School workplace politics | Featured Columnists | postguam.com – The Guam Daily Post

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Dan Ho 

Dan Ho 
In one of my columns last December I revealed that I was looking for another teaching job outside of my current district. Well, at the end of last week, I accepted an offer and promptly resigned. I have about eight school days left in this classroom, which I’ve managed for the last three years.
I walked into the high school this Monday morning feeling lighter than I have in too long a time. I hated that I hated to go to work; luckily, I knew exactly when I started to feel that way and planned immediately to leave.
To be quite honest, I would have left earlier but I felt a responsibility to my students and their families to make sure they were set up with post-secondary agencies and organizations that would help them achieve their adult goals. Had I been a general education teacher, I would have had no problem resigning the minute the signs were clear that the scene had become toxic; however, I do love my special education charges and wanted to create as much padding and reassurance as I could. I contacted parents the minute I resigned so we could discuss together how the news of my departure would be given to their children. Thankfully, this strategy worked brilliantly and the students returned to class curious, but not devastated.
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As I prepare for the dreaded exit interview, I’ve been trying to find ways to efficiently express that the main reason I am leaving is because of internal politics. As I write this, it seems ludicrous to even suggest that schools are places where politics plays out, but it is sadly the truth. When I started teaching in Guam, I didn’t get jobs because of what I knew, it was because it was who I knew. In fact, I can think of a couple of teaching jobs I didn’t get exactly because I lacked a personal connection with the individual in charge of hiring. That said, I can’t really say that this is politics, per se, on an island as small as Guam. It is simply part of the tradition and culture to connect by a large measure of familiarity. However, in the school I am at now, cronyism is a different kind of malicious animal. One that has bitten me too many times, as the guy with the least seniority in the department.
Workplace politics aside, these days how a colleague votes on election day is how he or she interacts with other faculty and staff members at school. The conflict of differing political persuasions has replaced the clique tensions in the teacher lounge. Indeed, national politics is now what guides school politics.
To wit: To teach or not to teach Critical Race Theory is an argument that is not based on whether race theory can be adequately taught in middle and high school – which is what it should be. Rather, it is “discussed” amidst the violent hurling of breathtakingly biased slurs. If a teacher feels it is not appropriate, then he or she is a racist. If the opposite is the case, then they are progressive radicals. There is absolutely no middle ground on this subject.
Personally, I have no issues with Critical Race Theory – it is, after all, an academic theory. It is not fact. “Theory” lies solidly between “hypothesis” and “law,” logically, you cannot assume it is the truth. Yet, it is a worthy exploration; but in order to understand CRT, one must be taught first how to analyze cultural theory, which happens only when many cultural theories are taught alongside each other. This is done in order that the student understands how these theories are formulated and how they are to be interpreted.
I guess my position on Critical Race Theory is that it should be taught alongside other race theories – if there are any – so that it is not taken out of context, which it already has, perhaps irrevocably. However, I strongly feel it should not be taught without this larger context. Between you and me, I am positive this places me in a basket of deplorables, even though I am merely suggesting a standard method of study.
In my new district, I will be wiser. I am going to adopt the following behaviors in the school workplace which you might try yourself wherever you are.
1. Avoid discussing controversial topics. Our social climate informs our workplace climate – and neither is open to calm, thoughtful discussion about pressing social and global issues.
2. Avoid creating social relationships with other people in your same department. Socialize at school or work functions. This is enough.
3. Make your social media accounts private or, as I did, ditch them entirely.
4. Learn how to abruptly end a discussion that you feel is at risk of going too far. I’ve learned to suddenly ask, “What time is it?” And whatever the other person answers, say, “Oh my gosh, I’m so late. See you later.”

Dan Ho 
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Guam Unique Merchandise and Arts launched its “I Businun Mami” home-based business training program in Dededo this month.

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