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26 March 2008 @ 09:56 pm
"But oh, my darling, the fields have gone to rot..."  
Just a little post to say that I am, in fact, still among the living, and trying to keep up with my friend's journals even if I'm not posting in my own. Things at work are just... well, they're awful. A day to day awful that's exhausting and draining, and played forever on two levels. The first level is adult perception-- the interaction between myself and Puji, myself and the director, and the hundred other drama-laden alliances and rivalries that define our school. The second is on a level the children perceieve, a level which is not as limited as I sometimes wish it could be.

They know-- all twenty of my kids know, to some extent-- that something is wrong. Puji hands down terrible punishments, winds them up, abuses them emotionally, and then takes out her anger on them again when they come to me looking for a moment of random affection. I'm a big believer in discipline and order, and the kids know that. They test me, but they know I'm not heartless. I give them boundaries because I care about them; Puji doles out disproportionate punishments for the slightest misstep. (For instance, today she refused to let three of the kids go outside because they did not fall asleep right away at nap time. On Monday, she wouldn't let two of them have icecream because they answered questions wrong on their worksheets.) Understandably, the kids slink around Puji trying to avoid her attention, and will walk right past her on their way to me if they're upset about something, or need a dispute solved. And they know when Puji's been on my case, even if she doesn't berate me in front of them (and she does-- often). With some, its as simple as coming and brushing up against me or tugging on my braid on their way to find a toy. With others, the aggitation is more obvious. Sahri comes and hangs on me, Gideon gets a toy and sits at my feet to play like he's some sort of guard dog. Skye compliments me excessively, Alexa asks if she can come home with me.
I may never have had children of my own, but I recognize what these actions really communicate. The kids are asking, Is it okay, is everything okay?
I try to make myself smile, unstiffen my posture, sit on the floor and play with them and just ignore the adult world. I ruffle hair, fuss with buttons and hems, squeeze tiny shoulders. Yes, I keep trying to say, everything is fine. I plan art projects and try to make things okay.

Meanwhile, Puji assigns three to five worksheets a day for a group of children who are, at their oldest, four and a half. She refuses to touch any of them except her own child (yes, her daughter is in our class-- long story, and not a pretty one), withholds food for 'bad behavior', tells children to 'go away' if they come up to her with something to share. She and another coworker of mine (who is also a friend), Joy, have been having conflicts and arguements lately. Joy's daughter, Seline, is in our class. Rather than separate Seline from the problems she has with Joy, Puji takes out her anger on Seline. If I leave the room to run an errand, nine out of ten times I return to find Seline on the floor crying, with Puji standing over her. What's happened in the time I've been gone? There's no way of knowing-- Seline won't say, Puji can't be trusted, and Puji knows enough to drag the child out of view of the cameras before doing whatever it is, so Joy hasn't been able to figure it out by watching the webcam.

I'm not saying I'm a perfect teacher. I'm not even saying I'm a good one-- I get stressed, I fail to keep my emotions from showing on my face, I raise my voice more than I probably should. But I would *never* with hold all of outdoor play, or food from a child, and I would never deliberately exploit their emotional weak spots. Not to mention the fact I have training and experience in education, and know that the worksheets we do (not to mention the *amount* we do) are way above the kid's heads? And how sad is it that the kids come to me for affection when I'm not, in fact, a cuddly person?

When all this came to a head in the office, the director told me I could suck it up and accept Puji's position as lead teacher, or she'd "be happy to accept my two weeks notice". "Don't think you're doing us any favors by working here," she said.
"Don't worry," I said, looking at the woman who has done nothing but lie to me from the moment I walked in the door back in August. "I know you can easily find someone much less qualified to replace me."

It's like living in an abusive relationship. All you want to do is get out, but you know you can't just shove your precious things and a change of clothes into a bag and run out into the rainy night. Where would you go, what would you do? I am the wife that moves soundlessly in the kitchen, brow-beaten but counting pennies in her mind, making her plans.

I realize a lot of this sounds overly dramatic, but that's what it's like to wake up every goddamn day and know I have to go in there, and be afraid to miss or take sick because I don't want to leave those kids alone with her. In May, Seline and Gideon (Puji's other frequent victim) move up to the next class. I hope to have a job lined up by then.

And this is why I've been hesitant to write about what's going on in my life-- I knew it would end up being one big puddle of emotional vomit. Feel free to ignore the above. Rest assured I love and miss you, my friends, and am trying to keep up with what's going on with you. ^__^

Thank you for listening.
Emotional Temperature: distresseddistressed
The Band Plays:: "Escape to the Stars"-- by Cinema Bizarre
Ivy Loreivylore on March 27th, 2008 04:56 am (UTC)
I always find it hard to post about the hard stuff. That sounds like a difficult situation and my heart goes out to you and the kids.
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: carolgarnettrees on April 3rd, 2008 12:43 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for the sympathy and understanding, Ivy. It helps just to know someone is reading and sending out good thoughts. ^__^
petronelle on March 27th, 2008 10:24 am (UTC)
I sympathize deeply with the horror of Bad Adult, Miserable Children you're experiencing, and I am very sorry to hear that you're in such an untenable place.
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: dcgirlsgarnettrees on April 3rd, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
I think most people tend to discount the extent to which children are able to sense stressful and unpleasant adult situations. They may not be able to completely understand, but they know something is going on. It helps to hear from someone who understands how scary it is to watch children react unwittingly to that Bad Adult.

Thank you so much.
Amber: misc | charlie hunnamminttown1 on March 27th, 2008 01:26 pm (UTC)
♥ I hope that you can get something else lined up soon. You have the qualifications, you have the heart, and it's a shame that circumstances are keeping you in such a terrible environment.

Love. *hugs* It will be okay, somehow.
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: notafraidgarnettrees on April 3rd, 2008 12:47 am (UTC)
You said the most encouraging thing, right at the moment I needed it most. Thank you, sweetie. I just need to believe hard enough, *make* it as okay as I can, while I hold out for something better.
*hugs back tightly*
lilyoftheval5lilyoftheval5 on March 27th, 2008 02:19 pm (UTC)
Isn't there some resident psychologist there that can back you up on emotional abuse? Or a parent force?
Frankly, I'm a bit aggressive - my ideas always include going for the jugular- so maybe the best thing is to wait it out.......

In addition, this is your journal - where else can you let out all those things you have to censor in the RL?!
As for any other useless pieces of advice - a cup of tea and meditation.
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: gunslingergarnettrees on April 3rd, 2008 12:51 am (UTC)
We don't have a resident psychologist, because Lichfield is a private school that's big on PR and low on actual staff support. The owners like to skimp as much as possible, and pocket the obscene tution-- all that matters is how things appear on the outside. Parent involvement is the only thing that will bring about change, but we don't have that many parents in the class who are actively involved. Most just drop their kids off and run. I think Gideon's mom is starting to realize something is going on, though, and she is not someone I would want to cross in regards to her son. She's a sweet lady, but she's also a big Mama Bear. So maybe that will help.

Thanks for helping me look through all my options. I tend to get depressed and only see one track.
Purpleyin/Hans: breathmissyvortexdv on March 27th, 2008 08:49 pm (UTC)
That's awful! I can't believe the higher up people are so oblivious to be threatening you to resign if you don't like her and not calling her out on her insane behaviour. Is appalling. *hugs*
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: lilyevansgarnettrees on April 3rd, 2008 12:52 am (UTC)
The higher-ups just want to preserve the status-quo-- it's easier than creating meaningful change. I'm glad other people see that Puji's behavior is crazy. It helps to know I'm not overreacting. ^_^