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Monday, June 22, 2015

Two moments. Both frozen in time. My story's turning point...

March 16. 2010.  The zenith.  Him.  Screaming.  “JUST DO IT!”  Raising up from his desk. 

Menacing.  Seething.   Did I imagine the hatred in his eyes?  Do I now?  I have lived this moment many times since then.  

Me.  Ashen faced I am certain.  


Me. Passing his—our—boss, the "next layer of bosses", visiting from our region, in the corridor outside of his office.  I passed the boss entering.  I passed the boss leaving.

 Him. Not knowing our—his-- boss was there.   

Me.  My words.  “I will not.”   

Him.  His words.  “JUST GET ME THE DATES!!”  

The “next-layer-of-bosses” boss hearing; probably shaken to have chosen that moment to visit us.  

He heard.  He saw me.  

 Me.  Jaw clenched.  Face pale.   

I looked at the “next-layer” boss. Our eyes met twice. I said nothing either time.  Not entering.  Not leaving either. 

This same boss later advised I call the police to accompany me into the school to clear my office.   

 Me.... me.   I brought dates to my bully.  Real dates for real things I had done.  Two dates. Not ten dates. I made certain my assistant principal to whom I handed the form knew I’d made a copy.  

 I returned to my office.  I cried.  I felt desolate and alone. I did not then know how courageous I had been in that moment.   I did not know that even more would later be required. 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- May, 2010.  A parent.  A man.  Limited English.   

This same man.  Assertive.  Deliberate.   

Children going to their classrooms.  

This man’s words to my principal.  “This is not just your school.  This is my school.  This is my son’s school too.”   

Him.  Him.  Calling 911. 

Him.  Hell bent on getting this assertive man out.   

Me....me.  In disbelief.  

 I recently read about how in moments of horror, we sometimes freeze.  I froze that day.  I simply could not get my mind around my school leader throwing out one of our students’ parents.  

I simply could not comprehend children, small children with book bags on their backs—some with damp hair—some clutching parents’ hands-- witnessing that.  I simply could not believe that following my witnessing that egregious act, I was to “go about my business” of counseling children. 

It was as if he rubbed his hands together in acknowledgement of a “job well done.”   

My God.  My God.

How easy to pretend.  Years of pretending had wrapped themselves around this man.  

In that moment I felt raw fear. 


P.S.  Readers, here's a very, very sad thing: My experience is just one of thousands.  I'm just willing to share it in hopes it helps someone out there. 

I ask for your stories of workplace abuse. I look particularly for stories of school leaders' abuse.  There are many.  I will publish them, with little editing.  I will publish them anonomously or not.  You decide.  Just send me the stories at kimwerner@apiecefullworld.com 

You know what?  I'd also like stories of effective leadership.  I now work for an effective leader.  He's simply a nice, fun and respectful man.  It's really that simple!

Stay strong. 
7:24 am edt          Comments

Saturday, June 6, 2015

I do not remember testing...but I do remember kindness...


 There is little time for 2015 kindness in our public schools. There seems only to be time to prepare children for tests. Line 'em up, sit 'em down at computers--it's their turn in the computer labs; Practice! Practice! Practice!--and begin the Common Core (call it whatever you want, it's still Common Core) grind of preparing them for "The Test." And it is a grind.

Get ready for 2015-2016 testing! Let the "grind march" begin!

But what, really do our children need? More than ever in this fast paced world, what do they really need from the adults in their schools? They need the small kindnesses that say to them: "My teachers care. They care about me."

George Wood, retiring principal of a rural school district in Ohio writes that, because of data driven instruction and high stakes testing, it's hard in 2015 to be nice to children. Mr. Wood says: "...it is harder for us to be nice to kids. With elevated standards and increased testing, we find ourselves with less leeway with which we can help a child navigate. With ‘zero tolerance’ laws and other Draconian rules, the mistakes some children make can no longer be forgiven. The rapid-fire social media culture means that if we ever err on the side of mercy or charity, it will quickly be seized upon by those who are just looking for us to make a mistake. And the emphasis on punishing schools for things like dropouts makes it that much harder to enroll a student whose residence is just a bit suspect."

The entire piece can be found here and it is worth the read: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/22/what-has-changed-is-that-it-is-harder-for-us-to-be-nice-to-kids-departing-veteran-principal/?postshare=8221433162784811).

We in public schools across the nation, just don't have time. Plus it's risky to our school grade to help out a vulnerable child.

I do not remember a single test (with the exception of my eighth grade Ohio History mid term with Mr. Pixley). I bombed that one and a big glaringly ugly "F" was neatly written on my report card.

Dad was not happy.

Here, though, are memories of people--my teachers--who helped me along my way.

I remember Miss Beagle, my kindergarten teacher, chose me to swing the moon in our Christmas play. I looked down from the stage into Miss Beagle's luminous face framed in tight tight pin curls. I stepped forward from the line of singing kindergarten children and enjoyed a moment of five year old fame.

Months before in circle time--right before nap time--Miss Beagle had asked who wanted to swing the moon. Every other boy and every other girl enthusiastically raised their hands and cried: "Me! Me! Me!" I didn't. I just sat there and wished, wanted, watched, and dejectedly waited. Waited to see who of these exuberant friends would be selected. I remember well my astounded joy at Miss Beagle's quiet question: "How about you, Kim?"

Fifty three years later I can still see Miss Beagle smile at me.

I remember stern Miss Benner, my first grade teacher, motioned to me to join the "Blue" reading group because she saw me following along with her lesson from my less advanced "Red" group. Miss Benner had a stick in her hand as she pointed to words on the blackboard. She would point and the "Blue" group children would read in unison. I can't remember what my "Red" group was doing, but I know that my attention was on Miss Benner and her pointer. "Kim, why don't you try?"

The next day I "had me a seat" with the "Blue" group.

I remember Mrs. Heistand, my third grade teacher, cried in frustration at how ill behaved we all were one day. I felt bad.

My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Moyer, had taught my father and my mother in the same school building (in the same sturdy shoes and pin curls no doubt). Mrs. Moyer recognized my love of reading and allowed me--during English class-to go to the library to choose books. Barbara Cartland was a favorite author. Romance!

It was with Mrs. Moyer's quiet urging that I had the courage to choose "Gone with the Wind" to read. It was a doubled columned book with teeny tiny words...and I loved it.

There's you some "differentiated learning"! Take a look at 11 year old me in the library reading "Wuthering Heights" while my classmates toiled over "no sė quė" in the classroom. That's Spanish for "I don't know." I am certain that Mrs. Moyer's allowing me to read and read and read somehow also allowed my propensity to learn languages to flourish. Plant a love of reading "semilla" and watch it grow!

George Wood ends his piece with a proud visit from a former student who'd benefitted most, not from the tests he'd taken, but from his teachers' and administrators' kindness and patience. I will end my piece in the same spirit. At the end of the last day of school--just last Thursday-- a future ninth grade boy and his father came to thank me. I'd helped the boy with credits and requirements to successfully enter high school. But that's not really why they thanked me. In the end they thanked me for simply being nice.

11:37 am edt          Comments

11:31 am edt          Comments

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