Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Watching the Clock.......

I have worked for many principals in my teaching career, and it seems they all had varying opinions about teachers' working hours. To their credit, the vast majority of the ones I've worked under have taken the approach that teachers don't stop working when they walk out the door, so the 8:00-4:00 working hours have been somewhat flexible. I had one principal who allowed me to be late every single day because we lived 30 minutes away on a country dirt road, and I didn't want to leave home until Sweet Girl was on the bus. He was cool with that, since I had first period planning, and it didn't impact my direct interaction with students. He went home every. single. day. for a two-hour nap, so it's not like he had a whole lot of room to talk.

We've usually been expected to sign in and out, but even that wasn't always strictly enforced. In my first teaching job, another teacher and I started playing games with each other, signing each other out at random times of the day for made-up reasons, trying to see who could be more outrageous than the other. I wonder what she's doing now....she got a divorce and left town, taking a job teaching in Hawai'i, and naturally we couldn't be friends after THAT. I remember getting a postcard from her that said, "I'm never going to wear pantyhose again." I sighed wistfully at the thought. Yes, I realize I'm showing my age.

At another school, one of the several principals who marched through there thought it was important that teachers be on time. Or at least that they SIGN IN on time. He asked the secretary (or perhaps he did it himself, I don't know) to put a RED DOT next to anyone's name who had not signed in at 8:00. It didn't matter that perhaps someone had arrived early to school and gone directly to his or her classroom; it also didn't matter if you were there until 5:00 or 6:00 coaching a sport or directing the play or putting together the yearbook. The details are fuzzy, but supposedly something "bad" was to happen if you got three red dots. One of our assistant principals, a woman with a bad attitude to begin with, went in one morning and red-dotted HER OWN NAME all the way across the week. That did not go over well.

I've worked in more than one school where the front office would be closed when I left for the day. So the next morning I would sign OUT from the day before and IN for that day at the same time. Sometimes I even told the truth. There was talk at one school where I worked (can you tell I've been around the block a few times?) of having teachers sign in from their own computers. That made perfect sense to me, since it could be done from the classroom and didn't involve what might be a long walk to the front office. I'm not sure it ever came to fruition, and I left that school. Too.

Our county started using electronic key cards a few years ago, but it never touched our school because we were A) so small; and B) located in an ancient building that didn't even meet ADA codes. When they moved us this year, though, the building was equipped with the key card scanners, so that's how we are supposed to check in and out. I don't mind it, but I've heard that the POWER-THAT-BE spends a lot of time going over those electronic log-ins. Just as in a previous location, working an hour past the normal quitting time of 4:00 has no impact whatsoever, but you can have your pay docked if you are late to school. Or are late swiping your card. Woe be unto anyone who arrives at school at the same time as another faculty member and saunters in the front door, chatting all the while, and forgets to swipe his or her card. You aren't there. They can prove it, because you didn't swipe your card. Thanks but no thanks for holding the door for me, I've got to swipe my damn card.

Who in the world came up with the 40-hour work week anyway? I can see it for some professions, but is it really necessary for jobs like teaching? If the students are gone and I don't have lesson plans to write (I don't) or papers to grade (I don't), what's the point of my sitting around waiting for the clock to turn over to what someone has deemed "quitting time"? Every time a student sends me a text message when I'm at home, do I have the privilege of running down to the school and swiping my card in/out, because by golly I was WORKING during those minutes? You're right, that could get expensive, even if it IS only five miles to school.

I guess I shouldn't complain about the possibility of getting scolded when it hasn't happened yet. It just irks me that in a profession where we should be treated..... oh, professionally maybe?...... we actually get treated like the kids we teach.

Going to bed so I can clock in on time tomorrow,



Julie said...

According to Jay Griffiths who wrote Sideways Look at Time, women have a different experience of time than men do. Were all the administrators men?

Anonymous said...

I don't think teachers have to sign in and out here - there would probably be mass demonstrations if they had to!! If you treat your employees badly, they won't give of their best ....