We are on “Paid Administrative Leave.”

On Friday, March 27, 2020, I had three great phone calls.

My “Chaplain” – In June 2016, my “Chaplain” and I met one another on a cruise to Alaska and have been friends ever since!  At that time, my “Chaplain” was a Chaplain for a jail.  So, he is an ACTUAL Chaplain.  LOVE HIS KNOWLEDGE / WISDOM / HUMOR.  Almost once-a-week (at least), we talk to one another.  He is me 16 years ahead of me.

David – David is one of my colleague’s best friends!  He is married to a University of the Pacific friend (1988 – Alum) / fraternity brother’s daughter.  SMALL WORLD!  We have never met face-to-face.  However, our friendship continues to grow.  I really enjoy talking about the profession (music teaching) and life.  David has a new title for us: “Professional Resters.”  Love it.  Due to COVID-19, tomorrow will begin the third week of SCHOOL CLOSURE. 

Johnny – Heart of gold.  Love him.  Many years ago, Johnny gave me the title (excuse the language), “Shit Magnet.”  When I share with Johnny stories, such as, this school years, 10% of my band has been suspended this school year.  That story confirms his title, “Shit Magnet.”  Now, don’t misunderstand me.  Don’t see this through your eyes.  I love my students.  I understand my situation.  It hurts to see my students misbehave.  IT DOES.  Many other high school band directors do not have 10% of their band suspended / disciplined …….. for the second time in three years!  Unique indeed.

Johnny and I discussed how COVID-19 could very well change the “look” of bands.  Don’t even want to go there is this article.  That was depressing.  However, the phone call was more uplifting than depressing as it usually is.

One of the things Johnny and I “joked” about?  How what teacher-folks are experiencing is similar to being placed on “Paid Administrative Leave.”  “Joke” is in quotes.  Paid Administrative Leave is not a joke, nor is it funny.  See.  I have been on Paid Administrative Leave … twice.  At two different schools.  You can read more about that in my first book CONDUCTING MY LIFE and my second book CONDUCTING MY LIFE, VOLUME 2 (hopefully coming out February 2021).  Needless to say, I survived.  I am still teaching public high school music. 

How do I see this (School Closure due to COVID-19) being like Paid Administrative Leave?  In my case – unexpected.  Not only unexpected … but, UNFAIR.  And the response from teachers is like the response I had when I was placed on Paid Administrative Leave.

  • Shock. When the principal asked me for my keys and told me to go to the district office for further directions, I felt the “car just hit me.”  Well, when we were told that school was being closed, there was shock.  Sure.  We were warned.  But, when it happened – SHOCK! 
  • False endings (deceptive cadences – for my musician friends). When I asked the principal, “How long is this (investigation / Paid Administrative Leave) going to take?”  His answer, “Oh.  About two weeks.”  Two weeks led to FIVE weeks at the first school.  Two weeks led to TEN weeks at the second school.  Ya get your hope up and then … BAM … on your knees again.  Well, hasn’t that happened?  Many of us were told, “Tuesday April 14 is our return date.”  Turns into “Possible return date.”  Then, we are told, “May 4, 2020 is our possible return date and don’t be surprised if it isn’t longer.”
  • Unstructured time. Teachers have been on “bells” the majority of their entire lives!  When one is placed on Paid Administrative Leave, the question is, “What do I do with my time?”  Not to have school bells is an odd feeling.  You are asked to send lesson plans to a sub.  You are uncertain for how long / stretch of time those lesson plans should be.  You hope the students are doing the work.  You are told you can’t go anywhere because technically you are still working for your school district.  So, it can almost feel like you are trapped.  How do you really use the time?   
  • Loneliness.  When one is placed on Paid Administrative Leave, you are treated like / can be treated like you have leprosy.  People stay away from you.  The ten-week paid administrative leave, I had three teachers visit me.  Not one of those teachers was the union representative, by the way.  Very few phone calls from on or off-campus teachers.  The same thing can easily happen during this school closure.  Sure.  I see folks “zooming” or “google hangout.”  We would all agree – NOT THE SAME.  I think about my friends / colleagues who are single.  I hope they are well.  I have Diana (my wife) and Katy (our daughter) to share time with. 
  • Missing students. When one is placed on Paid Administrative Leave, you are directed to not have any contact with your students.    This would have included our daughter.  Of course, we had “contact” at home!  Duh!  But, nope … couldn’t attend one performance the Fall Semester of her senior year.  TERRIBLE!  AWFUL!  On FACEBOOK, I see many teachers lamenting over missing their students.  I get it.  Yet, having been on Paid Administrative Leave, unfortunately, I have learned to ease the pain of loss of time with my students.  I do what I can to remind myself, I will see them again.  I also remind myself, those students, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, now can learn more about themselves, oppose being constantly led by adults!  Scary to let go of your child on a bicycle without training wheels!  One of the first times we learn … my child doesn’t need me.  
  • Canceled events. When one is placed on Paid Administrative Leave, you are not allowed to be at events.  In a sense, those events have been canceled in your world.  To see proms canceled.  School trips canceled.  Games / Concerts canceled.  Possibly graduation canceled?  THAT IS MIND BLOWING!!  Missed memories.  Missing making memories is extremely painful.  Hearing folks say, “Well, would you rather be alive versus run the risk of getting COVID-19 by having those events?”  Respectfully / with a LOVING HEARTS:  your emotional intelligence needs to improve!  Not one senior wants to hear that “simple thinking.”  One has nothing to do with the other.  Acknowledge their pain.  Their loss.  And leave it at that.

Due to COVID-19, we have been placed on PAID ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE And in my world, the administrator is GOD. 

When I was placed on Paid Administrative Leave, I had to accept the fact that I was responsible for my reaction / response (yes … that “thing” – responsible).  I was given time that I would not have had.  I needed to turn this VERY NEGATIVE / VERY HURTFUL event into my favor.  What did I do?

  • I read.
  • I wrote.
  • I took long walks. One time I walked 23 miles from the BART station in Walnut Creek to our home in Dublin.  The walks gave me time to listen to my AM radio / audio books / talk on the phone. 
  • I prayed.
  • Spent time with Diana. That is something to think about, as well. Us not working has screwed-up their life as well.  We need to be mindful of how us not “working” impacts those close to us.  Diana has a routine how to “maintain” the house.  I need to get out of her way! 
  • I joined a Men’s Group.  Monday nights was rehearsal.  It pained me to see Katy and Diana go to those Monday night rehearsals and I sit at home.  To answer a need to ease that pain, I found a church that had Monday night Men’s group (again, in CONDUCTING MY LIFE, VOLUME 2; you will read more about that experience)  Even with the “Shelter in home” DIRECTIVE, find a group!  Humans need humans!
  • I worked on my own business. I have a LEADERSHIP SEMINAR business.  I dedicated time to that business. 

Being placed on PAID ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE frickin’ hurts!  IT DOES!  Y’all have – FRANKLY – a version of it!  What you LOVE to do has been TAKEN AWAY.  Not days … but MONTHS!  You will never know when you will go back to normal.  And then, who even knows what “normal” will look like?  Following September 11, 2001, our “normal” changed.  You do take off shoes before you go to the airport’s gate.  Something we didn’t have to do prior to September 11, 2001.  Correct?  That is “normal.”  You have lost time that you will never have again.  All those rehearsals and performances with KATY EVERTS ……. GONE! 

Go through the grief period.  Pain is part of life!  Pain tells us something is “wrong.”  In each of us, the “pain” is our new teacher or an old teacher “who” has returned.  Learn from this “teacher.”  Get smarter.  Get stronger.  Help others.  Make each day count.  Set daily attainable goals and enjoy daily victories.  Goals give us focus. 

            Goals are specific and can help you break down your mission into bite-sized pieces.  Sometimes when we hear the word GOALS we go on a guilt trip.  It reminds us of what we should be doing and what we haven’t done yet.  But forget about any mistakes you may have made in the past.  Follow the advice of George Bernard Shaw, who said: “When I was a young man, I observed that nine out of ten things I did were failures.  I didn’t want to be a failure, so I did ten times more work.” – page 94. Sean Covey. THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE TEENS.   

For example, I have set a goal of FORTY MINUTES A DAY ON FACEBOOK.  I have now done it for four-days-in-a-row.  As childish as it sounds, FEELS GREAT!  I WIN!

I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST.  I understand.  I am here for you.  Love you!