Things to Do


When I used to teach high school, we went through a couple of severely shitty principals.

There was the one guy who was talking at commencement–badly. I was sitting with the students, having had mostly seniors that year, and one of the kids leaned over and asked, all big eyes, “Who… is… that?”

“That’s your principal.”

“No he’s not.”

“I swear!”

“No! Dr. H is our principal!”

“No, he’s one of the VP’s.”



“I shit you not, Ms. Lane, I’ve never seen that guy before in my life!”

Yeah.  Not a great leader.

There was the asswipe (and he shows up in a lot of stories as the guy who wrote me up for calling him ‘Dude’. Which I did instead of calling him ‘Asshole’, or ‘Vainglorious Prickweenie’) who took over my class once when I got stuck in traffic. I’d forgotten my keys and I was outside my classroom (which was right next to the locked gate) pitching rocks against my window trying to get one of the kids to come let me in, and he wouldn’t let the kid go.

I finally got in, and he’d apparently been lecturing them for forty-five minutes about what total worthless losers they were and how they’d never survive after high school. I heard part of this lecture. It was exactly what they said it was.

The list of this guy’s sins as a leader was long and distinguished, but mostly he was just a shitty asshole and he hated his job and he hated his students and he hated us for sometimes needing him to deal with his students.

A great leader he was not.

And I think it was during that guy’s reign of mediocrity (or another guy’s–we had some complete hosers there, trust me) that we almost had a riot at our school.

Between fifth and sixth period those of us in outlying classrooms heard a roar and we could see a gathering in the quad. We hustled kids into our rooms and made them NOT gather at whatever the hell was going on in the quad, kept as many kids in the room as possible and hoped for the best.

Our other option was to leave our students and go charging through the campus to see what that mass of violence was, and that didn’t sound awesome either.

It turned out that one of the teachers was trying to break up a fight–and ended up protecting one of the two kids who’d been involved while surrounded by a hundred screaming students threatening to make things go from bad to worse.

This teacher was one of the good ones. He’d been coopted as drama teacher and had done his credential work while teaching. He loved his kids, loved the school, loved the job.

He wanted to make a difference, so after he survived that, he went and got his admin credential and became a VP and then principal–one of the best I ever had.

Because he believed his school was better than that angry, seething mass of hatred, and even though the current leader was a shit-encrusted-butthole, he thought that with some hard work, the school could be better than that, so he tucked in to do the work.

I admit–I was pretty disaffected by this point. Those assholes–the long run of them–had all been the type of guy who picked the goofy woman who stood out from the crowd and used her as target practice.  Women in general were not their favorite–for a variety of reasons.  (The level of misogyny at a high school campus still boggles me. I could go on.)

But this guy–he’d worked with us in the trenches. We respected the holy fuck out of him. He was respectful toward ME. When my department made me feel like slime, this guy was the one who took me aside and said, “Your test scores were as high or higher than anyone else in your department. Don’t let them do that to you.”

It was the first time in my career besides the AP test (that one of the other assholes had taken away from me) in which someone referenced my test scores and even admitted I was doing a competent job.

Hell–that guy was responsible for my first job observation in six years.

So what’s my point?

My point is we’re afraid and there are riots.

There are idiots–terrible terrible people–doing terrible, terrifying things to our country and our leader is a shit-encrusted-asshole who not only doesn’t know how to stop it, is actually initiating policy that helps to encourage it.

And we are afraid.  For those of us far away, we are gathering our families together and making sure they don’t go out into the danger–and don’t become part of it. But we’re well aware (or we should be) that “far away” could be in our backyard any day. We could be the one standing in the middle of the shouting assholes, trying to protect someone because that’s just our fucking job.

And no amount of complaining is going to get the shit-encrusted-asshole out of the place of leadership any sooner (although I have faith he’s got to go) and when he goes, we don’t have any reassurance the next guy is anything less than just “not so psychotic”.

So what do we do?

Well, here’s the thing. I DIDN’T have a job review in six years. None of us did. We could have been teaching the kids how to put condoms on bananas (except that would have been useful AND gotten us fired) for all anybody knew.

But we weren’t.

We were all teaching them the California state standards.

Maybe not as a cohesive whole–and using shitty textbooks–but dammit, that’s what we were teaching. We were fighting for the AP program and grading them on their essays and making them comprehend and even love the literature and helping them get into college.


We were there for the kids. We were there for the community.

The shit-encrusted-asshole in the office was the last person we aimed to please. (DUUUUUUUUUUUDE….)

Because he really wasn’t worth our attention. We could only control what was going on in our classrooms–and plan and hope and educate ourselves to train up a better leader in the future.

I know this situation is scarier. There is no guarantee a “Jimmy Eick” (which is what I called him in Bonfires) will arise, and if he did, well, we already watched the shit-encrusted-asshole betray his country to cheat his way into power.

But that doesn’t change the fact that we never STOPPED TEACHING.

None of us.

We never stopped doing what was right to the best of our ability. We never stopped trying to protect our students. We never stopped trying to get them into college.

Was it easier with good leadership? Oh hell yes.

But you don’t get a teaching credential and then go to a school district with a 98% free and reduced lunch rate because you’re looking for easy.

So what do we do?

Same sitch, bigger stakes.

We ignore the shitty leader. We take steps to remove him, sure. But everything that comes out of his mouth is a shit-scented lie–document the lie, take appropriate steps, and let him rot from the inside out, as he appears to be doing.

And then we keep teaching. We keep NOT buying the racist rhetoric, we keep making our own communities as inclusive and as kind as we can, and when we’re able, we take the leadership roles that make us feel like we’re making a difference.

Mate is soccer registrar this year. One of the things he’s had to deal with is helping coaches deal with children with disabilities. For example, NOT giving up on the neuro-atypical kids because a coach wants his U8 kids to be “winners!”

Such a small thing, to give someone the tools to be a better volunteer, a better mentor, a better coach. Such a small thing to try to stand up for the kid who (much like our kid) is not always on pace with the other knot of seven year olds running around in circles.

Such an important thing, trying to create a world in which everybody–EVERYBODY– is accepted and cared for and given a chance to succeed.

And we don’t need the shit-encrusted traitor who betrayed his country to vomit fascism all over our most deeply held values to tell us how to hold on to the center of those values through bile and hellfire.

Most of us already know.

0 thoughts on “Things to Do”

  1. Unknown says:

    Well said. We do need to find one another in a country that went "Pay Per Flush" because we all well know by now that it only encourages the rest of the country to look and be treated like a septic tank. It encourages the really big chunks to float to the top.


  2. Amy, I think you just dropped the mic. Thank you. I'll be sharing this.

  3. I love you, Amy!!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *