Why am I fighting so hard

It’s been a rough couple of days. The big event is that I quit my job. Well, quit is an odd word to use in this case. Let me explain.

Last year, I decided to go back to work. I located what should have been a great job for me…special education teacher at an alternative middle school. Lots of behavior to sort out. I know it’s odd, but after so many years to trying to understand why people did things certain ways, I like untangling those balls of yarn and helping kids see there are other ways to communicate. There were academic challenges of all varieties. Really, lots of diversity which is what keeps my mind in problem solving mode. And I very much like to be in problem solving mode. I accepted the contract.

Like all teaching jobs, the pay was not great. In this case, the pay was almost exactly 1/2 what I should have been earning under the pay scale. I accepted it because I would have the freedom to still take care of my medical needs without having to beg for time off. The contract worked really well for both parties last year. And then, fall arrived.

It seems everyone thought I had the same contract when I left in May. I found out the week before school started that somehow, my paperwork was never processed. Here I was, district ID, building keys, district computer in hand and not a district employee. The principal assured me he was working on it and, in good faith, I showed up for teacher workdays. And the first week of students. Not a district employee…not being paid at all. Left to teach and supervise students without oversight. Two business weeks after the discovery, still not paid what is owed.

In less than a week, I went from being told I would have my own classes and be responsible for my caseload to being an accessory. One teacher kept going to the principal and demanding things like taking a special education student and putting the student into an inappropriate setting because “I’ve been teaching him for 2 years and it’s not fair I don’t get to see him this year.”

The full-time special education teacher never let go of the case load. A martyr complex kept her running. She was always “so busy” and yet refused assistance. She had to be involved in every student. She convinced the administration the she alone was responsible. The teachers would tell me “I’ll just ask Roberta” whenever I made a decision they didn’t like. The last straw…I was sitting in the principal’s office laying out the case for keeping the aforementioned student in the appropriate class. The principal says it’s a conversation he will have to have with Roberta. That’s when I stopped fighting.

You see, I’d been disrespected enough. There is only so much disrespect a person can take before they decide enough. I probably took more than I should have, but I felt obligated to keep the students on track. It turns out, my thoughts weren’t valid or requested. When I left last week, I really felt that they didn’t want me there. I was an inconvenience to be dealt with, not a peer or colleague.

In case you are wondering, this is why I can advocate for students and take districts to task. Here are so-called professionals who only care about their feelings. The irony of this is one of the teachers wrote a passionate op-ed a few weeks ago about caring for student needs. That would be the same one who wanted to take a student out of an appropriate placement because she wanted him in her class. She didn’t want to take the other 17 special education students, just one. That’s not demonstrating caring. That’s blatant discrimination. It’s called cherry picking. I’d bet there would be many parents at that school who would love to know how decisions are being made.

So, I will speak out. I will support parents who question their child’s education. I will answer questions truthfully. We trust that teachers will be “helpers” in our student’s lives. Yet, here is another example of what education really looks like. About how our most vulnerable students are being passed around like a candy dish, each teacher picking their favorite. It’s not okay.

Your challenge is to ask questions. Don’t accept “uh huh” as an answer. Go to the school and see for yourself. You have a right to know what’s going on in your student’s education. And you have a responsibility to make sure your student is receiving the appropriate education that is due.


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