Saturday, 23 February 2013

Politics at work

I was on MC on Thursday.

The temperature surged at night, leaving me in shivers all night. Panadols didn't help much.

I could not step out of the door.

I had a remedial class. I had to go to school, but I could not.

So I smsed my 'buddy' - a system the school has to improve communication between staff when you are absent from work.

But all she replied was 'Please call the office. It's too long to say here.'

I called the office, but the office said I had to let my buddy know what I wanted to do for my remedial class. So I had to sms my buddy again to tell her that the office had asked me to sms her.
The buddy replied me saying that my teacher-aid would take over my class and remedial and gave me her number.

The buddy's tai-chi responses made me feel like I had been imposing on her, so I liaised with the teacher-aid directly and told her what she could do with the class.

I thought everything was well until after school hours, I received a long email from my buddy.

She accused me of not telling them what to do.

I was shocked.

I explained that I had informed the teacher-aid what I wanted her to do and had emailed her all the necessary worksheets and attendance lists for the remedial class.

She did not let up. She emailed me a second time to continue her accusations but stated that the emails were not meant to point faults at anyone.

I replied saying that I was a phone call or sms away so there was no need to go on a wild goose chase.

Then she replied again, saying that I should have tried to 'predict' or plan my MC on a day without remedial classes so that it does not inconvenient others.

I was tempted to reply,"Then I can only say that your MCs are not genuine."

I was tempted to type down the original dates the hospital had given me for my child's asthma appointment, my physiotherapy session and the follow-up visit to the doctor and told her I could have taken childcare leave and MCs for all these dates but it was precisely I tried so hard not to inconvenient others that I always changed the dates and hours to the March holiday or after-school hours whenever possible.

The fever was not planned.

I am not sure how many people can go to work after having a night of fever, but it's definitely not me.

When I went to school the next day, my buddy saw me and asked me,"How are you? If you are not feeling well, you should stay home for today. You could just let us know what to do with the class."

One word came to my mind - 'hypocrital'.

Have the 8 years of teaching just taught her how to play tai-chi and be hypocritical?

During the last semester of NIE, I had the most harrowing experience of working with a girl who never failed to complain to tutors that one of her groupmates was not doing any work.

I didn't think it could happen to me as for all group projects, I would contribute the most, not because I loved doing projects, but because I wanted a Second Upper Honours desperately.

But she complained to the tutor for that module about me anyway! Needless to say, I didn't get an A for that module. I went to the extent of 'challenging' the tutor to give me a C if he deemed necessary.

I brought this up because the act of the buddy reminded me of what that evil girl said about teaching - covering backside.

When she mentioned that, the first thought that came to my mind was: if teaching is all about 'covering backside', then the kids are doomed.

I always say that my previous school has the best people or colleagues, but the worst systems in place.

We don't cover our own backsides. We cover for one another. Mistakes that would have been fatal in another school are quickly remedied by another colleague without a hitch. I would have stayed in the school despite feeling saturated if not for the lousy systems. The people are really the nicest and most helpful anywhere I have seen and worked at.

The hours were too long. Every day, an average of ten teachers was absent since any day is a 10- to 11-hour day, so naturally, we have relief lessons at least 3 or 4 times a week, and sometimes it could be 2 periods at a stretch.

The hours after school were filled with workshops and meetings. And the meetings could be really last-minute - you could be informed of a meeting at 1.55pm when the meeting would start at 2pm!

Very often, meetings are suddenly decided: oh, everybody is here today, let's have a meeting after school!

And the meetings are often not short ones. Every day, for some reason, the day is stretched to at least 5.30pm.

We didn't get to mark our books after school. The only time we got to mark our books was our free period, which could also be eaten up by relieving other colleagues' lessons or doing admin work.

It was a pity that the school was not well-run.

Having lived past 30, I am tired of having to deal with politics. I don't know if I can hold out till the end of this year for all the politics in this new school.

The systems are really wonderful. They even have a lady who laminates and cuts your teaching resources, and very efficiently at that! Their printing lady accepts her job readily and is willing to print quickly. Their admin manager is extremely helpful and smiley. Their clerks do not give you a 'what do you want from me again' face. The principal is aware of her staff's presence and say 'hi!' to her staff even when she is with a visitor.

The workload is really not heavy. The days are short. Their longest day is just about the normal day at my previous school.

But perhaps the teachers are too used to playing politics that they see it as a necessity, no matter who they deal with.

Hardly two months into the new school, these Chinese proverbs are on my mind constantly:


I had wished that, for all the experience that older teachers have, they would be wiser, and nicer and feel secure about themselves.

Unfortunately, I notice that those who play politics at a ripe old age of 40 and beyond are usually spinsters.

They are not very nice people, or at least not to me.

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