Monday, January 09, 2006

What I Can See From Here...

This afternoon, at one o'clock, I'm going to the University to meet with Chief Mucky-Muck to determine my immediate professional future.

I have no confirmation, at this point, about what the hell happened over the semester break. I haven't even been in the school for three weeks, but I got a phone call from my supervisor on Friday telling me that the CT had completely flipped out about something she decided I'd done and was refusing to accept me back for next semester (I was supposed to start back up today).

I have a lot of suspicions about what happened. I'm hesitant to put them down here, though, because speculating very often gets me in trouble. I know for sure that my CT had run hot and cold all semester with me, that she's got more stress in her personal life than anyone should have, that she has some pretty significant communication issues, and that I caught her in a lie.

MY fault in all this is pretty straightforward:

*I lacked the savvy to deal with the internal politics of the workplace.

I've been a SAHM for eight years and have been (blissfully, it turns out) shielded from the abject stupidity that is the everyday working environment that most people are forced to endure. I didn't yet know how to function in that kind of, well, disfunction. Believe me, though, I learned a lot about THAT this past semester!

*I trusted too many people too quickly.

I tend to have very strong, open, trusting relationships. I've been told, by MeadMaker, that I'm kind of a freak of nature that way - I attract, and tend to maintain, very deep, strong friendships and I have a hard time getting my head around the fact that most people just don't do that. I wanted to be friends with the people I worked with. THAT was a HUGE mistake. One that, I assure you, I will NOT be repeating.

*I assumed that I would be taught, supported and encouraged.

Yeah, well, almost none of those things happened. I figured that I was going to be put in a situation where I would be treated like a student (isn't that kind of the definition of an intern?). I thought I'd get assigned lessons - that someone would teach me about all the things that I needed to know to function in a classroom. I thought that someone would be there to guide me, that I'd get constructive feedback about what I was doing (or not doing) and that there would be a collaborative relationship with the people charged to watch over my development. That really only happened with one-third of my team, and from the one person who WASN'T with me day-to-day. My supervisor, God love him, did the best he could.

*I thought that the learning process would be similar to that of the college environment.

MAN! Was I wrong on THIS one! Public education, at least as I saw it, is decidedly NOT a cooperative thing. See, in college, we get together and talk about ideas. We share information, we make suggestions to make people's ideas more comprehensive, we ask for feedback on our own thinking so that we can expand our edges and be better thinkers. I naively thought that this would be the case in high school - at least among the teachers - but it's really, really not. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure that the straw that broke the CT's back is the fact that I was seeking input from sources other than her. Who knew that was a bootable offense? Certainly not me.

So, the upshot? I've learned a LOT of profoundly valuable lessons this past semester, though almost NONE of them has to do with the reason I'm trying to get into education in the first place - THE KIDS. This is something I plan to point out to Chief Mucky-Muck when I see him this afternoon.

Please wish me luck.


Anonymous claudia said...

Here's hoping that this next leg of your journey goes more smoothly for you. It's almost always disappointing when ones expectations are met with a different reality. Knowing that this is occuring on a number of levels in your life right now makes it all the more challanging. I'm glad that you are continuing to express your feelings about this and that it won't discourage other would-be-teachers from pursuing the profession once they realize the politics involved. I know that you will do fine once you find your stride!!!!

January 09, 2006 11:04 AM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

I think this, more than anything else, is what I was sent here to learn. I have issues with expectations and how I process when my expecations aren't met. I've learned a lot about that these last few months.

Right now, I'm beating back echoes from my childhood - voices that say that of course this happened, because I'm spoiled and selfish and can't play nicely with others. I'm trying very hard to silence those voices, though, because I know that there's no way that I can be solely responsible for anything that involves someone else.

I do wish, though, that I'd had a better understanding of the complexities of the workplace. If I had come into this experience with a different mindset - and yes, a different set of expectations - I would have been much more successful. I'm pretty good at carrying lessons with me, though, so I'll be much better prepared when I encounter this sort of thing again. Which leads me to offer prayers of gratitude to the Universe for giving me this lesson NOW, when I'm an insignificant intern, and not after I've been hired (and potentially fireable) as a teacher.

There are a lot of silver linings to all this. I just need to take a step back to see them.

January 09, 2006 11:13 AM  
Blogger Kizz said...

Why are you going to bring this up this afternoon in the meeting that is supposed to help you continue with this program?
"So, the upshot? I've learned a LOT of profoundly valuable lessons this past semester, though almost NONE of them has to do with the reason I'm trying to get into education in the first place - THE KIDS. This is something I plan to point out to Chief Mucky-Muck when I see him this afternoon."
The rest of your post talks about how it wasn't what you expected, about how there are other issues at hand besides the teaching of the kids. That quote sounds like you're going in to tell him, "This program is all wrong, it should go this way, I know how it should go." Are you sure this is the image that you want to project given what you've learned about academia as a workplace?
I don't think that this reflects not being able to play well with others but I do think it reflects going in to play a game without fully understanding the guidelines that everyone else is playing under. When you become a teacher of your own the game isn't going to change. These lessons are just as valuable as the ones about teaching the kids because you're going to have to navigate this part of the game as well. Think of it as being a famous football player. All you want to do is hit people really hard and win games but the reality is that you also have to do press conferences and endorsements and autograph signings and contgract negotiations and the rest of that crap that has nothing to do with a love of the game.

January 09, 2006 11:52 AM  
Anonymous claudia said...

Well said,Kizz,The dynamics of a work environment are extremely say the least. The recognition that there is a difference between being "friendly" and becoming "friends"is,in many ways,a hard-learned lesson.For me,personally,the measure of that difference takes a fair amount of time. The work place is so multi-dimensional that it is truely not for the fainthearted if one wishes to succeed. Your analogy to a football player was very well put!

January 09, 2006 12:53 PM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

THIS is why I am determined to keep this kind of forum open! Thank you!

Yes, understanding how the game of workplace relationships is played is very, very important. My point, though, is that I wasn't sent into this experience with the expectation that this was going to be the big lesson I got from it.

ALL the intern meetings were all about how our cooperating teachers were going to guide us through the intricacies of classroom management, of writing IEPs, of lesson and unit planning, of appropriate assessment techniques. No one prepared us for the idea that office politics were going to play a major role in our lives.

There it is again! That expectation thing!

I was unprepared for what I encountered, and not agile enough to make the necessary adjustments to my own behavior in time to accommodate those around me.

January 09, 2006 2:28 PM  
Anonymous claudia said...

I had some additional thoughts to your first response to my comments. Too many times,because we hear labels placed upon us by someone,in an effort to diminish us or put us in our place,we internalize them as who we are. Am I capable of selfishness,behaving like I'm "spoiled",and have not played nicely with others? You bet!!!Sometimes "selfish bitch" fits!!OWN these traits as all possibilities. I would argue that there are times in each of our lives that these things are not negative but serve us as tools to survive. Don't SILENCE the voices,but know yourself well enough to understand that these things are not ALL of who you are and look at them from a different window!!!! If you are acting from your best self,living to always be accommodating to those around you will only be an exercise in self abuse.

January 09, 2006 3:40 PM  
Blogger Kizz said...

Not totally sure why I'm belaboring this but I feel like I have to continue to clarify what I've said or thought. Just for my own peace of mind.
The reason I reacted so strongly to what you planned to say to the CMM was because I read, "You should have told me about this! Why did you tell everyone else about this and not tell me. You're doing this all wrong!" And I'm fully willing to believe that I read something that wasn't there.
And, you know, maybe you're right, maybe there should be a class but there isn't. With all the classes and work people have to take to finish their degrees and get the practical stuff learned they aren't going to take an elective called "How not to get Dooced or 10 Strategies for not Putting Your Boot Up That Bitch's Ass". If they did Heather B. Armstrong would have a job outside the home, a packed lecture tour and the ability to pay for her family's health insurance. They don't teach it in business school or law school or even drama school. We all just have to figure it out and sometimes it goes OK and sometimes it goes shittily.
When I took the job I have now no one told me that my co-worker was a slightly psycho control freak with a driving need to blame. And, why would they? HOW would they? So, I found all that out on my own and had to take solace in hearing them say, "Yeah, she's always been like that, don't worry about it."
Was that what you meant or did I take it all wrong?

January 14, 2006 8:41 AM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

I don't think you took it all WRONG, Kizz, but I do think that you gave me credit for being way more militant than I planned on being.

What I intended to say to MM in that meeting - and what I did say, in not so many words - was that there was almost no mention in the ramp-up to our placements of the kind of political and social environment that we, as interns, were likely to face. No one told us - ANY of us, not just me - that the environment had the potential to be so highly charged. No one explained to us, we whose brains had been addled by years and years of college-style academia, that it doesn't work like that in the public school system; that teachers are (or, at least, can be) jealous, guarded, insecure people.

I didn't go into the meeting with attitude. Not even a little attitude. I went into the meeting with a pad of paper, a pen, and an intention to keep my mouth shut. I was given a chance to tell my side of the story and I took part of that opportunity to tell how completely unprepared I was for what I encountered. I did say that part of that ill-preparedness was probably due to the fact that I'd been a SAHM and college student for the better part of the last decade, but that I would have appreciated someone taking us aside to mention that we might find the settings to be slightly less-than-cooperative.

January 14, 2006 10:30 AM  
Blogger Kizz said...

Wow, I'm so not being clear enough. Let me try yet again.
Why should someone have told any of you? No one tells anyone else in any other profession that workplace politics can be highly charged and difficult to negotiate. And, while the specifics of that may be different in academia the fact of having crappy workplace shit happen is pervasive in all professions. I mean, I was pretty sure last summer that I was going to get fired for not being able to get along with my co-worker, and not because either of us was necessarily right or wrong, just because she'd been there and her job was more secure.
Sure, maybe it's because you've been working from home but it's not like you've never held a job before, you've had jobs since you were 15 or something. The politics and the people in those places may have been less charged but there was that possibility and you got lucky. I was super lucky until 2 or 3 jobs ago and I've been learning as I go but I never thought that someone should have warned me about it. You spend that much time with people that you didn't choose and so conflicts are going to arise. You know?

January 14, 2006 1:40 PM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

Yeah, I think I do know. I'm pretty sure I get what you're saying now.

Basically? It comes down to my completely unreasonable feelings of entitlement. I felt a little ambushed by the whole thing, and I'm working out my resentment about it.

The line that we were handed was that we'd be put in a nurturing enviroment where the teachers - both the ones who specifically signed up to mentor us and those in the school in general - would be there to support and guide us interns as we learned to function on our own. Naively, I believed that, and now I've got to figure out a way to deal with being pissed off at my own gullablity for having been sucked into that particular little fantasy. The first step in that process is, I believe, to blame others.

I'm getting over myself. I WILL say this, though: if I am ever asked to speak to incoming interns (we were part of several "talk to real, live interns" sessons before our placements were finalized), this topic WILL come up. I'm not sure how I'll managed to introduce it, but I'll make sure that others can get an opportunity to learn from my mistakes.

January 14, 2006 2:04 PM  
Blogger Kizz said...

I will be so on board if you start your comments to new interns with, "As in every work place..." absolutely on board, completely on board, the-matrix-is-all-in-my-head on board. If you don't, I'll just be regular everyday on board.
(Time to stop watching the Matrix on TNT and go to bed.)

January 15, 2006 12:15 AM  

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