Good Old Fahioned Rant #1: Teaching, Office Politics, and Micro-Management

It’s just after midnight on Friday/Saturday. The Wife’s on the livingroom floor, doing a bunch of cutouts for her first day of school, and here I am, sucking down on a two-liter of Publix Diet Lemon Lime, craving pizza yet denying myself out of concern for my health.

Now, this wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to get up early tomorrow morning. I promised to help The Wife finish setting up her classroom before school starts on Monday, and so I’m stuck getting up at a time I don’t want to do something I don’t care to.

As great as marriage is, sometimes it isn’t all that great.

The Wife’s embarking on a new employment venture this week, as she starts her life as an elementary school teacher. Disenfranchised by the corporate system of managerial governance, she’s decided to run back to the safety of government run institutions. (If I were a libertarian I’d call this socialized education, but since I’m not I’ll just use the term “public school.”) I say “run back” because this isn’t the first time she’s worked for the local government.

A couple of years ago, when we were still dating, The Wife (then The Fiancee) was working at a women’s residential center. In other words, she got to babysit a bunch of (ex?)drug addicts, (ex?)prostitutes, and (ex?)alcoholics. Needless to say, this took a toll on her persona. After a little while working there she suddenly started thinking that just about everyone had some kind of psychological or drug related problem.

“She’s too skinny. She’s probably on crack.”

“He looks like he’s been doing meth.”

“I think she’s dealing with bi-polar issues…”

(Announcement: I was just informed that I don’t have to get up ’till about noon tomorrow. Regardless of the fact that I never really sleep that late, that’s still good news. Yae!)

The once cheery, fun-loving, and relaxed girl had started to become a pretty bitter woman. “It’s ruining who you are,” I remember telling her once. She didn’t take to that comment particularly well, but I stuck to my guns. “You’re becoming… bitter. It’s scary. You’re not who you used to be.”

Right before we got married she left the place. It was then that she started to see just how much being surrounded by that much negative crap was poisoning her mind. She got an ever bigger kick in the pants when she started working for an online university (based out of Arizona, though I won’t say its name.) That’s because everyone there was very positive, very full of life, and very, very supportive. Or so she thought.

It wasn’t too long before seeds of dissent began to take root, when she began to see the corporate backstabbing and blackballing that occurred in that place. She was told to call people who had contacted the university for information. Three years prior. She was forced to make at least 100 calls per day. She was pushed into salesenrollment quotas that none but the most experienced of sales persons would meet. (No, they don’t care about you. They only care about their numbers. If they help you out too, well then that’s just dandy.) Eventually, the process of enrolling a student became synonymous to selling a car. An old, junky car that didn’t meet all the person’s needs but helped the boss look better to her bosses.

Of ethics there were none to speak of. Neither was there of honesty, of respect, nor of the intrinsic value of a person as a person, instead of as a number with a bank account attached. Indeed that job introduced her to another poison: the nasty, controlling, and mentally abusive boss.

Ironically enough, during that time I too had a nasty, controlling, and mentally abusive boss, one for whom I various times violated my own code of ethics. (I admit that with some shame.) One for whom I thank God every day, because he defined the very things that I was against, and the very thing I didn’t want to become.

The scary part was that I found myself becoming more and more like him. I first noticed it during one of the hurricanes that plowed through Florida last year. My parents were in town to help The Wife and I move to a new apartment. The hurricane was scheduled to start affecting our region any time now, and the movers were supposed to come at 2pm. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the movers called at about 1:00 and said that they wouldn’t be able to do the job then because they had their families to attend to.

I blew up.

Suddenly, the understanding side of me moved over and a Napoleonic, raging, control monster took control. In retrospect, I can’t believe some of the things I was demanding. But it wasn’t until a week later, when I realized that the delay was a good thing since the carpet in the new apartment wasn’t ready, what had really happened: I was acting exactly like my boss. Just as demanding, just as unforgiving, and just as dictatorial.

That’s when I knew it was time to go. The Wife’s job wasn’t too stable, since she noticed herself starting to be blackballed by her boss (forced to stay overtime with no pay, forced to seek out her own contacts instead of allowing her to access the contacts database they had, forced into routine meetings where she would be reminded how badly she was doing and that she didn’t really want to succeed in life). This meant that I couldn’t quit. At least not yet.

Eventually I left that job. I won’t say how or divulge the details of what happened — I’ve sworn not to talk about my job(s) here, for a number of reasons. But this should tell you something: Whenever I’m in a slump, whenever I’m in a bad mood, and whenever I don’t want to get up to go to work, I just pick myself up and say, “You never have to go back to that crap hole ever again.” That’s usually enough to put a smile on my face and get me on my merry way. Besides, the place I’m working at now is Heaven compared to what I had to endure before. Sure, business is business, but I don’t have someone constantly at my back telling me:

  • how to organize my desk,
  • how many windows I can have open at a time on my desktop,
  • how my email should be organized,
  • how much time I should spend working with subordinates,
  • how I should organize the way I look at my calendars,
  • how I should come back to work at 7pm at night to throw a little bag of paper garbage away because the boss didn’t like to see it there (and no, it couldn’t wait until morning, despite the fact that I got there before he did),
  • how often I should consult my writing books,
  • what I should read for entertainment,
  • how often I should communicate with authors (apoparently, I didn’t know how to do my own job, even though I seem to have been doing quite well for myself — and for him — up to that point),
  • how I should be vague with the facts of a news story (you know, to kick up interest),
  • and how whatever it is I’m doing, I’m doing it too slow because I’m disorganized and need to be “enlightened.” (Yes, that was a word used to described things that I lacked.)

Yes, it sucked working at my job, BIG TIME.

But back to the issue that brought all this up. After The Wife no longer had to work for the “university”, she decided she’d try her hand at teaching. She already had enough degrees (four!). She just needed some training and she’d be set to go. Well she got it, and she is. Starting Monday, The Wife is a first grade teacher at a local elementary school. To quote Goldie Locks, let’s hope this one’s “juuuust right.”

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