July 15, 2008
The experiences we share as humans are quite common to differing degrees. Most of us have known the jittery feeling of taking a road test, the regret of crashing a first car, losing a job, rejection, separation, divorce, the pressures of raising children,illness and the unavoidable pain of losing a loved one. We grieve, we slow down, we heal and in time, we get through it. By helping each other, we gain hope and understanding from those who have "been there". The dreaded 'event' or excitement inevitably passes. The hurt subsides, the pain lessens, life moves on and so do we. When we look back on these life changing events in search of meaning, we are presented with a choice. We can choose to look at the experience as one that will help us to grow stronger, or we to ignore the lesson and shoulder the pain. The lessons weaved into our experiences can help us to become more humble, and more patient human beings.
In time of crisis, my mother will often say something that goes like this; "Talk to Aunt Adele. She went through the same thing when she was first married and take a look at her now. She survived." Strangely, knowing that someone else struggled and suffered in a similar way helps us to feel 'normal' again. Ironically, it does. Hey, if 'Crazy' Aunt Adele survived, I will survive, too. Now, let me ask Aunt Adele a question. "Have you ever been sent to the Rubber Room?"
How many times have you thought to yourself or heard someone say, "Now I've heard everything!", or... "Nothing shocks me anymore." Unless you have been living inside a box, these words and thoughts are triggered frequently when dealing with the real world. And,just when you think that you have seen and heard everything, there is a place and an experience that is so unlike real life, that few will ever openly talk about it. The shame and degradation associated with this place is literally crippling to those who have been inside its' walls. This unreal and futile experience can be found deeply embedded within the DOE's operating structure.
For those who have been reassigned, the emotional experience is embarrassing, humiliating, demeaning and merciless. The unfortunate people that I have met in the RR are the only people who can or will ever truly understand what it's like to be there. Other people- OP (ie; Anyone who has not spent time in the Rubber Room) do not have the capacity to fully imagine this exceedingly damaging psychological experience. Because this experience is so atypical and absurd, I find it categorically difficult to fully identify with anyone I knew in my "Pre" Rubber Room Days. This includes anyone with whom I have formerly worked with, continues to work in my assigned school or for the DOE in its' full capacity.
How does one explain to OP that the DOE is nothing more than a discriminatory, self serving, corrupt money making institution? How does one describe the morally inept thinking and practices that Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein subscribe to?
How does one explain to an outsider or even a loved one that after 10 or more wonderful years at the same job, that they have been removed from their school for an allegation that they haven't been made aware of? How does one explain that they have suddenly been denied the priviledge to teach the students they have bonded with and loved, due to an anonymous person who has made an anonymous(possibly false) accusation against them? How do I explain to others What I- myself, do not understand? How does one accept that they have been labelled "a danger to children" -the very same children that they would throw themselves in front of a train to protect?
How does one accept all of this when being around children is their life's work? How does one accept that they cannot return to their workplace to gather their belongings or meet with their principal without prior consent? How does one maintain their level of sanity, dignity and well-earned respect when they have been victimized by a system that does everything in their power to disable their teachers from doing their jobs and then claims, "See? This teacher is incompetent!"
If you are still reading to this point then you might me interested in knowing that at this point I have isolated myself from life as I once knew it. It has been too painful for me to constantly question who I am and define myself as a teacher who has been relegated to the RR. I am no longer the productive, optimistic and happy person that I was before. I have lost weight, become depressed and unable to function normally. I am a parent who has had to lie to my children on a daily basis and present a false facade to others. I feel frustrated and helpless that I am not able(really, not allowed) to take any action to improve my situation for fear of retaliation and abandonment from my own Union. I believed like most of us do that my Union was supposed to protect me. I believed that once I was reassigned that I would have the opportunity to state my case and return to my job. I have been told to sit and wait. Sit and wait until you are contacted. Sit and wait until you rot.
Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am not a 'sit and wait' type of person. If noone is willing or able to help me, then I will do whatever it takes to help myself. I don't want pity or empathy. I just want to be heard by anyone who cares. I have not been formally charged with anything. The situation that got me into the RR(I cannot discuss for fear of retaliation by the DOE and my Union) was one that left me with no options. I can't look back on how I could have changed a situation that I did not create. I am tired of waiting and would like to get to the truth. Does the truth count for anything anymore? I conclude my post with the following thought. Next time you find yourself believing that you've heard everything, just read this post again and COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS.