Principals

By Jason Wojciechowski on January 29, 2004 at 5:47 PM

My principal upbraided me today for having only "20-25%" of my kids passing. When I got home and looked at my numbers, I realized that it's actually about 35% passing. He went on this whole rant about how I have to do more, how I have to take responsibility for my kids not passing, how it's a crazy drop from 40% in the second marking period to 25% now, when it was all based on some crazy fuzzy math.

I've had issues with him and his "leadership" style before, so that's probably coloring my vision of this incident a little bit, but the whole thing made me mad in a way I hadn't really felt since ... well, probably since the A's got knocked out of the playoffs. Sports tend to make me upset much more quickly than regular life does, but this incident rivalled some of the worst Lakers losses.

The thing is, I can take criticism. I've taken it from my AP and incorporated his useful ideas into my classroom to become a better teacher. Yes, I shed a few tears after I got an unsatisfactory evaluation, but I wasn't angry, and I got over it, because I knew he was right. This incident really frustrated me because I just don't think he's right. He mentions over and over again how hard it is to teach these kids, how they're working on a 3rd to 5th grade math level (in 9th grade) and how the Math A curriculum requires moving on with them on 9th grade topics regardless of how well-prepared they are, then criticizes me for not enough kids reaching a passing level in 9th grade math.

Maybe I'll regret saying this, because it sounds like an excuse or a cop-out, but I truly don't mean it that way: just as teachers in these schools know what they're getting into with regard to the kinds of kids we get, he as a principal has to know what he's getting into with the teachers he's hiring. I appreciate that there's a lack of money to hire teachers and that there aren't so many veteran teachers willing to come in to these kinds of schools when they can go work in Westchester instead. What he does't always seem to appreciate is that he's getting what he pays for. I'm brand new. I was 21 when the school year started. I've never taught a day in my life. Is it unreasonable to expect that, whatever kind of summer training I had, the kids might chew me up and spit me out for a little while?

I thought I'd be a better teacher than I am. I have worked hard, and that may be what pissed me off the most. He asked me whether I liked working with these kids. It frustrates me that I've done so poorly in the school's eyes that the principal has to question my commitment to the students.

The worst part about the whole thing is that, no matter how defiant I am in the privacy of my own blog, no matter how much I rant about how unjust the whole thing is, there's a very loud voice in my head telling me that I really am a terrible teacher, that I really shouldn't be in this line of work, that I'm actually doing the kids more harm than good by doing there. I realize that's not how anybody in the administration intends me to feel, I realize that I'm not having my feelings hurt intentionally, but that doesn't stop the stoking of the flames of self-doubt.

Back to your regularly scheduled programming of politics and sports.

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