05 July 2021

Archival footage: Curriculum vitae [UPDATED]

Some things in life are bad.
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle,
Don't grumble, give a whistle.
And this'll help things turn out for the best...
Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life
Monty Python - The Life Of Brian

Select images to enlarge
I was never crazy about my job as a school principal.  It feels a bit silly now to admit that I only took it on because our out-going principal and the then-district superintendent asked me to, but that's the god's-honest truth about how I ended up doing it.  I never aspired to be a school leader and I struggled every day, for seven long years, to try as best as I could to graciously manage, keep safe, and empower our staff and students.  Despite my best intentions, each of my many missteps were all too glaringly public, and any meager successes I may have wrought from the endless stream of contention that always seemed to be waiting at my office door, were far too few in number.  

In the final months of what was to become my last year in the role, when a midcareer faculty member on one of our hiring committees responded to the question asked of her by an earnest young interviewee, "Why do you love working here?" with the shoulder-shrugging reply, "I'm sorry, you should skip me. I've got nothing," I knew my time as a school leader had to be done. My disappointment now complete, I sent a 3:00 AM email to our new superintendent that night asking to be relieved of my administrative duties, and to be allowed to return to the classroom for the remainder of my career.

During my time as a principal, whenever I found myself "chewing on life's gristle," rather than grumble (or whistle), I instead worked secretly on a couple of personal projects that helped salve my broken spirit: the first, a letter of resignation that I was never able to honestly give to our faculty (though I did send it to them via email as "a gag" one April Fools Day morning); and, second, what follows below: my professional curriculum vitae, or "the course of my life" for the seven interminable years I spent in the principal's office, styled intentionally as study guide, such as one might purchase and pore over to prepare for an important test like the SAT or GRE. It's not much to show, at the end of the day (or moreover a career), but it really is all that I've got as proof of my time spent leading one smallish, too-often dyspeptic elementary school, as best as I could for as many years as I could do it and only until I just couldn't do it anymore.

Needless to say, after happily accepting a 40% reduction in pay, it was with nothing but  great relief and almost giddy anticipation that I returned to the classroom to teach again, for what would be the final two years of my career (COVID actually foreshortened my last term by about two months).  I ultimately concluded my time in public ed as a fifth grade teacher in July 2020 after something like 28 years (1 as a sub, 7 as a principal, and 20 as a teacher).  For whatever it's worth, I never actually considered applying for another school administrator job, but I did find encouragement working on my CV whenever I was feeling melancholy.

It's reproduced here (select page images to enlarge) for the first, last, and only time, merely as an historical record of what was and, perhaps, I suppose, had it not been for the shoulder-shrugging and constant stream of contention, what might have been.

Update: September 2021

While helping out as a volunteer* over at my wife's school recently, I bumped into Bob, one of the assistant superintendents in our local school district. We've known one another for many years and worked well together during my time in the principal's office. I've always liked Bob. More than that, I've always trusted him, and have long felt the district's well-being was his top priority, that I could believe whatever he was telling me. On a more personal level, I've always felt that he had my back in times of trouble or contention, which is a great thing to be able to say about one of your bosses.

"Hey, how'd you like to come back and work a couple days a week? " he asked me, smiling. 

"Are you kidding, Bob?  I'm living the retired-guy dream. All play and no work!"

"I know you are! But I'm not kidding. We're short-handed everywhere these days. Right now we really need someone to help out at the bus barn, doing student discipline. The director is doing what he can to stay on top of the big concerns, but otherwise no one's doing discipline for the buses right now. You would be great at it."

And so, as they say, long story short: I got all my sh!t together: certs, background checks, work history, etc., filled out an online application packet like a newb, and got myself all signed up as a bona fide sub-administrator.

And here I am, working again. Every day, actually, not the "couple days" a week Bob forecasted during his sales pitch.  Can't have safe buses just two days a week.  It's a five-day-a-week effort for sure. But I really don't mind. Each day it usually only takes me a few hours to work through the stack of hand-written disciplinary referrals the drivers leave for me. And when I'm done, I'm done: zero homework. And they're paying me well. And most folks seem appreciative of the work I'm doing (I get my ass chewed, usually by an angry parent, at least once a week, which really isn't a big deal. After seven years as a school admin, the once delicate skin that covers my ass is all scar tissue and callous now). And, honestly, I kinda like the feeling of having a bit of a plan for part of my day, but one that's flexible enough to allow me to do whatever else I want with the rest if my day on either end of my shift. And it's nice to be back working with my friends in the school district again, too. I'm still very much a true-believer in public ed, afterall.
 
So, it's a pretty good gig. Not sure how long it will last. Technically, it's an interim role and I'm just subbing-in 'til it's filled. In fact, the district still has it posted for hire, on the off chance you're interested.

But I'm not stupid. This isn't my first rodeo, as they say. The last time I took on an interim role in our district, I did that job for seven years.

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* Since my retirement, I have also been volunteering several days a week with Sunsounds (reading The Prescott Courier and the Arizona Capital Times) and seasonally with Arizona Snowbowl as a member of the Courtesy Patrol. 

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey