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Saturday, January 25, 2014

"Step Right Up!"
Step right up and get your Nova Southeastern Educational Leadership Modified Core Certificate! Get 'em while they're hot and boy, oh, boy, are they ever hot!"

All of the principals and assistant principals for whom I've worked have received their Educational Leadership certificates from Nova Southeastern University (NSU)--every single one--I'm pretty sure. Look up at their framed diplomas and you will almost always see Nova Southeastern University.

I looked up NSU's requirements to become an Educational Leader because, as you know, I have worked for some "dewsies." 

"Surely," I've said to myself, "surely NSU doesn't have courses called "How To Be A Psychopath 101" and "How To Get The Most From Your Teachers Through Intimidation, Threats, Lies, and Coercion!" 

Surely they don't offer "Sit In Your Office For Hours With Your Door Closed and Do Not Allow Anyone In" courses. One of my principals would have excelled at that course for sure.

Happily, NSU does not have such courses. 

So why are so many school leaders popping out of NSU's Educational Leadership factory lying and cheating and intimidating and coercing...and sitting and blocking and denying? Why are so many ineffective at best and psychopaths at worst (and there is a lot of "worst")? What's up with that?

What NSU does have, it seems, is a mentality of "gettin' 'em ready fast" and popping principals out of its Educational Leadership program like gumdrops at a candy factory. But these products aren't so sweet.

This is cut from NSU's "Certificate of Educational Leadership/Modified Core's" Frequently Asked Questions (the full list of requirements is found at: http://www.fischlerschool.nova.edu/cert/edleadermodcore).

"How long will it take to complete the program? 

A. The Certificate of Educational Leadership Modified Core program may be completed within three semesters or within one year. Courses in the Certificate of Educational Leadership Modified Core program are offered in an eight-week format."

Three semesters?! Less than a year!? Eight week format?! 

"Step right up and get your Educational Leadership Modified Core Certificate! Get "em while they're hot and boy, oh, boy, are they ever hot!"

12:31 pm est          Comments

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Leadership in our public schools: An ongoing series.

I am putting myself "into the shoes" of a brand new principal. I'll see if I fit into his suit and tie as well.  

The new principal's challenges are many. He is sent to the school to raise the school's grade.  It's fallen and schools' letter grades in this community for these wealthy parents are important.  They, unlike many other parents, have choices for their children.  There are well established private schools nearby.  There are charter schools popping up like Starbucks stores, creating tempting choices. It is that parental power of being able to choose differently for their children that speaks to the school district's superintendent. 

But the superintendents must wait, for the current principal is "not done yet."  He's retiring soon and, although parents are frustrated by his lack of communication, by his unwelcoming demeanor, and by his, frankly, lack of leadership skills, he is lauded for his fine work by the school district. 

His employees are also frustrated. They've so rarely seen him out of his office--even during almost three days of no electricity; imagine the lack of learning in those sweltering rooms; even during testing when, for days the children and the teachers became inmates and guards, for they never once changed classes and were forbidden to bring their phones--but, they too pretend...and hope that the next principal will indeed be their knight on a horse.  They're hoping for a robust and galloping steed with a leader wearing armor so blinding they'll have to squint, but they'll settle for a sling backed nag and a man with a battered shield.  He doesn't have to be "decked out." He just has to be on their side.

But he is not a knight to employees' rescue.  He is a circus performer, not even the ring master.

It is, then, a circus act--he's on a unicycle on the high wire furiously spinning plates and balancing a ball on his nose--for our new principal.  He's got, got, got to keep the affluent parents happy.  He must assure them--sooth their nervousness--that their children will have the best teachers and will have inviting classrooms and learn and be successful and be "HAPPY" and "SAFE". "HAPPY" and "SAFE" are the two plates that, even if all the other plates shatter, he must keep spinning.

His audience--teachers of the gifted, the English language learners, the "level ones and twos" (no names; just clumps of underperforming children); security monitors, counselors, office staff and exhausted elective teachers--hold their collective breath as they gaze up and see their school leader on the high wire.  They hope he's well trained in uni-cycling and plate spinning and that the downtown ringmasters with their thick whips have not used those whips on this principal.

They pray that he will keep the "I WILL BE FAIR" and "I WILL BE RESPECTFUL" plates spinning.  Those have, with other principals, been the first to fall from the precariously balanced stack of plates and the first to break.  

Some of their principals never bothered with the "I WILL BE FAIR" and "I WILL BE RESPECTFUL" plates at all. Some, because they were whipped by the down town ringmasters, have brought their own whips to their school houses.  

More musings on public school leadership and what it takes to keep the plates spinning and the audience rapt coming up.

9:01 am est          Comments

Sunday, January 12, 2014

 Maya Angelou wrote something about the pain of a story inside that must come out....I have one of those. I've had it for a long time and didn't even know it. It's not really my story---although it is.  It's a girls' story and a women's story and ultimately a boys' and a men's story too. It's about violence and power....and, hopefully, it's about forgiveness and redemption. 
As many "need-to-come-out" stories are, this will be a fictional story based upon a true event. I have nothing more than the whispering voices of my youth from which to begin, so any similarities to anyone anywhere are purely coincidental.

Here is the event.  Public records show that charges against the boys were dismissed.

In 1965 or 1966, when I was in fourth grade and living in the tiniest of places--a place where my father and mother grew up; raised in the very house in which my father himself had become a man; entering each day the same school house and sitting at the same desks at which my parents had sat learning their lessons--a tenth grade girl was raped; allegedly by many high school boys. The rape probably occurred in the high school's boys' locker room.

I found the girl's picture in the school's yearbook from that year.  She is smiling mischieviously and directly at the camara; no coy tilt of her bobbed head.  

There is no picture of her in the next year's yearbook.  She is gone.  All I knew then was that she was "sent away" and "that was that."  Everyone got on with his or her life as if it never happened.  

But it did happen.  It happened to a young girl. She was allegedly violently and brutally assaulted. It happened to a community too.  Emotionally, it happened to ten year old me. Psychologically, it happened to all of us: the girls, the boys, the women and the men of that community.
Beginning to allow the story within me to come out...

So, how does power for football playing young men--anywhere, but for this story in the smallest of places--manifest itself? This will be a story of each of the young men's lives and how a community's reverence for "all things football" pumps ideas of grandeur into young men's heads. It will also be a story of a young girl's life and how a community's adoration of their "football"--and the young men who play it--yanks young women's self worth like play dough; shaping it ever so subtly into trophies to be worn on arms of the town's young heroes.  

This will be a story of the boys and the girl growing up together. They are friends from the earliest learning: sitting side my side in kindergarten circles; napping beside each other before leaving the school and in kindergarten clumps, walking home together. 

As the children grow and mature, it will become a story of older boys taking notice of this young girl and of her liking the attention because she's not identified female value other than coming from some uncomfortable yet exciting attention from boys and men.  

That's the most important thing, then, isn't it?  Dating and popularity are all that really matter for girls and isn't she lucky that she's pretty and funny and desirable?  She's never really known herself outside of vying with other girls who used to be her true friends but now are pretend friends because the football captain has "his eye on her' and not on them. 

There's an uncomfortable dissonance that bubbles up from the deepest truth of her. It has her occasionally furrowing her brow as she demurely crosses her legs in, say, her Geometry class. She doesn't understand this unnamed craving. She'd thought it would be satisfied as she sat in the passenger seat of her boyfriend's car.  She giggles and laughs and nervously pushes his eager hands away.  His breath, frankly, stinks. She'd rather be reading "Pride and Prejudice" propped up with pillows in her bedroom--that's her favorite place.  Give her a thick and juicy read and she's lost for hours.  But no.  It feels almost required to twinkle and sparkle and entertain this hulking boy now manlike.  He is, after all, captain of the football team.  

She doesn't know that on that fateful evening--that, "Hey honey, wanna go for a ride?" phone call from him and her reluctant agreeing to go--pulling herself away from warm covers and delicious stories--would be the very last night of her innocence....

More to come.

4:45 pm est          Comments

Friday, January 3, 2014

Three years later after the abuse, the sun is fully shining.

Eagerness.  Enthusiasm. I awoke with both today.  I haven't always.  Since 2008, I've often gotten up with fretfulness, bitterness, and blame.  I've gotten up worried about life in general; its unfairness: cat puke on the patio for example; homework not done, clothes not laundered....and bullying bosses to face. I didn't understand that my approach to life's other "stuff" was exacerbated by the daily--Monday through Friday--worry of "what-will-happen-today?" at my school.  

My former principal targeted me for bullying-- pure and simple.  But it's not his bullying about which I write today, for I have spent hours and hours dissecting my horror for myself and for you.  It's the effects of his bullying on the rest of my life--and the realization now, three years later--of the effect his disgusting behavior would have had on me now in 2014 had I not taken a medical leave then. Had I not reported his abuse.  Had I stayed.

So what is it like to get up in the morning and know you stand no chance of pleasing your boss?  Know that you are considered a problem?  Know that he does not work alone?  Know that some of your co-workers take great delight in his daily torture of you?  Know that others folded long before he "found you" and there will be no support from them? Know your health and your career are in danger?

What is the rest of your life like?  How does this kind of injustice at your job affect your family?  Your marriage?  Your joy?  Your happiness?  For workplace bullying is not something that turns on and off like a faucet.  It doesn't disappear at 3:00 p.m. as you walk to your car in the school's parking lot. Oh no. There is no respite for a target of abuse. Breath is always short, for you are always on guard. Your heart rapidly beats and flutters for he is always waiting around the next corner of your mind.  He will surprise you.  He'll jump out of a brain cell as you are cooking dinner and helping with homework.  He'll cackle and laugh in your head--you can see over and over the spittle flying from his mouth as he chortles--as you carefully apply makeup. Oh if only you could hide behind that mascara and that blush!  But no.

Workplace bullying, like water torture, drip-drip-drips into the most silent and still times of your life. Workplace bullying floods your mind and your heart at night with worry. Sometimes you feel that you are drowning; that your head is barely above the water line.  It's exhausting, yet you cannot sleep for, as I've just written, when you lie down the flood gates open.

"Just do what he says and you will be okay," his friend, the other school counselor with whom he rode to work told me when I first started at that school. Perhaps it was her frown and furrowed brow--a shake of her well coiffed head--as she sat in the passenger's seat of his vehicle and discussed her "concerns" about me that generated his "we have to talk; there have been complaints" menace. 

Had I, in 2008, 2009,and 2010, done "what he said" I would not, however, be okay.  Doing "what he said" would not have protected me.  I would not have been okay. I would not have been okay because doing "what he said" meant lying and cheating and participating in things so ugly and awful--testimonies against fellow teachers and documenting things never done--that, although I am not such a "goodie-two-shoes," I simply could not do it.  

Not doing "what he said" was the most difficult professional thing I have ever done.

So, it's only now, three years later--awakening with enthusiasm and eagerness--in spite of cat puke and clothes not laundered--that I feel fully "okay"; more than okay--back to my former self--joyous and happy. 

Add grateful, then, to my "wake up" virtues. They've been a long time returning.

Steps to assist bullied educators at: www.apiecefullworld.com

Contact me at: kimwerner@apiecefullworld.com

10:30 pm est          Comments

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