Saturday, July 26, 2014

My Life as a Juror

I just heard that my blogger friend, Linda Medrano, is in the midst of jury duty.  Most people dread the prospect.  Not me. Call me crazy, but I enjoy jury duty. And not just because it gets me out of work for a few days. No, it's because jury duty allows me to live the "Law and Order" dream... all the nitty gritty details of the case are revealed to you as you ponder whether to let the guy off or fry his ass.

It was about eight years ago that I got a summons from federal court.  As an open-minded, upstanding citizen, I was snapped up right away for a drug and weapons case. The first day was taken up with jury selection.  A slew of prospective jurors was paraded through the courtroom as people gave the judge excuses as to why they couldn't stay to enjoy the festivities.  It took an entire day just to find twelve of us, along with two substitutes, who had boring enough lives that we didn't mind spending the next two weeks with other like-minded boring people.  

There's a lot of down time when you're on a jury.  Half our time was spent sitting around in the jury room, noshing on snacks and doing crossword puzzles and reading while the lawyers hashed stuff out with the judge away from our prying eyes and ears.  The hardest part was not being able to go home and gossip about all the gory details with friends and family. (We weren't sequestered, but we had to pinky swear that we wouldn't talk about the case with anyone.)

Anyway, the highlights of the case for me were seeing all the charts and graphs and 8 x 10 color glossy photographs of the crime scene with circles and arrows and all that shit. Shell casings in kitchen drawers, loaded weapons laying around on couches next to empty Doritos bags and pizza boxes, baggies of drugs thrown down heat vents, more weapons thrown up on closet shelves.  Damn, those guys know how to decorate! The most appalling thing was seeing the photos of live ammunition thrown in a baby carrier. (For me, reason enough to lock the guys up and throw away the key.) Then there was getting the play-by-play of the raid and learning about flash-bangs and battering rams and all that good stuff from the SWAT team guys.  That's when the maps and diagrams of the crime scene came into play. (Sadly, though, no appearance by Officer Obie or any of the Law and Order gang.)

Finally, after a week and a half of all this swell entertainment, we got our instructions from the judge and were locked in the jury room.  As we were deliberating, we could ask to see any of the evidence. The only restriction was that we couldn't have the guns and the ammunition at the same time.  Go figure. Nobody wanted to admit it at first, but what we really wanted to see was the crack cocaine and the cut away pop bottles that the defendants stored their merchandise in. Why?  Obviously, those of us who lead such sheltered lives were damned curious about what it looked like. I have to give credit to the drug dealers...those bottles were actually quite ingenious. And now I know what those teeny tiny baggies I occasionally see littering parks are. The things you learn!

All, in all, I found jury duty to be quite exhilarating and the judge made us feel proud that we were doing our civic duty. The government even sprang for dinner while we were deliberating. The only time I had a moment's pause was after the trial was over.  The judge came in to talk to us and answer any remaining questions we had about serving on the jury.  Then he said there was an officer available to escort us to our cars as we left.  Huh?  You mean there's danger involved?  Weren't the guys led away in handcuffs?  Turns out the family members who were wailing in court as the verdict was read were probably pissed. Now I get it... Oh, crap!

So, Linda, enjoy your time on the jury.  Hopefully you'll enjoy it as much as I did.  And when I finally get to come visit, we can sit around and drink and trade stories and laugh about it together. That is, if you make it to your car safely.  Good luck with that.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

In Which I Learn The Customer is NOT Always Right

You know how every once in a while, something hits you smack in the face and knocks you for a loop?  A couple of weeks ago a friend posted this article on Facebook:  The Top 5 Reasons "The Customer is Always Right" is Wrong.  For most people, it was an "interesting article."  For me, it was an eye-opener as to why I don't make a good administrator.

I still have angst over my time as the director of a small, private school.  I had been a teacher there for over ten years and when the director left I thought I might be able to take on a new role.  I was recently divorced and ready for a change.

Big mistake!

The trouble was, I was a people pleaser.  I felt I needed to be able to please everyone, but in the end I ended up pleasing no one.  Without meaning to, my efforts to satisfy the parents, (i.e. the customers,) ended up discounting my most important resource... the wonderful teachers with whom I had always enjoyed a collegial relationship.  By trying to help resolve a few parents' unreasonable issues, I created a hostile environment for the people I should have been protecting.  No longer was the school I adored a fun and generative place for me to be.  I had gone from being a popular teacher to being "The Man". After three years of ever increasing anxiety over my inability to pull families and teachers together toward a common goal, I was a basket case.  I knew it was time for me to leave.

I've been recovering from this experience for the past five years and while I knew I had gotten past the initial heartbreak and regained most of my confidence, I was still uneasy. Then came this article, which made me slap my forehead and say, "Duh!  Of course!"  It all made sense.  As a result, I think I have finally been able to bring some closure to that episode in my life.

It's not easy for me to admit openly that I was such a complete and utter failure at something.  (I don't think that's ever easy for anyone.)  But it's important for my growth to do so.  I owe a deep and sincere apology to each of the fine teachers who were a part of the school at that time.  I let you down at a time when you needed propping up and for that I am truly sorry.

Yet as painful as my administrative experience was, I wouldn't be the same person I am today without it.  Happily, I can now say that I am thriving once again in the classroom.  Not only that, since leaving my old school I have become a much better teacher.  The work I have done with active participatory learning and conflict resolution in my new classroom has clarified for me what it means to be a teacher.  I am filled with gratitude that I have been able to learn from a painful experience and that I am once again where I was always meant to be.

Related Posts with Thumbnails