Friday, November 4, 2011
Stirring Up the Past
I quit working 13 years ago this December when I was five months pregnant with Son #1. I worked with horrible, terrible people. The thing that upsets me most about having this dream is that I apparently still allow these awful people to have a hold over me. It's been 13 years and I'm ready to have freedom from them.
I am so not the kind of person who is quick to yell "discrimination." Yet, I feel like I was discriminated against on this job. I was young, thin (well, not for long, since I was pregnant), married, and white. The two assistants were older, African-American women who had been assistants for years and years. This was my first full-time job in the school system and they were under me. The other head teacher was a classic spinster. Older, unmarried, overweight, unpretty, and bitter. I told my fellow employees right away that I was pregnant because I was suffering from morning sickness. The first thing Spinster said was, "Are you even three months yet?" It was said in a degrading, snotty way. "No," I replied. "I just wanted you to know in case you see me bolt to the restroom." The First Foot was apparently the wrong foot.
The assistants- they made my life a living hades. They were lazy and wanted to spend their days chatting with one another. Spinster, for some reason, allowed them to get away with that. The two women took attendance in the morning, prepared the students' lunch (which means they took the packaged meals out of a hot box and set the milks on the table.) Then they felt that they were done for the day. That's two easy chores in a seven hour time period.
When they began hating me was when I asked my assistant to do something. You would think there was lava raining from the sky. She retaliated, got angry, and reported me to my supervisor. Guys, I asked her to wipe another child's nose. I would ask any of you to do that too. I was occupied with another student and noticed someone's nose running toward their mouth. She was standing there, doing nothing, so I asked if she would wipe the child's nose. She huffed away, got a tissue, and brought it to me. I had to stop what I was doing, track down the child, and clean his nose.
In my frustration, I vented to Spinster. I didn't tell her who I was talking about; there were three other people in our classroom that day. She told the assistant I was talking about her and they reported me together. That was the day I realized I was in this on my own.
There were other small problems along the way but one major issue was the last straw for me. The students took naps every day on cots. That's when the teachers took lunch breaks (still in the classroom...no true breaks). When the kids woke up, we stacked the cots and continued on with our day. The other teacher and I were responsible for teaching the kids while the assistants again did nothing. It only made sense that they were the ones to stack and clean the cots, since they had no other duties. But the four of us always did it together.
One day, a student had an accident while napping. Since there were 31 other kids I was in charge of teaching, I didn't clean up the accident. It wasn't my job. The assistant told me that I needed to get down and clean up the pee. She even brought me a wad of paper towels. I politely told her that I would not be cleaning it up. The other students were waiting for me and I needed to attend to them. I was 5 months pregnant and getting down on the floor was getting more difficult. I decided it was time to stand up for myself. I continued on with my job while she stood behind the counter, talking about me.
The next day, the child who had the accident could not find his cot. He walked around asking all the teachers where it was. They shrugged and sent him to ask me, even though I was on my lunch break. I sighed, put down my sandwich, and found his cot. It was stacked against the wall. I set it down and told him to lay on it. My assistant went crazy. The cot had not been cleaned since his accident yesterday. Even though I was teaching and she was talking, she never cleaned it. The teachers began harassing me. I felt tears begin to well up. Blame it on pregnancy hormones if you want but I wonder how I would have handled it even if I hadn't been pregnant. I refused to cry in front of the students. I went to the office phone and tried to call my supervisor. This had to stop immediately. She was not in but my former supervisor was. I explained to her what was going on and how I wasn't able to cope. I was physically sick from the abuse. The day was nearly over and the students were leaving in a matter of minutes. She told me to leave.
I was reprimanded for leaving without the permission of my direct supervisor, who was not able to be reached. I explained that I felt like I was going to vomit and needed to leave. She didn't care. Someone suggested that I seek the help of my union representative. He was in an uproar about the situation but didn't actually do anything. He told me to use all of the sick time I'd accumulated and call in sick every day. That took me up to Christmas break and then I quit.
The thing that bothers me most about this entire situation is that I wonder if it was actually me who was difficult to get along with. Should have I just done everything they ordered me to do, including their work? Was I wrong to stand up for myself? Am I the one who is hard to get along with? Even though I don't have problems like this in other areas in my life, I've always wondered if the problem was me. Throughout the years, I've seen people in public who I mistook for these former coworkers. I immediately got a sense of panic and felt nauseous. I think the diagnosis is that I was bullied. Bullied as an adult.
What helps me through it is to look at my life now. I've never had to go to work a day since that happened. These people are still working hard for a living. I have a husband and four beautiful children. I am happy. I am content. The only thing is that I still cannot let it go. I don't know why it still has a hold over me and it angers me to realize that it does. Hopefully time will heal all wounds. I'm still waiting to be healed from this one.