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Saturday, January 20, 2018

A tree house musing...

 
 
  I'd like to be done with this.  I retire soon and I just want to paint and read.  Exercise. Maybe write.  But not about workplace bullying and harassment in public schools!  

Another:  I am not done.  I may never be done.

______________________________________

"HELP ME," she wrote in capital letters.  She wrote it in her report to the district of the danger she lived at her school. "PLEASE HELP ME." She wrote the report to regional and district leadership in the worst of her days there.  He, as was indicated on the report, had screamed at her so loudly that his assistant principals had to intervene. "WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE!?"  The two female assistant principals must have been in their offices--a short moment of respite from his oozing, leering, predatory misogyny--when they heard her and him.  They knew that she was his latest target. They also knew why.  She'd spoken up.  She didn't like it when he said "You need to teach your own kind" and told him so.

The assistant principals had to separate him from her in the hallway in front of his office.  He must have been bulging. Bulging everything but his eyes.  His red cheeks and neck bulged.  His mouth and tongue bulged. But his eyes were angry slits.  

The shaken assistant principals comforted her.  Soothed her. Took her into one of their offices.  She must have cried.  She must have buried her head into her hands.  Rocked back and forth.  "Why is he doing this to me?"  

And what, dear readers, is "this"?  "This" is a plot. One of his plots in this case, but a principals' plot nationwide. A standard plot instead of a standard test.  The plot rids the schools of the teachers.  The teachers who say "no".  "No I won't do that illegal thing; no I won't allow you to call me honey.... No, I won't drink champagne and talk about your first kiss.  I won't giggle at your stupid sexual innuendo either...."

But I now write again of my own PTSD "this..." That what PTSD does, it circles a round and back and through our bodies.  It does not let us rest.  It does, however, take its "rat-a-tat-tat-" pounding and lift nervous fingers to computers' keyboards.  

"Breathe, Kim.  Return to her story...."

"This" for her is a document. "This" is a letter.  An email.  "This" is a conversation with his suck up teacher friend.  A friend who'd loaded her ethics onto the district's barge of abuse. She lied in exchange for a classroom or grade level preference.  Maybe a "special assignment" or a "supplement."

"I need you to do me a little favor," he would say.  And what is that favor?"  Perhaps it's an "email of concern."  They'll sit together to write that poison.  They'll use time--their salaries--not to assist teachers in classrooms with better, more vibrant instruction, but to correct grammar errors in this friend's  "letter of concern."  

"What do you want me to write?" might ask his friend minion, the reading coach.  "Write that Werner saw everything.  Write that Werner supports me; that she and I talked about it.  That Werner could not believe what she saw her do."

Let's, together, imagine her life at that school.  She, an African-American educator, had been teaching for almost thirty years before she worked for him.  He, a white non-hispanic man, then in his forties, had been appointed to the principalship of a brand new school.  I imagine he looked to her to meet age and racial balance, for to hire primarily young white women would be frowned upon by his "higher-ups."  

What "infraction" lifted her to his list's top position?   At his former elementary school there had been many names on his list.... But this!  This was a new school!  New office!  New fresh teachers! Except for this one.  This outspoken African-American woman.  This glasses wearing, in her fifties, slightly overweight woman who simply did not comply.  Audaciously questioned him!  

"WHO THE FUCK DOES SHE THINK SHE IS!?"

Imagine.  Dear God, imagine.
 
6:40 pm est          Comments

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Tree House Musings...

 
 
 Thoughts today....

1. "I have to grind something out for my A Piece Full World readers...."

2. "I wonder if (school board member) reads this.... I think he does."

3. "If (school board member) reads A Piece Full World, then why doesn't he 'do something about (abusive principal's name)?  He's got to know. Maybe he just cannot yet fathom the depths of the hell so many educators lived at that school. If he were to ever ask me, I'd tell him. I'd show him the public records I have.  Maybe, like me, he'd find the ironic humor in the district charging me 2,500 dollars to see all teachers' requests to transfer from that school. 'By golly that's a lot of money!' he and I would ruefully laugh together as we shook our heads in disbelief."

4. "Positional vs. Personal Power.   What about (school board member)?  He certainly has positional power.  We--my school's leadership and its teachers--'kow-tow' to him when he visits our school. He makes a phone call to my principal (or my principal's bosses and they call my principal because we are a rigid hierarchy of power) and BAM! We are "on" what ever his request may be.  So, yepper, he's got positional power."

5. Continuing my number four thought.... "But how did he get that positional power?  I don't know.  I don't care either.  He's got it.  He's had it for a long, long time... He's seated at the school board dais and has himself a voice.

6. It's a nice voice.

7. I like him.

8. Personal power.... His.  I'm not sure about that one.  I sure wish he'd just suck it up and say to the school superintendent, "Let's show Werner and all the other abused, bullied and harassed teachers from (school's name) that we care about them and about the children they teach. Let's get (abusive principal's name) out of the system.  We created this mess. Let's take responsibility."

9. (I am liking this!)  "Let's listen to Werner!  Let's invite her in!  Let's talk with her!  Let's listen to her ideas about preventing workplace and school bullying!  Let's be the first school district in entire nation to truly and absolutely listen to teachers!"

10. (Oh yeah, I can dream, can't I?!) My school board member with the nice voice continues...."Hey there, Mr. Superintendent and other board members, you gotta admit that Werner's got herself some courage. And just how does she demonstrate that courage?  Why, she simply tells the truth. She works hard at helping other bullied and harassed educators.  She understands that teachers must feel emotionally safe in their classrooms if we are ever going to assure true emotional safety for children."

11. (My dream is full of sunshine and roses, people!  Good night's sleep....) My board member who I like a lot admits.... "We've protected an abuser.    Let's say we're sorry."

12. (A stark truth)  "My union is in "cahoots" with the district.  But!  It's a beautiful day outside and I want to exercise and paint and garden!"  I know that is an odd sentence but man, oh man, I feel free!  

13. (back to the abuser and how ironic that it's number 13!  Now, I don't "get into" luck and the lack thereof, but this thought being number thirteen feels cosmic) "Had I stayed at that school, I would have died."

14. "Their time is UP!"  Oprah looked great.  I felt empowered by her proclamation.  I want to help.

15.  "Hey A Piece Full World readers!  Not a grind AT ALL! Sending positive vibes; hope and love.  Courage."

16.  "Their time is UP!  Our time is here."

 
9:21 am est          Comments

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Did I feel responsible?  Oh my God, did I feel responsible?  
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He wanted to control me:

 A principal, my boss,  said this to me:  "This is where I got my first kiss." He then leeringly pursed his lips and looked out over the ocean.  He offered me champagne.

Why was I in that hotel lobby alone with him?  That, too, is a piece of this experience.  Often I gave of my time (and money), not because I wanted to do so, but because I was coerced by the principal.  He often spoke of "expectations".  His expectations included many hours of my free time.

I'd followed him to the hotel where our evening eighth grade prom was held.  I'd brought evening clothes to school with me. As I lived far from the school, I stayed at school and changed there.  I did not know where the hotel was and so it was easiest to follow him in his car.  We both valet parked our cars.  Entered the hotel together. 

What if I'd accepted the champagne?  What if we'd made a toast to his first kiss?  What if? I did not. Thank you, Jesus.  I did not.

Whose responsibility is it to maintain a professional decorum?  Mine?  His employee?  Me? I certainly did not want to displease my boss, that's why I was there. I did not want to be at this hotel at this hour with this man. I'd already worked all day and afternoon after school. I wanted to be at home with my family. My husband.  My children. Wanted to cook dinner and watch TV.  I was only there because it was "expected" of me.  I knew that if I didn't chaperone this dance (or smile and laugh with donors and eat the fundraising pizza the week before at the fund raising event....or "contribute" my fifty dollars to his secretary's gift....or attend morning meetings an hour before my work day started...) he would "be after me." That just doing an excellent job during the school day was not enough.

"No, thanks."   Thank God, I said "No". But sexual harassment is so much more than words.  It's an inner foreboding. A fog of knowledge that there is danger there.  That we women are not safe with such predators.

Women's words--their stories finally told--may clear the fog. 

So what if I'd said "Yes I'd love some?"  Would that have diminished my story of workplace bullying?  Bolstered it?  Would you have held me accountable?  "Why was she there in the first place?  All dressed up?  Didn't I see her earlier laughing at something he'd said? She was probably leading him on!  She certainly looked like she was enjoying herself!"

This national attention on sexual predators--powerful men who have women's careers in their control--has made me rethink my experience of workplace bullying in a public school.  I now focus on the predatory and sexual menace of my former principal.  Although I thought I'd analyzed my experience from every nuanced angle of the workplace bullying light, I'd not fully examined this. Not really.

 It's time to dive in.

 I ask myself why not?  Why not put this putrid piece under the microscope as well? For it is a huge piece of my story. Perhaps it is the story... Am I embarrassed?  Did I ever giggle girlishly at his cloddish jokes? Nervously flutter my eyelashes? Certainly I never exposed cleavage, as others did! I dressed appropriately!

Oh I am angry that I must examine this! I am exasperated with myself!  I did not "ask for it!"

 Is this what we women do?  Take the blame for men's boorish behavior?  

I should not have had to make decisions such as accepting or not accepting his offer of champagne.  Because, just that assertiveness, put me on his bullying radar.  "Ah!  This one is going to be fun!", he must have thought. 

Early on I found my authentic voice.  Not all the time.  Most often I avoided him as best I could. It felt safer to avoid the main office as that is where he and his minions had offices. I already knew that three of those women, two counselors and an assistant principal, had been cowed by predatory leadership. 

My former principal called me "honey." I did not like it.  It made me feel...diminished and discounted. I told him not to call me "honey".  He disdainfully called many professional women "honey."  He cursed at us. Used often the word, "fuck." "Get the fuck over here!" to an assistant principal.  "Why can't you stay the fuck out of things?" to me.  "FUCK!" at some mistake I'd made while he taught me something on his computer.

Ah!  Even that!  He and I side by side at his computer.... "Come here.  I'll teach you." 

Oh Lord, this really does need my attention!

Sexual harassment.  Power imbalance.  Bullying.  And so with trepidation, I brought a chair up beside him.  

Where are lines drawn?  By whom?  With my predatory former principal, I had to draw the line.  It was a dangerous thing to do. But I had to speak up for myself. I was unsafe.  Speaking up made me less safe with that brute. At first my assertiveness intrigued him.  I was a challenge!  Later, though, he saw that I was a danger to him.  That made him want to destroy me. 

My school district and board, in spite of its policies and rules against bullying, violence, and sexual harassment at school, knowingly allows him to prey upon women...

Let's then, play out what might have happened if I'd accepted the champagne. My inner foreboding would have grown. "YOU ARE IN DANGER!" My mind would have screamed. "I DON'T EVEN LIKE CHAMPAGNE, you egotistical puny man!" But a tentative smile would have broken across my face.   

"Let's go see the ocean...."  Him to me.  Me sucked into the vortex of his sanctioned predation.  Me, a retired flight attendant, for goodness sakes, and I'd never in 26 years been confronted with this kind of abuse of power.

"....OK...." Me to him with great apprehension.

He had the power.  He felt he could do anything he wanted.  
11:41 am est          Comments


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