Dejected Cog

During my break, I have been doing a lot of deep thinking. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time away from school (more than I anticipated) and wondered if that enjoyment is coupled with the disillusionment I feel about school.

Prior to Thanksgiving break, I received a text from my principal that he had just been offered and accepted a new position at the county office. The news stopped me in my tracks and my heart sunk. I was pissed. I was sad. I was proud of him. I was frustrated. I was happy for him. I was hurt. I was a bunch of emotions all in one that I didn’t anticipate feeling. I think that this is a big part of the disillusionment I’m feeling about school.

My principal is also my friend of over 10 years who convinced me to come back to the classroom this year which further muddled my feelings about his new job. I felt betrayed, but understand within the educational system when it’s your time, it’s your time. And I secretly believe that is one of the ways the system continues to maintain the status quo. Swoop in for the strongest, brightest leaders who are disrupting the status quo to bring them into the “system.” This way the educational system can swallow whole the bright lights into the abyss and continue to keep the individual lives within our educational system mostly in the dark.

Having my principal who I respect and admire as a leader being plucked from the school mid-year by the superintendent just doesn’t make logical sense to me, he’s not like a stray hair on your face. Doug recently wrote about a similar situation and losing his principal in a similar fashion to mine. I think when schools lose visionary leaders that have helped bring about the best in many teachers and a school, it helps reopen a small portion of the inequity wound in our school systems. It shines a light on who is actually doing the work and who isn’t. When a principal, like my friend, is extremely successful in a school deemed a “tough school” or has a population of students who are a “lost cause” it is a public indictment of the shortcomings of the district, its myopic mindset, and its stagnant leadership. So they gut a school midyear to not shine a light on their shortcomings as a district for failing this school and many others like it for so many years. That’s not the attention they want. As a cog, I know most school districts don’t like any attention it cannot control. Districts want the bright stars receiving attention, close, like you keep your enemies. These stars draw attention to the immovable and consistency of an inequitable educational system which is just the attention they don’t want. Bringing these stars into the ivory tower provides a performative hope and facade of systemic change that one person cannot and will not be able to deliver. The system is too powerful for one new leader to change its vast inequities. Both teachers and kids are already getting crushed, taking their leader away midyear is beyond disheartening.

Don’t get me wrong, I love working with kids and teaching, but the system has relentlessly chipped away for fifteen years at the hope I have tucked away in my trusty book bag that I bring to work every day. Decisions like my principal’s promotion, among other things I’ve seen and heard from fellow teachers locally and across the country I am now a dejected cog in the educational system machine. My principal will probably be gone at the end of January which has me losing hope and energy to remain a cog in this system, but alas time will always tell.