By the recommendation of my mentor I spent a few days at a more established Waldorf school observing another second grade teacher. (The one who inherited four students that left my class.) Joanna recognized that I needed a break and wanted me to gain a different perspective. In fact she too was going on a break to England and would be back by spring for us to discuss how it all went.
After spending a few days in another classroom I was surprised by how much I had missed my own class. The children greeted me with smiles and relief.
“We’re glad you’re back, Miss Cox.”
“Me too,” I replied.
I went upstairs to meet Mr. Worm and Mrs. Bluejay who wanted to know how my visit was. Carefully, I summed up my experience and talked about how there were some new things that I thought I could implement from my visit. Mr. Henry was gracious and pleasant to observe. Then the room became unnaturally tense.
I held my breath. I felt the disaster before it hit. I knew what was coming but I couldn’t believe it was actually happening.
“The Core Group has come to a decision,” Mr. Worm looked pained, “a very difficult one and we’re sorry to say this but, we’ve decided that,” he spoke slowly, as if he had rehearsed it, “We’re going to have to ask you to leave. We’re letting you go.”
Mrs. Bluejay looked equally crushed, “It was a very hard decision Lani.”
“It’s okay,” I tried to reassure them since they both looked so distraught. “I knew it was coming.”
“How?” Mrs. Bluejay panicked, “Did someone tell you?”
“No, no. I just knew. I had a feeling.”
Her shoulders dropped, “Oh.”
“Why am I being fired?”
Mrs. Bluejay and Mr. Worm looked at one another then she replied, “We were concerned about your lack of progress,” spoken like a true diplomat, “and your defiant letter to Old Woman was personally a deep concern of mine.”
I stepped out of that room feeling numb. I was being fired but had the rest of the school year to finish. It was February. How was I going to do this?
“I can’t believe this is happening,” I said, mostly to myself, then I turned to Mrs. Bluejay who stepped out of the room, “Will you walk with me?”
“Yes, of course.”
We headed out to the park across the street. It was a rare sunny day.
“I have to admit that even though I thought this might be coming, I'm shocked. You know, at your recommendation and Joanna’s, I visited Mr. Henry’s class. In fact, I just came back. Now I’m being asked to leave. I was under the impression that a long term rapport was being built since we’re both teaching the same grade.”
“I know . . . It’s just some things happened when you were gone.”
“I was gone for three days.”
“I know. But a lot of the parents are unhappy with you. They’ve threatened to pull their children out of the school.”
“I can’t tell you.”
Laughing I shook my head, “It doesn’t matter. I know who. #1’s parents have pretty much said it to my face. They’re absolutely disgusted with me. They think I’m ruining their daughter.”
Carefully Mrs. Bluejay stated, “Mrs. Number One is the face of the school. She’s the first person people meet when they visit or call. Mr. Skunk believes that she’s too important of a person to lose. Her voice has great weight.”
“Oh, believe me, I know. I wish she didn’t work in the office. I think, well, you know . . . we’ve talked about this.” I had told her my misgivings about that mom being too close to her daughter. How I wished she worked outside of the school, how I thought #1 could gain some independence. I wanted to see that umbilical cord severed.
Mrs. Bluejay nodded. She had tried to talk to #1’s mother about her daughter’s needs but hadn’t had much luck. I secretly wondered if Mrs. Bluejay forgot about this when the Core Group was discussing my termination because she seemed deep in thought.
“I’ve tried so hard, so hard,” I said. “More and more I see how I was not given a solid start. . .I inherited most of my children from a kindergarten class who’s teacher was barely there. The parents were constantly bickering and gossiping. I had boys who had no business being in my class. #20, #18, and Mrs. Peacock’s son! She took over my class one morning. Did you know that?”
She giggled, “I think she tries to take over most of our classes.”
I continued, “Everybody was giving me advice but nobody knew what to do. My class probably would have formed quicker had we not had so many people coming in and out. And then after all the drama – I finally got a class, Mrs. Bluejay. I’ve got a class now. We’ve made so much progress.”
We walked as far as we could in the park and started to turn around.
“I’m going to miss them.”
“What if,” Mrs. Bluejay said “you contested the decision? What if you convinced the Core Group that they were wrong?”
“Mrs. Bluejay! You just told me that I was fired! Now you’re telling me to fight it? You’re a part of the Core Group, remember?”
“I know, I know,” She was rubbing her head. “It’s just, you’re right. You’re almost always right. I believe you can do this. You can convince the Group that you deserve to be a teacher, that you deserve a second chance.”
If my head was a top, it would have stopped spinning. “Can I tell them this is your idea? Will you come with me?”
“Uh, no. I don’t . . . know. Maybe, I’ll have to think about it. But you should do it. You should fight.”
For some reason, this event, this firing and Mrs. Bluejay's perplexing behavior made me think of a tramatic childhood event.
We were on Hickam AFB. Larry and I decided to wait in the car because we were tired of being dragged to every Thai social event that my mother chose to participate in. It is extremely boring to sit around and watch a bunch of adults play Gin Rummy or Poker all day. Trust me. As an adult you think, Oh that sounds interesting. But when you're a child you’d rather do your homework or clean your room, at least there is something to do. Plus big people get mighty annoyed of you asking questions all the time about what is going on.
So we waited in the car. We waited in the car many times before and this wasn’t going to be any different. Until a little haole girl showed up. I think she was taunting us. I think she was baiting me because I got out of the car, to confront her (as a good Hawaii kid should do), and as I walked past the neighbor’s house a large rabid dog came leaping out and on to my back. I was probably 11 or 12 years old which made Larry around 7 or 8.
Suddenly my face was planted on to the pavement and the dog was on top of me. I’m screaming and crying, who knows for how long, seconds, minutes, hours. When a miracle occurred. A mailman ran from across the street and chased the dog off. My mom and her friends come pouring out of the house to see what happened after the mailman knocked on the door to find a parental figure. Later we’re at the police station where I give my “report” and they check me for bite marks. Then we return to the house where it all went down. I was confused and traumatized.
And I had no idea what was going on. I was just following the MP (military police) to the backyard when all of a sudden I saw two large dogs. It was like when they line up the criminals along the wall and you have to pick him out.
“Now which dog,” The MP said, “was it that attacked you?”
I stared fearfully at the dogs. They both looked the same.
“Don’t worry. They won’t hurt you.”
The dogs were black and tan, possibly Doberman Pinchers or German Shepherds.
“Now, this one,” The MP pointed, “this one was not tied up but as you can see he’s real friendly.” He patted the dog’s head. “And this one was tied up because he’s kind of mean. Now which one attacked you?”
I was instantaneously and fantastically confused, “Where's the owner?”
“The owner’s out of town.”
“Well, it had to be the one not tied up, right?” I imagined the mean one attacking me and then somehow leashing his self back on the line. Or maybe the other dog helped. They switched places. No, that couldn’t have happened. I looked at the nice doggie. Then the other one, both were sitting calmly looking at us. I kept staring at the dogs. Were they fucking with me?
The police officer shifted his weight, “Yes, it could have been him but he’s the nice one. When I walked up he didn’t bark or jump up or anything. Now the other one did. Did you see which one attacked you?”
“No,” I made a face. I couldn’t tell the dogs apart. Could the MP? “I was just walking by the house when he jumped on me. I wasn’t even in the yard.”
In the end, we decided the friendly dog must have been excited and I being a faint-hearted female fell to the ground and exaggerated the attack. In other words, we decided nothing.
My mom made me feel real bad for the whole incident like it was my fault.
“What were you doing out of the car?”
“Nothing.” Just going for a walk.”
Larry said, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Then I turned to him, “Hey, why didn’t you shoo the dog off?”
“So you just watched?”
“What else could I have done?”
After thinking about this for awhile I realized that Larry was too little to do anything.
When we arrived home my mom told me to give her my clothes. I handed her a rather cute stripped outfit that I liked, “What are you going to do with them? Wash ‘em?”
“No, throw them away.”
“Throw it away!”
“You can’t wear this again. They’re bad luck, Lani. Bad luck.”