I was Head of English at a Brisbane State High School for twenty-nine years.
For most of those twenty-nine years I was very busy, but I was happy.
Then a new principal (principal TT) was appointed.
A principal who had never been a HOD.
A principal who did not understand the work of a HOD.
And things very quickly changed.
They changed for me.
But they changed for the whole staff.
Principal TT told us that "Appearance is reality".
And that pretty well summed him up.
The main problem with principal TT was that he would keep coming up with daft "appearance is reality" ideas that messed up the HOD's work programmes and objectives.
He had never been a HOD, so he did not understand our work.
He would insist that the HODs implement his daft ideas.
Principal TT did not seem to understand that it would take a lot of time and effort to implement his daft ideas properly.
One day, early in his time at our school, principal TT came to me and told me that he had noticed that the English teachers were late getting to their classes.
He told me to tell the teachers to get to their classes on time.
The problem was that Year 8 classes were on the other side of the road, a 5-7 minute walk away from A block.
If teachers left the Year 8 campus on the bell, it would take them a few minutes to walk over the road and so they were late for their classes in A block.
I asked principal TT if he wanted the teachers to leave their Year 8 classes early so that they could arrive at A block on the bell.
I did not intend this to be a vexatious question, but principal TT took it very badly and he fumed.
Principal TT did not like to have his daft instructions questioned.
And so principal TT and I got off to a bad start.
One day TT told me that he wanted a draft program on his desk by the following morning - for a draft English Syllabus.
The draft syllabus was clearly marked "NOT TO BE USED TO WRITE WORK PROGRAMS"!
Principal TT pooh-poohed the fact that the draft syllabus was not supposed to be used to write work programs.
He pooh-poohed his impossible time-line.
Principal TT told me that I was experienced - I could do it!
So I stayed up all night trying to write something sensible.
I put the draft program on Principal TT's desk the next morning, but then I had to go home because I was really ill.
I had developed flu.
I became depressed.
I was given medication for my depression.
After one appalling HOD meeting, a number of HOD's gathered to discuss the situation.
We decided that we should send a letter to the Director-General, outlining our grievances against principal TT.
Because I was English HOD (and considered to be good with words) I was asked to draft a letter to the Director-General.
Actually I drafted two letters, one to principal TT and one to the Director-General.
But then a couple of the HOD's became ill (possibly because of the stress of the situation) and a couple went overseas on Long Service Leave (possibly to escape the situation).
The younger HOD's became very nervous about their jobs.
Finally one HOD, Ms Ice, leaked to principal TT.
He immediately took action to address some of the issues.
So the letters were never sent.
And Ms Ice was promoted to Deputy.
A Deputy and another HOD took out grievance procedures.
But they were just moved to other schools.
And principal TT was left at our school.
Eventually I had a nervous breakdown, mainly because of the impossible workload.
I decided not to take out a grievance procedure because it seemed pointless - principal TT seemed to be protected.
Nothing was going to change.
And I was not well - I did not have the strength to go through the process of making a grievance.
So I retired from teaching at the age of 55.
I knew I was facing an impoverished retirement - but I had to preserve my health.
Just before I retired, I went to the regional office and spoke with the regional director.
I felt that he needed to know what was going on at our school.
When I told him about principal TT's impossible demands, he said "Well, he IS the principal!"
And then I knew that nothing was going to change.
Principals, however bad they are, are protected by the establishment.