Tuesday, January 26, 2010

'Tis a lot of baggage

A deep look at things that have been terribly emotional....I'll get to my weigh in later in the post...I promise! I know it's a bit long....but it's something that I think I need to write for me. So if you read it, I will feel honored....if you don't no skin off my back.

I was talking to a friend last night about what we would do differently with/in our lives if given a second chance. My biggie....I would have stopped being apathetic about my weight years...decades actually earlier and lost the weight. I feel that my excess weight has had a hand in most major decisions of my life. I know in friendships and jobs it has. Maybe not because of the actual weight, but from the baggage that I carry internally because of the weight. With how the weight has made me feel. So with this conversation in my mind coupled with the knowledge that I really need to find another job, I started to think......

I knew two things as I was growing up. I wanted to be a mother and I wanted to be a teacher. I had the most loved and well cared for baby dolls while playing house. And those dolls were highly educated as when I wasn't playing house, I was playing school and teaching them. So it was with no deliberation at all on my part nor any surprise to my family when I declared myself as an elementary education major in college (actually before I even took my first college class I had declared my major). I was full of ideas and promise for my future as a teacher. I graduated from college, with honors and my future looked bright. I moved home from college and commenced with the job search and got no-where. Why didn't I get a job? I don't rightly know. I know that after I had subbed a few years, I was actually told that my record as a substitute teacher was actually hurting me. Not because I was doing a poor job, but because I was actually doing too good of a job. I was told that a good sub is hard to find so when they have one that can keep a class under control and actually still teach them something AND one that is reliable that they don't want to hire them for a full time position because that leaves a hole in their substitute ranks. I was told over and over that I was 'a good one'. I was in high demand. After the first year (half year actually) I worked EVERY day of the school year. From the very first day to the bitter end. I did it all. But yet I wasn't hired full time. Could it have been because I was to valuable as a sub or could it have been my weight compressing me to the point that I had made myself un-employable simply because how my weight was making me feel was showing on the outside? I don't know. But the end result was that I couldn't buy, beg or steal a teaching job locally.

A few years after I graduated from college I applied for a teaching position in a county that was known for it's low socio-economic areas. It was a whim, I didn't expect anything to come of it. But the fire to teach was still burning deeply inside of me. So it was with much surprise when I came home one evening in late July and picked up my mail. There was an envelope from the school system that I had applied to. I laughingly told Todd (who was at my house for the evening...as we were dating at the time) "oh look, another rejection letter." Only it wasn't a rejection letter. It was actually a teaching contract....with the board of Ed's appropriate signatures already affixed at the bottom. The only thing left was my signature. I hadn't interviewed! I hadn't even talked to the school system. I had simply sent my resume and references to them. They hired me site unseen! That should have been my first clue. But that fire to teach was burning, so I went to the 'interview' process. It was not a normal interview in that the administrators were asking "MaryFran, what are your qualifications." It was a room full of administrators begging the applicants (who from what I gathered had all received signed contracts in the mail.....similar to my story) to accept the position/assignment at their school! I think of it as the human/teacher meat-market. Clue number two.......this is not a normal practice,but I went ahead with it and signed the contract and moved....all within 2 weeks. I was officially a 4th grade teacher.

The first month or two of the school year were fabulous. The students were responding to me, I was in my glory. There were some issues though. Supplies. Every time I asked for something....even something as simple as a stapler, I was told that they were working on getting it for me...although in retrospect they never arrived. So I ended up going out and buying my own supplies. The other major issue those first two months? I had no teachers manuals. Yes, you read that correctly. I had none! (didn't get them until the beginning of January). These things were just a minor annoyance though. I was capable of developing lesson plans without the teachers manuals. It just took a bit more time. The supplies....it really didn't get to me, I had waited so long to teach that I didn't care. Nothing I ever did was good enough for the administrators. I wrote on the chalkboard to large.....the next day it was to small. I would actually measure other teachers chalkboard writing and compare it to mine....it would be exactly the same, but mine was never good enough. One administrator told me that my voice was a problem...it grated against her senses. (no-one ever told me that before...in fact when I worked in a call center, I frequently got compliments on my voice). It was just anything and everything, attacking me in any way that they could. I can see it looking back, but when it was happening it was utterly confusing and devastating to be told that you were the worlds worst teacher and person.

After about a month or two though, I started noticing a shift in the students behavior. It was subtle at first with the class being a bit more unruly. But it escalated. It wasn't until I was picking my class up from one of their specials that I figured out the problem. I was being undermined by the administration. I stood outside of the door and heard an administrator saying, "These little notebooks are for you to keep in your desk. We want you to write down everything that Miss Clingan does so that we can find a reason to fire her because we don't want a white person in our school." My students very quickly realized that they could do ANYTHING in my room and there would be no repercussions. It quickly became sheer bedlam! There was no support from the admin staff. I had a student threaten to "bring my dad's gun to school so I can shoot you". The admin refused to do anything or even put it on the records "He's a young black man...if we put that on his records he has no chance in society" What about me? If I'm dead I have no chance either, I wanted to scream! I broke up a fight in my classroom at one point. The students were not reprimanded (remember very low socio-economic area...the parents were young and really didn't care either) and when I talked to my vice-principal about the injury I sustained while breaking up the fight I was told that he was not going to fill out or sign the paperwork because it was my fault that there was a fight in the first place. The injury? Muscle problems in my back. Yeah, the same problem I STILL struggle with today, ten years later.

I remember sobbing at one point over the Christmas break because the situation was so awful. In January, it got worse. My health was being affected. I spent some time in the ER because I couldn't breathe or swallow without pain....they couldn't find any cause...other than stress. Finally, one day (it was a Friday) I was on the beltway driving home and I saw a dump truck and my first thought was "if I swerve in front of it I would die and that would end this misery". NOT cool. So very not cool. But it made it startingly clear that something had to change, and quickly. By the following Monday, I had written my letter of resignation, made up a week (maybe two, I can't remember) of lesson plans for the substitute, cleaned out my personal belongings from my room and I was done with teaching.

The union jumped on the case hot and heavy after I left (wasn't much they could do earlier..even though I had been in contact with them). Turns out it was well documented to keep certain students separated....I had three of these documented pairings in the same room. (the only three on file for that grade level.) I had 36 students....I was supposed to have an aide....no one EVER walked into my room to assist...or help....or even give advice. The union started a lawsuit, but within a month or two , I put a stop to it. My mental health was much more important and continually talking about it every time they had questions was not allowing me to heal.

The experience left me with some huge emotional scars.
*It's been 10 years...but as I've written this today I've had to stop at least once each paragraph to look away and calm myself down. You see, the breathing swallowing difficulty comes right back, even after 10 years. People always say, try teaching somewhere else. But come on now....if after 10 years I still struggle with stress related physical difficulties I think that's our answer. After 10 years I will no longer say NEVER teach. But I think I can still safely say NEVER teach in a public school setting.
* I have felt like a failure. All I ever wanted to do was be a teacher, and I failed. (I struggle with saying, through no fault of my own, but I didn't have any control over the situation).
*I have allowed all those comments about my personality and even my personal and physical traits (things that I have no control over) to affect how I have felt about myself. My first mistake was believing them....my second mistake was taking them to heart!

I can't blame my weight all on this situation, but I will say when I left teaching I weighed 210 pounds....somehow I ballooned up to 300 within 2 years. But I can look back and I can see how my weight and the baggage that I have carried because of my weight has affected the decisions that I've made that brought me to that point and even further. I can also see how the situation has totally affected my weight. The situation made me feel worthless and unworthy of anything. To lose weight and be healthy you have to feel like you are worth the effort, for months I was continually told me that I was not worth it.

I don't know what writing this post will do. I know that writing this and even somewhat 'grudgingly' (because I still struggle with saying that I was innocent) admitting that I was an innocent party in this saga is not going to make it better over night. But I hope that by actually admitting it that I can move forward. While I desperately need to find another job...one that isn't so mind-numbingly boring and just...well......brain dead I know that it will not be in the public school system (so don't even bring it up in a conversation) but what does a person with a degree in Education do? hmmmmm

I'm worth it! All the stuff that they spouted at me for those months I need to take at face value....which means I need to pitch it ALL out the door.


I went to a weight watchers center other than the one that I normally go to last night. I was happy to go because according to my home scales I was showing a 1.2 pound loss. My home scales have always been dead on with the weight watcher scales so I was looking forward to the weigh in. A loss is a loss. So imagine my surprise when I get off the scale and look at the paperwork. They showed me a 1.6 pound GAIN! So that's 2.8 pounds different from my home scale. My only consolation and hope is that I was on a different scale.....maybe the scales at this center were off. Hmmmm. Not sure! Oh well, nothing to do other than plod onward!

Already hit the bike for 30 minutes this morning. I plan on riding more tonight during TBL, so I'll be doing good for today!


BEE said...

your doing great on your weight loss whatever the number is right

ill be right there watching the biggest loser also
hopefully it motivates me this time to move last time i didnt do anythin but the first one i exercised during it really depends on if it a motivating night i guess

did you ever think of teaching children with special needs

just throwing it out there

i think you are lovely person
very caring
and i think you'd be amazing and let me tell you
our kids need amazing inspirational people like you

just throwing it all out there
it might not be for you

i now my son would be lucky to have you teach him
i say that just from seeing how caring you are
in special needs it isnt really the teaching it is the compassion you need and you have it

MMR said...

Thank you for such a good story!!! It made me reflect my own journey to be healthy. While reading your story, I realized that I always gain weight after a failure experience that I feel like is a failure. It is not glaringly obvious because when it is happening I loose weight from the stress. After things have sunk in though, I always gain weight back plus some.

I hope you go back to teaching one day. It sounds like ou were a good one. Things like that have a way of coming back around when you least expect them.

I have tried several of your recipes and I love them. Good luck on your journey!!!

MaryFran said...

Failure...fear of or an actual failure (as perceived by ourselves) can really impede success on a weight loss journey.

You hit home too when you said you lose during really stressful times. Hasn't happened to me often, but during that timefram, I was eating cakes (whole cakes) in the evening...but I'd step on the scales every day and almost daily I would see a substantial loss. I lost about 40 pounds in about 30 days. Gained it all back and then some when I got out of the situation of course.

Teresa said...

Yes I would say you have been carying around a lot of baggage, mentally. It is sad that people can't except a person for who they are and not what they look like. I sure hope that letting this all out there will help you let it go. Noone should ever have those feelings. And forget the scale, it lies. :)

lindalou said...

So sorry that all of that happened...
What stupid people!!
People can be so cruel somethimes.
Next week on your scale, you'll have a big loss, cause it sounds like their scale was off.

VRaz60 said...

I'm so sorry about your teaching experience. I found out that my degree in Edu. was never going to be put to use after I student taught. I hated every moment of the experience. You, at least, were a great teacher and loved the idea of teaching.

Hopefully, writing it will prove to be a catharsis for you. You are worth the effort you are putting into this journey, and we are all rooting for you!!

Anonymous said...

I know I don't even know you, but reading this post made me cry. I'm a goofball on my sight most the time, but I can relate to your feeling that your weight altered the course of your life.

I must say though YOU are not a failure, the SYSTEM failed YOU.

I can tell from your post that you adore teaching. My son's are in private school and one of the reasons is because of the political garbage I've seen go on in the public system.

I'm so sorry for the scar on your heart. You seem like a precious sweet woman and I hope you are able to find a job that brings you joy.

Hallie said...

I relate to your story as I have been there myself though not in the education system - with 4th graders and threats of violence. You say it's been 10 years - I hope you have found an employment situation suited to your desires or your goals.

BEE said...

sweet potatoe fries does sound delicious for tonight

karen@fitnessjourney said...

What a story. It's hard to believe that people can be that cruel. I hope that one day you will teach again. Clearly you have a passion there. Have you considered volunteering in a school or day care center to help gain confidence? Maybe the stress would ease up a bit if you saw that you can be successful. Good teachers are so important and there are so many children who could benefit from your passion to teach.

Darcy said...

Your experience was awful, MaryFran, I'll give you that. And even though you say you'll never teach in another public school again, try to keep in mind that they aren't all like that. Our public schools are great and would consider themselves fortunate to have a teacher with your passion. Have you looked into tutoring? Just a thought.
Keep up the good work on your journey. Maybe by putting so much of it out there, you will also be able to let some of it go. You don't need to let these things define you, but I do understand how hard that can be.