"You only need a high school diploma..."
It's been eleven years since I retired from a major airline and took up this "do-gooder"
cause of school counseling. I was a flight attendant. I worked hard. I loved it. Language qualified in French,
Portuguese, and Spanish, I traveled the world, danced salsa in places one would just not think salsa would be danced; ate
foods pretending I'd understood answers to my "What is this?" questions, and met people who, although one might
think we'd have little in common, were really just like me. They just happened to live somewhere other than where I
lived. We shared laughter and smiles. We'd sleep (if we were lucky on those cramped silver tubes with wings) and awaken
in new places--both passengers and crew--jet-lagged and exhausted, but excited; either to be home or to be a visitor.
I was paid to do all of that.
Paid well. Paid to stay in superb hotels, eat wonderful meals, visit places that this girl from rural Ohio would
never have visited otherwise.
a good life.
all of that up to "make a difference". "Life is short," I said to myself when offered a full time public
school counseling position. I'd spent a year in a temporary slot at a local high school and was invited back full time.
"If I don't do this now at 48, I will never do it," I thought to myself and so, with an opportunity to retire with
26 years of salsa dancing around the world behind me, I filled in some paperwork, punched in numbers on a fax machine, and
watched that paperwork "beep-beep-beep" its way (face down!) through and out of the machine. I watched in fascination
as I became a retiree of one job and a "newbie" of another.
"On to better things!"
It's been eleven years and I look back now because another retirement
is, I believe, coming. I feel it. I feel the inner push to get out of this oppressive place of public education.
Feel the need to breathe. Feel the need to say: "Get off of me layers of people--superintendents and school
boards and directors and principals and governors and Bill Gates/Eli Broads/Jeb Bushes--GET OFF!"
For you see, I am at the very bottom of a heap of the "naked-like-the-emperor"
people of public education and its reform...and it stinks down here.
It's been eleven years of being a public school counselor in a large urban and
diverse district. Looking back now at both of my careers--the one for which I needed only to have a high school diploma and
the one for which I needed a master's degree--I find, again, the inner mirth rising.
I made more money, had more independence, felt more respected, had a more
profound impact, more fun and more opportunities to contribute at the job that required only a high school diploma. I slept
better at night, ate better meals (mainly because those meals were prepared in wonderful restaurants around the planet and
the meals I eat with my current employment are meals I cook in my kitchen, but nonetheless...).
At the "you-only-really-need-a-high-school-diploma" job, I
participated in lots of special projects. I hired flight attendants, trained them to be leaders, and worked as a liaison to
management. I'd make my own travel plans, find my own transportation, and "set up shop" all on my own.
I was trusted. Didn't
have to check in with anyone-just had to be where I was expected to be. My company knew I'd do a good job. That's
why they'd selected me.
a different experience at my "you-must-have-at-least-a-master's degree" job. I make less money and have no independence.
I feel frustrated and disrespected. I have little trust in anyone of my district's leaders and my district's school board
for they have an agenda clearly different than what they say that agenda is. They say they care about children and then they
place violent principals in their schools. They say that employees must live ethical lives, but they themselves don't
live ethically, for--and again--above all else, they protect their principal friends, even with the irrefutable evidence of
the danger those principal friends bring to the teachers of those schools and the children those teachers teach.
I've had six principals in
my school counseling tenure. Three of those principals have been excellent and I will write about their excellence later.
Two have been abusive, bullying, and violent individuals--unpredictable, histrionic, petulant, and dangerous men; dismissive
and misogynistic. Downright scary.
principal was unavailable, ineffective, and rarely left her office. She'd raise her hand, for instance, and tell me
she did not want to know anything about any bullying case. Once I took pictures of graffiti that'd targeted teachers--it had
spilled from bathroom walls to the school's hallways--and again, I was rebuffed. So, yeah, I was frustrated.
As has often been the case,
it felt odd that I was seemingly the only one noting that the school's tumble into mediocrity could be laid at this principal's
office door. She was celebrated, literally, for being a queen. At her retirement, a throne was put on the school's
stage and red carpet laid out as she regally took her seat. It was, at best, perplexing.
I felt vindicated, though, when I was copied on a parent's email to my
superintendent. That parent's frustrations at my principal's inaccessibility, lack of warmth and, really, lack of leadership
was exactly how I, an employee, had felt.
had a principal threaten to write me up simply for introducing myself to parents (I'd done it without his permission--imagine
that!). I've had principals call me and "forbid" me to meet with community members wanting to partner with
our school. Imagine that. I've had a principal for whom I DID NOT WORK call me and ridicule and threaten me--put
me on speaker phone with others present--about my efforts to partner with my community's leadership and my community's public
schools to create a bullying prevention program for all of us. "You're not the only one who knows the police chief and
the mayor..." Imagine that...
regional leadership call me. I thought it was to thank me--how naive--but no: they'd called to tell me "I did not
represent the district." I've had directors of my district's "bullying and harassment department" (because
that's what it is--they bullying with the best of them) visit me in my office and call me on the phone--all to shut me down.
Their naked behinds are the first in the stinky heap; the first I want to GET OFF!
I've having a hard time pushing though and so, It looks as if I must retire
to get out and get some fresh air.
up: three excellent principals...and thank you, Jesus, I work for one of them now.