Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Burden of Command

I was going to make this post about my first two weeks of school, but rather than focusing on my classroom, events today are making me think about my responsibilities outside the classroom and how I need to deal with them.

I must say up front that I am not shy about taking charge of something for better or worse. If there is a power vacuum, I tend to fill it. If there is an ineffective leader in charge, I pressure them to improve or outright take over. It's not because I have delusions of becoming a tinpot dictator or anything, but I'm a pretty meticulous person, and I like things done correctly. So if I'm not in charge and it's not getting done correctly, that drives me batty to no end. For most of last year, our team leader was trying to dump the job on my lap because it was obvious that she couldn't do it and I could. As you've read on this blog, I was kind of too busy taking classes and figuring out how to teach to take the job, but when she declared to everyone that she was not coming back, I volunteered for the job.

It's not a hard job per se, but it's a bit of a petty bureaucratic feel to it because I'm essentially the liaison between the administration and my fellow seventh grade teachers. The most tedious part of it is heading up our daily team meetings. With a good team, it's a breeze. If you don't have a good team, it's like pulling teeth. Thankfully, this year's team is like the former instead of the latter, and my fellow teachers have done a great job of taking on roles that I wanted to delegate. What I'm left with is essentially being the face of the team and the person who can spin anything that needs to be said to administrators either at the school level or above.

So today we came into teaming and I was looking to finish up a lesson for my Honors class the next period. In walks a Central Office employee to complete an inservice on drug abuse. I had another activity planned, and was caught flat-footed. My principal looked at me quizzically and told me that this was on the weekly announcement e-mail. I responded by smirking and sheepishly admitting that even though I've been there for over a year, I still don't get school e-mails due to not being assigned to the school by the e-mail server. The COC employee looked at me strangely, but my principal started laughing and told her that this is really a shame since I have pretentions of being a good team leader and best of all, I am the school's technology lead teacher, after all. I could only fake a shameful look and talk about the irony of it all. I then apologized to the COC employee about being clueless about her coming, and she sweetly brushed it off, calling it all a part of being in charge of something.

And you know what? She is completely correct. Leading is really a series of unexpected situations that not even the best planning and bureaucratic paperwork can prepare us for. Though this was a pretty amusing example of dealing with unexpected events on a moment's notice, it pales in comparison to the daily fun of being our school's technology lead teacher. That position is essentially the technology resource person at school who is in charge of professional development for technology, writing the school's technology plan, and most mundanely, doing basic troubleshooting of our school's PCs and assorted hardware, and putting wha can't get fixed on our HelpDesk. Our last TLT was our curriculum facilitator, who has since moved on to being an assistant principal at a school on the East End of the parish (Jerk. [Not really. I'm quite happy for her, but I miss her so.]), and I filled in the position (See a trend?) with the expectation that I'd get to do some neat professional development using technology and use my deep knowledge of technology to help my colleagues.

Instead, I spend my free time (and some of my teaching time if it's an emergency) making printers work, "fixing" e-mail, and crawling under desks to reconnect cables that were somehow disconnected. I could already write an article about how silly some of the problems were, but that would be unfair to my colleagues since a lot of them just aren't anywhere as immersed in technology (Much less knowing a handful of programming languages like I do) as I am, not to mention it wouldn't be very nice.

Suffice it to say that sitting under a desk spraying canned air to clean out a filter and reconnect some cables can really show you what leadership and the burden of command really is: your subordinates look to you to solve their problems because you've shown the aptitude to be placed in charge--and their faith in you and your abilities can really be quite high. I could easily get perturbed that a student asks me to hurry to their class to save their teacher's technology crisis while I'm teaching a lesson, but I've decided to take it as evidence that they wouldn't be asking for my help if they didn't think I could fix it right then and there. It's the burden of leadership that I'm more than willing to carry--even if it means embarassing myself by being the only teacher to not be on the e-mail server list despite being in charge of technology.

Until next time.

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