One weary wombat

Just a few days after What Now? had her rough day that still made her reflect on how much she likes her job, I had one of those myself.  Mine didn’t involve an annoying colleague, just a stressful day that included realizing that I had read an ambiguous memo the wrong way and gotten hip-deep in a complicated administrative task 90% of which I didn’t have to do.  And such was my frame of mind that when I went, memo in hand, to one of my colleagues to ask her to interpret it for me, my reaction to finding out that I didn’t have to do the work was not “Yay, I only have to do 10% of this!” but “Damnit, does no one around here remember that I have only been here for eleven weeks?”  I mean, did it not occur to my department head, or one of my colleagues, or my division head, to pop in on me and say “You haven’t done [complicated administrative task] before–are you all clear on it?”  Well, of course it didn’t, for one or more of the following reasons:

  • they have all done it multiple times a year and take how it works for granted
  • the memo doesn’t seem ambiguously worded to them because they have done it so many times that they barely look at it anymore
  • I appear so competent that obviously this administrative task is well within my powers
  • we’ve passed the stage in which they think I am amazing for stepping in and shouldering all these courses two-thirds of the way through the year, and entered the stage in which I am just another teacher–except that I never got formally oriented or trained in the institution’s policies and procedures, and have just been picking all this stuff up as I go along
  • and don’t forget: everyone is busy, and who seeks out problems when problems are usually happy to come to you?

And actually, since I am a J on the Meyers-Briggs scale, realizing that there are rules about things, but I just don’t know what they are, is stressful to me.  The other day someone mentioned AP exams, which started this week, and how complicated it is to set up alternate administrations for students who get extended time and other accommodations, and I realized that I have NO IDEA which, if any, of my students qualify for accommodations.  Maybe none–but who knows?  Presumably my predecessor got a list way back in September.  That’s just an example.  

Add to that the fact that both the Snork Maiden and I are feeling unsettled with Stubb away (and what she said to me this morning, as we got ready to leave the house to meet my brother-in-law so that he could take the Snork Maiden to school, was not “I wish Dad were a stay-at-home dad,” or “I wish Dad didn’t have to work out of state and could take me to school like usual,” but “I wish you didn’t have to work.  I wish you were a stay-at-home mom,” which, believe me, is exactly what I want to hear at 6:35AM.  I think she said it in part because it was 6:35 AM, but still).  And to that, add the first aggrieved email from a parent of a student.  (Although I have to say that I’m very pleased about the way the relevant administrators backed me up.  I think they have the Right Stuff when it comes to dealing with such things.  Also, it helps that they have apparently had extensive experience with this parent before.  I like the parent’s kid, although I confess I am looking at her a little more carefully now.)

So it’s been one of those days.  I also think it’s that time of the school year.  Fortunately, I am enjoying a very pleasant evening.  The Snork Maiden is off at a soccer event and will be dropped off at home shortly.  I talked with a friend, ate exactly the dinner I felt like eating (microwaved taquitos, Granny Smith apple, and ice cream), caught up on my favorite light-reading blogs and Websites (like this and this and this and this) as well as a little of the Indiana and North Carolina primary coverage, and now I’m going to stretch out on the sofa and read something else.  And I really do like my job.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Oh, amen on all of these frustrations! Last year when I stepped in for one month in the spring, I actually did have an appointment with the IT guy and with the learning specialist and so got up to speed on some of the things I would have learned in a formal orientation … but only half-way through my stay there did an administrator realize that I had never been added to the faculty email list (I had no way of knowing which emails I was NOT getting).

    But honestly, this year I went through the formal orientation (as you no doubt will in the fall), and there were still all sorts of things that I didn’t know because no one thought to tell us, because (as you say) they’ve been doing this forever and so it’s not clear to them what’s not clear to us. And now it’s the end of the year (almost!), and still things will happen sometimes like I’ll discover at the last minute that all of the juniors will miss such-and-such day for some events. Plays havoc with the schedule! But, on the plus side, I’m becoming much more relaxed about syllabi and what needs to be covered by what date; so this rolling-with-the-punches has been something of a hard-won triumph for me this year. (I’m sure my colleagues would scoff to hear me describing how laid-back I’ve become, since I’m still the most J of them all on the M-B scale.)

    Hang in there — the end of the year is within sight! And I’m really glad you’re still liking your job.


  2. Posted by meansomething on May 9, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    I’m actually looking forward to that orientation, even though parts of it will no doubt be horribly boring, for that reason–stuff that no one thinks to tell you. Only through talking with other teachers, though, do I get the sense of the unwritten rules about what’s crucial and what’s not–for example, deciding to leave out one of the books on the course syllabus because there’s just not enough time, something I would never do in a college course where I’ve ordered the books myself and made the students buy them, but which seems to be more acceptable in this context–you can send ’em off, saying “Read it over the summer!” At least, other teachers seem to be doing the same thing.


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