When birds sing...

21.4.10

“Do you think your class would be smoother, better without him?”

I didn’t want to say it but after consideration I said, “Yes.”

“Okay, so we’ll set up a meeting with his parents and ask him to leave the school.”

“What!?”

“If he’s that much trouble, he has to leave. Your class depends on it.”

After much discussion, Mrs. Bluejay convinced me it would be for the best. The meeting was set up and she mediated, “Miss Cox and the school have decided that it would be best if #11 left Trembling Trees.”

“What!” His father turned to me, “You just told me the other day that he was making good progress.”

“I know,” I whispered. I knew he was going to bring this up. We were making good progress. #11 was my comedian but he was also the class bully. I tried every trick in the book, under the sun and on God’s green earth to make him behave. I exhausted all teaching and non-teaching resources. It was boys like him that made a few of the parents and my colleagues believe that I was incompetent. But I had to find out if I was doing something wrong so I watched my class with other subject teachers and saw that the difficult ones were still the difficult ones.

“I can’t believe this. This is unacceptable. You can’t just expect me to find another school for him in the middle of the school year. Miss Cox and I have been working together and talking about #11’s progress. And then you drop this on me? I don’t understand.” He looked at us angrily.

Mrs. Bluejay and #11’s father argued while I sat between them. Then she weakened and it was decided that #11 would stay – at least finish out the school year. I was miserable. He thought I was trying to kick his son out my class. The damage was done. I almost wished Mrs. Bluejay would have stuck to her original plan instead of making me look like an ass. After all, #11 was in my class, not hers.

For a long time I wanted to tell his father that it was Mrs. Bluejay’s idea. There were many times in the hallway or after class that I wanted to tell him the truth. But I didn’t want to gossip. Perhaps I thought by telling him I would be relieving myself of my blame and guilt. I don’t know.

I kept my mouth shut about a lot of things that were happening in those days. I thought I had a friend at last, in Mrs. Bluejay, someone who would help me sort out this mess but like the others when things got tough they bailed, often right in the middle of a meeting. Like Mr. Worm did with #1’s parents. And there’s nothing richer than when the mediator of your meeting takes sides. Maybe #11’s father suspected it was the little birdie pulling the strings. I don’t know but I was a fool to go along with her again.

It seemed for every hard earned step forward, I was shoved back. Events, like the ocean current, were moving in their own direction and it became exhausting trying to stay afloat.

***

I began to open up to Mrs. Raven, the music teacher during our singing lessons which I started as soon as the ‘ol oven pusher, uh, I mean, Old Woman left. They became in many ways like therapy sessions which was odd considering she was my former mentor and on the committee to decide if I should be fired. But I needed to talk to someone who understood what was going on but who wasn’t directly involved. We became friends.

After relaying what happened with #11’s dad I said, “Can you believe her?”

Mrs. Raven replied, “She can be a very difficult person. All of us have butted heads with her but she’s been particularly damaging for you.”

“I know. I see it now but I don’t know what to do about it. She offers her help but then she doesn’t show up or changes direction. Her influence in the school is so strong. Mr. Skunk is like the king and she has his ear.”

Mrs. Raven sighed and started to tune her little harp, “Someone needs to stand up to her.”

***

Before the start of one of our weekly faculty meetings, I caught word that the Core Group was having one of their private meetings hence the delay in today's faculty meeting. And their meeting was about me.

Fear permeated the faculty especially after Mrs. Rabbit was fired. It has a unique smell, fear, like the streets of Bangkok or a decaying mouse, I felt like I had discovered the source of the smell and was waiting to pounce.

So I paced the room waiting for them to arrive. And when they filtered in, smiles and apologies, I said, “I know this meeting that you just had was about me and my class. I want to know what you were talking about.”

“Well,” Mrs. Bluejay began, “one of your parents came to us to discuss a situation that occurred today.”

“Why didn’t she talk to me?”

“I don’t know,” Mrs. Bluejay lied.

She continued, “I guess she felt more comfortable talking to us. #12’s mom said her daughter was hit today. #12 complained about #5 hitting her and she is very concerned about how you missed this. . .as is the rest of us.”

“Are you serious!? Is this what your BIG meeting was all about? Let me tell you exactly what happened,” I looked around at all my colleagues, “#12 and #5 are best friends. Today they got into a fight, they both hit the other but not very hard – we’re talking little slaps on the arm. #12 complained because she wants #5 to like her again!

“My God, the way you talk about it, you make it sound like she sucker punched her in the gut. They’re best friends. They were pouting more than anything! Is this what the secret meeting was about?” My mouth twisted up. “If any of you had the decency to come to me or directed #12’s mom to me, I could have cleared this up. #5’s ignoring her, so #12 told her mom. Big deal. By tomorrow they’ll be running around holding hands.”

Well, that shut them up.

So for the first time in my ill-fated Waldorf teaching career I yelled at them. All of them. Any good judgment or prudence went straight to hell. This stupid meeting was the final insult. I had been trying to hold myself up like some sort of saint, constantly turning the other cheek because I thought I was being the better person by doing so. I hardly spoke because I didn’t want to be a flaming gossip like the rest of them. Instead I was stuffing down my emotions, my frustrations and worst of all my anger.

“You got to be fucking kidding me,” was my opener. It felt strange and wonderful to swear but I was just getting a nice lather going, I was just starting.

“This is exactly what I’m talking about. Some little thing happens in my class and suddenly it’s the topic of the week! Parents hear that someone got hit and all of a fucking sudden we need Dr. Phil to intervene. What’s going on in Miss Cox’s classroom? What’s going on in Miss Cox’s classroom? I don’t know. Let’s guess!”

“What’s she doing? Why are the children hitting one another? Why can’t she control her class?” I started pacing again, making wild gestures, “I’ll tell you why! Because all of you keep talking about what’s wrong with me. All of you keep whispering behind my back. Why doesn’t anybody just ask me? I am so sick and tired of all this. What do you want from me?! Please tell me. What do you fucking want? ‘Cause I can’t take this anymore.”

Now this would have been the equivalent of a cussing soliloquy in the middle of Sunday morning’s church service. Nobody swore in Waldorf, people spoke in soft tones and sang songs remember? Silk scarves and fairy tales lived within these walls. They were stunned, of course – I was the black crayon welding, blue jean wearing, 21 year old looking, childless woman who said the word ‘fuck’ – like three times. This wasn’t a little shit but a big fuck.

And I was fucked.

The shock on their faces sobered me. I sat down defeated and ashamed, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry I swore.”

The teachers then quietly and awkwardly started to move again, settling down in the chairs, eyes downcast. The meeting started.

During the break I asked Mrs. Squirrel, “I blew it, didn’t I?”

“No, I understand. . .but I’m a little,” She paused searching for the right word, “disappointed.”

My body tightened, as if I could disappoint anyone in this room any further. . .How did I become the worst of what everyone thought of me? Like a child who’s told they’re not smart enough, I began to believe in their truth. And I started to act like it. I didn’t think it was possible but I felt more miserable having blown off steam. I finally caught the Core Group and I blew it by having a swearing screaming fit. Which I made even worse by asking for Mrs. Squirrel’s reassurance, it was the equivalent of pulling down my pants and scratching a rectal itch in public.

After the meeting Mrs. Bear followed me to my classroom. “Wow. Wow, that was quite the performance. I didn’t know you had it in you, kid.”

“Not my finest moment.”

“Well. . .no, but. . .” She started to laugh and so did I.

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