Education Opinion

Manual Labor

By Emmet Rosenfeld — July 21, 2008 4 min read
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One of the ways I’m filling up the gobs up unstructured time in my schedule right now (other than meetings) is by reading the manual. In past years, I admit, Faculty Handbooks have generally been filed away in a stack of get to ‘em later 3-rings on a bottom shelf, but given my new role as enforcer (of rules, that is), I figured I should learn to love this document.

For those of you who haven’t left the post after that first paragraph, what follows are notes on a document search for my new job title, “Dean of Students.” In other words, here’s everywhere I’m mentioned. This will give you—and me—a better grasp of what my new job entails. It might even be of interest to staff members here. Word in the hallways is that there was some anxiety with the departure of my predecessor, much of it of the “Now who do we go to for x,y, and z?”-variety.

I warn you this ranges from minutiae to substance, with a greater degree of sweat on the small stuff. Details, details! Also, understand that this is not a full representation of the contents of the handbook, omitting big but important chunks like “Differentiated Supervision” (the interesting teacher eval piece under which professionals can select options like peer observation and off-site visits to other schools as ways to grow). I will list the subheading and page number followed by kernels of wisdom.

Arrivals and Departures (page 5). “Be apprised of students requiring special attention in homeroom.” Hmm. Johnny’s shirt is untucked… uh-gain. Also, apparently my office door is where sports teams assemble before practice. Note to self: put up nerf basketball hoop over trashcan.

Behavior Standards (7-11). Bum-bum-bum-BAH. The hammer comes down here (not to be confused with the hammer icon on maintenance requests that I mentioned last post). The honor code is the basis for all rules: Respect for Self/Others/Property. Each of those has a few subtopics, but I think I can stand behind a rulebook short enough to be a tattoo.

There are sections on “Proactive Strategies” (do unto them before they do unto each other) and “Logical consequences” herein. The latter I remember well as one of the guiding principles from my days as an Outward Bound leader: if you guys are careless about stringing up the food in bear country, breakfasts will be mighty thin until we reach base camp… Of note here, on page 11, is my “required intervention” under some circumstances. I am a logical consequence.

Confidentiality Policy (18). I have access to records. There are always forms flying in schools, lots of which have sensitive information. As important as the reams of records themselves is the fact that I will soon be in a position of confidentiality with parents as we negotiate the trickier aspects of the “parent-teacher partnership” (much more on this to come). In loco parentis is a big responsibility.

Dress for Students (19). Case in point: hair and make-up, not to mention scoop-neck shirts, spaghetti straps, or socks any color than navy blue worn with slacks. These are a few of our not favorite things, wardrobe-wise. Uniform enforcement has never been a strong suit (ba-dum-cha), but it is one of the details that I’d rather NOT have teachers worried about, so they give their full attention to the stuff that really matters.

Field trips (23). Class lists go to me, among others. One of the less glorious but more essential aspects of administration is counting noses.

Recognition of Students (28). This is under “Grades, Grading and Student Progress,” a hefty section of the handbook I’ll have to dig into more deeply with my teacher hat on. As Dean, I am directly connected to the The National Junior Honor Society, with the specific duty of appointing, with a colleague, a committee of five staff to pick kids that belong in it. That’s right, I pick the pickers.

Interestingly, the school is migrating away from a gold-star mentality as of this academic year towards making the honor society a “leadership skills training group.” The language of the handbook is worth quoting: “As it is our philosophy to celebrate the many diverse talents of our students and to be inclusive rather than exclusive, we feel that this can be accomplished better by purposefully providing ongoing growth experiences rather than relying on past credentials and the limitations inherent in the NJHS process.” Alfie Kohn would say we’re making progress, and I agree.

Health and Safety (30). With the nurse and Director of Curriculum, I have the awesome power to send a kid home sick. Note to self: dig up that Shel Silverstein poem.

Fire Drills and Other Emergency Building Evacuations (31). A passel of us are members of the “On-Site Emergency Leadership Team.” I remember sitting in the teacher’s lounge last year when a dull boom rocked the chair; it was a local, and fortunately very small, earth quake. For anything like this and the more banal events, like fire drills, I am the chief nose-counter and all-clear guy. Note to self: Bone up on walkie-talkie skills.

Lockers (35). No stuffing other kids into them. I have the legal power to search lockers and cubby holes. (Coming from a high school, I admit that I’m not quite sure what one might find in a cubby hole. But I aim to find out.)

Personal Property (37). Specifically, I’m the go-to guy for electronics, from game boys to cell phones. As in, go to my office to pick up your game boy or cellie after school if you’re caught using it during the day. Next to “Tuck in that shirt,” I predict this will be one of my more mosquitoish tasks. I should be able to handle it as long as I keep reciting my mantra: “I work for teachers.”

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