Scenes From The Monkey House: Stupidity Strikes Again

I haven't had a moment to recount my latest skirmish with IT, but I currently find a few free minutes, so here it is: We used to have an e-mail system in the district wherein anyone could e-mail anything to any other member in the district or any collection of members.  This included all of the teachers in various buildings, administrators, custodial staff, secretarial staff or any combination of the above.  In my time in the district, this has led to some fascinating demonstrations of the differing interests and perceived priorities of various individuals and sectors of the district.  Some of the more interesting highlights include:

  • a note, marked as "high importance," sent to the entire district informing us that the play in which a former ELA director and elementary school principal was performing had been extended by one whole extra week due to inclement weather, accompanied by a large-format head shot of said individual.
  • Puppies, kittens and older animals for adoption.  The occasional need of a house to rent.  Frequent spare pairs of sporting event tickets for sale.  Blank college credits for sale.
  • Various opportunities for the biggest wigs to tell us how appreciated we are by them (usually concurrently with attempts by such biggest wigs to negotiate more favorable working conditions at the expense of the teacher's union).  The occasional instance of the President of our BOE chiming in to show that he is just as upset/saddened by a particular tragedy affecting the district.
  • The occasional cross-distribution sniping fest emanating from some sort of ill-conceived or poorly construed attempt at humor.

This has been the policy for the past five years, at least.  Until this year.  All of a sudden any teacher who uses the district-wide e-mailing option has been getting called on the carpet by administration, demanding to know why such e-mails were sent and what exactly gave said teacher the idea that such an e-mail was appropriate to send.  To be sure, there are certain types of notice for which a case may be made for this kind of draconian reaction.  For instance, a note to all staff informing them of free porn would fall into this category by my metrics.  Surprisingly enough, none of the notes that have engendered this administrative reaction have even approached the level of inappropriateness in my hypothetical example.  One teacher was called to account for his offer of Met tickets for sale.  Another had to explain why she felt all members should be made aware that she had college credits to offer to the general staff.  Still another was made to repent for the offer of a discount peice of furniture.

To demonstrate to myself that the new policy was actually in effect, I performed an experiment.  I found the most appropriate website (ed. note:  link removed due to possibility of identifying writer, but we assure you that it was super relevant and really, really useful) that I could find and promptly e-mailed it to the entire district, with a note explaining that it was a particularly helpful site that could quite possibly be useful to all members of the district.  I then waited to see if I, too, would be "spoken to."  Sure enough, in discussing my experiment with my principal then next day, he mentioned that my action was, in fact, mentioned to him by the biggest wigs.  I was not "reprimanded" in the classic sense, if only because of my relationship with my principal, his all around decency and the caveat that if I did it again, I would be more sternly made aware of my transgression.  I was also told that the issue was not with the content of the e-mail but rather the fact that I, as a comparatively low rung in the hierarchy, was sending a district-wide e-mail in the first place.  Thus it was that my district adopted a completely useless policy that stifles collaboration and sharing among staff members and gives the administration another pointless reason to get angry at staff.

What is most typical of this shift in policy by my district is the way that it was made:  Seemingly overnight and with no explanation of the shift to the staff.  Instead, in the normal fashion, the central administration changes the way that business has been done for years, doesn't tell anyone except other administrators about it and then gets angry when teachers demonstrate that they are unaware of the new policy.  To be clear, I firmly believe that the major big wigs in my district are all interesting, intelligent and worthwhile people.  It is a sad fact that such a bunch of capable people can go about things in such a stupid way.  I really have to believe there is something in the structure of a district's administration that lends itself to such foolishness.