I'm so excited, E2! I've got my first workplace drama story!

So for those who don't know, I am a first year English teacher. This is my first real teaching job, and my previous student teaching took place in a special program that emphasized cross-curriculum collaboration, and the teachers all got along really really well. Not so much here.

Background context:

1. The district we are in requires us as teachers to have six multi-drafted essays in our class. This is a rule for all of the teachers in all thirteen or so schools. However, our school is having us do the extra step of compiling a high, medium, and a low essay for each essay assignment and each class, each semester. This takes a ridiculously long amount of time to do (regrading/rereading old essays, printing and reformatting digital essays, organizing them, etc.) and is above and beyond our contractual obligations, and we are the only teachers in the only school in the district to have to do it. Because of that, there's been a big stink from English teachers ranging from "Are they going to pay us extra for the time we take compiling these things?" to "How dare they not trust us to teach essays and do our jobs! This is really insulting that they feel the need to check up on us!"

We were waiting on our school union representative, a super nice and helpful lady named here Ms. L, to go back to the union and see if the principal is allowed to ask this of us.

2. At the beginning of the year, we tend to have schedule changes. This is because when the initial schedules are drafted in May, they do not count the fact that a lot of kids go to summer school. basically, it operates under the assumption that they're going to fail summer school because that apparently results in fewer changes than if they planned for success. We don't even receive tentative schedules unless we specifically ask our department head or the administration (principal and vice principals) for them. The officially-in-the-system schedules are given out around of July 20~ (which is a time crunch because school starts first week of August). This is apparently a problem that has been going on for the last ten years, and nobody has figured out a way to actually solve it.

3. Our school has weekly collaboration meetings for staff to work together in either Department meetings (everyone in the department) or PLC meetings (just teachers who teach the same subject/grade levels as you). These PLCs are determined by the administration, so if you teach more than one thing (which everyone does), they will choose which group you're with. PLC meetings are regular and frequent, department meetings are not. This is apparently because the school got marked down on some kind of federal inspection scores because they didn't have PLCs or something. I dunno.

4. The English teachers are all located in the 700 building with the exceptions of myself and another first year teacher named here "Marina". Marina and I are in the 300 building with the Spanish and history teachers across the campus. We both teach English 1 (freshmen), and are part of the same PLC group (along with another teacher named here Daniela). Both Marina and Daniela are cool people and they, along with ANOTHER new teacher named here Kent (who I actually had for most of my undergrad and credential program. Seriously we kept getting the same classes together.) are the only English teachers I actually talk to.

Because me and Marina are so far away from the rest of the group, we are insulated from the stuff that happens over there (though I think she's friends with people on Facebook, so she has more connections than I do). Anyhoo, the point is that I know very little about the people in my English department. Most people seem nice, and there are a few strong personalities, but otherwise I figured things must be like my last school where everyone is collaborating and friendly, and I was just missing out on it because I was so far away.

The Survey

Our Department Head, to be referred to as Ms. K here, sent out an end of the year anonymous google-survey to see what worked and did not work about the year, including the department. There was a section also asking "what can I, Ms. K, do to make things better next year?"

That seems harmless enough, right?

Wednesday Meeting

On Wednesday, we discussed some stuff about the essays, how upset a lot of people were about them, and how Ms. L was at the union that very moment exploring our options. Then talk turned to the surveys.

Ms. K handed out a printout of the survey responses. While there were a few constructive comments on the doc, there were several multi-paragraph rants that either seemed directed at the actual administration and not Ms. K, or they were very vitriolic and vehement towards Ms. K herself. Ms. K then produced a handout of her literal job description from the district website, which includes things like "stock the supply closet" and "coordinates new textbook orders."

Ms. K explained that she is not a union rep there to fight the admin, she is literally just a teacher who has some extra duties. Furthermore, while her job does include letting admin know if we have problems/questions/concerns, she's more like an impartial mediator/go-between and is not required at all to fight for something she herself does not support just because someone told her to.

At this point, another teacher named Ms. M steps up and starts talking about how the administrations lack of respect for us is clearly demonstrated by the schedule changes that take place at the beginning of the year, and that part of Ms. K's job is helping admin arrange schedules.

Ms. K explains that there is literally no cure whatsoever to the schedule changes. Apparently, all the kids who graduate summer school and get credit have to have their schedules changed to match their progress, and that in turn causes teacher schedules to be changed when classes fill up or empty out.

Ms. M gets very passionate about this. She doesn't listen to what Ms. K says and essentially insinuates that both admin and Ms. K can't schedule properly, and that Ms. M had nine schedule changes at the beginning of this year. This became a rallying point and several other teachers got very passionate and vocal about their opinions of admin's ability to schedule.

Somehow the conversation turns to the survey's indication that the department doesn't collaborate enough. The general consensus is that it is because there is way more school-mandated PLC group meetings than full department meetings, and while it is nice knowing what's up in other like classrooms, it is irksome not knowing what other teachers are up to, and what things students will need to know as they progress. Then Ms. M starts up again about how she wishes there were two department heads like there used to be so that they could visit classrooms and organize collaboration better, and basically insinuated that Ms. K isn't doing her job properly. She then finishes off with, "I don't mean any of this to offend you, Ms. K." To which Ms. K says, "It's sort of hard not to be."

And the meeting ends after a reminder of the potluck that will be during lunch on Friday, with Ms. K looking upset.


So we all cram into one of the 700 classrooms for the potluck. The desks are arranged like a U, and we're all eating our Cinco de Mayo themed food, and Ms. K and Ms. L, the union rep/ELD teacher, say that they and the union talked to the principal the other day and have mostly settled the whole essay business.

We do NOT have to turn in any essays, but starting next year we will all use turnitin.com, and he can just poke through the essays there if he really wants. The district just paid for a subscription to turnitin.com, so they really want the staff to use it anyways. There was like one or two people who had reservations, but everyone else seemed happy enough.

Then Ms. K passes out a printout that has the actual schedule changes from the beginning of this year. She says,
"Look, a lot of people came up to me after the meeting on Wednesday concerned and upset about the schedule changes some people had, and I wanted to clear the air and show how many schedule changes were actually recorded in the system."

The paper had all of our names on it, and next to the name was the number of changes and a comment on why the change was made. Most people had no changes, a few more had one, and three people had two. Ms. M was one of the two, and both of those changes were listed as "teacher request."

Ms. M loses her shit.

Ms. M: I have EMAILS from the administration saying that they changed my schedules! I emailed Ms. VicePrincipal and she sent me an email saying i was teaching this class, and then a week later she sent me a new one! And I got a new one in July after that--
Ms. K: Those were tentative emails. Anything sent before July is tentative, and not officially documented in the system because they change.
Me, mouth full of enchilada: *quietly moves away from M, who I had been sitting behind*
Ms. k: Do they say final on them, or tentative?
Ms. M: I HAVE EMAILS! Also my schedule changed when I was forced to teach drama!
Ms. K: They didn't make you teach drama, you volunteered to teach drama, M!
Ms. M: NO I DIDN'T! Ms. VicePrincipal asked if I would teach drama after OtherTeacher dropped out of it, and I said yes!

It is then revealed that the two schedule changes that were there were because Ms. M literally dropped her entire schedule twice because she didn't like the class lineup. This is where Ms. K starts getting visibly annoyed, because apparently Ms. M's choice to drop all of her classes twice over caused a lot of headache for the scheduling crew and resulted in several other teachers getting their schedules moved, too.

This conversation ends with M leaving the room crying, and Me and a dude named G getting up to get more enchiladas.

Ms. A, who is a tiny, suuuper sweet lady (like seriously positive and kind all the time): K, this was really petty.
Ms. K: What? I just wanted to clear the air--
Ms. A: No, this was a really childish call out.
Ms. K: hey, she called me out on Wednesday and said I wasn't doing my job. Other people came up to me about it, and it wasn't true--
Ms. A: So it's a matter of 'she's wrong, I'm right'?
Ms. K: If someone is going to upset people by saying something that isn't true about me and how I do my job, and then drag my down with it, then I am going to defend myself--
Ms. A: Listen to how childish you sound! All of this is childish!

And then my friend Marina walks in with two bags of chips and says, "Hi guys! Sorry I'm late! I brought the chips!"

And everyone just. Stares.

Her face goes from :D to D: and she immediately sits down at the desk closest to the door.

Ms. A continued:

Ms. A:
I think this department is toxic. There's something rotten about it all, and I didn't want to announce it this way, but I have tendered my resignation. I'm gone! After ten years, I will not be returning next year. Think about that. I'll tell people if they ask that I'm working over at OtherSchool, and that it's closer to my house. It's good for my kids. And it is! But after ten years, I'm picking NOW to leave. I'll let you all fill in the blanks yourselves!

And she gets up, this smol, angry person, and storms out. The door slams behind her.

We stare at each other. My mouth is full of enchiladas. People are wondering what to say.

Then Ms. A walks back in and says all sheepishly, "Hi, sorry, I forgot my purse! I know, I just made a big dramatic exit, but I need that. Sorry! bye guys, see you later!"

And then another lady said, "This place is toxic and I'm disappointed in all of you," and left.

By that point, the lunch bell had rung and we all started quietly packing up to go. Ms. K said something like, "that didn't go the way I planned," to Ms. L.

Things couldn't get weirder, right?

Friday(PLC Meeting After School)

So Daniela, Marina, and I are in Daniela's room. Marina is desperate for the deets, and we fill her in about the drama. We're supposed to be creating an essay outline or something, but there's no way in heck are we gonna talk about that when this happened.

Daniela: Honestly, I don't know why M even bothered raising a fuss to begin with. She's not even going to be here next year.
Marina: and me: Whaaaat?
Daniela: Yeah. She was supposed to resign. But then I guess she changed her mind? I asked one of her students and she thought that she'd changed her mind. Maybe she changed it again.
Marina: Why would you even-- like, okay. If I was going to resign and just didn't care anymore, I wouldn't even come to the meetings.
Me: Same, honestly. If was leaving and I hated you guys? You'd never see me. I'd be out sick all the time. Daniela, was she always like this, or was it just since Ms. K took over?
Daniela: So I went to the credential program at MyOldCollege with her a few years ago--
Me: *fistbumps Daniela because we are alumni of the same college and credential program*
Daniela: -- and she made it very clear back then that she wasn't interested in making friends.
Me: if I ever get that confrontational, shoot me. I give you both permission.
Daniela: Let me get that in writing.
Marina: Use my phone, record it.
Me: I, Zephronias Zepherton, being of sound mind, do grant Daniela permission to--
Daniela: Oh my god. Check your email. M just sent everyone an email.

And there is an email addressed to the entire department from M. Attached are several screenshots of emails and a word.doc with a timeline of events, complete with alien-conspiracy-like commentary. She also mentioned that because of the lunchtime event, she canceled the cheer tryouts (???) and explained to the students why they were canceled, and "at least I know my students support me."

The screenshots were of emails, alright. But they were emails of the vice principal giving her. . . tentative schedules. That said "tentative." And there were emails of her specifically asking for her schedules in advance. And there were emails of them asking if she would like to teach drama, and her responding that she would.

Dude. Lady. Buddy. My guy.

This did not help your case.

So that was the drama last week. Tomorrow is Monday and the next collaboration meeting is on Friday. I've no idea what the week will be like, but if anything does happen, I'm sure I won't be able to resist the urge to node about it.

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