Readers who follow this blog know that in my other life, I work as an Admin Assistant to the Principal of a large suburban high school.
Readers who don’t follow this blog… well, they know now.
Monday morning, my administrator greeted me with, “I hope your weekend was better than mine.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“A teacher quit!”
My mind raced over the staff list, the various possibilities. Was there a news report I missed? Was someone arrested? I asked who it was — braced myself for the possibility it was someone I liked.
She said the name. It was one of our new teachers. For the sake of privacy, I’ll call him Dr. Dave.
Dr. Dave was one of the first of our new hires, and we considered it a stroke of luck someone with a doctorate was going to teach at our school. First and second year Spanish, no less.
Let that sink in: a man with a doctorate was knowingly accepting a position to teach lower level high school Spanish.
I met Dr. Dave about a month ago. The Department Lead was going to show him his classroom and give him a tour.
Dr. Dave had white hair, thick and wavy. He was stout, but not overly so, and he had a pleasant face.
Also, he spoke like Ricardo Montalban.
He sat on the couch near my desk and told me stories as we waited for the Lead.
He told me of the time he taught in Costa Rica. Everyone in the village told him not to open windows. They didn’t say why, just don’t open windows. He figured it was because of bugs.
But one day he was in his classroom alone and it was stifling hot. He decided to open two windows. Within minutes, the room was full of monkeys!
He told me other things too. The important thing to remember is that he lived in Costa Rica for a time. Got that?
Three weeks later, I’m walking him to his classroom and he’s complaining about Phoenix’s humidity.
“I guess you’re used to it, but my god it’s humid here!”
I looked it up. On that day, the temperature in Phoenix, Arizona, was 91°F and our humidity was 36%. In San Jose, Costa Rica, the same day was 82°F and 94% humidity.
I realize I’m suspicious by nature, and just a tad cynical, so I let it pass. Maybe the guy just didn’t like heat. Maybe Costa Rica was long ago and he only remembered the monkeys. Maybe he was just having an off day.
Then, after eight days of school, he gives his notice. But not much of a notice. Monday would be his last day.
The reason? He said our kids weren’t smart enough.
Actually, what he said was that they didn’t know English well enough. He shouldn’t have to spend time explaining sentence structure or reminding them what a predicate was.
Also, they expected him to speak English. He refused. You can’t teach a foreign language by speaking in their native language. “That goes against everything my 37 years of training taught me.”
He quoted Shakespeare in his letter too. Or as he referred to him, “Billy Shakespeare”.
Later that same day, we had another resignation. By another Dave. We’ll call him Dave G.
Dave G. was hired under an emergency provision, allowing non-teachers with bachelor degrees to take “hard-to-fill” positions.
Not sure if you heard, but there’s a teacher shortage. Especially in Science, Math, and Special Ed. Dave G. was hired to teach Earth Science.
I met Dave G. about a month ago as well. I showed him his classroom, found a teacher’s edition of the class textbook, and listened to his story.
He had been a meteorologist. He worked for a news station for awhile, then for an airline. They moved to Arizona about a year ago and he decided to try out teaching.
After eight days, he realized he was in over his head. “This is the hardest job I ever had,” he told my Administrator. She was sympathetic.
He said he’d stay on until we found a long-term sub, and given the fact he looked like he aged four years since we last met, I thought that was pretty swell of him.
So what are the lessons can we learn from our two Daves?
I believe there are three:
- Humility is Always Better than Arrogance
If you’re having trouble with a job, admit it. Don’t push the blame elsewhere or claim you’re too good for it.
- Leaving a Job With No Notice is Not Cool
Especially for some jobs. Like brain surgery. Not cool. Granted, teaching isn’t brain surgery, but it’s still not cool to leave your post without warning. For our school, five teachers gave up their planning periods to cover the classes until we could find a sub.
- If You Live in Costa Rica, Don’t Open Your Windows
Whether or not the monkey story is true, it sounds like good advice.
One final note: If you happen to know any teachers, tell them there are a few positions open in Phoenix.
Daves need not apply.