Exit Interview

Posted on May 17, 2011

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When I leave, there won’t be any formal exit interview.

In reality, there’s no need.

The new principal already knows how I feel about the school.  He and I have talked about the problems, my role, and why I’m leaving.

He’s also tried to get me to stay, but when he heard about the place I was heading, he said he understood and that I couldn’t pass that up.

And now, the hired gun knows how I feel about the school.

That’s right.  We have a hired gun.  The principal was the first hired gun.  He was brought in as a cleaner.  Clean up the dead weight.

Clean he did.  Fired five people in the first week.  Then, there were more.  Then, changes to rules and everything.  Then, more firings at the end of the year.

Now, there’s a new guy.  Hah-vaarhd man.

He was hired to “consult” the school on how things can be improved.  So he decided to find people he thought could give him some information on how the school could be improved.

We set up a meeting, and we began talking.

He told me about his background, where he came from, what he did, why he was there.

Then, I told him about my background, where I came from, what I did, and why I was leaving.

I found out he was from the northeast, although his wife was from here.  I found out he was well-traveled and well-read.  I found out he liked jazz and could discuss the merits of obscure jazz artists.

He found out that I knew jazz and played jazz.  He found out that I was well-read and well-traveled.  He found out that I wasn’t from here, nor was I from there.

He asked where I would be working, and then said that he did know of the place I was going quite well, and could see why I’d leave for a place like that.

He asked how I came about finding a job like that.  I told him that I went about it the same way most people go about finding new jobs.

He commented that I must be good at my job to land the new job (he worked in admissions for colleges and was familiar with the quality of students from my future place of employment).

He asked what prompted the need to look for a new job, and I told him that, in a few words more kind, “this place sucks.”

We got into specifics.

I told him the school had no sense of “community” despite it actually having the word “community” in its mission statement.

I told him there was a serious lack of professional collaboration.

I told him there was a serious misunderstanding of what it takes to manage classrooms that are too big.

I told him that certain people were clueless when it came to knowing how to properly lead and manage a team of teachers.

I told him that doing my job made me dislike my career.

He asked what could be done to improve these situations.  I told him that the school needed to get rid of a lot of the micromanagement and allow teachers the creative space to do their job well.  I told him that the school should stop expecting teachers to be prescriptive, and expect them to be more progressive.

We talked about educational reform and educational theory.  He, being a Hah-vaarhd man, knew these things because that was his master’s degree program.  I talked about multiple intelligences and best practices.  I talked about interdisciplinary approach to education and the downfall of whole-class instruction.  He seemed shocked and said, “you’re the only person here I’ve spoken to who has even talked about these things.  The sharing of best practices is one of my favorite things and something I studied for my dissertation.”

I talked about the teaching to the middle and the plight of a ballooning “average” student body.  He listened and nodded his head.

He laughed when I told him that I hate lesson plans and that in theory, they are merely guidelines and suggestions of where to go.  I told him I believed in the organic movement of my class and that I no longer wrote lesson plans for my department head because I realized that nobody even looked at them.  I told him that they were mere checklists for someone to say, “yup, he’s doing his job” without ever having come to my class to see if I truly was doing what was on the paper.

He laughed again and said, “You’re a jazz guy.  I wouldn’t expect you to write lesson plans.”

I told him that the school was acting within the frame of appearances, but that in reality the school was falling apart because the focus was not on teaching, but rather on numbers and averages.

I said if they wanted to really see who was doing their job, then perhaps they should just go look around the school.  Instead, they look at your grade book and lesson plans as an indicator that you’re actually teaching.

He asked me to name this unnamed “they” I kept referring to.

So I did.  The V.P.

He went “hmmmm” and nodded his head.

We talked more and more.  We talked about almost every imaginable facet of the school for nearly 90 minutes when he had to leave to go sit in on a class.

But, before he left, he asked if we could meet again to discuss more about the school and things that should be done to improve it.  I said sure, and that I’d make time for him.

“You do realize that everyone says you’re pretty much the smartest guy here,” he said.  “From what I can tell, you’re the biggest loss to the school.  But, I can totally understand why you’re leaving.”

“I don’t want to be the smartest guy in the room,” I said.  “That’s not good for my growth as a teacher.”

Off we went our separate ways.

I ended up at lunch.  V.P. was also at lunch.  She is always at lunch.

I asked the V.P., “so who brought in the hired gun?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, was he brought in by the Honchos or was he brought in by just our school here?”

“We invited him here to see what he could find out about our school and how to improve it.  I gave him your name because I figured you would be a perfect person for him to talk to about the inside workings of the school and how to make it better.”

I sat there, chewing the bite of chicken pasta I had just placed in my mouth.  There were hints of oregano and Italian dressing.  A tiny sliver of red onion crunched between my teeth.

“I told him that you were the guy to talk to,” she said.  She kept nibbling her hummus and celery.

Hello nail.  Meet coffin.

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Posted in: Teaching