It was a symbol. Not a desk. Not a collection of wood and nails and laminated oak paneling. A symbol that I had disassembled without the use of tools and slid neatly out the fire window. And, although my mouth has spewed several apologies since then, my heart was glad.
Had I shown somebody up? Was it, therefore, a symbol of someone else's ineffectiveness or incompetence?
But I began to think of it as a symbol for something that has been on my mind for a while; tenure.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have tenure and my status as a tenured teacher allowed me to feel secure enough in my job to rid my room of a dangerous eyesore.
But tenure is under attack. Seen by most as a guarantee of continued employment for bad, lazy and incompetent teachers, it is in the crosshairs of many politicians and a cocktail party punch line.
But this is what I was thinking. That desk did not have tenure. No law protected it and still it remained very much like one of those lazy, stupid teachers that nobody can seem to get rid of. So, perhaps, it is not tenure that protects. Maybe it’s a system that protects. A system in which nobody is really responsible or, more accurately, several people are responsible.
Fact; administrators can fire teachers who aren’t doing a good job. All they have to do is document the teacher’s shortcomings, make recommendations and follow up. If that teacher still has not managed to fix what was broken, that teacher can be dismissed. Will the union challenge the dismissal? Of course! But if the administrator has her ducks in a row, it’s a bad day for that teacher.
But that would mean administrators would have to observe classes in their schools. In nine years of being a tenured teacher, I have never been observed in the act of teaching by any administrator. The fact is that they are too busy dealing with the myriad other tasks a principal has to deal with; disciplinary stuff, leaky roofs. and, yes, teachers who commit savage acts of demolition in their planning periods.