So today I'm telling my story at Lefty Pop, the story I hinted at in my last TToT post. It's the story of one of the most formative experiences of my life. Even 50 years from now, I am sure the memories of the 2011-2012 school year will make me wince.
It is inevitably a political story. It's a series of events grown out of a political situation. But it's worth reading even if you're politically averse, and even if you don't live in the US. It's worth knowing that this happens. Today. To good people.
If you take the time to read my story (thank you), come back here afterwards and read the rest of this post. There just wasn't room to include the emotional side over at Lefty Pop.
When I think of the 2011-2012 school year, three images come to mind:
|The sight of these makes me tense and anxious.|
I fed my anxiety through written defense in that seat at the dining room table nearly every single day for eight months. I worked as my uterus expanded and cut off the circulation to my legs. I worked as my back pain intensified. As the year wore on, I began to understand the futility of it. The truth would never make a difference, but if I didn't work, if I didn't keep writing, I would have collapsed. Writing was the only sense of control I had.
2. Lying in a hospital bed with my infant son in my arms and my husband asleep in the chair next to me. I gave birth to both my children at home by choice. My daughter was born with no complications, but after my son was born, the midwives were unable to stop my bleeding. A neighbor and his infant son came over to sleep on our couch so my daughter would not be alone in the house while my husband, the midwives, and I relocated to the hospital sometime around 2:30 am on March 6, 2012. But my husband had a meeting with his assistant principal that morning. We knew he would receive another of the dreaded Personnel memoranda if he did not attend that meeting. I know that is hard to believe, but no grace was ever given. The hospital would not allow me to be the caretaker of my infant since I was a patient in the hospital, and my mother would not arrive in town until late morning. I didn't sleep that night. At 6:30 am I began calling friends on repeat, leaving a message, Please call me back. I have an emergency, and I need your help.
Later in the morning, I found a few brief moments to rejoice in the birth of my baby boy while I sat with one friend and then another who put aside their lives to help with mine. The first friend to arrive was late to work for my sake. Fortunately, her (our, we were coworkers) boss was everything my husband's was not: generous, understanding, and compassionate. I cried as I told my friends the reason my husband was unable to stay with me and the story of our year, a story we'd kept mostly to ourselves out of fear of repercussion.
When I was discharged late that afternoon, I went straight to my computer at the dining room table and took up my work again.
3. Sitting on our couch nursing our one-month-old infant and seeing a car park at the end of our driveway, effectively blocking it, and a man I didn't recognize walking towards our door with a letter. He worked at Central Office in my husband's school district, and he was delivering the letter of suspension. It was Spring Break. We were hoping it would be a break, but the school district would never allow it. I cursed him through tears. He had a dirty job to do, and I'm not sure he was particularly enthusiastic. He was calm in response to my emotion and invited me (possibly sincerely?) to speak to him about the situation in his office when "it's all over." I never took him up on it. I couldn't believe in anyone's sincerity from that side of the battle, and soon I was banned from all district property.
I believe one of the primary purposes of the actions of the school district against my husband that year was humiliation. They wanted to bring him low, and they wanted it to be public. The strongest example of this was his suspension in April. It was a blow to his students and their families. We heard of misbehavior pacts among students (in hopes of getting their teacher back), and another student who cried herself to sleep every night. As one parent put it, if he had done something so vile as to be a danger to students, then parents should have been informed. If he had not, then there was no reason to remove him from the classroom before the year ended. As it was, parents were only told the teacher would not be returning. Parents wrote letters, and students left mementoes. We treasure all to this day.
He was a confident man, and he was proud of his accomplishments as an advocate. But by June, he had to choose between providing for his family and exposing the school district employees for the crooks they were (are). He chose his family, and as a result, he chose silence. He agreed to keep the school district's dirty secrets in order to take care of us, his wife and children. And so I promise to spread them.
You may think this post sounds angry, morally indignant, or bitter. That's how I feel. I was pleased and satisfied to hear one year later that the superintendent involved in this story left his position before fulfilling his contract (clearly a trend in the district). But I write this story with the hope of exorcising these feelings and moving past this trauma of two years ago. And I write it to educate.
Readers, this happens. This is real. There are members of management who are insecure and morally corrupt. There are workers who are outspoken and silenced. Please remember this next time you hear someone talk about a too powerful union.