Asshole #7: A boss from hell.

It seems a fair analogy to compare a sports team to a high school staff.You got the coach (principal) and the players (teachers). If a baseball player is batting .300+, hitting 40 homeruns, driving in 120+ runs, a coach probably shouldn’t mess with his swing. If a quarterback has a rating of 120 and completing 60%+ of his passes, probably best not to mess with his delivery. If a golfer is shooting well below par, probably best not to mess with her grip. A head coach’s main job is to macro-manage. See the big picture i.e., where should a batter best hit in the line-up? Where should the pitcher be in the rotation? Balancing which position is best for the player against what the team needs. If a player is under-performing, what’s the best way to motivate him, boost his morale? If the coach’s ego enters into the equation, it’s generally disaster. Old school coaches may have resorted to: ‘kick ass.’ Modern day coaches (with jobs) realize this is, generally, counter-effective. Perspective by the coach being paramount. Macro-managing. Seeing the big picture. Leaving their ego out of it. The ‘stars’ are the players. Coaches are there to let the players be stars.

If a player is playing at least up to his or her ability, support is usually the best policy…as in my example with Doc last week. He had perspective and, I’m glad, supported me. The assistant lacked perspective, micro-managed, and probably, if he had been given the authority, would have fired me. Kicked my ass. Doc saw that what happened between 7:00 and 7:35 (reading the paper, taking a dump…) was less important than coaching, directing a school play, producing a literary magazine highlighting students’ work.

Soo… I mentioned last week I quit (retired) half-way through my final school year. Doc was, coincidentally, retiring as well – after the first of the year. His replacement was to come in before as a transition. I’m walking back to my classroom from lunch one day, just before the Christmas break, and this dude (I hadn’t met the replacement yet) with blond locks splayed back rakishly by goop, wearing an expensive suit and tie, standing confidently in alligator leather loafers (not sure about the alligator, but you get the picture) stops me. Doesn’t feel a need to introduce himself, although he apparently knew who I was. He holds out a copy of a literary magazine from 5 years ago (before I took over) that had sold 30 copies. And then, grimacing, holds out a copy of my first one (that had sold 300 copies). The old cover is light blue with a computer image of a fake Jaguar (the school mascot) on it. Boring to say the least. My cover I’m sure was edgy by his standards: an artistic design involving a skull with a flower in one eye socket, a waterfall flowing out of the other, and between the teeth a highway rolling out of the mouth. The old copy had no art to speak of inside, just mostly rhyming poems in iambic pentameter. For my first issue, I had decided to have a cover contest, which was received very well by, especially, the art department. The contest not only continued to get us great covers, but fantastic art to compliment the poems and short stories.

With aplomb, he informs me that the cover this year WOULD be bland blue (the school colors) with the fascinating jaguar imprint. I naively start to explain about the cover contest, when he interrupts me. “No,” he says, holding the old cover in my face, “this will be the cover this year.” I squint and ask him you the hell he is. He informs me, smiling charismatically, that he is my new ‘boss.’ “Oh, oh,” I respond. “We aren’t going to get along.” And head off to my next class. I wouldn’t want to be late and have the assistant championing another delinquency.

You all know the cliché: “When one door closes, another opens?” Well that’s what he accomplished for me in about two minutes. I planned on opening it anyway, at the end of the year. Doc had warned me I would be getting laid off due to declining enrollment – I was the least senior ‘English’ equivalent - and tried to convince me I would be ok. But with five kids and a wife at home caring for them, I wasn’t in the mood to wait and see. Fortunately I had started a part time job (my last career) making about three times my teaching salary…part time! I did have 5 kids to put through college, and my wife was sick of being poor. So, inadvertently, my new boss supplied impetus. I can happily say he was the worst boss I ever had…for two minutes. The colleagues I left behind were not so lucky:

The first thing the dude did when in power was tear down a wall, packing the support staff into a small space, but doubling the size of his office. This occurred at a time when cost cuts were so severe teachers had to pay to make their own copies. He purchased expensive office furniture…he certainly couldn’t be setting those expensive Italian suits on anything but Italian leather cushions. He wanted to look like the ‘star’ he imagined he was. He wanted to be THE STAR. He ended up micro-managing his way right of Dodge. He killed the literary magazine. (I had told my staff what he planned on doing, and to act like they were going along with it. At the last minute before it would go to press to substitute the cover they wanted – which is what they did. What was he going to do, fire them)? The creative writing classes were dropped (I was told he planned on eliminating them, moving me somewhere else – cost cutting, of course! He micro-managed so much, messing with everything, that the teachers banded against them, inadvertently bonding the staff, much like Eric and I against the Boy Scout Leader. I believe it took them three years to get the a-hole fired. I know I wouldn’t have made it that long…probably more like two minutes.

My take is that he had a highly developed case of insecurity. I guess insecurity is likely a cause of many acts of a-holism. I was told he blew his horn a lot. Bragged to the community about kicking ass and straightening out the staff of teachers, which, by large, needed no straightening out…they were a fabulous group of dedicated teachers. He apparently wanted his star to shine, but when you’re the dimmest, you’re a fallen star no matter how hard you try.

So, in this scenario, the nice guy – Doc - wins. The asshole, fortunately for teachers, students, and the community, lost. Cool.