Sunday, September 14, 2008

1st week back to school

So I made it through my first week back to school/work from my mat leave/summer vacation relatively unscathed although I think I’m developing a split personality.

I should start off by explaining that my letter which I wanted to send out to staff before going back to school (see previous post) did not get sent out, well not to everyone. I ended up shortening it A LOT to just about 4 paragraphs and the lists of things to say and not to say. I knew that I should just send it out and not ask for approval from admin but I didn’t really follow my gut on that one and for some reason I sent a copy of my shortened letter to my VP who has been totally amazing and supportive way back from when I was even trying to get pregnant till now. I told her I was planning on sending the letter out by email and wondered if she could take a look at it and share her thoughts. The next day I checked my email to see 3 replies from her. Her first reply was very positive and supportive and basically said whatever would help me was what she wanted. The second reply was sent a few minutes later and said that the Principal wanted me to hold off on sending the letter for now. Then the final reply which was sent a few minutes later said that the principal wanted to deal with my letter through the department heads and have the information funnelled to the staff through them. I immediately sent a reply to both the VP and principal asking for a reason as to why they wanted to take this course of action and expressed my concerns with distributing my letter through this avenue. 3 days later I still had no reply and time was ticking. School was starting in a few days and I wanted people to have time to read the letter at their own leisure and not in the midst of the first day of school. I got totally stressed out and pissed off realizing that I was being ignored and that my letter was being brushed under the carpet or at least delayed so that by the time I was given a response it would be too late. I ended up calling the school’s union rep to see what could be done which was nothing. I was screwed. The principal had set out her agenda of what she wanted done and if I went against her plan I would suffer some serious consequences. So I finally called the VP at home who finally explained to me some cockamamie reason that the principal doesn’t want the letter going out because there are 18 new staff members that don’t know me and that my letter would be unnecessary for them. WTF? The only saving grace was that she had at least sent my letter to MY department head who thankfully sent it out to the math and business teachers (my department). I only found this out when one of the teachers in my department sent me an email saying that she appreciated the letter and wanted to know how I wanted to handle this issue with the students. After a few emails back and forth discussing how we have seen other sensitive issues being dealt with at schools we’ve been at, we agreed that honesty was probably best and more than likely the students would be too self involved to really notice or care. That’s teenagers for you.

So off to my first day I went, nervous and scared. As I got out of my car I saw a new teacher at my school also getting out of her. Funny enough I happen to know her from another school and she also did some supply teaching at our school last year when I was pregnant. So of course she looks at me surprised and says “Hey, what are you doing here, I thought you’d be on mat leave.” I was like is this really happening? I haven’t even set foot into the school yet. Anyhow, I replied with ‘I guess you didn’t hear what happened. They died.’ Shit I felt so bad for her. She was like ‘I’m so sorry. I just put my foot in my mouth. Yada yada yada.’ I put my sunglasses on, walked into the school and thought to myself ‘my life sucks!’ I spent the rest of the morning staff meeting wearing my sunglasses and avoiding making eye contact with anyone. I really wished then that people had gotten my letter. At least when people were trying to approach me I would have known that they were doing so with good intentions and knowing where my head was at. But instead when people looked at me, smiled and asked ‘how are ya?’ I was thinking ‘do they know? Do they remember? Are they asking out of general concern or was that just a polite hi?’ It was so awkward for me. I felt like I had to show them that I was still sad and was not ‘fine’ but then felt like people would think I’m so rude, moping around and ignoring people, giving half smiles and responding to the ‘how are ya’s?’ with “crappy”. I really didn’t know how to act.

This feeling continued as I walked into my first class. My homeform this semester is my grade 11 accounting class, thankfully my favourite subject to teach. As the kids filed in I was so torn. I wanted to show that I was still sad but I also knew that I had to start off the year with a positive tone so that the kids would like coming to class. As I looked around the room I saw many faces that I recognized having taught them in grade 9 and grade 10 the last 2 years. But at the same time realized that they probably wouldn’t have known what happened to me. Some of them might not have even known that I was pregnant seeing as I was only teaching grade 9 and 11 last year when I was pregnant and these kids would have all been in grade 10. By the end of the period I had lightened up my mood a bit realizing that these kids don’t know, don’t care and certainly are not going to ask about Cole and Breanna. After the bell rang a couple of students packed their bags more slowly and stayed behind to ask me something. I braced myself for what they might say but they were telling me that they were going to be absent the next day and next week, etc and wanted to know what they were going to miss. *sigh* As the day continued I developed a new personality, ‘the happy teacher.’ Who the hell was this person? I felt like I had never left and was right back in the swing of things. The rest of the week continued much the same way. I was this different person in class and then after class or in the hallways every time a student approached me I thought ‘okay, is this going to be the student that brings it up?’ and it wasn’t. They wanted to know about tennis, deca, grade 12 accounting, the accounting contest, or just tell me that they are in my class next semester, yippie! As I left on Friday I stopped in for a quick visit with Nicola, a co-worker that lost her baby in January and became close with over the past few months. We came to the realization that even the students that knew I was pregnant might not realize that I should be off this year because I left last year in April and they probably think that my twins are at home and that I’ve had my mat leave and have returned to work. Great, now I have to be on my toes in case some kid asks how my twins are doing. Oh I really wish I knew what they knew. But how do I find out without ‘spilling the beans’ so to speak.

As for the staff, I have done a really good job of avoiding everyone for an entire week. I’m still torn between feeling the need to show that I am sad, which I don’t really know how to do without being considered a complete bitch and feeling the need to be happy. I do enjoy life and still laugh, smile and have fun but I don’t want people to think that just because I’m laughing and smiling that I’m fine. I haven’t forgotten about Cole and Breanna and I don’t want them to forget either. Thankfully some of the members in my department have been amazing and really supportive. At lunch a few of us hang out in our department office while we eat our lunch and talk about different things like our classes, students, even our personal lives and my mentioning Cole and Breanna or all the crappy feelings, fears and crazy situations that arise because of them doesn’t make them uncomfortable. I really feel I have my letter to thank for that. In fact some of them even mentioned how much they appreciated my letter so that they knew what to say and how to help me.

For now I’m living and coping day by day. My new split personality is helping me get through teaching my classes and make the experience as untainted as possible for my students. But thankfully I know I have an outlet at lunch were I can be a bit more of myself. I feel like it’s okay to laugh in front of them at lunch because they know deep down that I haven’t forgotten and I know they haven’t forgotten either.