If No One Sees You, Were You Ever Even There?

When a principal doesn’t renew your contract, or fires you, or says you’re not a good fit for the school and hands you a letter…you still have to go back to your classroom and teach.

There are still lessons to teach, lesson plans to write, end of year assessments to give, report cards to fill in. You still have to do everything on the end of year checklist that everyone else does plus find the time to pack up everything in your classroom that is yours and get it out by the end of the year. But not too early. We wouldn’t want to upset the children, now would we.

***

Last year, I stayed quiet. This year was different.

I let it be known in my building what was going on. They were counting on me to be ashamed and hide. I still felt shame, but the anger was stronger. And besides, if they could do this to me, who else were they targeting?

***

I told all of my teacher friends right away.

I didn’t tell my family. I played dumb. I had to move things home because I wasn’t sure what room I would be in next year. I lied and said I still hadn’t received my grade assignment.

I didn’t have time for their anger, their moral outrage. The clock was ticking to get everything packed up, every student file updated, everything in its rightful place. There would be no extra time given like I’ve seen at other schools. The undercurrent–for everyone, not just the fired one–was get out on time or else.

And there wasn’t a lot of time to begin with.

***

In all of my other classroom moves, I’ve had help. People to box stuff and carry those boxes and borrow their van/SUV and then help unload everything.

This year, my main helpers are either infirm or live in another state or died. (Sidenote: maybe if you’re an administrator and a teacher loses a family member, you shouldn’t fire them at the end of the year. Just a thought.)

On the very last day a friend came and helped transport three large classroom items.

Everything else was on me.

I moved at least 1,500 books. Numerous bookshelves. Chart paper. Big books. Math manipulatives. Puzzles and games. A class set of white boards. Every alphabet, letter-sound, CVC, rhyming, and grammar game I have acquired over the years. Miscellaneous desk supplies. Teacher resource books.

I moved it all. My apartment now looks like a teacher store. Sometimes I look around and I still don’t know how I got it all out of there.

***

All of my friends were initially sympathetic.

But.

Slowly other things emerged.

The ones who suggested that I manifested this, that I wanted to be fired so I was.

The ones who said they’re sorry and then disappear, not wanting the tainted association with me.

The ones who asked what I did wrong, and why did this keep happening to me.

They are a minority. Most of my friends are not that way, and I know that.

It’s still not helpful to my psyche.

(I still had two more weeks to teach in that building.)

***

On the last day in the building, I’m trying to get everything of mine out. Meanwhile, a teacher moving to my grade level keeps coming in my room. She wants that reading table, those computers, that desk. She’s trying to move school furniture from my room to hers while I’m just trying to get the hell out of there.

At one point, she brings in another teacher to help her. The other teacher looks around, looks at me, and points out that she needs to wait a second already. That buys me about an hour of peace and quiet.

I get everything of mine out of the room. I have everything filled out on my end of year paperwork that I possibly can. My keys are turned in.

But I’m supposed to wait for someone to come and officially sign me out.

For once in my life, I’m actually done early. I sit on one of the few tables still left in the room and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

A few teacher friends stop by. They express their sympathy again and urge me to keep in touch. (I think we all know by now that that’s just what you say; it very rarely happens.) As the clock keeps ticking and no one comes to sign me out, one of them poses a question. “Why don’t you just leave? Everything’s done. And what can they do to you now? You’re free!”

I think about it and decide to wait a little longer. I tell them goodbye and sit alone in my classroom. It doesn’t even look like my classroom anymore.

I was only here a year, not quite long enough for it to feel like a home away from home. Or maybe that’s more because of all of the upheaval that I’ve faced this year. Plus the mistreatment from admin started early enough in the year that I never felt fully comfortable here.

I sit, and I wait, and I finally get up to leave. I look around one last time and take pictures on my phone as evidence of where my end of year paperwork is in the room in case they fight me on it later. (They don’t.)

I close the classroom door behind me, walk down the hall, and exit the building. It is silent; there is no one around.

If no one sees you, were you ever even there?

I get in my car, pull out of the parking lot, and turn left.

I keep driving.

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Originally published at undercoverbat.wordpress.com on August 15, 2016.