New Experience (written in early January)

I am on administrative leave. That means I have turned in my computer, my badge, and my keys and I can’t go to any schools in my district unless it is for parenting purposes. My third graders have had substitutes (without any plans from me) for a week now. It is unclear how long this will go on. I have no idea what they are being told about my absence. Or what my colleagues are being told. A few of them have reached out to be sure I’m okay, but I’ve been advised (by my union) not to say anything so I’ve been cryptic and vague. (This makes it sound like my administration has not been supportive and that would be wildly inaccurate. They are doing all they can to support my students and my team and me.)

I’m in this position because a parent claims I harmed their child. My administration felt they had to report the complaint to Child Protective Services. CPS felt they had to investigate.

That all says to me that they are listening to a child. (Or to the child through what is being said by the parent. I actually have no idea if anyone in my school district or CPS has spoken to the child. It’s one of so many things I don’t know.) I believe we should listen to children. I believe we do a terrible job of caring for all children in our society. We need to be far more aware of what is happening to children that is harmful and far more responsive to it. So I appreciate that this child is being heard.

That said, I truly don’t believe I did anything to harm this child. I responded to a situation that was, I firmly believe, dangerous to me, others, and the child. I did so, I also believe, with as much care for this child as possible.

I am both a teacher and a parent, and have been both for a good number of years at this point. I realize that what I hear, as an adult, from a child may not always be what that child is trying to tell me. I know, that as an adult who cares greatly about a child, I may hear something differently than the child intends. It is quite possible that is what has happened with this child and this parent. The child shared a situation, the parent pictured it in a certain way. Those may not have fully matched. Regardless, I am glad adults are listening to this child.

I am, at the same time, a tornado of emotions beyond that. I have spent several weeks going over and over what happened. Trying to imagine how I could have handled it differently, better. I don’t have a good answer to that. But it has made me question who I am as a teacher. Am I the teacher I thought I was three weeks ago? I didn’t think I was perfect, but I certainly thought I was good.

I’m also terrified for what this could mean for my future. The worst case scenario involves me losing my license and facing a criminal charge. I don’t believe I did anything wrong, but that may not matter at all. This is my 22nd year in the classroom. I live and breath teaching because I love it. I have defined myself by this profession. If I lost my license I feel I would be losing who I am.

(Written in early January.)

3 replies on “New Experience (written in early January)”

  1. Charlene O'Brien says:

    Even at this stage, your words are both measured and filled with the obvious passion and concern you have for your work, and the students you teach. Your perspective is a model for all of us who teach, Jen.

    • jenorr says:

      Charlene, thank you. As always you manage to see the person I am trying to be and support and encourage me to be even better.

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