Back to School – Part 2

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Thanks to my perseverance, I finally got issued my district email address a few weeks early. I’ve hungrily dug into all of the shared files, desperately trying to find out if there are already lesson plans in place or if I need to be spending my last weeks of summer developing a syllabus, worksheets, homework, quizzes and tests for the year. I don’t want my first six weeks to be a mess of chaotic franticness.

All summer long, I’ve been checking the district website hoping they’d update the calendar for the 2017-2018 school year. They finally did a couple weeks ago, so I found out my first day of teacher inservice would be Thursday, August 10th. I’ve had it in my calendar ever since.

To make the most of my last week of summer, Seth and I planned a romantic day trip for Monday, August 7th, and I have a specialist doctor’s appointment scheduled for Tuesday the 8th. I had to schedule the appointment two months in advance, so I was relieved they were able to get me in before school started.

Then yesterday, I checked my district email account.

The email account I only have because I’ve been bothering IT all summer long.

The email account I’m not supposed to have yet and that no one has advised me to be checking yet this summer.

I had an email “reminding” me of MANDATORY TRAINING for new teachers on August 7-8.

Note that this email was not sent to my personal email from my resume. I did not receive a call from my principal or administration. I never heard anything about this mandatory training from the HR department. The only reason I found out about it was because I had a district email address that I AM NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE YET AND ONLY HAVE BECAUSE OF MY PROACTIVITY!!!

Seth and I cancelled our romantic day trip. He’s out $50 for tickets we already bought.

I postponed my specialist doctor’s appointment for another two months. Now I’ll have to use a precious vacation day to go to my appointment.

And I will responsibly show up for this mandatory training I only know about because I am proactive, responsible and on top of things when the rest of the school system is not.

I’m so glad I left Corporate America to escape bureaucracy.

Authentically Aurora

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Termination for Cause (Part 3)

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The main purpose of middle managers, in my opinion, is to lead, guide, motivate and coach their direct reports. Vision casting is the job of senior management, and doing the day-to-day operational work is the role of individual contributors. Middle managers so focused on becoming visionary leaders that they don’t invest in their staff are a bane to organizations, as are micromanaging middle managers who who create a disconnect from their staff with their meddling.

My team at work has recurring meetings with our primary vendor every Tuesday from 7:00AM until 9:00AM. Every week, we spent two hours talking through status updates for each of the various projects on which we collaborate. If an employee were to resign and this was her last Tuesday team meeting (hypothetically speaking, of course), this would be a great time for her manager to give a small speech or simple public farewell thanking said employee for her eight years of service.

Did this hypothetical manager publicly thank this hypothetical employee during her final group meeting? No. Has she privately wished me well? No. Did she even take the opportunity to let everyone know it was my last meeting? Yes. But all she said was, “This is Aurora’s last time to join this meeting, so if you have any questions, now is the time to ask them for purposes of transition. No? Okay. Then we can go ahead and end the meeting. The rest of us will talk next week.”

Thankfully, one of the vendor representatives inadvertently shamed my boss by interjecting and saying how very nice it’s been to work with me for the past two years and that he wishes me all the best. The vendor initiated this comment. Not my boss. Not even one of my teammates. A vendor who lives in Germany and just dials in to the meeting, who had no responsibility to step into this leadership role and bid me a fond farewell – he was the one who did what my own boss could not. I wasn’t expecting my boss to take me out to a goodbye lunch or goodbye coffee (in fact, I preferred that she didn’t), but I did think my boss would at least give lip service to her managerial responsibilities.

On Wednesday mornings, we have another team call, but this one is purely internal with no vendors admitted. Thinking she may have learned from the way the vendor shamed her in the Tuesday call, I figured my boss may at least thank me for my service during this gathering of just our four immediate teammates. No. She didn’t. And I realized that, in order to be shamed by the vendor’s behavior, she would have had to be socially adept enough to realize that there was shame to be had.

Fortunately, some of my other coworkers are thoughtful and clued in to the social niceties of fond farewells. However, though most of my coworkers are friendlier and more attentive than my boss, several of them struggled a bit with the whole social intelligence thing, too.

A surprising number of my colleagues who normally have no trouble booking meetings and conference calls seemed to suddenly forget that we have visibility to each other’s Outlook calendars. Conversations like this one happened an unfathomable number of times:

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I appreciated that my colleagues wanted to meet up for one last coffee, and I know they were probably just being informal and talking out the scheduling rather than looking at my Outlook calendar to book a formal meeting, but the number of times I had this same kind of conversation made me wish people would just check my calendar so I didn’t have to tell eight different people per day that I was out of office Wednesday, already had lunch plans Monday, was in back-to-back meetings Tuesday morning but was free at time X, Y or Z.

But the catch up coffees and lunches were nice. And in just a few days now, I’m about to be really free – with no Outlook calendar or vendor meetings or team meetings or anything. I can’t wait!

Authentically Aurora

Cali – Part I

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Seth and I have very different travel styles. Granted, I’ve traveled the world, and he still doesn’t see any reason to ever leave our state, so differences in travel styles were inevitable. But I am of the opinion one should, you know, pre-book hotel rooms and rental cars. And maybe think about transport to the airport sooner than the night before departure. And possibly pack one’s bags sooner than six hours before a 7AM flight.

Nevertheless, we survived the 4:30AM drive to the airport and landed safely in LA. When we hit the runway, Seth advised me that he takes a while to deplane, so he encouraged me to grab my bag and go on ahead. Confused but opting not to ask any questions, I got off the plane and waited in the terminal near our gate. One minute went by… then two… then five… just when I started to get concerned, Seth appeared in the gate door and made his way to me, duffel bag in tow.

“What happened…?” I started to ask, but Seth put his hand on my back and ushered me forward. Only after we were a safe distance away did he explain.

“I knew I should never come to California. California is already letting me know I don’t belong here.” My conservative, old-fashioned cowboy sighed, half-laughing, and went on, “I don’t like to push ahead of people – older ladies or moms with kids – so I tend to wait a while in my aisle on the plane while I let other people get off. When there was finally a gap, and I felt like I had time to get my bag and deplane, I stuck my hand in the overhead bin without looking and grabbed what I thought was the handle of my bag.”

I nodded, wondering where this was going, and he continued, “It turned out it wasn’t my bag. It must have been some woman’s bag that she hadn’t zipped all the way shut, because when I pulled on the handle, a laptop fell out of the bag and landed on the head of the person in front of me -”

I gasped, and he nodded, adding, “It gets worse. Then – then! – tampons started raining down on everyone. This woman’s bag was full of tampons!”

I was laughing now as Seth continued the story. “I started shoveling tampons back into this bag as fast as I could, not looking up to make sure I didn’t make eye contact with whoever’s bag it was. It was so bad. California is rejecting me already, and we just landed.”

Still smiling, Seth and I made our way outside to where the rental car shuttles would pick us up and take us to our choice of offsite rental car company location. Seth was confused as to why all of the rental car options did not have kiosks right next to each other in the airport itself. He’d wanted to book in person so he could walk up and down the aisle and price check each one. That’s what online booking is for, honey.

I had in fact looked online and found that either Fox Rent-a-Car or E-Z Advantage were the cheapest options, and I made the mistake of mentioning that to Seth. I say it was a mistake because, once Seth knew those were the cheapest options, he was determined to stay and wait for one of their shuttles. Unfortunately, since they are cheap options, their shuttles only came once per hour instead of every five minutes.

After waiting for about half an hour, Seth and I finally agreed to get on a shuttle headed for one of the more mainstream rental car companies. The total bill came to a little over $300 instead of the $200 it would have been had we booked in advance online. Lesson learned. 

The whole trip was a lesson in compromise for both of us. As our first major trip together, I had to die to my natural tendency to plan and be in control, opting instead to take on the mindset of spontaneity and flexibility for Seth. Meanwhile, Seth was slowly realizing that life is a lot easier when you tap into the planning strengths of your more organized partner. We both actively tried to be considerate of the other, and the result was the best weekend we’ve had as it relates to dominance and control.

Seth had specifically told me ahead of time that he wanted to spend time in the mountains, not the beach, but that first day we landed, he suddenly wanted to check out the LA beaches. Thankful I’d thrown a swimsuit into my suitcase last-minute, I sighed and chunked my nature hiking itinerary, and we went to the beach instead of the forested walk to a waterfall I’d planned. We drove up Highway 1, found ourselves in Malibu and actually ended up having a great time walking the shoreline and looking for shells before Seth bravely dove into the frigid water in search of some time in the surf.

As that first day wore on, Seth continued to jokingly find examples of why he didn’t belong in California. When he fought his way out from the shoreline to a sandbar, one of the surfers out there asked if he was drunk. Apparently no one without a wet suit and surfboard attempts to wade out so deep. Later when we got smoothies, Seth made a face at his first sip. “This is the worst smoothie I’ve ever had!” I tried it and laughed. “That’s because it’s an all-fruit smoothie with no added sugar.” He shook his head in distaste and ranted in a teasing voice, “Why would anyone ever make such a disgusting smoothie? And sell it to unsuspecting customers?! California is the worst.”

That night, we stopped at the exact La Quinta I’d looked up online weeks before, but they only had one room left at the $99 rate. Granted, the room had two queen-sized beds, but – determined to sleep in separate bedrooms and maintain our commitment to physical purity – Seth declined the room, and we drove on to a sketchy Knight’s Inn that hadn’t been updated (or cleaned) since about 1969.

The large man in line ahead of us at the registration desk (if it could be called that) was trying to book a room by paying in cash only, but when the clerk refused, the man took his wad of cash and left. Between the rapist vans in the parking lot and the tattered, moth-eaten draperies behind the counter, I was ready to bolt, but the Knight’s Inn had two separate rooms for $75 each, so there we stayed.

Seth later acknowledged that we should have booked the La Quinta in advance. And booked the rental car in advance. And thought through more of the trip logistics. I appreciated his admission, and I acknowledged that we did make some great memories and have some fun adventures when I let go of my plans and just lived in the moment. Overall, this trip was a good lesson in compromise, valuing one another’s strengths and actively seeking the good of the other person in the relationship.

Authentically Aurora