On Professional Behavior

having-a-margarita-onThis weekend I had the pleasure of being invited to a social gathering hosted by the faculty of a certain school in a certain ISD to bid farewell to the school principal who was moving on to a new position. Everything went pretty much as one would expect at the beginning. People sat around the table awkwardly talking about school and work. As the night progressed, people started toasting the principal who, by all estimates, did an excellent job during her tenure at her school. The school in question is one of the worst in recent ISD history. Before the principal in question came to school, student passing rate for TAKS tests – the state-mandated common assessment – was in the single digits. Last year’s numbers had passing percentage rates in the mid 20s, and average math scores went from 45% to a whopping 75%, all while suffering through budget cuts and disdain from the community and district administrators, who saw the school as not worth the effort. Still, the principal in question pushed on, and eventually Arnie Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, took notice and paid a visit to the school. Those in the administration against the school principal attempted to sabotage the tour that the principal had set up with Mr. Duncan’s bodyguards by taking him off the agreed-upon route to show him classes run by substitute teachers (the person you call in when a teacher is sick), teachers in training, or recent hires (people hired in a two week-window who haven’t taken all the training sessions or are still learning to navigate school and district policies regarding classroom management and instruction). It wasn’t a very nice thing to do. But I digress…. The farewell party went well. Faculty and staff were toasting a job well done, making eloquent speeches about how the principal will be missed, and toasting with margaritas – the favorite drink of educators nationwide, it would seem (I have yet to see people in academia drink anything other than margaritas, flavored beer (Smirnoff, for example), wine, or low-alcohol beverages like cider. Photos and videos were taken of people smiling and toasting, at some point someone danced, it was a fun activity (for you students reading out there, yes, your teachers do go out and have fun when they’re not correcting your papers or preparing lessons – that’s about 3 days out of the year).

As the night came closer, the margaritas began taking their toll on some of the people there. The art teacher was now cuddling with a random person I had never seen before. It turned out to be her husband, so that’s cool. The people who had formerly been dancing were now oddly moving off-beat. I’m sure in their mind they were dancing. Some other folk were lounging around lazily. One person had one margarita too many (that would be she had one margarita – she had never had any alcohol before in her life) and looked as if she was about to pass out. The principal looked a bit sad. Then, she had an emotional outburst.
She confessed to those in attendance – her friends and close colleagues – that she wasn’t moving on to another position. She said that the higher administration did a hit job on her. They would come to school unannounced, ask for the list of absent teachers, and visit their classrooms for observation, then write reports on how they weren’t using certain procedures. They would visit classrooms as soon as the bell rang, stay while students came into the classroom and sat down, then leave even before teachers took attendance or began their lessons, and write on their reports that teachers were not following procedure. This “lack of organization” was, they stated on their report, because the principal did not encourage them to use ISD approved procedures. Now, I do admit that the going into the classroom for only a minute thing is “the other side of the story” – administrators claim one thing, the principal and her staff claim another. However, I do know for a fact that the principal and her administration strongly encouraged multiple response strategies.
But back to the party.
The principal broke down in tears, saying over and over “it shouldn’t have ended like this, I gave them my best years, I don’t know why this had to happen”. One of her colleagues – a female coach – encouraged her to have a shot of tequila. “It will help you calm down”, she said, with a smirk on her face. The principal, in her vulnerable moment (having had 5 or 6 margaritas and weeping over her lost job) had the tequila shot. The last thing she said before throwing up on herself was “please take good care of the kids”.
Now, most of what’s happened so far, in my opinion, is completely normal. A group of adults get together, have a few drinks, chat, dance, and one of them who lost her job breaks down in tears. What I wouldn’t have done was offer her some tequila, but to each their own, and I honestly can’t blame her for throwing up after having such a mix of alcohol and emotional distress in her system.
But here’s what happened next.
Remember the “have a shot of tequila” coach? Once she saw that the principal couldn’t hold her liquor, she took out her iPhone and started taking videos and pictures of her, once shoving past a crowd of concerned teachers to snap a picture of the wailing colleague. All the while, said coach jumped up and down in delight saying “I’m going to share this! I’m going to share this!”
This was when I got up and told her “that is the least cool thing I’ve ever seen. It’s not moral to take advantage of someone in their moment of weakness to share a video you think might be funny”, and left.
You see, here’s the thing: If a group of people go out to have drinks, it’s fine to take pictures and put them online. If someone drinks too much and throws up and someone else thinks it’s funny, go ahead and snap a picture. If they’re doing something silly or funny or stupid, go ahead and snap a video. If someone gets drunk and tries to, say, climb the Totem Pole in San Juan, PR during “Las Fiestas de San Sebastian”, then go ahead and take a video. However, when a person is going through a deep personal conflict that’s hurting them, that moment should be a private one that’s only shared amongst friends and close acquaintances (thus why I haven’t mentioned any names, schools, or districts – in order to protect the privacy of those involved). Taking a video of someone in a vulnerable state so that they can be humiliated later, not only is it not professional, but it’s also inhumane. And the people who do that, specially to close friends, aren’t worth having around.


About Quijano

Johansen Quijano is a professor of English in The University of Texas at Arlington, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Development focusing on TESOL, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature. He has published and presented on a variety of topics including video game studies, popular culture studies, education, teaching methodology, language acquisition, romantic poetry, and victorian literature. His research interests include the above-mentioned topics, narrative, interactivity, simulation, new media in general, and 18th century literature. He also enjoys creative writing (fiction, historical fiction, and poetry), and reading all kinds of epic literary works - from the Epic Poem of Gilgamesh to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Posted on April 14, 2013, in Education Commentary and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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