and I continued in my head, "Because I will NOT have MY name attached to a bowl of poo-colored ROT."]

The resulting stream of excuses and tears what exactly what I expected, and exactly the sort of thing I do not have the patience for. Every flaw had an attached justification that just didn't make sense, every imperfection was someone else's fault.

Once again, I remained silent. It seemed like the best defense. There was no way I was going to give in, but I didn't know how to stop her other than to tell her to just SHUT UP, and that seemed rude.

Eventually she ran out of words, and I said, "Why don't you tell me how I can make this happen? I want to ____." And when she started to tell me why I COULDN'T do that, I said, "Then tell me how to do it." And she did. Good grief. If only I'd thought to do that earlier, I could have saved myself TWO HOURS.

I feel like we accomplished some things, but I'm not exactly sure she's not going to undermine me at every turn. Her first instinct is to shoot me down, which is entirely counterproductive, as well as wholly annoying.

If it hadn't been lunch time, we might have continued this dance for several hours. As it was, before she left, she cried at me one more time and said, "I hope we can work together," like SHE still doubted ME.


Maybe I'M the one who's made a huge mistake.

This is a pretty realistic account, but it is, of course, from my perspective. I feel like I was pretty rude at times, and I'm not sorry.  I'm no saint, I have problems dealing with other people's bull, and I'm not exactly known for my patience or my diplomacy. Sue me.


Farrel said...

You are FOR SURE your father's daughter! Stick to your guns, and hang in there. :)


J said...

go you! don't take her BS and get done what needs to get done! those students are lucky to have you.

i can just imagine those disgusting couches. they did get moved, right??


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