Friday, September 06, 2019

The Making of an Assistant Principal

Everyone wondered why Mr. Jones was so happy. The weight of the world seemed to be lifted from his shoulders. He had a spring in his step. His smile radiated 100% organic sunshine. Just last week he was a chronic complainer, but now he was reborn. No one knew why, at first.

A few days later, we noticed a harried young woman sitting in the cafeteria, frantically consulting books and writing things on her computer. She never spoke to anyone, so a friend and I introduced ourselves. She didn't want to stop, but she was polite nonetheless. It turned out she was Mr. Jones's student teacher. Mr. Jones had a comp-time job, sitting in an office somewhere, doing something or other, and only taught three classes. This young woman, with no experience whatsoever, and no evident support was prepping and teaching all of them.

As a student, she did this for no monetary compensation, while Mr. Jones sat in back of the classroom pretending to pay attention to what was going on. Nice work if you can get it, perhaps. It didn't pay well enough for him, so he tried to get a job at Queens College, where I happened to be working. He and a young woman I know applied at the same time, and both used me as a reference. I talked up the young woman, who was brilliant, and she was hired. When asked about him, I said I had no idea, and he wasn't hired. He called me at home on a Friday night to angrily ask why not. I had no idea, I told him. In fact I had no idea where he got my phone number. Shortly thereafter, he got a job at a different college.

Another colleague taught at Queens College, and had Mr. Jones and the same young woman in his class. He swears the young woman did the homework and Mr. Jones copied it. He also told me that one of his high school students was busily grading papers in his high school class. He asked why she was doing it, and was told they were the papers for Mr. Jones's college class. He took the papers and told the student to tell Mr. Jones to come ask for them.

I found that story hard to believe. One day, though, when I was working in a department office I noticed a young man across from me grading compositions. I asked why he was doing that. Mr. Jones was giving him extra credit, he said. Can you imagine paying for college and having a high school student grade your papers? I assume the kids did as good or better a job than Mr. Jones would have, but still.

A person gets tired, though, of not teaching and not grading papers. Who knows, for example, when someone was going to come and observe you? Sure, you wouldn't be teaching, but what if they asked why the student teacher was doing this or that? What could you say? You never consulted with her, and you hadn't been paying attention to what she was doing. Also, what with her grading all the work, you had no idea what the students were doing.

It was time for a new career, decided Mr. Jones, so he went to supervisor school. There was time, after all, since he didn't teach in the day, since he didn't grade night school papers, and since no one knew what exactly he were supposed to do at his comp-time job. Also, there was that paraprofessional who actually did all the, you know, actual comp-time work. Still, he had a ponderous, florid  multi-page resume enumerating in great detail all the things Mr. Jones did not actually do. But the resume used a lot of impressive big words, and why shouldn't it? Mr. Jones had paid a girl with a very high SAT score to write it.

Mr. Jones could be charming when he wanted to, and as soon as he had his administrative certificate, he snagged an administrative post. When the first school he worked in closed, he found another one. With every progressive gig, life became less demanding and tedious for Mr. Jones. Finally, he was able to spend more time doing the things he liked, whatever on earth they may be.

I hope he's not your boss today. Alas, the empty soul of Mr. Jones resides in many, many administrators.
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