Why do I live in fear that my school's senior leaders want to get rid of me?
All of us can be irrational, even at the best of times. For me this happens on a Friday afternoon when the final bell peals for two days of precious freedom. I should be singing the Hallelujah chorus, but instead I can’t stop thinking about Senior Leadership Team and their once-a-week gathering behind the closed door of the principal’s office.
My friends tell me I’m one of the most irrational people they have ever met. So it’s no surprise that when Friday afternoon arrives, I can be found pacing my classroom in apprehension, worrying that today’s agenda will go something like:
- Why on earth did we employ him?
- What has he done wrong recently?
- How can we get rid?
Am I being slightly unreasonable? Perhaps.
I’m in no way trying to justify my irrationality. I have no real concern that I have ever done anything wrong, unless depleting the staffroom’s stash of chocolate cookies counts. To be blunt, I’m good at my job and I have, I think, a functional relationship with staff, parents and students…
So what’s the problem?
I guess it all comes down to prior experience. We all know of schools where teachers have mysteriously dropped off the face of the Earth with absolutely no warning and little explanation for their sudden disappearances. Widespread panic in the staffroom follows. Rumours and whisperings develop, followed by mass alarm as staff wait to be stabbed in the back and told to get lost.
Few teachers are truly in cahoots with the powers-that-be to such an extent that they can work in blissful tranquillity, knowing that their head isn’t on a chopping block.
To those few, I say: "Lucky you."
These lucky ones rarely share their insight with those lower down the hierarchy. We just have to roll with the punches. And as for the new kids on the block…they just have to hope and pray they’ll make it through their NQT year with an invite back for round two. Some don’t.
Years ago, a kind member of senior management pulled me aside to offer some quiet advice on surviving my first term. He described the school like an Elizabethan court: the staff room rife with politics, the multiple agendas of that one teacher, conflicts of interest between departments and power struggles. All of which left me with a lump in my throat and an increased sense of anxiety. I never did thank him for that pep talk.
Mostly, I have been lucky enough to work at schools where, through positive reinforcement and encouragement, I have felt secure in the fact that I’m doing a great job.
Friends of mine have had it worse. I’ve heard absolute horror stories about their schools and the injustices suffered by staff, some of which are downright Machiavellian.
So perhaps my irrationality shouldn’t be underestimated after all.
For those of us out there who will one day make it to the upper echelons of senior management; perhaps we will sit on the other side of that door and finally realize that these puzzling weekly meetings are in fact rather mundane.
Until then though, we wait, a little troubled and rather unnerved.