Over the course of the last year I’ve learned quite a bit about myself. Personally, it’s mostly just the reaffirmation that I’m not the friendliest person in most situations and that I have to work a little harder than most in social situations. Professionally, I’ve learned more than I could have imagined.
I didn’t start out intending to be an elementary school teacher, but over the course of the last 7 years I continually dug myself deeper and deeper into that choice. I’ve been fortunate in that every experience I’ve had has been relatively positive, but after moving to Saudi and developing my professional demeanor, the reasons that keep me in education have changed dramatically. I like being a teacher (most of the time) and I consider myself to be very competent in chaotic, atypical, less than perfect situations that most people would choose to avoid. However, I can’t see myself being a teacher for the next 35 years. I’d rather be an administrator. Luckily, I’ve had plenty of inadvertent experience working towards that goal.
Between the South African and our Dear Leader I have witnessed almost every type of ineffective, inappropriate, and downright ridiculous things that could happen. Less than perfect situational circumstances aside, I have seen some of the pretty amazing stuff.
This past week the Boys School descended into such extreme chaos that a meeting was called by the entire staff (Arab teachers included, which, considering their ambivalence, is pretty serious) to confront our Dear Leader about his incompetence. Over the course of two hours he was told off in both English and Arabic by most of the teachers, and told very bluntly to start doing his job. He responded by pointing fingers, making excuses, and storming out of the room. Upon his return he sat quietly while everything he needed to do was written down on a giant sheet of paper that was then taped to the wall in his office. He wasn’t very happy, but it did make him realize he needed to start actually doing what his role as principal entailed.
The next morning it was obvious that instead of his normal indecisive hippie attitude, pent up rage was going to be his new M.O. Our morning assembly with students was hardly more than a screaming fit, with our Dear Leader yelling at the top of his lungs in his whiny pale voice at students. He belted out a tirade against improper bathroom behavior and decreed that toilet paper was now banned in the building. He ranted at length about chewing gum in school, singling out both students and teachers by name and making them walk to the front of the assembly to spit their gum into his bare hand. The shouting continued to include a revamped schedule (the biggest factor in most of the chaos we had been having) that would change on a day to day basis indefinitely because, as he put it, ‘I’m the one in charge, like a king, and everyone will do what I say. EVERYONE. NO QUESTIONS ASKED.’ For the rest of the day he roamed the hallways, his pasty bald head a bright shade of pink riddled with popping veins, yelling at anyone who ventured into his path. Granted, it did have a pretty substantial impact on student behavior, but it wasn’t quite what we had hoped for.
Not being satisfied with berating students and subordinate staff members, our Dear Leader went after the other administrators in the Girls School for trying to interfere with his school, he lashed out at the Brit for trying to undermine his authority and lying to him when he was recruited, at me for trying to steal some of his responsibilities and weasel my way into his job, and at Mustafa our accountant for withholding his paycheck (he has no iqama so he can’t open a bank account or cash a check). He did manage to calm down after a few hours, mostly because he lost his voice, and subsequently locked himself away in his office for the rest of the day. The next two days of school were largely the same, with the exception of reversing his toilet paper ban after students start using their hands to smear shit on the bathroom walls.
Since then, he’s been left to his own destructive devices, and, surprisingly, he’s managed to try to do a fair bit of work that he had avoided for the first six weeks of school. The only problem is that the vast majority of his duties involve working with and depending on other people, and no one will voluntarily speak to him. He’s been sending out emails every hour or so since he lost his voice, and because of his mandate that all members of administration be CC’d on every communication in the school (so he can see everything that’s done and attempt to manipulate it), everyone can see how deep he’s dug his hole. He’ll continue to work all weekend without actually being able to accomplish anything and there’s little to nothing he can do about it. Who knows what next week will bring.
So far I’ve enjoyed learning new things from every day experiences, mistakes included. Seeing things collapse firsthand makes it even more worthwhile, especially when life presents you with such perfect examples of how not to act. Case in point, life gets a whole lot tougher when you burn every bridge you find.