Breaking the Silence
When I left teaching in November of 2014, I didn't leave because I wasn't good at my job or because I didn't love teaching kids. I left because of the perfect storm. I had just started deeply grieving my mom, who had died a year before, my household and children were all on my shoulders with my husband working away from home, and the administration at the building I worked at didn't care., making the stress unbearable. I needed time off to regroup, but when I took time off, I got nothing but borderline harassment from the leadership at the district that I spent thirteen years at. I had planned to take a vacation to Hawaii with my husband and his work, which is one of the things my administrator despised from me, telling me that she would absolutely not support me at the board meeting when I asked for three personal days and three unpaid days. When I hesitated about going after taking time off of work, my doctor told me to go and get my crap together and figure out how to deal with my bully-boss. So I went. I didn't just leave the district high and dry. I arranged for a long-term substitute teacher while I was taking a medical leave of absence for two weeks, meeting with her to discuss the progress of the curriculum. I was unsure if I was going to return to this job, so I brought all of my personal belongings home, but left the tools I felt were needed to assist the substitute. On the plane ride home, I had a panic attack about going back to deal with my administrator. In Detroit, in a busy airport, I emailed my letter of resignation. The stress that came off of my shoulders in that instant was incredible.
I took almost a year to reflect on my career at that district. I learned in this time that not all districts operate under such stressful leadership. In fact, the leadership at this particular district was under good direction for several years, until the newest hire in 2009. During this year of reflection, I also learned that it wasn't teaching that I ran from, but the district where I was. I tried to get back in to teaching, applying to several different local school districts, but the bottom line for most districts was that I was too expensive, having too much experience and too much schooling. I'm sad that that is considered a bad thing in education, but I wasn't deterred, signing up to substitute teach at local districts. It took me almost two months to get through the process, because the administration of my former district refused to give a "free and clear" because of an episode I had with a student. This episode was cleared years before, after getting the teacher's union involved, but because my district wouldn't sign off, I had to get a letter from my union representative to clear me to sub.
Not surprisingly, I was highly requested by many teachers. It wasn't until a long-term subbing job came up in a near-by district from my former employer, where I was requested by the teacher, but denied by the administration of the district, that I realized that walking away from my teaching job wasn't so easy. I had subbed many times in the buildings of this district and even in this teacher's room. I was upset because it had been over a year since I had left, but not surprised. It is well known to people who have worked in my former district, that revenge will be had. It will be undocumented, off the records, but it will be there. In my case, I went to the superintendent and asked what the problem was, and if he had any questions from my previous employment, I would be happy to answer them because I didn't want anything to come in between me subbing in other rooms. He was kind, but explained to me that sometimes teachers make requests that administers don't agree with, and that's why they have the final say over who substitutes in the classrooms and that I should talk with the principal of the specific building. When I met with the principal, he said that he didn't make the call, it came from above his ranks and that he noticed that I was an exceptional teacher and had no problem with me substituting in his buildings. I was very worried that I was going to be blackballed, so I called the teacher's union. I was advised to meet with the suspected administrator to "clear the air" between us. I decided to ignore the situation and keep trudging on.
It has been 14 months since that incident, and 38 since I left. My husband has been harping on my to clean our computer room, where boxes and boxes of my teaching career has resided since leaving that district. I have written a book and started a publishing company and need more room, so it was overdue time to clean. Every box I opened, I found something that brought back wonderful teaching memories. The people I worked with, the kids I helped, and the parents I created a great relationship with. It was super emotional and time consuming. I locked myself in there for a few days before reading a letter written to a local news station about the same administrator I have had troubles with. It wasn't long before the letter was removed from Facebook and the news site itself. I'm thinking that a lawsuit was threatened due to not enough evidence. I have worked hard to take the high road, not speaking out against the district I not only worked for 13 years in, but graduated high school and student taught in. I had thought the rage and betrayal I felt for taking away the confidence I had and my voice that spoke up for the kids who couldn't was over, but it all came back.
In 2011, PsycologyToday.com published an article called "The Silent Epidemic: Workplace Bullying" by Ray Williams. In it he stated,
"The workplace bully abuses power, brings misery to his/her target and endeavors to steal the target's self-confidence. Bullies often involve others using many tactics such as blaming for errors, unreasonable work demands, insults, putdowns, stealing credit, threatening job loss, and discounting accomplishments."
You really should read the entire article, it will enlighten you on a situation that has been brewing in this district for far too long. There are many teachers and staff who have left this district for the same reason I did. I'm sure we can all find proof, and collectively, our voices should overpower that of the person who seems to find self-worth by taking other's confidence.
By the way, in those boxes and boxes of teaching things that I have spent a fortune on, I have managed to consolidate it to two huge tubs (so far), and my most prized possessions: my books. Although I left an entire classroom library behind for the students of the classroom I left (I'm guessing many of them were bought by my own money), these were in my personal collection, and, although students could borrow them, they had to be returned that day. These were the books I often read aloud to students, the books I used to teach writing, science or math lessons, and even life lessons with. They were the thing I looked at that day of reading the article from a former employee at our former district and realized that it was time to tell my story. Though, when I reread it, I find that I left out so much of the stressors I was put through. Just know that there is more to my story, and it's not all pretty.