This post relates to the small problem that turned into a big problem last Friday.
“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 head of department]. I’ve had to provide a statement about what happened.”
“I just want to hear you say that you know the [photography] panel* is due tomorrow and you’re not doing anything about it… Do you want me to pass?”
She doesn’t say anything, and walks into the office.
“That’s all I needed to hear.”
*In NCEA Photography you work throughout the year on a panel of work (three big boards stuck together) that’s worth 14 credits. This is very important as, in simple terms, you need 14 credits to get University Entrance in a subject, and 60 credits overall to pass the year.
It is a Monday morning. There are four people in the school board room. My deputy principal, E, asks if I remember last time.
She’s referring to when she wanted to talk to me about this blog post (i.e. pressure me to take it down), but ended the interview before it started when I told her I was recording the conversation on my phone. She said I needed her permission. I told her I didn’t.
She says that she doesn’t want me to tape this conversation, but she’s happy to have it taped as long as she gets to tape it, keep the tape, and transcribe it. Today, two days later I am told that this transcription has still not occurred.
E has a statement from my photography teacher, S. I ask if I can read it. “No you can’t sorry.” Not before I give mine. I wonder if this complies with the Privacy Act.
She asks me to tell her about Friday period six.
I asked S to unlock the computer suite, and if she had the camera card reader.
S told me she didn’t know if one of her keys would unlock the filing cabinet the card reader is now kept in. She said she could check soon. She gave me her keys. The door I wanted her to unlock was three steps from where she was standing.
I unlocked the computer suite. I walked through the art office to her classroom. She seemed busy, like she wouldn’t be able to find the key right away, if it turned out she actually had it. To save everyone time* and because of multiple reasons I didn’t think getting the card reader myself would be an issue, I walked over to the filing cabinet and tried one key. It did not fit.
*Our class time with S has been cut because of budget issues. Previously I have been to S’s office to ask her to look at my work and been told that I was interrupting her only hour of non-contact time with students that day, and on another occasion that she needed to send a really important email.
S walked into the office and overreacted. She was angry I was trying to get the card reader. I made a comment that she should stop being bipolar. This was a poor choice of words. I meant that she gave me her keys and then switched to being angry about me using them just like that. At this point she had a door behind her–an exit.
We argued for a few minutes.
She showed me a sign on a door to the office that said ‘staff only’. I said that this is never enforced and everyone goes into the office, alone or otherwise, to walk through, or to get things. As there were other students in the computer suite, I pushed the door closed. At this point she had the door to the other art room behind her–an exit. Doors in schools are designed so that people can always exit rooms, and even if I wanted to (I didn’t and wouldn’t) I could not physically block the three doors several metres apart from each other in the office, at the same time. At no point did S attempt to leave the room.
I said that I was fed up with stupid policies and asked why the card reader was locked away anyway. I asked about a new policy which based on a single incident that only art students are allowed in the computer suite (previously others have been allowed e.g. a friend I have a study period with, with no issues).
It was apparent I was not going to get the card reader.
“At the moment she doesn’t want to be alone with you,” E says.
I have known this teacher for five years. I have never been violent towards anyone. S knows this. Context, context, context.
I ask, “is that her?” referring to that morning when she told me it wasn’t her decision that I wasn’t allowed in her class.
“She doesn’t feel safe.”
“Can I read what S said?”
“No… well I can read it out to you.”
“Matthew Taylor asked for my keys to unlock the mac suite at the start of P6, while I was sorting out my Y9 class, he also asked if I had a key to unlock the file cabinet in the Art staff room, as he needed the card reader, to which I replied I’m not sure, if I do I will have a look shortly.
When I walked into the Art office to get the equipment for my class, Matthew was attempting to unlock the staff file cabinet, without permission and with no staff member present.
He spun around when he was caught, I was shocked–”
I laugh. The hyperbole is dripping off the page already.
“–and said what do you think you are doing, he walked up to me and handed me my keys, I asked quite firmly what he thought he was doing [she actually said that what I was doing was highly inappropriate], he replied “can you stop” I said “I beg your pardon” as he was right up in my space [the room we were in was about 3 metres by 2 metres, even if I tried my best, I'm sure I would still have been “up in her space”], he replied “can you stop” I said ” I beg your pardon” as he was right up in my space, he replied “can you stop with the Bi Polar” again I said I beg your pardon! what do you think you are doing in here, this is a staff only area and you are trying to unlock the staff filing cabinet without permission.”
“She’s got a very good memory if she can remember word for word what she said.”
“I gave you my keys to unlock the Mac Suite. Matthew said ‘it was implied that he could go into the staff file cabinet, to which I said NO it was not. Matthew closed the door to the Mac suite, I felt very uncomfortable–”
“So you locked her with you?”
“I didn’t lock her in there. I closed the door because it’s inappropriate to talk like that in front of other students.”
“I felt very uncomfortable as he was in my space once again being very aggressive, using a very firm and aggressive snappy [snappy is her go to word to describe me when we don't agree on something, see the Facebook incident incident report, which she also wrote] tone. I opened the door and showed him where it has printed very clearly STAFF ONLY. He replied people come in here all the time, I replied no they don’t, people only go in here when staff are around, not un attended. He was being very rude and argumentative.
I told Matthew if he had a problem he needed to talk to [head of department], he kept asking for the card reader, I told him he needed to talk to [head of department] before that would happen, he said WHY, I replied because of what you just did.
He said why, and began shaking and was red in anger [I didn't realize this, but I blame adrenaline], and very firm in his tone with me, completely unacceptable, and he closed the door again”
“I suppose we have a problem in that you essentially… it was interpreted as being quite aggressive in there…”
“Well I’ve never been aggressive to staff before and we’ve known each other for five years so I think that’s an… overreaction and it’s a little bit of hyperbole.”
”He then said he was sick of this school and the stupid rules, “who said who has said other students cant come into the Mac suite”, I said he needed to talk to the HOD if he had a problem, he said “who said we cannot come into this office”, and “why do you lock away the card reader anyway”, I replied you need to talk to the HOD, as I am finding your tone very disrespectful, I don’t make all the rules, however I do follow them, you need to speak to the HOD if you have a problem. I opened the door and said you need to go in there. I was very uncomfortable, like he was trying to intimidate me, he asked rudely about the card reader, I told him he needed to wait and have a discussion with [head of department] about it, because of his actions and closed the door. I was very shaken; he was so very aggressive in his manner and really out of line.
Once I got my class sorted, I seen [head of department] and told her, she asked me to write it up and we agreed today was not the best time to confront him and we would leave it till Monday, due to the way we felt he would react and talk to [head of department].”
We’re about to leave. E has gone away and come back.
“Did you hassle S this morning?”
She’s holding another incident report.
From: [Photography teacher]
Sent: Monday, 29 October 2012 11:07 a.m.
To: [My deputy principal]
Subject: Matthew Taylor
I have another incident form which i will give to you [my deputy principal] re Mattherw Taylor this morning at 9.45am, where he cut me off in the quad and confronted me and said “i want to here from you that you said i cannot do Art in the Art room”, to which i replied i did not say that, he kept going, its all written up, , so i turned and went to and knocked on [other deputy principal (we have lots)]‘s door to escape from him as i was not going to enter into a debate with him due to not feeling like i can trust him. He said”do you want me to fail”, which really hurt as i pride myself on the way i do my job and the results we get in our dept.
Incident: Matthew Taylor Part 2
Statement: On the way to my classroom at 9.45 am, I seen Matthew Taylor.
He cut in front of me in the quad I said hi Matt
Matthew said I need to talk to you I replied sorry I carn’t do that at the moment
He said no I need to talk to you. Did you say I carn’t do Art to which I replied, No I did not say that, he then said “I want to here you say I cannot do it”, I said I never said that you will need to talk to [head of department] or [my deputy principal]. You realise the pannels are due tomorrow and you want me to fail, I was walking away from him at this stage & knocked on [other deputy principal]‘s door & walked in Matthew kept walking to the confrence room where he should have been
Once again his manner was not acceptable & saying I want him to fail is upsetting as I pride myself on the work I do & results we get in our dept.
See the top of this post for what was actually said. This email and incident report are examples of S putting things in quote marks and presenting them as the absolute truth, when, in reality, that is not what was said. This applies equally to the other incident report.
The plan is to come back in an hour and work, supervised, with S.
But I don’t feel up to it and don’t return to school. The new plan is to go after school and complete my panel, without help from S. Working outside of school hours has never been an issue for anyone in the past.
But, now it is:
[Head of department], [my deputy principal], [my geography teacher/a deputy principal] met
unhappy re him being in Art Suite unsupervised
The art teachers felt that this was not appropriate
That S feels unsafe around me (even though I am smaller than her) was mentioned at least six more times in the meeting.
”We’ve got a teacher who at the moment doesn’t feel safe with you.”
“Yeah but she’s not feeling safe.”
“But how do we solve the problem that she feels really unsafe?”
“…and she’s feeling safe enough to help him.”
“But she doesn’t feel safe.”
“Irregardless of being a professional is still the fact that at the moment she is still pretty angry and she feels uncomfortable.”
It was upsetting.
That afternoon I see the psychologist I had stopped seeing.
I work at home that night, and am allowed to go into school at 7:30am on Tuesday to print one last photo. The plan was to print with ink over some photos (referred to below as “do more to his panels”), but I decided against it.
Later in the morning [photography teacher] came and saw me saying Matthew needs to do more to his panels as she felt that they were not up to a suitable standard. I contacted Matthew to come in which he did and I said that he needed to acknowledge that his behaviour on Friday was out of line and inappropriate and he needed to say this to the teacher – [photography teacher] before she could help him to do further work on his panels. He thought about it but said that he could not do so and he went home.
In design, last period today, I hear the computer suite door slam. I didn’t need to see to know who slammed it.
I hear S say on the phone: “I thought he wasn’t allowed over here until he apologised.”
Being assertive and sticking up for yourself is not inappropriate. Writing a scathing personal attack on my character disguised as an incident report, however, is. Where is your apology to me?
Judge not lest ye be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
Image credit: Linus Bohman