Almost exactly two months ago, I had a lovely chat with the head of school about career possibilities in administration.
This morning, I remembered why I really might not want to pursue those options, or at least why I should definitely think carefully before wading into those waters.
We had a department meeting this morning with our high school chief administrator and second-in-command to talk about various options for senior electives -- no big deal, and it went fine. But as part of that conversation, we started talking about interdisciplinary course offerings, and suddenly there was a lot more tension in the room as people started complaining about how such curriculum innovations are talked about as a good idea but then not supported by the administration with resources.
And I was definitely part of the tension as well and was frustrated not only by the administration, for the above reasons, but also by everyone present in the room, for talking about interdisciplinarity as though it could only consist of team-teaching interdepartmentally, and also by one colleague in particular who has (by virtue of a new role she's playing) starting chiming in all the time about how technology is going to really change everything, but in this case without saying anything more specific, as though iPads or whatever were going to make us all magically interdisciplinary.
So basically I was just in a grumpy mood, which has mostly been true all day, and so really this morning's meeting was just one more opportunity for me to feel grumpy, although I tried to hide it.
But also afterward I felt that sickness in the pit of my stomach and that shortness of breath that I always feel after a contentious meeting, particularly one in which I have spoken up strongly. In this case, I was worried that I had offended the chief administrator -- which made me unhappy not because of his position but because he's someone I like and respect -- and that I had spoken too much and not circumspectly enough. I checked in with other departmental colleagues afterward, none of whom seemed to think that the meeting had been any big deal, but I kept fretting and fretting. And afterward, when I had a spare hour during which I could have been grading or getting ahead in some respect, instead I sat down and hammered out a carefully worded email to everyone who had been at the meeting, following up to make an important point (important to me, anyway) that I felt strongly had been misrepresented in the meeting. And I've fretted about that email as well. Altogether I've spent a lot of mental energy on this meeting and its aftermath, and I've felt queasy the whole dang day about it.
... and at some point today I remembered that I used to feel that sickness in the pit of my stomach pretty much all the time, especially when I was running a (very small, budget-less) program at St. Martyr's. There's something about open conflict and about certain leadership roles that makes me feel queasy and nervous, and while I've continued to feel that all day long, the experience has reminded me how very thankful I am that I'm not normally in these situations anymore.
And I think I'd like to stay out of those situations insofar as possible! Which, I think, means not taking up some of the administrative positions that the head of school so helpfully outlined for me in August. Even though I think about the real possibility of getting bored and restless if I remain in the classroom exclusively, it's also worth remembering the real likelihood that working in administrative roles outside of the classroom will more frequently have me dealing with that sick-to-my-stomach nervousness. Food for thought.
I'm teaching Jane Eyre right now and was struck by Jane's metaphor for that same sick feeling once the adrenaline of speaking up dies down:
"A ridge of lighted heath, alive, glancing, devouring, would have been a meet emblem of my mind when I accused and menaced Mrs. Reed [or spoke up too forcefully in a contentious meeting]: the same ridge, black and blasted after the flames are dead, would have represented as meetly my subsequent condition, when half-an-hour's silence and reflection had shown me the madness of my conduct" (Ch. 4)