Last week, I shared where my teaching career began. This week, it’s the beginning of the end.
I was excited to start in my new school. I decided to look at the 45 minute drive (each way) as an adventure. I was going to look at my kids starting daycare for the first time as a good thing for them. This would be a new, exciting time for all of us, I told myself.
Although I was given a couple of paid days to set up my classroom (in addition to having made the drive the weekend before I started), the principal filled my days with specific tasks and meetings.
Every time I worked hard to get things done, she would ask why I hadn’t gotten these other things done. During my free times, she set up meetings for me to understand the program they were setting up. I was exhausted.
It had to get better, I told myself. This was just the hard part. It would get better. I didn’t believe it, but I told myself that.
The first week was done, and then my family got the stomach flu. In just a few days, I lost almost ten pounds. I’m sure the stress of the new job made it worse. I was miserable.
This was not what I wanted for myself or my family. In my second week, I already had to call in sick. (I had already managed to make an impression on the kids, I’m sure, as I had vomited in a trash can in the class room.)
In the midst of all of this, I should point out, we were nearing the end of the first year of knowing that Jack had been born with a congenital heart defect that came complete with frequent echocardiograms and even more frequent worry.
It was also exactly at this time that Noah was to be evaluated by our local schools for their preschool program. We didn’t know what was “wrong” at the time, but we knew there was something. Instead, the intake woman looked me right in the eyes and said, “We’ll do the evaluation, but just so you know, he’s not going to qualify for any services.”
My second week at the school was even worse. The principal knew it. To be “helpful,” she made more and more suggestions of what I needed to get done. As someone in her first year as a principal, fresh from being a kindergarten teacher, she wanted me to be doing things in just a couple of weeks that she had been doing after several years of teaching kindergarten. Instead, I was (literally) sick and tired.
It was not only the principal that was making my life difficult with her helpfulness. It was things like them having formed my class from all of the lowest performing kindergartners (yes, I know this for a fact), as well as all of the students to whom English was a second language (several of whom spoke no English), a child who had a tendency to try to run away (particularly on the playground), and a child who was clearly Autistic (and I was advised to just let him do what he wanted in a corner by himself, as then he wouldn’t cause trouble – I was horrified by this suggestion).
After a day or two of teaching this class, the aide that I was led to believe I would have for the year was put into another class so she could help students in boosting their standardized testing scores.
The whole situation I was in just made me sick for both me and for those students. How could anyone expect for any of us to be successful in that situation, especially because there were choices that could have been made to make it successful. I couldn’t help but keep thinking, “How would I feel if I was one of their parents and knew the choices that were being made on their behalf?”
On the last day of that second week, I received a letter in my mailbox in the teacher’s lounge. It said that they appreciated all the volunteering that the teachers did to help the school be a great school, and here were the three committees I had volunteered for. I was angry. I hadn’t “volunteered” for anything. It was just about the last straw for me.
Once afternoon rolled around, the principal came in right during a lesson to give me my first paycheck. “This should make it worth it,” she smiled. As I opened the check, I was struck by the amount. “No, it doesn’t,” was all I could think as I thought of my children at the daycare that I had yet to be able to see, because I was so busy that Eric was doing drop off and pick up.
It was because of that that I practically ran out of the school on that Friday afternoon once I was contractually allowed to leave for the day. I just wanted to jump in the car, make my 45 minute drive, and get home to my family.
Little did I know that it wouldn’t be the last time I made the drive that day.
Is it just me reliving the stress, or can you all feel the stress of that situation too? It still makes my stomach churn to think about it. Next Monday, I’ll share the last of the three parts of this story. I’ll share what it was that had me driving 45 minutes out of town on a Friday night to go to a dark and nearly abandoned school building.