In my high school the kids have a term called “mad dogging.” This is when someone stares across at another student with the intent to harass or bully, which often leads to a shouting match, bad blood, or even a fight.
I got mad dogged in a more figurative sense by an administrator (I will call this person Mad Dog).
At a staff meeting we were shown a chart detailing how the number of assigned detentions has risen for attendance infractions and another chart detailing how many absences are labeled excused and unexcused. These were presented to illustrate our increasing successes in “solving” the attendance problem.
At the beginning of the year we were told the measure of success would be the declining numbers of absences and tardies. However, this presentation did not show that data.
Two staff members before me asked questions which were not really answered, so I asked what our ultimate goal is with the new attendance policy (we had the same one last year, but this year we give double the detention time and only track tardies on a weekly basis rather than through a full semester). I stated the data shows parents are doing a better job of calling in and excusing absences and we are doing a better job of enforcing consequences for unexcused absences and tardies, but isn’t the number of absences and tardies our true goal? What are those numbers?
Mad Dog told me I was “focusing on the negative” and am being “negative” while M.D. was presenting. I had to calm myself as Mad Dog had just labeled me and my speech in front of my 80 colleagues while M.D. uses the microphone. Mad Dog made it quite clear mine was the final comment with a stern look at me and then ended the presentation. I got mad-dogged!
I see what M.D. is showing with his presentation, but “how are we doing?” is really what I want to know. Are absences and tardies decreasing across the building?
Well, I was upset and attempted to speak with Mad Dog during my prep (busy), and I didn’t want to speak about it at the staff party that afternoon, so I e-mailed M.D. my feelings and concerns about the attendance policy. M.D. called me unprofessional for sending my thoughts in an e-mail and said it’s “easy to complain” and not be “part of the solution.”
Again, I was offended since I have been on every committee in the school for the last four years and have even tried to help Mad Dog create an attendance policy which is not completely punitive. In fact, I warned M.D. four things would occur, and three have with the fourth debatable:
1. Students whose parents are late calling in would be punished for their parents’ failure, which would create animosity between students and staff.
2. The community would become confrontational and upset with a completely unyielding policy.
3. Absences and tardies will increase because they are only symptoms of the true problem: attitudes about attendance and tardies, which is where we should focus our efforts. I tested this theory by looking at my absences in my classes, which have increased from about 9 per student to 12 per student.
4. Any system with no reward and only punitive measures will fail.
I tried to get a hold of M.D. before school, who was again unavailable. I sent M.D. another note saying I’d like to resolve the issue and asked M.D. to come see me Thursday or Friday. Again, no response and no visit.
I have resolved myself to seeing that Mad Dog does not wish to resolve the issue and that M.D. does not value the power of relationship building with staff members (even though that very idea is written on the back of M.D.’s school shirt). This might sound like a bit of a stretch to assign these thoughts to M.D., but I have had five other staff members with similar complaints about Mad Dog, and now a group of teachers have approached me to set up some sort of meeting to help M.D. improve on people skills.
I’m not sure what I will do, but I do know that the adversarial air is thickening and teachers are feeling less willing to work with Mad Dog.