Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Moral dilemma

If you had bother to join twitter when you got your invitation, you might be up on the happenings. You would have seen the following entry:

There is some absolutely heinous
and unethical shit going down at work.

So let me tell you the story.

This year at my school, we had two teachers in their first, probationary year. To be completely truthful, there was one I liked more than another. I've gone into Sam's classroom and seen a thoughtful, empathetic, earnest teacher -- in a few years, Sam was going to be a very good teacher. I can't say the same of Terry, who's class I worked in as well. Terry is "very by the book", organised, but doesn't have any passion for teaching. Let's just say I know who I'd want my children to be taught by: Sam.

Well, a temporary teaching position came up, which could be filled by either Sam or Terry. Under the Scottish probationers scheme, Sam and Terry would be out of a job at the end of the school year, their positions to be given to other NQTs (nearly qualified teachers). So how would it be decided whom to hire? Our headteacher (HT) was keeping his cards close to his chest. And the memo detailing assignments for next year were handed out; Terry had the position.

I was gutted for Sam. I, and some of my colleagues, felt Sam deserved more as Sam was clearly the better teacher. But why hadn't Sam been hired? Rumours were swirling: Terry only obtained the position due to luck. Luck? The luck of Terry's name being pulled from a hat. This can't be true, I thought. But it wasn't a rumour: the name pulling had been confirmed by another teacher, who had been in on it.

Right now, I want to report my HT to the union, who would definitely take up the case. I do think it is the right thing to do. But I have reservations. One, I don't think I'm ready to deal with the repercussions on my career, short- and long-term, if it came out that I did this. And two, why should I do this? This isn't my problem and it has bugger all to do with me. There's a definite British attitude that you "keep yourself to yourself" and that you don't butt into business that has nothing to do with you. If he was to be reported, it should be by the union representative from our school, not me. Plus -- a big plus that I have to face, even if I don't want to -- would I be this indignant, this self-righteous, if the one hired had been Sam, the "right man" for the job? Honestly, I'd probably not thought any more than, Oh, that's a shame for Terry, and I wouldn't have gone to my union, lest to ruin it for Sam. So this is not entirely not out of moral outrage, but out of outrage for an injured friend.

But on the other hand... I'm ashamed and angry at my HT. He took advantage of his position of authority and trust. Shit, he might as well had been some sort of paedophile, as these people looked up to him and they were in vulnerable positions, needing a job and being completely inexperienced with employment situations like this. They wouldn't have dared to question the pulling of names from a hat; it probably wouldn't have even crossed their minds to question the situation. I know it wouldn't have if it were me, and it's been nine years since I started teaching. In a way, this part of the argument for reporting him has little to do with the action, but the attitude of my HT. He took advantage of his position and lied about it when confronted by others. Oh yes, did I mention that he was confronted by my school's union rep?

I have other reasons for wanting this to be reported. It's unethical and, I think, illegal what the HT did. All positions have to be advertised, even if the interview process is a formality as someone who has worked in the school is been promised the position. That's the way it is, the policy of my district. And he said that Terry's name was pulled from a hat, but who was there to witness this? Was there some sort of independent adjudicator?

Let me share this aside, which I promise as a point. On the very last day of school one year (early in my teaching career), a fellow teacher wanted to observe me teaching a lesson, an observation that she should have conducted earlier in the school year, something she hadn't gotten around to. I was shocked and felt cornered, but somehow came up with a lesson for this woman to see. When I told my friend Helene this story, she went absolutely crazy. That's completely inappropriate, she roared, and marched me down to the principal's office and made me tell my story. And was I ever grateful she did that. I didn't have the experience to know to do that. And I certainly didn't have the cajones to do it on my own. I tell this story because it reminds me of the Terry and Sam's situation, and I feel that it's my turn to take the Helene role: to take Sam and Terry's hands, march them down and demand justice and to be heard. But I don't want to do this just for their sake; I want to do it for all sorts of injustice going on at my school. I want it to be known that this -- and things like this -- will not be tolerated. To let it be known that I won't let him do anything like that to me.

So I'm sorry for the long entry, but I don't know what to do . I really need to hear from you -- now, more than ever. Please let me know how you think I should proceed.


Blogger Mary Turner Thomson said...

I think you have already made up your mind what you want to do - to take action and not remain silent. The best man for the job was not considered, and the HT has not done their job in assessing the position rather than choosing out of a hat. The question is not what you want to do, but in a sense to be given leave to take action.
Looking back in years to come would you regret doing nothing more than doing something, regardless of the consequences?
I do not know about school politics or the situation - you do. Ask others within the school, and more particularly, ask Sam!

Wednesday, 20 June 2007 at 23:21:00 BST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the risk of sounding old, "sucks getting old, doesn't it?" I don't actually have an opinion about this, except that aren't you still an American? :)
I was touched by your own story, however. Maybe it is time to pass the torch or pay it forward or whatever. What would Dr. Laura say?

Wednesday, 20 June 2007 at 23:29:00 BST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are the repercussions?

Wednesday, 20 June 2007 at 23:51:00 BST  
Blogger Zandra Towns said...

You said the union rep confronted your HT and that the HT lied to them. Has someone told the union rep that they have been lied to? If not then I think you should do that.
Like you said the union rep is there to make sure things are all above board with things like hiring and fring so they should be on this. Get on the union reps back and advise the two teacherlings to do the same. You can be assertive and supportive while covering you on ass.

Thursday, 21 June 2007 at 00:34:00 BST  
Blogger atw said...

agree with zan. if the union rep is really the person who should be reporting this, why don't you (and some others who feel the same) meet with him/her and suggest/demand that they take action immediately (and that if they don't, you will). i'm a bit confused, though, as to why they haven't yet reported it if they know that the ht lied to them (or do they not know after the confrontation?... actually, i'm very confused. what benefit would it be to the ht do something so random rather than make a weighed choice?

p.s. sorry i've been bad at reading blogs. i always am, but lately i've been really bad...

Thursday, 21 June 2007 at 05:32:00 BST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is certainly a bit of a does seem like you have made up your mind and that you need to do something. I think going back to your Union Rep is the way forward. That's what they're there for. To fight your battles for you.

This is actually my first time on your blog, and I love it! Especailly the chat about you confronting 'The Brother' at Perth. When does his membership card arrive?

Thursday, 21 June 2007 at 09:41:00 BST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh and by the way, its Macca on the brotherhood chat!

Thursday, 21 June 2007 at 09:42:00 BST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thursday, 21 June 2007 at 23:18:00 BST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This may turn up later, as I already tried to post it.
This is from the husband of the blogger: this may be the only way I can comment on this issue without a major row. My opinion is that HT may have told people that he chose the name "out of a hat" as a euphemism for "mind your own business", ie. the HT believes that it his choice to make, and not that of the people enquiring of him as to how he came to his descision. This way of giving a fascetious comment is a peculiarly British thing, I think. In support of my opinion, no-one actually witnessed the HT making his descision by picking names "from a hat".

Thursday, 21 June 2007 at 23:25:00 BST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quentin Longbottom-why would this cause a row?

Friday, 22 June 2007 at 02:46:00 BST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy God!
Get over it!
Much worse shit than this happens.
Is the US SUCH a moral place to live?
It's not the impression we get here in "keep yourself to yourself" u.k.
And btw get that effing foto of me off your site!!!

Friday, 22 June 2007 at 19:44:00 BST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In your example from your own life, you said that the more experienced teacher took you into the principal's office with her. I think if you decide to follow up on this, you should go to Sam first and take him with you if/when you talk to the HT. If Sam doesn't want to do it, then drop it. Even though the more experienced teacher showed you how to stand up for yourself, she didn't force you to do anything you really didn't want to do.

Also, before you go on the warpath, bear in mind that just because you don't agree with the decision doesn't mean that it's "evil" or illegal or whatever. It might be that the HT genuinely believes Terry is the better teacher -- bosses get that kind of thing wrong all the time. And sometimes people make decisions for reasons that aren't 100% obvious to folks on the other side. (And I say this as a person who has been turned down for 3 new positions within my company in the past 6 months).

Anyhow, I guess my advice is to find out what action, if any, Sam wants to take. And if you decide to talk to the HT, approach it from a factual standpoint -- just alleging unfairness isn't really enough. Finally, consider some long-term action to make yourself feel better and to try to effect real change. For instance, are there any comittees you can volunteer to serve on that have input into hiring/recruiting teachers? Does the union have a standards organization you can contribute ideas to? You get the idea. The bigger issue here is how teachers are chosen, so if you can be in a position to provide input on that process on a long-term or ongoing basis, maybe that would be a good approach.


Saturday, 23 June 2007 at 05:24:00 BST  

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