Monday, December 6, 2010

Shuttin' it down

Guess what? The city Department of Education is recommending that the terrible school where I taught last year should be closed at the end of this school year! I was shocked, only because the city rarely moves to close charter schools. But almost 80% of the teachers and 25% of the students who were there last year have left, and the test scores were terrible -- only 30% of the students actually passed the state math and reading exams last year. Of course, the rich founder of the school and her lawyers were quoted as saying things like, "The school is still new -- we've only been around for five years -- we just need more time!" More time to steal valuable learning time from kids' lives? I don't think so!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Autumn approaches

Ahhh, what a relaxing summer (at least after the statistics course I was taking mercifully finished on July 15th -- I passed!). The first day of school for kids around here is this Tuesday or Wednesday for most schools, and I'm so relieved not to have to worry about it. As my sister said, "Just think, the next time you're preparing for the first day of school, it will be as the school psychologist!" Yep, I started my graduate school courses in school psychology last week! One week down, 155 to go. But who's counting? ;)

In my old school's typical lack of attention to detail, my old work e-mail account was never shut down. I've been logging in from time to time over the summer just to see if anything interesting is going on. That's how I found out my supervisor (the special ed director) quit. My co-workers and I had a feeling in the spring that she was interviewing for another job. She kept being out for part of the day at very specific times, and once she couldn't even go with me to a professional development workshop we had signed up for. Now that she's left, they've literally had a complete turnover of all administrators since last year's first day of school: the principal, both the middle school and lower school vice principals, the special ed director, and the person who was the equivalent of the dean are all gone.

A few minutes ago I logged in for the first time in a few weeks, and found these reactions to the new schedule which was just shared with teachers a few days ago:

"It is difficult to integrate English/history with the arts every single week. It should be less frequently and for a single period instead of a double period.
We have been told for the last two weeks to write 45-minute lessons. Now our schedules are double-blocks every day. We were also never told about the constant integration periods we would need to plan for.
Some teachers have class all day without prep time.
It is completely unnecessary to have 80-minute blocks with each class almost every day.
160 - 240 minutes straight through makes us ineffective teachers. Students are completely unable to sit through 160 minutes of intense instruction in core classes.
Each core class should have single periods every day with only one double period a week.
I am double-booked with two classes for the same period on Thursdays.
This schedule is a complete disaster for all. We need to completely re-work it."

Yikes! I cannot imagine having the same sixth, seventh, or eighth grade class for 240 minutes straight. That's four hours! I wouldn't have liked that as a student, let alone as a middle school teacher.

Is it bad to admit that after reading all those comments, I promptly sprang up and did the dance of joy because I DON'T HAVE TO DEAL WITH ANY OF IT!?!? ;)

Monday, June 28, 2010


Today was the last day of school! It's over! I still can't quite believe I made it through this school year without quitting or getting fired, but somehow it happened. What a relief. I think it still hasn't completely hit me yet.

Not very many kids showed up today, since it was a Monday and only a half day. I spent much of my morning trying to ignore the fact that report cards were frantically being prepared even as the principal was pressuring teachers to change students' grades to make them higher. No, I am not kidding. The place is so corrupt, it makes me sick. Completely unethical. I am so glad to be out of there. I never have to do recess duty again! Or stairwell duty, or listen to the students curse, or be insulted and disrespected on a daily basis, or worry about getting pushed around (literally). There are students I will miss, and I feel sorry for them, because they're trapped in that place. I'm so grateful I'm free!!!


Monday, June 7, 2010

Come to me, unemployment checks!


Well, technically not fired, fortunately -- I'm finishing out the schoolyear -- but I was not asked back for next year. Can you see me doing the happy dance from all the way over there? :)

I never got an appointment to meet with my principal and the special ed supervisor about next year, so I finally had to e-mail the principal's administrative assistant and ask. She gave me an appointment for June 2nd. I wasn't nervous that morning -- I *wanted* to get fired, so I can collect unemployment when I start grad school full-time this fall -- but then 20 minutes before the meeting, I suddenly got anxious, the stress hormones coursing through me, and I kept having to go to the bathroom.

But it turned out to be anticlimactic. The special ed supervisor opened by saying, "As you know we've had many conversations over the course of the year of challenges you've had with various students and classes and your advisory class."

I nodded.

The principal continued, "I think we've had enough conversations and documentation to be able to say it's just not a good fit."

"Okay," I said.

"So we won't be renewing your contract for the 2010 - 2011 school year," she said.

"Okay," I said again.

"We're not saying you're a bad teacher! Nothing like that!" she added hastily. "It's just not a good fit."

"Okay," I said for the third time.

Then we sat and looked at each other. They asked if I had any questions, I said no, and that was that. I'll be collecting unemployment as of August 16th, which will really reduce the number of hours I'll need to tutor. Life is good! :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My job was posted on-line!

Yes! As of Saturday, my school's very own web site says they are looking for elementary AND MIDDLE SCHOOL special education teachers! Theoretically, this could mean they just want to add a third special ed teacher to the middle school, in addition to me and the other current special ed teacher. But coupled with my rather negative summative evaluation, I think it's a good sign they'll lay me off and I can get unemployment! *fingers crossed*

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Accentuate the negative

My boss e-mailed me my "evaluative summary" of my teaching today. It was fairly negative. My favorite part was where she wrote, "Ms. Artichoke has been observed yelling at students, invading their personal space, and persistently confronting students." Yes, I have yelled. That was wrong. I admit that. But I don't see how if I, say, block the doorway with my body so a student can't leave without permission in the middle of class, and that student gets angry and gets as close as they can to me without mowing me down, that *I* am invading *their* personal space -- aren't they invading mine? And I don't like the way she wrote that I "persistently confront students." That makes it sound like I keep harassing students over and over again about some issue, which I never do. Once it's over, it's over, and I still say hello to them and help them with assignments as if they never sexually harassed me or threatened to punch me in the face. If I'm guilty of anything, it's the opposite. There are a couple of students now I just don't even bother going over to in class to see if they need help with their work, because doing so only leads to trouble (for me, not for them).

The principal is setting up meetings with each of us teachers this week to tell us whether or not we are being offered teaching contracts for next school year. I hope I'm not asked back and I can qualify for unemployment. I wouldn't hire a teacher back who got an evaluation like mine, so this could happen. We'll see.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Blogging again

It's been a long time since I blogged. My dad died on March 9th, about six weeks to the day from when he received the diagnosis of lung cancer. I miss him a lot. My job was nice about it, at least -- they even sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers "from your school family," as the card said. But even with the generous bereavement time (5 days), I've had to take a day off here and there since then, especially when my sister and I were going through/cleaning out Dad's apartment, so in my last paycheck I got docked three days' pay. I can't believe there are still 39 long schooldays until the last day of school. It feels like it should've ended months ago.
I'll try to write more later this week.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

New assistant principal

Five school days down, 20 to go until spring break! Actually, last week ended up being a four-day week since Friday was a snow day. We got almost two feet of snow here in NYC -- highly unusual -- and we've had TWO snow days in the past two weeks, also highly unusual because NYC schools never close. I remember growing up in northern NJ listening to school closing announcements on the radio in the morning, and no matter how many schools in NJ were closed for snow, it seemed like the DJ always ended with, "But New York City public schools ARE open" -- so Friday was a real gift.

Since playwriting enrichment ended in January (thank you, God), I've been teaching "Arts & Crafts: Collage" to four sixth grade boys and one seventh grade boy. It's been going well, except they got kind of bored with collage, so I decided to order them latch hook kits. They had never done latch hook before, and they LOVE it! It took me about half an hour to re-learn how to do it (embarrassingly enough), and then another boy who picked it up quickly helped me teach the others. Three of them are doing skull & crossbones, and two are doing wolves. They're enjoying it so much! They thanked me profusely for ordering the kits and kept talking about how cool they're going to look when they're done. One of the boys said happily, "I like latch hook. It's relaxing!" :) So that's been a lot of fun.

In other good news, we finally hired a new assistant principal. I haven't actually formally met the man, I've just seen him around, so all I knew about him was that he was a white 30-something guy named -- well, I'll call him Patrick. It was funny because when I was telling the reading specialist about two kids who got into a scuffle during advisory and how I had nowhere to send them, she said, "You could've sent them to Patrick."

"Um, does he WORK here?" I asked. "I thought he was still just being interviewed and observing."

"Well, I guess technically he is," she admitted. "But I heard he officially starts tomorrow."

And sure enough, we got an e-mail from the principal on Wednesday that it was Patrick's first official day as vice principal. Hopefully having him around will be helpful. I checked my e-mail just now and the principal had sent us all an e-mail with a behavior contract we're supposed to discuss with the kids in our advisory group tomorrow and have them all sign. Oh, if only we had done this on the first day of school instead of the 106th day of school! This could have been a very different school year....

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I didn't get fired

Well, I still have a job.

The special ed director had already scheduled my mid-year review for Thursday during the second-to-last period of the day, so all day I worried about whether she and the principal were going to use that time to fire me. But then the time came, and the special ed director came to get me, all perky, and led me not into the principal's office, but into the conference room, where a couple of other teachers were grading papers. She did my whole mid-year review like normal, and then at the last minute she asked, "Oh, and did you give any thought to our conversation on Tuesday?"

"Yes," I said. "I want to become a better teacher. I want to stay."

"Okay, that's great! That shows your dedication and commitment," she said enthusiastically.

And that was that. It was rather anticlimactic, actually. The principal wasn't even there! Which is fine with me -- if they want to pretend like it never happened, I'll just play along.

Now I'm on my one-week February vacation. It is so, so, SO nice to have this week off. I really needed it. As my dad said the day he was released from the hospital, "If I'd had to stay here one more day, I would've had a nervous breakdown!"


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I might get fired tomorrow

Bit of a setback yesterday.

I was doing well, didn't even raise my voice last Friday despite a near-riot in my homeroom at the end of the school day when I came quite close to being trampled by a group of eighth graders. But during my advisory class the last period of the day yesterday, they were being so obnoxious -- throwing pillows at each other, talking over each other and me, not of them was even throwing milk (don't ask) I raised my voice to show them I was serious and meant business. But the special education director and the principal made me meet with them after school and told me that an adult who was also in the library at the time thought I lost my temper. Both the elementary school music teacher and the librarian were in there, so it could've been either of them. I really felt I just raised my voice and was firm. I didn't think I lost my temper like I did on the two occasions last week -- I didn't feel out-of-control enraged or anything. But I guess that was the librarian's or the music teacher's perception. And who knows, maybe all the stress of working in that place is making it impossible for me to distinguish between raising my voice and yelling. I have no idea anymore. :(

Anyway, it was such a frustrating meeting because every concern I tried to voice, the principal twisted my words around to make it my fault, and that that's why I shouldn't be working there anymore. When I said we haven't gotten lesson plans for advisory in weeks, she said as a professional educator I should've been proactive and realized I had to start creating my own. I said, "I would've been happy to do that -- I *have* been doing it, on the fly -- but it was never communicated to us." She said there are so many creative lessons I could create with advisory, and if I can't, maybe this school isn't the best fit for me. When I said the behavior in the hallways is scary-- the pregnant math specialist was knocked to the ground in the stairwell last month by kids running wild, pushing and shoving -- the principal said, "Oh, those were just students being careless. The math specialist knows that. She's not afraid of the students. If you are afraid of them, you can't work with them effectively, so maybe this school isn't the best fit for you."

Then it dawned on me what she was trying to do. I let her talk for a while and just yessed her to death. When she asked me what I was thinking and how I was feeling, I wanted to say, "You shithead! You're trying to force me to quit three days before February break so you don't have to pay me over vacation week! THAT's what I think!" But I behaved myself and just repeated back what she'd said to me, that we have to be positive with the students, respect them, be role models, etc. Then she insinuated that I would be happier teaching in a school for juvenile offenders. "In schools for juvenile offenders, you walk the halls and can hear a pin drop, it's so quiet, because they're so boxed in they can barely move. Here at CrazySchool, we want to give our kids more freedom than that," she said with her enigmatic smile. "But this isn't for everyone, so maybe this school just isn't a good fit for you."

Anytime she asked me what I was thinking, I said I completely agreed with what she was saying and that I was committed to staying. It was actually pretty comical to watch her try to hide the disappointment on her face every time I reiterated my commitment and refused to quit. In the end, we finally left it that I would take today (which ended up being a snow day, thank God) and "reflect on whether this school is a good fit for you." Such B.S. I mean, is losing your temper a couple of times -- not swearing, not using berating language, not hitting a kid or anything -- really a fire-able offense?

So now my decision is made for me. I was doing my best to stick it out, but I can't work at a school where I feel like the principal is going to be gunning for me, just waiting to catch me doing something wrong. That is, if she doesn't just fire me tomorrow. She'll either have to terminate me so I can collect unemployment, or wait for me to quit after I've found another job.

I'm very curious what will happen tomorrow.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I didn't scream uncontrollably at any kids today! :-D
Also I helped one student with a science test, and another with math.
All in all it was not a bad day.
We even get out early tomorrow. On Fridays our school day for the kids ends at 3 PM instead of 4:30, and usually we teachers have professional development from 3:15 - 4:30. But tomorrow, professional development is cancelled! Only because we have to go in for an all-day professional development session on Saturday, though. Sigh! I just hope it's useful.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


This morning during breakfast I was watching the door to the cafeteria to make sure that no more than one girl and one boy went out to the bathroom at the same time. Some kids grumbled, but grudgingly either waited their turn or decided they didn't actually need to go (probably none of them actually NEED to go that soon in the day anyway).

But this one seventh grade girl blatantly refused to wait, even after I explicitly told her she had to. She walked right by me and started sauntering down the hall to the bathroom, merry as could be, even as I followed her telling her to come back. I finally physically blocked her from walking, and she STILL wasn't listening to me, so I lost it and started screaming. Second time in the two days I've screamed at work this week, albeit each time with a different kid.

And what did she do? Laughed in my face, of course. She thought it was just so funny, getting an adult to yell at her like that. Until a parent who was bringing their elementary school kid to school late walked by -- and started scolding ME! "You shouldn't scream at the students," she said angrily. "You're a teacher. You're supposed to set an example."

Of course, now that she knew she had another adult on her side, the kid I had screamed at put on a hurt look, as if she was sooooo traumatized, the poor defenseless waif, and said primly. "Yeah, why you yellin'? You're supposed to set an example!"

"And you're supposed to listen when I tell you to do something!" I shot back. I was so angry. And who should magically appear but the social worker, of course, just in time to witness all this, as she did with the kid I screamed at on Monday. She probably thinks I'm more in need of counseling than the students at this point.

So an hour later the special ed director (my boss) asked to meet with me, because that parent, "as well as others" (the social worker, I assume), had gone to her with concerns. She told me, in a nice way, that we shouldn't scream at the children. And she's right, and I felt guilty. Not that I think that girl was traumatized in ANY way...but we are supposed to be the example. The longer the school year goes on, though, the harder I'm finding it to take all the abuse and disrespect yet continue to "turn the other cheek" and be a good example.

"You don't seem that happy here," my boss said.

"Um, is anybody?" I asked. No, I didn't really, but that's exactly what I was thinking. Instead I said, "It's just frustrating, because the only consequences we have are suspension, which is only for extreme cases like fighting, or calling their parents. And if we've called the parents before and it hasn't really helped, there's nothing we can do."

Her advice was to stay calm and not to get into a back-and-forth with the student ("Don't go the bathroom!" "I'm going." "You can't!" "I will!"). Just give them a choice and a clear consequence: "There's someone in the bathroom right now, so you need to wait your turn. If you don't, understand that I'll have to call your parents. It's your choice." And, she said, "There's always the option of silent indoor lunch with Juan."

I was like, what!? We have de facto in-school detention??? I knew Juan sometimes detained kids during lunch, but I thought that was only at his discretion.

"I didn't know that was even an option for us," I said. "I avoid giving kids silent indoor recess because I watchsixth grade's indoor recess during that time, so I wouldn't be able to keep any kids silent on punishment with the sixth graders running around."

"Yes, you can either keep them with you when you eat lunch and have a silent lunch with them then," she said (yeah, like I want to give up my 20 minute lunch period -- it's short enough as it is), "or you can arrange for them to go to Juan for a silent lunch and recess."

Isn't that interesting? Here we have this great new discipline tool that was NEVER communicated to or shared with us at all. How was I supposed to know that was even a choice?

But I do have to stop screaming. Both because it's the morally right thing to do, and because I can't afford to get fired. Of course, I wouldn't mind if they just don't renew my contract for next schoolyear if it means I'll qualify for unemployment, since there's no way I'm coming back next year anyway. But I have to get my stress level under control. Right now I feel like I'm getting carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand and my stomach muscles are as sore as if I'd done 1,000 sit-ups, even though I haven't done anything over the past week except work three days and spend the rest of my time sitting around the hospital keeping my dad company. I don't usually feel stress physically like this, but I don't know what else it could be. I literally feel like I've been beaten up!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Week of tumult

What a week.

1) One of the fifth grade teachers quit at the end of last week. That brings our total resignations this schoolyear up to seven.

2) Remember the kid who threatened to punch me in the face a week and a half ago? I screamed at him so loudly on Monday (while I was being observed by the special ed director no less) that I hurt my throat, and both the principal and the social worker came running out of their offices to see what was going on. I laid into the principal about how the kids get to disrespect, make fun of, verbally abuse, sexually harass, and threaten teachers however and whenever they want, and nothing is being done, and nothing changes. I had to walk outside ten blocks in the cold to calm myself down. The inmates are running the asylum, my friends.

3) My dad came home from the hospital today (YAAAYYY!!!) -- but with a diagnosis of lung cancer.

I hope the next seven days are much less interesting.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

ANOTHER teacher quit (!)

Yep. The sixth grade humanities teacher resigned today -- effective today, of course. No one ever gives two weeks' (or even one day's) notice at this school. Since you need a scorecard to keep track of all the personnel changes at this point, let's review:

1) The 7th/8th grade English teacher quit in early October.
2) The 7th/8th grade math teacher quit in late October.
3) A technology specialist (he worked with teachers, not with students) quit in early December.
4) The vice principal quit in late December.
And now 5) the 6th grade English/history teacher has quit in late January.

Here's the e-mail he sent to me and the other special ed teacher tonight:

Dear Artichoke Heart and _____,
I am sorry I did not tell you in person - I simply couldn't say it over and over today - but because of deep financial need and certain health reasons, I left CrazySchool today and accepted a position offered to me last Friday and confirmed this morning at a school I applied to last year. The position starts tomorrow. The hours are fewer, the school year shorter, and the salary significantly higher. I was caught between the needs of my family and my health and then the kids at CrazySchool. It was a horrible choice, but in the end, the only one I could make, I felt, was for family and health.
You have, of course, every right to be angry because what I did to the kids is not right. I hope, in time, they and you understand. However, in the interim, if it's possible, could you try to keep the trial of Socrates going? I know they love doing it and are looking forward to it happening. If not, I get it.
If you'd like to write, even to yell at me (the words are reverberating in my head anyway), feel free. My home e-mail is _______.

It was a privilege to work with both of you and I wish you only wonderful things.
Be well.

Can you believe it? It's like working on the Titanic, wondering each week who will be the next to jump ship. Unreal. But this teacher was in his late 50s and had over 30 years of teaching experience. Considering I was barely able to get them to match my salary to what the NYC Board of Ed would have paid me, I'm sure he would have gotten paid more for all of that experience at another school. More money for less work, you can't knock it.

In other news, my dad is in the hospital. :( He wasn't feeling well so he went to the doctor today, and his blood pressure was so low the doctor sent him straight to the hospital. (Thank goodness he didn't pass out while driving to the doctor, considering how low his blood pressure was.) So I'll be spending tomorrow with him. I hope he gets better soon -- or better yet, immediately!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Brooklyn Museum; advisory

Went to the Brooklyn Museum on Saturday! I was a couple minutes early, so as I waited for the Nicest Guy in the World to meet me, I studied the shiny black sculptures conveniently placed in the lobby. I especially admired Rodin's Orpheus, his reach upward. The placard said, "This sculpture, with its intense torsion and strain, its mixture of exaltation and despair, reflects the complexity of the theme and Rodin's willingness to have his works express the internal conflict and ambiguity of actual experience, even when dealing with a mythological theme. According to the Greek myth, when Orpheus's wife, Eurydice, died, he descended into the underworld to try to regain her. This he accomplished through the persuasive power of his music. But returning with her to the upper world, he was unable to restrain his passion and glanced back at her too soon, ignoring one of the conditions set by the gods, and lost Eurydice again."

The cruelty of those gods. Always testing you.

Last Friday I had a nice day. I taught a small group lesson in sixth grade social studies using this neat play about Socrates. It was fun, and it went well. The special ed director observed, and I think she's going to give me some good feedback!

But today ended on a sorry note. We're supposed to receive lesson plans for our advisory classes (small groups that meet twice a week). But at least a third of the time, maybe even half the time, we're not given any lesson plans, so each teacher ends up with a group of eight kids they don't have anything to do with. This is despite the fact that at the beginning of the schoolyear, we were told we would always be provided with easy lesson plans that were basically scripts we just had to follow. In the past, whenever I didn't get a lesson plan, I would always make something up from scratch ahead of time (as if I didn't have a thousand other things to do). But last Thursday, I'd had it. We hadn't gotten any lesson plans that week, and I thought, you know what, I'm not going to kill myself to do this anymore. We still went around at the beginning of the period, as we always do, and said our "rose" and our "thorn" (positive part of our day/negative part of our day), and discussed that for a few minutes. But other than that, if the powers that be don't care enough to make sure we have lesson plans for these classes, I'm giving the kids a free period. I can get stuff done, the students will be glad not to have work to do, and everyone's happy. Right?

It worked out fine on Thursday. But today we didn't get any lesson plans yet again -- and wouldn't you know, it was the ONE DAY the principal emerged from her office on the fifth floor and came all the way down to the first floor, where my students and I meet. So she saw them being "free." One boy was reading and a couple others were drawing, but a few were playing with their handheld electronics, which they're not supposed to use at school. I'd turned a blind eye because all I had for them was paper and markers if they wanted to draw. I'm sure it looked bad, so now I'm just waiting for her to send an e-mail out to all teachers about making sure students are "on task" during advisory. To which I'll say, fine -- give us a task for them to be on! ;O

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chaos, continued

I made it through the first week back at school from Christmas break. Everyone seems angry at each other -- the teachers, I mean. Well, not everyone...but it was Mitchell's idea before he left to re-do the entire school schedule, because right now the kids have six periods of math, English, science, and history a week, but only a few periods of music, art, and theater, so those teachers really have a part-time teaching schedule, though of course with duties, skills classes, enrichment class and advisory class, they're still busy. But the core content area teachers are even busier. So the scheduling committee went through all this work to re-do the schedule at Mitchell's request, and of course made it worse (ha ha). I personally thought some parts of it were better than the original schedule, but the people on the committee were upset at the complaints. I can't really blame them. The whole thing was Mitchell's idea in the first place, and now they're left holding the bag.

There are still a lot of discipline issues. Sending kids to buddy rooms isn't really working, because they end up disrupting the class they're sent to, and there's no real consequence to things like chewing gum (make them spit it out and they're blowing bubbles with a new piece five minutes later), coming to a class late, going to their lockers in between classes.... Discouraging. It's the middle of the fourth year of this school's existence, and we're still figuring all this out?? You'd think we were a first year charter school! All we have is the warning-time out-buddy room system, which isn't working, and suspension, which is applied inconsistently (four kids were suspended the other day for cutting a class, for example, but other kids have been caught skipping class and they've just gotten a phone call home). We can't really have detention, since our school day goes so incredibly late, and we don't have in-school suspension. So now we're convening a discipline committee to try to figure something out.

Over the weekend, a friend was telling me about when he taught at a school for students who'd been kicked out of inner city public schools. They had two huge guys standing in the hallway at all times. If a teacher told a student to, say, take out his notebook, and the student refused, the teacher just had to step out into the hall and call one of the guys over. If the student still refused to take out his notebook, the "bouncer" would literally drag the kid screaming out into the hall. By the time the kid returned to class, he had NO PROBLEM taking out his notebook. !!!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The toughest week: part 2

Mitchell, our nice, smart, talented vice principal who I really liked, resigned the week before Christmas vacation. :(

A few of the other teachers had suspected something was up. On Tuesday, one woman whispered to me ominously, "Mitchell's desk looked awfully clean this morning." Then there was a leadership meeting with all the administrators on Thursday morning that went on forever. And on Friday, he was absent. "There's an important board meeting this morning," one of the other teachers told me. "Why would he call in sick today of all days?"

At 3:00 that afternoon, we got our answer. Mitchell sent an e-mail to the whole staff (except for Joyce, the principal) with the subject line CONFIDENTIAL. He wrote:

"Good afternoon.
I wanted to do this in person today, but sadly, Joyce asked me not to come in. I am writing to let you know that I have presented my letter of resignation effective 3 pm today. There are a whole host of reasons why this decision is best for me at this time. However, there is one that is most important as it relates to each of you. My role as Vice Principal should have been one of instructional leader, decision-maker, mediator, advisor, supporter, advocate, supervisor... None of these functions were able to be performed to the best of my ability and for the best interest of the students because of the approach of those to whom I answered.

Needless to say, this is not a choice I anticipated having to make at this point in the school year, nor do I expect it to be an easy transition for you. I am sure some of you will even be angry at me and frustrated by my decision. I understand this and you should know that the middle school team is the only reason I struggled with this decision for this long. I am confident that you will move forward best serving our students and families no matter who is in leadership.

Thank you for your unending support and your dedication to our important work. Know that I care deeply for you, even after such a short time together. Be assured that I am here for you and welcome you to be in touch if you ever need anything. My e-mail is _____ and cell number is _____.

I am sorry that this has had to happen via e-mail. I will miss you and wish you and your families a very well deserved holiday break."

We were all in shock, reading it. Mitchell was so dedicated, and so supportive and motivating when the math teacher and then the English teacher quit -- and now HE was resigning. I wonder if Joyce threatened to fire him and he said, "You can't fire me -- I quit!" There was definitely no love lost between the two of them. (During one of our professional development sessions, he gleefully high-fived people as soon as Joyce left the room.)

There was also a -- well, "scandal" is too strong a word, but an "issue," shall we say, with the report card grades. When report cards were due in early December, the administration suddenly realized we hardly had any math or English grades for the kids -- the subs certainly don't get paid to grade papers, so they hadn't. Mitchell and a few of the specialists scrambled to figure out what assignments had been given and what grades the kids deserved. In English, a lot of the kids hadn't taken the sub's assignments seriously, so they'd barely done any work; therefore, they got really low grades on their report cards. But their parents hit the roof, so Mitchell ended up writing a letter to all the parents saying he understood their concerns, and that each student would instead be given the grade they'd received in English during the last quarter of the previous schoolyear, since those grades were higher. ??? That didn't make much sense to me. But one of the specialists who'd helped figure out the grades told me she asked Mitchell point blank, "Could I lose my job over this?"

He assured her, "No, you're safe. If anyone's going to be out over this, it'll be me."

So, I feel like we don't know the whole story, and we probably never will. But I'll miss Mitchell a lot. It'll be sad to go back to school from Christmas break tomorrow, knowing he won't be there. :(