Thursday, February 11, 2010
It's been a long, long time since I posted anything about my old workplace Bartram High School in St. Johns County, Florida. I thought that part of my life was finally behind me but I guess I was wrong. On several occasions I asked the assistant principals and the principal, Brennan Asplen, for a letter of recommendation so I could update my resume. At the time I did not think this would be a problem. After all, I am retired from teaching now and I did have excellent evaluations from all of them. After the assistant principals initially said they would be happy to do so they suddenly ceased having any contact with me and will not even answer my repeated emails politely asking for these letters. Recently my former coworkers have also stopped answering my emails to them.
Now I have heard a rumor, completely unsubstantiated, that Brennan has called teachers I worked with or had previously talked to into his office and that he has instructed them not to have any contact with me. I do not know if this is true or not but it would certainly explain why my friends have suddenly begun pretending that I do not exist. In education teachers always live with the fear that they are going to be attacked by the administration. I am speaking in general terms and not just my school. Most teachers who survive in education for any length of time learn to 'play the game' and suck up to the administrators. The talk you hear about cooperation between teachers and administrators is usually a pile of bullshit. Unfortunately what sometimes happens is the principal will implicitly or explicitly threaten teachers into doing what they want them to do. This usually entails making the principal, the superintendent, and, less importantly, the assistant principals look good. After all, image is everything! I do not know the truth of why everyone is suddenly refusing to talk to me. All I can say for certain is that I have my suspicions. If what I suspect is true then Brennan may in some warped way be trying to punish me for my old blog comments that he and the superintendent deemed critical of the administration. Of course this may not be the case but I can see no other reason for the odd behavior of my former coworkers. On the other hand how petty would someone have to be to hold a grudge for this length of time and to try to retaliate even after I have long since retired? It almost sounds like some type of paranoid movie plot, doesn't it?
Well, I can live without my so-called friends I used to work with. If they have caved so easily into pressure of this sort then they certainly are not friends of mine. I know from many, many conversations with them over the years that they are paranoid and just plain scared to death they are going to be attacked by the administration for some perceived slight. They have gone out of their way to fall in line and to try to make Brennan look good any way they can. Heaven forbid they would actually stand up and say or write something that might cause them to get slammed by the administration. Teachers can many times have the spines of jellyfish when it comes to being truthful in education. They sell their souls and their integrity just for the privilege of having a job. Never is this more true than in these hard economic times when teacher cutbacks are spoken of often in our county.
So what is the bottom line here? Yes, to be truthful to you all my feelings are deeply hurt to have my friends all abandon me like this. Why are they doing it? I have speculated about this earlier in this post but I may never have any solid proof of what I suspect. These types of things are usually covered up well so the person is not exposed to repercussions. That is why dealings like this usually happen in back rooms out of sight and hearing of others. It reminds me of cockroaches scurrying around in the darkness, avoiding the light at all costs. You see, some principals have their own paranoia and fear of being booted out because people view them as incompetent or at least as not promoting excellence in their roles as principals. It is not always like this. I have worked with principals before whom I respected and who dealt with teachers honestly, openly, and as equals. Unfortunately that has not always been the case. What exactly is behind the pressure to ostracize me from people I worked with for years? Is it old grudges driving this? Who the hell knows. All I know is that I am doing quite nicely anyway and in spite of my hurt feelings I will continue to live my life well and to speak as truthfully as I can about all aspects of it. It some people don't like that, and I imagine a couple will not like what I have written here, they can print out this post, roll it up, and shove it up their ass. I do have some regrets that I can't go back to Bartram and eat lunch with the old gang and talk over old times but I do not have any say over what is happening. If there is some type of stupid vendetta against me after all this time, whether the driving force is the principal or the superintendent, on one level I am very amused by it. Obviously some people must have a lot of time on their hands if they are going after a former teacher who was well respected in this manner. Is this type of stupidity and morally bankrupt behavior just found in education or is it common in all types of jobs? I suspect the latter is true. All I can tell you is that in the past I have stood up and supported these former coworkers at the risk of my own job security. I would have expected the same from them but that is not the reality of things in the world today.
So I move on. I am happy to have gotten this out of my system by writing about it and I hope I did not bore anyone who took the time to read this rather long post. I like the philosophy of John Kay who once wrote that he forgives but he doesn't forget. Bitterness takes a lot of energy and is not productive so I intend to forgive these people over time. I will never forget, though.
Why do we seem to have so much trouble finding school administrators and superintendents to hire who are capable, honest, and caring people? Are they really that scarce a commodity? In our county I suppose the blame should be placed upon us, the voters. After all we voted in the school board and they appoint the superintendent who in turn appoints the principals. As citizens we really need to take a hard look at the people we have been voting into the school board positions. These are critical jobs that affect the tone of the entire county's education and we let ourselves be swayed by smooth talk, promises, and a huge election advertising budget. We actually do have a couple of school board members here who are wonderful people. Notice I said a couple. It should be all of them and we have let ourselves down by electing some people for our school board in St. Johns county who should not be given any authority greater than as bag people at the local supermarket. (I apologize to all of the bag people out there. I know you probably have a hell of a lot more integrity than some of our board members here.) We have let education down by putting some people into the school board positions who have only their own self esteem and power in mind when they make critical decisions. Ultimately we should not be surprised when educational standards slip and the only value treasured is having a good image. Of course image won't help to support a student when they are out in the world but hey, it looks great for the school. That's the most important thing, right? Let me hear everyone shout "image is everything!". Amen. Thank God I am out of education. I am selfish that way. I just can't stand the odious smell of hypocrisy and bullshit. It's a hell of a way to run a railroad if you ask me, but then again, no one is asking me.
Please note that nowhere in this post did I actually state that my suspicions were true. In fact I just could be totally mistaken about the entire thing. I will let the readers draw their own conclusions on that.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
I will try to catch up on what has been happening the past month. First and most importantly, we lost our sweet little Iona who I had been working so hard with to tame. In the 8 weeks she was with us she turned into a very sweet girl who loved petting and who learned how to play with toys and with the other cats. She was really enjoying herself for the first time in her life. We think that during the surgery to place the pin in her leg she picked up an infection we did not know about. This bacteria spread slowly into her bone and then all through her body. Her other health issues we were dealing with masked symptoms until it was too late. She stopped eating and we took her to the vet. The two antibiotics they gave her did not help so we took her back in 3 days. The vet knew she had to have a stronger antibiotic even if there were risks involved if we were going to save her. He gave her an injection of gentamycin. She was allergic to this drug and she suddenly collapsed and stopped breathing. They gave her oxygen and tried to stimulate her to breathe. I gave CPR. All this did not help and in a few minutes her heart stopped. We buried Iona in the front yard next to a small lemon tree where she used to look out the window. The vet thinks the germ was already systemic throughout her body and in her weakened condition the gentamycin pushed her over the edge.
I have been extremely distraught over her death as I had become so close to her. Shortly after her death I developed eczema and had to go to the dermatologist. He said that it was the worst case of eczema he had seen in his 40 years of practice. He gave a cortisone shot, prednisone pills, and the strongest steroid cream made. I have been dealing with this for the past 3 weeks. It is about 75% cleared now and hopefully in another week or two it will clear up completely. I've been sleeping an hour or two at a time before waking up with the dryness, burning, and itching. If anyone out there needs a great moisturizer I can recommend Cerave lotion. It is very gentle on the skin but helps to lock in moisture better than any other moisturizer I've found. Even with this my skin absorbs it quickly and I have to put it on several times each day and then sit under a vaporizer.
That is pretty much what my life has been like for the past month. Hopefully after I finish healing I will be able to get back to my photography. In the meantime here is the last photo taken of our sweet Iona. Even that last evening she still managed to play with Sam through the baby gates, slapping playfully with him. She enriched my life and I miss her so much.