“Dont be a Squeaky Wheel!”
Ive only been teaching at this public middle school for about 6 months now but it feels like much longer. It is an ever engrossing, emotionally draining job. I constantly feel at odds with my ideals of how humans should interact with each other and the world around them. I never realized how holding firm beliefs in justice has left me stranded on a lonely island out there in the sea of factory model education.
And just when I think Ive found an an ally I am immediately let down when I am told not to rock the boat. Below is just a smattering of some of the ‘advice’ Ive received from well meaning colleagues:
“You really wanna survive this job? Well, don’t be a squeaky wheel!”
Now, if you’re anything like me, being a squeaky wheel is hard to avoid regardless of time, place, or situation. In others words, I have a big mouth.
The End of Times
But, is it just me, or is it getting harder out there in public school land to NOT be considered a squeaky wheel?In my short experience working for Providence schools, Ive noticed a negative reaction is elicited regardless of intention. It doesn’t seem to matter whether I ask the stock room for paper or actually bring up issues about my ESL student’s placement. I get immediately shut down…But, Heaven Forbid, if I am late inputting test scores, then its a combination of every apocalyptic scene ever conjured by the human imagination.
So excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt your asteroid riding, robot chasing, ice-sheet expansion end of the world melodrama, but these are just ideas…and pretty good ones in fact. After all, I kinda know the deal… I didn’t just fall off the teach for America wagon (nothing directly against anyone who became a teacher through that program, its the system, not the individual I have issues with…) but I digress…
The most interesting thing about being labeled a squeaky wheel ( yes, I even got called down to the principal’s office for a chat about my perceived lack of participation in a math class where I am one of 4, yes FOUR adults in a class of 20, however my class of 20 beginner ESL students gets only me. Uno.
Its not that I wasn’t participating on purpose. I just honestly didnt know what I was expected to do, frankly, it can get a bit overwhelming having all those adults in one classroom…and the result of that conversation? I was told to ‘co-teach’ ( even though I am not even a math teacher)
and oh, I was informed that my test scores were of course, late…
From Squeak to Shriek
Its simultaneously inspiring and discouraging that I work with teachers who have amazing, simple, smart ideas to improve school for all our students but have remained silent (and haven’t forced the union to get it together). okay, okay, i might be new here, and not know ( thankfully) all the layers of history… But lets imagine if all the squeaky wheels unite, what a gloriously ear-splitting shriek that would be!