November 22, 2009


My very first job as a school staff member was at a private Catholic school I had done my student teaching at. In between student teaching and getting hired on, I was a full time substitute. I had a couple long-term sub positions, worked pretty regularly for a teacher that had lupus and I filled the rest of my days with other jobs in many different grades. I had my sites focused on fifth grade. I thought I would really enjoy the age of the kids and the curriculum, but the younger I got with subbing, the more I enjoyed the little kids. When the principal from the school I student taught at called me about an interesting position, I was eager to jump in.

I would be working in the classroom of a long time kindergarten teacher who was diagnosed with cancer. My student teaching was in fourth grade, so I had little interaction with her but I knew who she was. The dynamics between us were interesting. She intimidated me slightly but I was looking forward to stepping into a world that I could gain more experience but not fly completely solo. Her personality was strong and I was treated like her personal assistant for the first few weeks. I didn't mind following her lead but, it was very well known that I was "the support staff" and NOT the main teacher. This annoyed me.

Shortly after the year began, she became very ill. She had surgery and treatments that left her too sick to work. The shift between our two roles had occurred. I was stepping into the teacher role and she was just not there. I was the person in class every day. The parents trusted me as their child's teacher. We had moved past the lesson plans she left for us, and I was told by the principal to move forward with the curriculum. This annoyed her.

Towards the end of the year, she made several attempts to step back into her role as teacher which proved to be futile. She spent most of her time in the bathroom being sick. The most she could muster up was correcting papers while I shuffled the kids here and there.

My main concern, always, was to create the most normal and less stressed environment for the class. I was their teacher, but not really, while their "real" teacher was never around proved to be a little confusing.....for all of us. The outcome of the situation was left vague. I expressed my concerns, to the principal, of the class and my role in the midst of it. She wasn't getting better and I was left to balance it all.

Behind the scenes and without my knowledge, the board and the principal had decided to fire her at the end of that year if she didn't step down on her own. It seemed to be obvious to everyone but her that she was too sick to teach. I was asked to stay on as kindergarten teacher. Her pride was wounded and she left bitter. I became hated. I had unintentionally stepped on her toes.

Months later, she passed away. The school staff and past students and families were invited to attend the funeral. I wavered about going. I didn't want to but felt I needed to step up, suck it up and show my respect. In the receiving line I met with her daughter and her husband, both old school mates of mine. Her daughter introduced me as the "person who took her mom's job". Just like that. I was stunned. She needed someone to be mad at and I fit the bill. I think in the moment she wanted to be as hurtful as the situation would allow her to be. I won't deny, however, she left me angry. Under the circumstances I continued to smile and said I was sorry; and I was. I was very sorry her mother died. I left soon after.

Life went on, and I had long since forgotten about my working self.

And then, Facebook was introduced to me.....

I have much love for Facebook. Finding people I have lost touch with is a blast. Keeping in touch with friends is even more fun, especially the long distant ones. I feel more connected to the people I hold dear than ever before. However, with every addition of a new face logging on, I face old memories which sometimes leaves me sort of feeling like I don't know how to feel. It's odd.

Growing up is a long, hard, fabulous journey. We bounce off each other like the game pinball. Knocking around, trying to find the right hole to fall into. Sometimes we are instantly put off, cracking against each other head on. Sometimes we rack up points going back to that one spot that feels just right and almost too easy. Along the way mistakes are made, stupid things are said and actions you wish could be taken back are made.

I keep telling myself the past is the past. Everyday is a new day. If people from my past are harboring grudges, well then there is nothing I can do to change their minds. I, myself, have been letting go of my own grudges. Softening my heart. I won't lie though. I'm a fierce protector of my heart. Once you've poked a hole, I don't forget and I keep my distance from you forever more. But in the end, who really cares. Life goes on full speed ahead. What really matters most are the people who matter most.....all the other people are just pinballs.

1 comment:

No Kids Napping said...

Great food for thought, and I can totally relate, and I have thought about it a lot, myself. Facebook is at times bittersweet for me. There are people in my past that I've wanted to get away from (and needed to) in order to find my own way. And seeing them again and hearing their comments on FB can make me feel like I'm in middle school again. I can't help but think that losing touch with people over time and finding new friends is a GOOD and healthy thing. It's part of growing up. I can't help but wonder what it will be like for our kids' generation, when they can keep in touch indefinitely (at least from high school on) with all the people who were bad examples and crushes, etc. It'll be interesting to see...