The Price of Education and Teaching: Part X

If at first you fail, try and try again.

When all else fails, smell the roses.

My second principal was a male, sweet as can be but hardly ever did anything; his door was always open for anyone who wanted to talk with him, but that'd be almost all he'd do, listen, and not always.

At some point, we had to regroup students, and there was going to be a bilingual second-grade group and a 3/4 combination class. The principal knew I had first choice at either one and asked me which class I wanted; I told him I'd take the second-grade bilingual one if the other teacher didn't take it; she didn't take it and ended up with the three-four combo class.

It wasn't long before the other teacher started complaining about how difficult it was to work with two grades.

One day we were at a meeting, and a teacher who was one of the teachers who'd been in my classroom when I first started working was there, too, as the Reading Specialist; the 'combo' teacher started ranting about how she hated the class, and the RS told her she should've taken the second grade class, to which she quickly responded: I wanted to, but this one (signals with a sharp elbow) took it away from me! I couldn't even say that she'd been offered the position even though I had first choice, and she'd refused, and that had been the reason the principal then offered it to me. I also knew I was competent to teach in either language or both, and I'd already taught bilingually successfully for years, and parents and relatives kept requesting me for their younger children.

That teacher knew how to lie to parents, students, and administrators, and they all bought her lies, well, except one student, but that's another story.

Many uncomfortable and unfortunate things happened during this principalship, and then he passed away, and things just got worse with the next one whom everybody was signing to bring her to campus; I'd seen enough to know not to sign.

Those who signed got their wish, and I got another nightmare; yikes!

The interesting part about all these principals was that they came to my classroom frequently and left great notes, and my evaluations were almost always perfect, but the first and last principals tore me up when I wasn't around, but gossip traveled faster than lightning, and I just kept bottling things inside.

The first principal expected me to lie to parents and even told me to "stop smiling at them so much." Another staff member once told me, as she had her eyes fixed to the ground, "smile, goddamnit, smile!" Well, I found that very interesting and ironic.

The last principal always praised my students for their behavior and great manners, most, anyway, and she liked that whenever she needed volunteers for an event or activity, I was the first one to do so and got students and parents involved.

I'd made it a habit to send students to the principal's office with a message, to share a project, or ask a 'research' question; the idea was to show students that going to the principal wasn't just because someone got in trouble; I could see the principal also liked the idea, but she could be really nice one second and really mean the next, and it didn't matter where she was or who was around.

Being PTA treasurer and Chair under the last principal was a total and complete nightmare, as she'd been supporting previous PTA Board members that were stealing the school blind and at least two were verbally and physically abusing students, especially Mixteco/Mexican, and African-American. This principal ignored teacher and parent concerns regarding one former PTA member and now "volunteer." She'd been at the site for over twenty years, and each year I'd listen to my students' parents complain about her abusive treatment towards their children.

After many teacher and parent complaints, the principal told one teacher: I will talk to her when I catch her being mean to students! That meant she'd never do anything.

At least the last five years I was on campus I had to learn that another teacher was verbally and psychologically abusive towards students, including my own daughter, and this teacher wasn't the first one, but because I was a teacher on campus, my concerns and daughter's safety were ignored or handled badly.

Once my daughter was being bullied because she wore a green dress for picture day; students were calling her green beetle, leprechaun, and a bunch of other stuff. When she told her teacher what was happening, the teacher's response was: Just ignore them and turn around. That kid went home completely destroyed and didn't even talk to me until we were both home; the next day I went to talk to the principal because going to the teacher would've been a waste of time. The principal wasn't any better; after I told her about the bullying, she said: You know I have to treat (daughter) like anybody else (as if I were asking or expecting special treatment for my daughter), and I'd have to talk to the students involved. I told her it was the entire class, and they'd done it all day and in front of the teacher. I felt heartbroken that my daughter, or any student had to go through this and not have anyone to advocate for them. My daughter had been so proud to have chosen and worn that dress before going to school that morning; I'd known that parent-teachers had no voice.

Now we're cooking! It was lunch time one day, and a colleague and I were in line to get our lunch when we saw the "servers" splat hot, juicy rice on students' plates, and we both said how hot and dangerous that could be. Well, after lunch, I'm on my way back from picking my students when my daughter approaches me and tells me cafeteria staff spilled hot sauce on her shirt, and it was burning her stomach; the only thing I could think of was to ask her to go to the restroom and apply cold water then come to my classroom so I could write a referral to go to the office, and that's what I did; during my next break, I saw the principal and asked if I could speak with her; I recited the incident, and she stopped me in mid sentence: You mean you left your students unattended to take care of your daughter? And before I could breathe a word, she said: You know I have to write you up and report you to the "Assistant Superintendent." I reiterated that I'd never left my students unattended, but it was useless. She said she'd check the cafeteria but left to the playground instead.

When I suffered my work injury, the principal wheel chaired me to the car so my brother could take me to ER; unfortunately, I suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke two weeks after my ankle surgery, and we didn't return the wheel chair until after my hospitalization. When my brother arrived at the school with the wheelchair, the principal barks: YOU TOOK the wheelchair? My brother felt very offended by the implication that he'd stolen the wheelchair but just left it and went home.

She worried about us 'taking' the wheelchair, but never did anything about the real criminals, thieves, child molesters and abusers she kept on campus for years.

I always said they always wait for something really bad to happen before they take any action if at all, and they busted a teacher who'd been sexually molesting children for years; in the meantime, students pay a high price and possibly lose their opportunity to a great or better future.

Martina R. Gallegos
Martina R. Gallegos

Ms. Gallegos came from Mexico as a teen; she went to university, and got her teaching credential.She graduated with her M.A. June 2015 after a severe stroke.Works appeared in Silver Birch Press,... https://poetry309.wordpress.com

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The Price of Education and Teaching: Part X