I enjoyed the Summer of 2006 very much. The only thing that marred it was the terrible experience my friend, Adila, was going through (See my post for June 22, 2008 “Blowing the Whistle”).
I don’t know if Principal P. expected me to transfer to another school. She had sent a warning to the whole staff by “investigating” ELEVEN abuse allegations. Two teachers were sent to the rubber room as a result. One of them was my friend, Adila. Other teachers, including myself, had the allegations resolved as “poor judgement” or as unfounded. I decided to return, because I still thought that Principal P. was only temporary and I could outlast her. I had outlasted six principals in my career by just going into my classroom, shutting the door, and doing my job.
The first day back I found out that I had a traveling program, and that I would be teaching seventh grade instead of eighth. That was fine with me. I hadn’t traveled in five years, and it was my turn. (A “traveling” teacher is not assigned to one single classroom, but must travel from one room to another during the school day. It is harder to teach that way, so teachers rotate. Some years they teach out of a single classroom, other years they travel).
At 2:30 PM on August 31, 2006 Principal P. called me down to her office. She demanded that I give her keys to the classroom I had occupied. I had turned them in at the end of the 2005-2006 school year when she made me go into her office alone with her to pick up my last disciplinary letter (See my last post, “POOR”). I had another set, of course, so I offered to make copies. She went off the wall, started screaming at me that I was being insubordinate, and got on the loud speaker and summoned my Clyde Baker, my UFT rep.
I went home and wrote everything down immediately. I knew this would develop into a charge of insubordination. I e-mailed my UFT District Rep my anecdotal account. The next day I put a letter in Principal P.’s mailbox.
September 1, 2006
Dear Principal P.,
This is in reference to the letter of insubordination that you threatened me with today, August 31, 2006.
At approximately 2:30 pm you called me into your office and demanded that I give you the keys to classroom 327 (my classroom last year). I thought that I had given them to you at the end of the school year when you gave me my paystubs. However, you obviously didn't have them, so I said to you " O.K., I'll get my copies and make others." My mind was on solving the problem of giving you the keys.
You started yelling at me that I was prohibited from copying Board of Education keys and that I was to give you the keys immediately. I tried to tell you I didn't have them on me, but you kept interrupting me, screaming that you wanted the keys immediately. You then called my UFT representative, Clyde Baker and while he was coming, I took everything out of my purse and silently laid the contents on a table in your office. When you saw by my actions that I did not have the keys in my purse, you then told me to get out of your office. Mr. Baker arrived, and I asked him to bear witness that I did not have the keys in my possession. He looked at the contents of my purse on the desk, and verified this fact. You screamed at me to get out of your office, so I left my purse and the contents and left the office. Then you screamed at me to come back in and get my purse. So I did.
At every moment I was trying to do what you told me to do, but you wouldn't allow me to communicate with you. I feel that I have been falsely accused and verbally abused.
I have worked for the Board of Education for more than 20 years and have never had a problem with passing the keys on to the next teacher. I was unaware that I was not allowed to copy keys. I usually do keep a copy in case the keys get lost. However, in this circumstance, I have searched for both the original keys that I thought I had left with you and I have searched for the copies. As of 7:30am on September 1, 2006, I have not been able to find the keys to 627. I believe I left the originals in your office on June 28, 2006. I made the copies at some point in the past three years. It is possible that I gave them to one of the other teachers that shared the room with me. I will continue to look for the copies, I think I left the originals with you.
On October 30, 2006 I received a letter accusing me of insubordination.
It took me a while to respond. I hate writing these letters of response. It takes forever, because I get so upset while I’m writing them, that I have to take many time-outs.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Dear Principal P,
This is in reference to your letter of October 30, 2006, which discusses an incident which took place on August 31, 2006 at approximately 2:30 PM. I wrote you a letter about this incident the very same night and put it in your box the next day. Your letter was written two months after the fact. These letters show two very different versions of the events that took place that day. I will present your version and mine, and then comment on the differences.
Principal P.’s version: “On August 31, 2006 at approximately 2:30 pm I requested that you come to my office. When you arrived at my office, I asked you for the keys to room 327. You stated ‘I will make copies and bring them to you tomorrow’.”
Moriah’s version: “This is in reference to the letter of insubordination that you threatened me with today, August 31, 2006. At approximately 2:30 pm you called me into your office and demanded that I give you the keys to classroom 327 (my classroom last year). I thought that I had given them to you at the end of the school year when you gave me my paystubs. However, you obviously didn’t have them, so I said to you, ‘OK, I’ll get my copies and make others.’ My mind was on solving the problem of giving you the keys.
We both agree that you called me to your office on August 31, 2006 at 2:30 pm in reference to a set of classroom keys. I think that it is reasonable to ask why you, the principal of the school, thought it was necessary to personally address an issue as petty as the whereabouts of a set of keys. You have custodians, secretaries, assistant principals, and other staff members to deal with such things. Why did you feel that you had to take personal charge of this matter?
The first thing you said to me on the first day of school was, “Give me the keys”. On this we both agree. You did not say, “How was your summer,” or “Welcome back.” Just “Give me the keys”. This is evidence of that the tone you used in our first meeting of the year was, to say the least, very abrupt.
We both agree that I said I would make copies of the keys and bring them to you the next day. This is evidence that I was trying my best to comply with your demands.
Principal P.’s version: “I responded that it would not be necessary for you to make copies of the keys and that the teacher assigned to that room needed the keys. I again asked for the keys. You stated ‘I will make copies and give them to you tomorrow.’” I then informed you that that I did not think that you would be able to make copies of Board of Education keys and that I would prefer that the custodian make the copies and I asked for the keys again. You again stated, ‘I will make copies of the keys and give them to you tomorrow.’ I then told you that you were being insubordinate and that I would like for you to give me the keys.
Moriah’s version: “You started yelling at me that I was prohibited from copying Board of Education keys and that I was to give you the keys immediately. I tried to tell you I didn’t have them on me, but you kept interrupting me, screaming that you wanted the keys immediately.”
Your version lacks credibility on several points.
According to your letter, written two months after the fact, I kept repeating the same sentence over and over again like a robot. ‘I will make copies of the keys and give them to you tomorrow.’ This is not a very realistic scenario—the dialogue is very unconvincing. People don’t talk like that. However, even if I had repeated the same thing three times instead of once, there is no evidence of a lack of willingness on my part to cooperate with you.
There is no logical reason to threaten a person with insubordination because she is offering to make copies of some keys. However, according to your own testimony, that is what you did. You established a threatening tone while I was offering to help.
I stand by my version, which was written on the same day. I offered once to make copies of keys that I had at home. When I didn’t give you the keys immediately, you overreacted and began to threaten me with charges of insubordination. You may have gotten the idea that I kept refusing to give you the keys because I was shaking my head back and forth, but I was trying to communicate that I didn’t have them and I didn’t know where they were.
Because I did not have the keys in my possession, I was not being insubordinate when I did not give you the keys. On the contrary, I went out of my way to comply with your demands and cooperate fully with you.
Your false accusation of insubordination constituted verbal abuse, slander, and defamation of character.
Principal P’s version: “You began to scream in a very loud voice, ‘I do not have the keys.’ You then stomped over to the conference table in my office and began throwing the contents of your pocket book onto the conference table screaming loudly, ‘See, I do not have the keys’. Witnessing such inappropriate behavior, I asked you to gather your contents from the table and leave my office. You continued screaming loudly, ‘I do not have the keys’, and you continued throwing the contents of your pocketbook onto the table refusing to leave my office. I then called Clyde Baker, the union representative to my office. When your Mr. Baker entered the room, I again asked you to gather your contents from the table and leave my office. You began to leave the office without your pocketbook and its contents. I called you back and asked you to take your belongings with you, at which time you complied.
Moriah’s version: “I tried to tell you I didn’t have them on me, but you kept interrupting me, screaming that you wanted the keys immediately. You then called my UFT representative, Clyde Baker, and while he was coming, I took everything out of my purse and silently laid the contents on a table in your office. When you saw by my actions that I did not have the keys in my purse, you then told me to get out of your office. Mr. Baker arrived, and I asked him to bear witness that I did not have the keys in my possession. He looked at the contents of my purse on the desk, and verified this fact. You screamed at me to get out of your office, so I left my purse and the contents and left the office. Then you screamed at me to come back in and get my purse. So I did.
Your version lacks credibility for several reasons.
First, look at the script you have written for me.
“I will make copies and bring them to you tomorrow.” She said.
“I will make copies and bring them to you tomorrow.”She said.
“I will make copies and bring them to you tomorrow.” She said
“I do not have the keys.” She screamed.
“See, I do not have the keys.” She screamed.
“ I do not have the keys.” She screamed.
“I do not have the keys.” She screamed.
This is not realistic dialogue. It’s invented. You had to invent the dialogue because, there was none. After the first offer to copy the keys, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
What really happened was much closer to my version which was written that day. You were already in a bad mood when I got to your office. For some reason, you thought I was in possession of the keys. When I offered to get them copied, you jumped to the conclusion that I was refusing to give you the keys. When I didn’t comply with your demand immediately, you lost your temper. You threatened me. I tried to deny that I had the keys. You interpreted the shaking of my head as further refusal. You turned away from me, tuned me out, picked up the phone, and called my UFT Representative.
When it became impossible for me to reason with you, because you would not listen to me, I considered my choices. One choice would have been to raise my voice in order to try to make myself heard over your voice. I didn’t choose to do this because you were already threatening me with charges of insubordination. Raising my voice would just have given you more of an excuse to charge me. Besides, it was beginning to dawn on me for the first time that you thought that I had the keys and that I was refusing to give them to you. Another choice would have been to leave, but I had not been dismissed by you. That could be interpreted as insubordination as well. I was also concerned that if I left the office, I could no longer prove that I had never had the keys in the first place. You might accuse me of disposing of them when I got out of sight. So I chose to silently empty the contents of my purse one object at a time and gently lay them on the conference table in an effort to communicate to you nonverbally that I did not have the keys. I did not scream. I had no reason to. I knew that I didn’t have the keys. You couldn’t accuse me of insubordination if I had nothing to give you. There was no reason for me to give you an excuse to bring me up on charges. I did not utter a sound. I did not stomp. I did not throw the contents onto the conference table. I did not refuse to leave. All of this would have given you the chance to do what you obviously wanted to do—which was to charge me with insubordination. Keeping silent was my best defense. I did not open my mouth until my UFT Rep came in. When I saw him, I said to him desperately, “Clyde, please, please, tell her I don’t have the keys. Look in my bag, look in my pockets. Be my witness. I don’t have the keys.” That is when you told me to get out.
There is another point which does not ring true. The picture you have painted of me, is so unrealistic that it makes me look insane. If I had really behaved like that, you would have called security, not my UFT representative. For someone so intent on bringing charges against me, why did it take you two months to react to such behavior? You threatened me with charges of insubordination when I didn’t produce keys on demand; but you wait two months to write a letter about me screaming and throwing things. That is not realistic. It doesn’t ring true.
On the other hand, my version simply shows a principal who was in a bad mood and overreacted. It is too bad that you didn’t leave it at that. However, the false dialogue which you attribute to me is libelous and defamatory. Your letter represents a serious attack on my professional reputation.
Principal P’s version: During our meeting on October 12, 2006, I asked you about your actions on August 31, 2006. You refused to comment. Mr. Baker stated that you would respond in writing. I stated that you already had responded to the incident in writing. You looked surprised and said, “I did?” Mr. Baker then said he didn’t know that you had written me a letter. You said, “I don’t remember writing a letter”. Mr. Baker requested that I give him a copy of your letter. I asked Mr. Baker to get the letter from you. You stated that you probably had a copy of the letter in your computer and that you would give him a copy.
Moriah’s version: After I found the copies of the keys, I gave a set to my colleague, Ms. Needles and kept one for myself. I started teaching my classes and forgot the incident. I was frankly surprised when you called for the meeting. Why would you want to bring up an incident which was so embarrassing to you? When you asked me about the letter, I tried to give you a way out. You decided not to take it . Your letter is an embarrassing attempt to cover up your own unprofessional behavior, by turning it around and dumping it on an innocent person.
Principal P’s charges: I have concluded that the conduct you exhibited in failing to follow my directions and screaming at me constitutes insubordination and conduct unbecoming a professional educator. All staff members are to conduct themselves in a respectful, mature and professional manner.
Moriah’s charges: I have concluded that on August 31, 2006 at approximately 2:30 PM you verbally abused me. I was the victim of slanderous, defamatory language. On October 30, 2006 you wrote me a letter in which you falsely charged me with not following directions, screaming, and committing acts which I never did. Your charges of insubordination and conduct unbecoming a professional educator are without merit because they are based on false testimony. Your letter is libelous and defamatory. Your behavior is unbecoming a professional educator.
Signed: Moriah Untamed
So much for going into my classroom, shutting the door, and doing my job.