This past week was another wonderful misadventure into the underbelly of organizational leadership. The sudden changes I had spoken of previously have started taking place, and, now more than ever, it’s becoming glaringly obvious just how absurd our school has become.
At the beginning of the week our Dear Leader called me into his office for what was supposed to be the first of many routine chats between our administrative positions. It started out awkward enough, but several minutes in I asked him if we could speak freely about what was really going on, one on one, mostly off the record. I asked him bluntly if he thought he was actually doing a good job, and after several minutes of excuses he admitted that he didn’t think he was. I asked him if he thought we could succeed as a legitimate school, and after several minutes he admitted he didn’t think so. We continued to talk at length about areas he needed to improve and he willingly asked me, an inexperienced teacher half his age with no administrative experience, what exactly he should be doing to adequately do his job. I told him, at great length, what he should focus on and how best to confront the many problems he faced. At the end of the meeting we walked away with a better understanding of one another. Granted, that basically meant he’d fully acknowledged he has no idea what he's doing, but regardless, we were better off than we started.
Later that afternoon a meeting was held with our Steering Committee, basically all the administration, our Vice President, and several Stakeholders in the educational branch of our company. It was my first time attending this meeting since I was added to administration three months ago, but nevertheless it was an eye-opener. Our school is currently seeking accreditation with an overseeing body from the U.S., and the process is a considerable undertaking for any school, let alone one as ridiculously inept as mine. Fully understanding that a first time accreditation process usually takes a new school somewhere between 12 and 18 months, Latifah (our ‘Academic Supervisor’) and the Girls’ School Prinicipal promised the VP back in June that we could achieve accreditation by February of this coming year (just under 9 months away at that point). Things have fallen into such a dismal state that it's highly unlikely we could even hope of achieving our goal of passable accreditation by the end of the 2013-14 school year, let alone 3 months from now in February. I sat silently while members of my administration tried desperately to convince our VP to give us more time, all the while he played on his mobile and ignored their justification. In the end, he denied their pleas for an extension, and demanded that we continue with our February goal. I met with him alone afterward to further explain a number of different points that clarified our desperate situation, and frankly told him that I fully expect to fail if something drastic wasn’t done to alleviate the situation. I’ve come to an understanding with the VP, gaining a considerable amount of his trust, and I felt it couldn't have been a better time to let him know my thoughts. He was very grateful for our converstaion, but ultimately he asked for a solution and I told him bluntly that he should fire the current administration and hire someone who actually understood what they were doing. In the end, he told me that wasn’t going to happen, but that I should do my best to guide them through the process and that he was willing to entrust me with the success of the school.
Just to reiterate that last point: the Vice President of the company that owns my school told me, a second year teacher with no administrative experience, that I should do my best to lead my administration who supposedly have over 60 collective years of administrative experience, through an extensive accreditation process which I know next to nothing about in order to ensure that our school can function beyond the next school year, and his sole justification was because ‘I trust you and hold very much confidence in you.’
We held several more meetings with administration over the course of the next few days, many of which I found myself leading, in hopes of sorting out many of the underlying problems that we face in the daunting task of completing accreditation. Things weren’t looking particularly positive, but I had managed to persuade most of the administration to focus solely on specific aspects of accreditation and leave the majority of day to day school operations under my authority. I fixed a number of different problems we have continually faced over the last three months, then started to delegate tasks to other members of our general teaching staff to shore up our accreditation efforts. All the while I continued to teach my fourth grade class for four periods a day.
I spent a considerable amount of time working with a few trusted teachers, especially an IT coordinator who helped me create a number of different resources that we were desperately lacking. We created a basic outline of a school-wide online database for a number of different teacher and administrative aspects of both schools, and formulated plans to train teachers to implement them over the course of the next few weeks. I also streamlined our school website for both parent and teacher use, then reorganized our administrative flowchart to clearly illustrate who takes care of specific issues and trained every participating staff member on how to go about utilizing their new roles. By the end of the week I was a bit tired, but there was still an overwhelming amount left to be done.
I went into work yesterday, the first day of our weekend, ready to focus on my classroom and a large stack of tests I needed to correct. I ended up spending the first three hours answering emails. Growing tired of constantly dealing with the short sidedness of Latifah and our Dear Leader, I sent them an email politely asking that they refrain from contacting the entire school body using email unless they had previously run things by me, and that if they were to include anything in an email that they please refrain from using commanding or overly authoritative tones (something that has managed to infuriate our staff over the last three months). Latifah’s reply was a longwinded tirade of unprofessional backlash and uncalledfor patronizing responses about everything from my title of ‘Academic Coordinator’ to my being an ‘inexperienced, non-understanding, nonMuslim-sympathizing, white bread, American, wanna-be teacher.’
My reply was a simple resignation letter from any and all administrative authority, effective immediately.
I spent the rest of my afternoon ignoring my email, correcting papers, organising my classroom, and I rounded it out with an evening at the Brit’s for a nice dinner and more than a few drinks.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, I received several emails over the course of the evening from Latifah, our Dear Leader, and the Principal of the Girls' School pleading with me to reconsider my resignation. They tried to reconcile and justify many of the problems I had highlighted in dealing with them, and without saying it outright, showed their complete lack of confidence in their ability to achieve their goal of accreditation without my efforts. I blatantly ignored them. I reiterated my feelings about the matter and stated that, as of this coming Saturday, December 1st, my sole responsibility with our company will be to teach 4th grade and nothing else.
Oddly enough, the VP has been travelling around China these last few days finding suppliers for several planned new schools in Riyadh and Jeddah that will open in the coming few years, and hasn’t been aware of everything that has happened. As understanding (and naïve) as he might be, he is sure to be quite pissed upon his return.
To be honest, I don’t know what the next few days will bring, and beyond the relief that I feel about now being able to focus solely on my teaching, I’m completely bewildered. I’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t worth my time or effort to continue straining myself to such illogical extremes. I had previously justified working this hard because it made my other aspects of my life, as well as countless others, easier to a certain degree, and it proved my investment in the future of my particular situation, but it has come to a point that my efforts are no longer warranted.
Sometimes you just have to know when to give up.