Friday, February 5, 2010

You Can Yell at Your Neighbors, But Don't Swear at Students

I am not really sure if I should blame it on the impulsiveness which goes with my lifelong ADD. Or can I blame it on the horrid perimenopausal rollercoaster of mood swings which seem to be affecting me with alternating bouts of anger and tears, every third or fourth month? Not even just anger, but rage, over injustices which seems SO critical that I deal with right then? Rage that leaves me just shaking because I am SO full of anger I don't know what to do with it? And then, after a day or two, it is just gone, like it never was. Or is there no defense to be made for myself? I am thinking, now, that there isn't. I am thinking, now, that I really just made a mistake, a bad one, and there is nothing that should be blamed but just very poor judgment on my part.
Tuesday afternoon, after school, I drove home from school down a street that is one street over from my normal route, on my way to the post office, before home. I was aware that there were kids on the sidewalk, and that there was a car in front of me. I was particularly aware of WHO the students were, because one of the boys is student I have worked with for five years, with whom I am very close and treat like one of my own. He is also a frequent target for bullies, particularly a group of 6 boys, and I always try to look out for him, stick up for him, listen, care - things that my school does not really seem to do well for him. He was one of the ones on the sidewalk, but I didn't see that any of the other kids were the troublesome ones, so I went on by. Then, the van in front of me pulled over, and my daughter said, "Oh oh, I bet M threw a snowball and hit Ms. M's van..." I decided that I didn't need to be involved in that, so I went on. But at the corner, I had a bad feeling, and turned around, went back, just to check to make SURE everything was ok. I'm glad I went back. Turns out, M, who ALSO has pretty severe, untreated ADHD, was walking backwards across the street toward his house, talking to the kids on the sidewalk,
when he actually ran into Ms. M's van. When I got back there, she was out of the van, sobbing and shaking, and M was fine, but pretty shaken up. Had he walked in front of her, instead of INTO the side of her van, it could have been a completely different story. Thank GOD it was the way it was. So I walked M across the street to his house to make sure one of his parents was there to check him over, walked the teacher over with him and supported her a bit - they were both fine, but VERY shaken. Then, I left.
When I got back to my car, my daughter and her friend were outraged that while I was in the house, two of "those boys," those bullies, had come running down the street and stood outside M's house, pointing, laughing and saying things like, "Ha, it couldn't have happened to a better person! I'm GLAD he got hit. Yeah, too bad he didn't actually get hit by the front of the car, or run over. Yeah, would be cool if she had killed him..." etc, etc. That menopausal rage that had been simmering most of the day over an unrelated issue at school suddenly went into overdrive. I drove up the street and around the corner, and when I pulled up along side the two idiots, I let loose. REALLY let loose. I'll be honest - I dropped the F bomb three times. I believe I called them F'g A'holes, told them to get a F'g life that did NOT involve bullying M, and told them they were just F'g stupid idiots for having nothing better to do than to constantly pick on someone else. I was SOOOOOOOO mad. Even more so because my school does not seem to do much to put an end to this, and one of these two kids is actually new at our school this year, kicked out of his other school for behavior that was apparently unacceptable there. I then drove home, still so enraged I managed to fold about ten baskets of laundry in record time.
It came back to bite me the next day. The mother of the new kid came to school angered by my actions, and wanting the school to take action against me. So, the school is. I met with the principal, who happens to be the one and only administrator I have a total inability to get along with in my nearly 25 years of teaching, and she was "shocked" by my behavior. Initially my response was that I did not know why the SCHOOL was pursuing this, as my actions took place OFF school property and AFTER school time. What I have come to find out, according to NYS Education law, is that because I am a teacher, I am held to a higher standard of behavior which does not take into account the time and place. It is for all time in all places. While I am not, in any way, shape or form, saying that I condone my own behavior - it was childish, impulsive and totally inappropriate - I also am not terribly pleased to know that I am going to be held liable at my job for this. Ultimately, what I THINK will happen, is a "letter of admonition" in my file, which, in the long run, really won't mean anything, but just the way she said "I WILL be pursuing legal action against you" when she met with me over this issue, really kind of bothered me. OK, you don't deal with the bullying, but when I do, albeit in the wrong way, I get punished and you threaten to start a 30-20A on me, which would be, here, the process of firing a tenured teacher. It WON"T happen. She doesn't have a prayer of that. I am an exemplary teacher, with NOTHING in my file for 23 years. My file is clean. I have never even had a less than stellar observation. NOTHING.
What's worse is that when she told me the mom wanted to talk to me, I volunteered my cell phone number, and waited for the mom to call. I figured she would yell, rant, rave, maybe even swear at me, and I figured I would just listen, and let her yell, since if someone had done that to my kid, I guess I would have been upset too (though if I found out it was because my kid was being a bully and making someone else's daily life hell, I probably would have THANKED her for yelling at him. But then, I personally subscribe to the "it takes a village to raise a kid" philosophy, and have always been grateful when people have cared enough to let me know if my kid was doing something he or she should not have been...) Anyway, she didn't call. So I find out yesterday that no, she DIDN"T want my phone number, and no, she didn't even want ME to call HER. She "dealt with it a different way - i.e. she called the State Police on me. Sigh. Now, again, I know nothing will come from that, because, in all honesty, while what I did was undoubtedly using bad judgement, it isn't criminal. I, thankfully, did not threaten them, just unleash my anger on them. And my foul language. But, at least in this state, that's not a criminal act. But, because I am a teacher, I can, apparently, be held to a higher standard than if Joe Schmo had done the same thing, so now my job is in jeopardy, or at least, is just going to be relatively miserable for awhile, until this dies down. I feel like a pariah, like people don't want to look at me, or get too close to me, as if my stupidity might be contagious. I'm probably making that up, and probably people AREN"T avoiding me. It's probably just my guilty conscience speaking up. At any rate, lesson learned this week. It's actually been kind of a wake up call for MANY of us, who had no idea that things we did in our off hours could actually affect our job (I did ask why the teacher who got so intoxicated she was thrown out of our local drinking establishment on several occasions was not being held to this standard, or why the teacher who drops the F bomb in CLASS was not also being punished ,,, but my intent is NOT to blow other people in for things they do to make myself feel better, so I am NOT giving them names - just pointing out the inequity of how this is being applied...)
It's been quite a week. And if I take into account all that has been going on with my dad since his heart attack, and dementia onset, it's been quite a month. I have one more week of school and then a week off. I think I need it.


Allmycke said...

Holy Hannah!
I would most likely have done the same thing in that situation, because I can not stand by idly.
Yes, we are held to a higher standard of behaviour - unfortunately many parents seem to think that is the same as "open season" on all teachers. This mother rewarded her son's unacceptable behaviour by contacting the school. Brilliant!

Fawn said...

I am so sorry about this whole situation. I know what it feels like to have that kind of rage. And I can imagine how... discouraging? deflating? undermining? it feels to not also have the student's behaviour acknowledged and dealt with. I feel for you.

Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

Thankfully, this seems to have died down - I have heard nothing more. I have NOT been contacted by the State Troopers, and my husband says I will not be, as it was simply NOT a crime. Stupid, poor judgement, etc, but not criminal. And funny, but I saw another teacher with about 4 or 5 of these boys in this little bullying gang lined up in the hall the other day, chewing them out for, guess what - bullying M. But yet, my school administration just looks the other way. Grrrrr.
Fawn, I find it interesting, and helpful, that you say you DO know what it feels like to have that kind of rage. I am not, by nature, an angry person. I really honestly try to see the best in people, in situations, in my life in general. So when I DO feel that enraged, it's rather scarey, and I feel like there must be something terribly, terribly wrong with me to be SO angry, THAT angry. I guess it's helpful to know that I am not the only person on earth to ever feel that mad about something. Comforting that someone understands this anger, even when it feels so alien to me. Thanks.