There’s 2 weeks left of school and it’s 1 o’clock in the afternoon. I am sitting in the middle of a group of 7 years olds laughing and making geometric patterns with blocks on desks. A stern body walks into my room and positions itself at the front of my desk.
As I look up, a cold and expressionless face looks down on me and cancels my laughter. “Miss Kelly, I need to speak with you as soon as possible.” I respond, “No problem. I’m about to line the kids up for gym. I will stop by on the way back.”
As the stern body leaves my room, my throat becomes heavy and a coldness takes over my body. I already know what the news will be.
I look at the clock and it’s time to clean up.
I’m on the verge of tears as I line up my little 7-year-old angels. I keep it together for them, but I don’t know if I can keep it together for myself. As I release them into the gym, I become instantly sick to my stomach.
I gradually walk down the hall. My shoulders are tense and I’m about to fall apart.
I’m here. I look down at the floor as I open the door. I glance up at a vacant face. I extend a hello with a meek smile. It’s a broken smile. “Have a seat, Miss Kelly.”
The vacant face isn’t even looking at me as I take a seat beside the desk. “Miss Kelly, I am reassigning you next year. You will be 3rd Grade Intervention.”
My throat fills with pain as I lean back in the chair. I feel frozen. I feel hopeless. I finally speak up, “Do you realize this is my 9th assignment change in the last 2 years? Why?”
She rubs her neck with her right hand, looks out the window, and replies, “I know you don’t like this change, but that’s too bad. You’re going back to 3rd grade intervention whether you like it or not.”
All I can do is shake my head, let out a deep sigh, and get up from the chair.
I walk quickly and hastily across the hall. I enter the bathroom, lock the door, and collapse. I spend the next 30 minutes sobbing and shaking. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.
I look at my watch and realize there’s only 5 minutes left. I have to get myself back together for the kids.
I stand up, take 3 deep breaths, and slowly make my way to the gym.
(Two weeks later..)
My mind quickly races as I look around to make sure I have taken all of my belongings out of my 1st grade classroom. The only things left on my desk are a Snapple iced tea and a school laptop. I walk over to my desk, double check all of the drawers, and turn my laptop off. As I lean down to pick up my laptop bag, I can’t help but wonder how, after 3 years, I could be this exhausted. I put the laptop in the carry bag and quietly exit the room.
As I make my way down the hallway, I pass by a colleague who recently put in her 2 weeks for a lower paying position at another school. She whispers, “Good luck. Keep in touch.” I reply with a quiet nod.
As I approach the door, my throat becomes heavy and a coldness takes over my body.
I’m numb. I’m calm. I’m now at her door. It’s closed, and there’s nobody in there except her.
I breathe in and grasp the doorknob. I open her door and take my first step in. I breathe out and position myself in the front and center of her desk. I look directly into her eyes and I’m silent. I can’t speak and I can’t look away.
Every emotion I’ve ever felt in this office is now in front of me. It’s shame. It’s fear. It’s humiliation. Then it’s pain, disgust, and anger.
I take a couple more steps around her desk.
I’m closer to her now and I still can’t look away.
With my head held high, I slowly place the laptop bag down by her feet. “I’ve had enough.”
This post is an actual representation of my first years as an elementary teacher within the Springfield, MA Public Schools system. The experience I faced allowed me to realize that students are not the only victims of bullying. Every day, teachers (and other members of school faculty) fall victim to this type of behavior from other adults within the school system.
Good teachers are leaving the profession due to the lack of action taken on this issue. My own experience caused me to take a break from teaching.
This type of atmosphere is detrimental to the classroom environment. Not only does the adult suffer, but it also affects and influences the students.
When we discuss eliminating bullying among our students, we also need to address its existence among the adults in our schools. Adults need allies and support just as much as our students.
If kids can stick up for each other, it’s time that adults stand up, speak out, and take action.