Archive for April, 2006

Ms Snake and her strange disliking

April 28, 2006

Ms Snake is another one of my annoying workmates, along with The Old Duffer and The Dumper. Ms Snake and I used to get on very well, although I knew we weren’t really friends in the conventional sense.

Ms Snake is quite moody and has snitches against quite a few of the staff (especially those who aren’t teachers). But as we were around the same age and both independent-minded women, she seemed quite keen to get along with me at first. We went on a few lunches together (at which she would do basically all of the talking and interrupt and change the topic back to her if I did say something). We helped each other with work problems when they arose, we even texted each other about new shoe stores we had discovered. While I found her self-absorbed and arrogant, I also found her funny, at times very generous, and definitely smart, and we had enough in common to rub along nicely, as younger female teachers in a school dominated by those wedded to the older ways. So far, so sisters-in-arms.

But slowly everything seemed to change. Suddenly Ms Snake was quite silent about my role in a project she had asked me to help with – she still expected me to do the work but she actively hid my involvement from anyone in the management team. In fact she got highly snotty with me at one point when I was upfront with her about the fact that I was too busy to contribute much for the next month or two. This would hardly have come to her as a surprise as she knew all about the other work I had on my plate.

Ms Snake made it very clear to me that I was in fact not allowed to say no, despite her refusal to help me with something a week earlier because she was “snowed under”. (Funny how she found time that week to go to a clothing shop sale on one day during her release, and then disappeared for a three hour repast on another.) Apparently her “too busy” was to be respected but mine was not.

This was my second inkling that all was not right between her and I. The first was when she started excluding me from lunches which I normally would have come along to. I thought Ms Snake must be going through a patch of wanting some distance from me, so I was hurt but didn’t say anything, assuming her mood would pass.

But the exclusions from lunch continued (and continue to this day) and then there was this practical denial that I was helping her with her project.

Then on a Teachers Only Day we were supposed to share a ride to a course that all the teachers were expected to attend, four of us in someone else’s car. I turned up just as I had been told to by Ms Snake, and waited for her and the others. And waited, and waited and waited. Luckily I got a lift with another colleague in the end, but how juvenile can you get?

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April 9, 2006

When someone isn’t at school, cover is organised for their classes.  Sometimes a reliever will be called in, sometimes there will be a reshuffle within the department (or wider), to make sure there is a teacher standing up the front ready to impart wisdom, compel learning, and control the nicely riotous mob. 

I’ve already posted about my intention to take leave soon, for two weeks at the end of term when I’ll be on a course.  What I haven’t mentioned is my frustrations about the organisation of cover for these measley two weeks.  I shall enumerate these for clarity, in no particular order:

1.  The Dumper took fright at any suggestion that she cover any of the very small number of classes that she has been asked to deal with.  Every time I’ve tried to speak to her about my planning and arrangements during the forthcoming fortnight she has shrieked loudly that she doesn’t want to hear about it, and looked at me with the kind of stare usually adopted by horses suffering in the Outback heat and faced by a venomous snake on a narrow path with a sheer 50 metre drop on one side and an implacable cliff face on the other.  The amount of work she has to do is negligible (due to my preparation, which takes into account her nature), but don’t let that stop her from feeling very put upon indeed.

2.  Another colleague (who I am yet to do a nasty profile of as I don’t usually have to encounter him much) has kept trying to put the work back onto me, despite an earlier agreement between him and the HOD about exactly what he would work on.  He seems to be in some form of denial about the fact that I won’t actually be there to take the classes.  It’s like magical elves will pop up from the scuffed carpet squares and do it all for him.  I’m guessing his denial will cease five minutes into the first class when he realises that his disdainful attitude towards my attempts to prepare him were rather ill-advised.  I wish I could be there to watch.

3.  The reliever who is picking up a lot of my other classes is ok, and I’ve worked with him before.  But he needs to stop charging in.  He’s just doing a few classes for a couple of weeks.  Trying to rewrite the curriculum and aggressively solve the problems of every student in my classes is not a good idea.  For a start it couldn’t be done even if he had two years, and for a second if he succeeds it will make me look bad.  I’m worried he’s going to end up exhausted but looks like he is going to have to work that out for himself.  I might leave him a nice note about work-life balance for one final attempt to warn him…

4.  I’m getting rather fed up from the abandonment attitude a few of my colleagues are taking towards my leave.  I’m going to be absent for two weeks.  This absence is to go on a course.  I am not exactly swanning off for a $100,000 cruise through the Mediterranean for several months, complete with a holiday fling with an attractive Italian, and a beautiful tan to make them all green with envy.  Frankly they can leave the snarky “lucky thing” comments at home.  Or perhaps they could get off their lazy arses, find some professional development that they want and can justify, and apply to the BOT for funding and leave. 

I should point out that I have not imposed this rearrangement of my work on these people – in fact it has been organised in conversation with my HOD and is quite commonplace.  I have been known to cover for others when they have been away for whatever reason, and I just accept it as part of my job from time to time.  Usually it is a great opportunity to face some new challenges, expand your knowledge, and also legitimately put off a whole lot of petty tasks that you are trying to avoid. 

Well, I look forward to coming back and finding out just how they got on… 

Ventoletta is puzzled

April 5, 2006

Now it's not that often that I venture out into the broader NZ blog scene, although in the past it has had some happy outcomes (e.g. finding Capitalism Bad).  Most of the NZ blogs I find a bit dull – they are either quite personal (and thus not so interesting, much like The Vent Box must be to outsiders) or intensely right wing and therefore dire, irritating and wrong all in one handy package.

But today I slowly ambled into the lot and kicked a few tyres, very lightly. 

Pretty quickly I discovered someone who I personally think is a bit of a fruit loop.  Now I didn't want The Vent Box to be one of those blogs that attacks real people by name, and then they find it years later when they do an ego-search on Google and are driven into an insane rage that turns them against the world, resulting in another wasted vote for the Libertarianz.  But this guy has put himself out there for public life and as such I think it's ok to venture an opinion, although I will keep my claws sheathed and just bat him around a bit, seeing as how he might read this.

The man in question is Trevor Louden and he writes at the blog New Zeal.  He appears to be dedicated to mapping and exposing some ginormous left-wing conspiracy, which I humbly venture exists only in his head. 

He's also the Vice President of the Act Party.  Which frankly wants to make me put on my blue jeans and do my happy dance, because he sounds like just the person to keep Rodney Hide on his diverting, muck-racking, poll-diving track.  As a school teacher it will surely come as no surprise that I identify as somewhere left of centre, and much of what Act preaches (even before you look at their education policies) scares the nail polish off my toe nails.  For Hide to be wasting time promoting himself rather than pushing his party's policies out into the public eye (hopefully to get run over by a huge truck carrying that set of textbooks we're waiting for) is fantastic.

But back to Mr Louden. 

Trevor has this obsession with who had dinner together back in 1982.  Apparently having broken bread with a vague left-winger, been to a conference a no-longer avowed socialist spoke at, or being related (thrice removed) to a known owner of the Communist Manifesto, somehow makes a person irretrievably part of the Four Legs Good brigade.

It's all a bit student politics isn't it?  Keeping files on people tracking their employment and activist histories, not to mention a little notebook of who's friends with who, and then spewing it all out into the WWW, as some kind of evidence of evilness. 

Someday someone is going to turn the tables on Louden (as if being in the same party as Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble wasn't damning enough).  I look forward to his response when that day comes.

Picture found at the wonderful Tony's Photo of the Day site.

Avoiding the big story

April 1, 2006

I've been trying to ignore the Louise Nicholas rape trial, but it's everywhere.  I've heard music DJs try to turn into into witty jokes on their shows, and I just grimace and change the station.

I'll state it honestly – I believe Mrs Nicholas.  I know things about this trial which I shouldn't, which have further solidified my discomfort and sadness.  To stumble across a front-page full page banner headline* roaring that the victim is lying, as in the NZ Herald earlier this week – it was like a slap in the face to me.  I can only imagine what it must have felt like to someone who has actually been the victim of a rape or sexual abuse, or indeed to Louise and those who care about her. 

I nearly had a huge row about it in the staff room the other day.  It was spawned by my frustration that the men in the dock are probably going to be found not guilty.  In my humble opinion, to date the defence has possibly cast enough doubt, and smeared Louise Nicholas sufficiently, for the jurors to not have the certainty required for a guilty verdict.  I've sat on a jury, and I know how they work.  It makes me despair.

I wonder how many other women out there are trying to avoid this case too?  How many have made complaints about mistreatment by authority figures, particularly men and especially police, and not been believed?  How many more women have been raped or assaulted by people they should have been able to trust, and then not believed by those who should have taken them at their word?  To be in these situations is almost to be raped twice – to suffer the humiliation, disrespect and subjugation over again when you, rightfully, complain.

Let me be totally clear – false allegations of rape are not acceptable.  But my experience and observation has been that rape is probably the most under-reported of crimes.  And there are reasons for that.  The media coverage of the Louise Nicholas trial illustrates several of them clearly. 

Firstly many women are too ashamed and upset to face the fact that they have been raped, let alone report it.  Particularly when the assault has been perpetrated by someone you know, which is the case with the vast majority of acts of sexual violence, subsuming what has happened to you may be the only way to cope.  Talking yourself out of acknowledging the truth is a form of defence, because what really happened it is too shattering to deal with.

Secondly the attitude of police towards rape victims is known to vary widely – from kind and appropriate treatment and vigilant prosecution of the rapist, to disinterest and form-filling, to open hostility and disbelief.  Who knows which kind of officer you'll get when you try to report it?

Thirdly, there's the public shaming – the trial by media.  It is supposed to be the three police officers who are on trial in this case, not the victim.  And yet the past of Louise Nicholas has been brought up time and time again.  In contrast, I know of significant and relevant information from the history of some of those on trial which is not legally allowed to be raised at all. 

I know that those accused have rights, and usually I am a vigorous defender of them, but it seems to me that when it is those in power who are in the dock those rights are often abused.  I haven't done any research on this, but I'd be really interested to compare coverage of rape trials where the accused was someone not in the elite – someone not white, well-off or male.  I would be prepared to lay a bet that the media, and the defence, in that case focused on the accused rather than the victim.

*I have to wonder – what other news has featured such a headline?  Usually the Herald front page layout has two stories above the fold, one with a big headline and one with a big picture.  But on this occasion there was only the one story, grabbing both a banner right across the page (when the headline usually only goes part-way across) and a big picture underneath.  It's a "glory spot" usually reserved only for declarations of war, bombings of major English-speaking cities, or heroic sporting feats.