“You’ve divided the teachers”
December 5 was my last day of school. Ever. I’m not sure how to describe the feeling of satisfaction I got from being able to leave a place with my head held high, integrity in check, and on my own terms; not having been suspended, or baited into leaving by people who would rather no one challenged things as they are. It feels good to have shaken things up a bit, to get people to question things, and to hopefully cause change in some small way. Just before I had left, someone said that I had divided the teachers over the photography incident. And that’s okay with me.
I thought there was a couple of interesting things I’d share, now that threats of suspension are off the table.
First, there’s a detail that I’ve missed from all the posts about my old high school… my dad works there. This obviously created very interesting situations, like a blog post being printed out and shown to him by a deputy principal, as if he should convince me to take it down because it was inconvenient for the school. I have a huge amount of respect for him for standing beside me, with the view that I was old enough to make my own decisions, even if he didn’t understand, or agree with them (and that a school really has no jurisdiction over outside of school speech). What annoys, angers, and frightens me is that I know there are parents out there, who in the same situations would immediately side with the school.
On the Monday morning after the photography incident, I was given a green piece of paper by my deputy principal, a blank incident report to complete, typeset in Comic Sans as if to emphasise its ludicrousness. I didn’t fill it in, because it was apparent I was going to be cross-examined over whatever I wrote down, while the teacher’s incident report would be treated as the truth… the holiest of untouchable, unquestionable statements. I kept the form though.
On November 1, after my photography panel was finished, I submitted my own incident report after it appeared to me like a teacher was trying to bait me into reacting to them, yelling at them, or more.
I gave it to my deputy principal who gave it to the principal, and I never heard about it again. Clearly incident reports are a one way street.
On Wednesday P6 I had design. The computer suite is my classroom. S slammed the door that leads to the computer suite from the office. She spoke loudly on the cordless phone in front of her class about me. I could hear from the other room. She said, among other things, that she thought I wasn’t allowed over there, meaning the art department, until I said sorry to her. This would be unheard of in other departments, e.g. if a physics teacher had a problem with me she would not be allowed to hijack my education in chemistry. Today, Thursday P2 I had design again. S slammed the door that leads to the computer suite from the office again.
Sending disparaging emails to other staff about me, and putting lies in quotation marks to make them appear like the truth is also completely inappropriate, unacceptable, and hurtful.
Here is what actually happened on the quad. “Can I please talk to you?” “Ah, not at the moment Matthew.” “Did you say that you didn’t want me in your class?” “Ah, I didn’t make that decision, you need to go and… this is from [the HOD]. I’ve had to provide a statement about what happened.” “I just-” “Matthew.” “I just want to hear you say that you know that panel is due tomorrow and you’re not doing anything about it. Do you want me to pass?” She says nothing, enters the office, and I follow to go to the board room. I say “that’s all I needed to hear.”
Submitting a scathing personal attack and character assassination about me, that is full of lies, disguised as an incident report is hurtful.
Blackmailing me for an apology in exchange for her help is also inappropriate.
These events are not acceptable and are upsetting. Where is my apology?
I learnt two big lessons after all of this. You will never know all of the things going on behind the scenes, and that you will find support in unexpected places.
The other thing that seemed best left unspoken about until after I left was that I learnt that four builders were kicked off a building site at school last year because of their police checks. I think it’s pertinent to disclaim, based on what I said above, that I didn’t learn this through my dad. One of the offences was unlawful sexual connection with a young person aged under 16, and my principal wasn’t happy that I knew. From what she said, it sounds like they were working during school hours: “people… who are working on our building site during school hours, even though they’re not working directly with young people… have to be police checked”.
She said that that sort of information is highly confidential, and was an invasion of privacy of those workers, that I knew they were kicked off and why. I didn’t (and still don’t) know the names of who was kicked off the building site, just that obviously processes in place failed, e.g. waiting for police checks to come back before people are allowed to work at a school. I think it’s interesting that in a school with reasonably young students attending, the parents weren’t informed. I would even argue that it would be in the interests of the parents and students, especially considering the under 16 part of the offence, that a lack of oversight like this was disclosed to them.
I wonder if the Ministry has to be informed of situations like these. If anyone finds Hekia, could you please ask her for me?
Before prize giving, I told someone at work that I was ready to leave school. She asked if I thought I had questioned the right things.
Are there right things to question, or should we always doubt those who say that they have found the truth?
Image credit: Bart Everson