How 8 Words can Get You Fired


wordsI’ve been feeling the itch to write again lately, although I’m not entirely sure what to say at this point. So much has passed and changed since the last time that I updated anything on here. My about page and profile are so outdated that at this point they might as well be about a different person. But writing never really leaves you, it just kind of waits for you to come back.

The last time I wrote about something personal I got a great response from it, even though the subject matter was less than enjoyable to write about. There’s been a topic that I’ve been meaning to come around to and address, but I’ve felt that there would be more backlash than support should I decide to publish the post. I’m at a point now, though, that I don’t care for what readers might think, just that I know it’s something that needs to be said.

What follows is an account of how I was pushed out of a job that I loved. All parties will remain nameless because it isn’t so much about who was involved as it is about the need for the full story to be told, lest egos and man’s pride get in the way.

It’s important to start with where I am now in relation to the events that are yet to told. I’m married to my beautiful wife, I have a son on the way, we have an apartment that we live in comfortably with landlords who not only understand and empathize with what happened to me, but have gone through it themselves, and I work 3 jobs so that we can continue to maintain this standard of life. Where I am now isn’t the end of the story, but it serves as a guidepost as to how difficult it has been when it needn’t be so. Don’t get me wrong. We live a GREAT and BLESSED life, but I can’t help but wonder what it would be like had events transpired differently. Anyway, onward.To begin this story we need to travel back to 2014. I had just been hired as a full-time English teacher at the school that I graduated from, which happened to be a Christian school. Growing up, it had been like a second home to me. For someone that didn’t have a ton of stability during his teenage years (mom and dad never married, mom and step-dad getting divorced, moving to a new place once every 1-3 years), this school acted as an anchor in my life when all else was spinning out of my control. The how and why I ended up there is an entirely different long story that is for another time. Understand that it was quite literally and figuratively a sanctuary for me, a safe haven. Needless to say, when I got the job there, there was no greater joy for me. My aunt was a teacher there, I got to revisit the place where I matured and truly discovered who I was, and I was allowed to give back to a place that had given so much to me.

It was an entirely different dynamic, the whole becoming co-workers with people that used to teach and mentor you, scold and punish you. It’s an odd feeling. Where once you were a subordinate, I suddenly found myself on an even playing field with many of the teachers I once had to afford respect to. Which isn’t to say I took advantage of that. I’m just emphasizing how weird it is.

Eventually you get used to calling everyone by their first name (though I still always felt silly when I did), and you start to get familiar with how things work around the building. Every school building has a different vibe to it, and if you don’t believe that, then you either have only been in one school your entire career, or you’re lying. It is a unique and distinct feeling that trickles down from administration to faculty to students. Being a young teacher (remember, it was my first full-time position) I was oblivious to the inner workings and machinations of the politics of the school. My students were nothing short of amazing, I got along well with all of the faculty, and there was this rose-tinted period where I felt like I could do no wrong and that I was crushing it as a teacher. By no means did I think I was perfect at my craft, because you can always get better, but I felt like I was getting handle on it at a faster pace than most others would. I started to, as the kids say, “feel myself,” or to translate for the older folks reading, I got a swollen head.

The problem with familiarity is that you begin to subconsciously push the limits of how familiar you can get. Remember when we talked about building vibes? Well I didn’t know this at the time, but prior to my employment at the school, there had been a lot of tension between faculty and some of the mandates handed down by administration, a lot of it having to do with personnel changes (a nice way to say “firing” or “letting go,” which is itself a politically correct way to say “fired”) and salaries. Being a private school, teachers that worked there understood that they had to take a significant pay cut if they were to be employed there. We’re talking under $30,000 a year for a full-time teaching position, most times less than half of what a public school would pay. However, being that the school was Christian, most, if not all, of the faculty overlooked the pay because they knew that’s where God called them to be. That was the case for me. I wasn’t in it for the money. The full-time teaching experience (I thought) would pay for itself later on, plus the whole triumphant return to my old stomping grounds to impart knowledge and wisdom on the next generation. It was a contentious issue, especially when coupled with the fact that they were promised more competitive salaries over 5 years prior, knowing that the senior pastor was making six figures and considered the school more of a ministry than an educational institution (meaning teachers were expected to get paid peanuts with a smile on their face), and the fact that many of the teachers who worked there either left to find better paying, life-sustaining jobs, or stayed and required financial assistance. The “ministry” was forcing some people to have to rely on welfare or food stamps. I know I teach English, but I hope I don’t have to explain the painful irony there.

Anyway, all of that just mentioned above? I never realized the gravity of the situation. It didn’t affect me too badly being a single person with hardly anything to pay for. I collected my paycheck, lived comfortably, and laughed in my head at this “situation” that was unfolding before my eyes. The communication barrier between faculty and administration was so bad at one point that people were afraid to even talk about anything controversial because they were afraid of being fired. I don’t say this to bad mouth those I worked under; these were the conditions. I mention all of these things as an indictment of my awareness because I had no idea that it was actually this bad. To me, the very fact that someone would be afraid to speak their mind?! In a Christian school?! It was ludicrous. So I did the only thing that I knew how to do about situations that seemed silly to me: I made a joke out of it.

That feeling of invincibility was a poison to me. April was around the corner and I figured that the best way to make light of this situation and to get people to stop taking themselves so seriously was to play an April Fool’s prank. I thought that it was the perfect way to bring a little school spirit to one so fraught with fear, distress, and tip-toeing. I ran it by some of my colleagues and they seemed to think it was harmless, so I went with it. Just because we were Christian, didn’t mean we couldn’t have fun. And so I thought it was just that: a harmless joke, and I still contend with that fact to this day. However, what I did, was not perceived that way. I look back now on the prank I pulled (essentially I printed up some pictures of old faculty members and posted them around the building with the caption “Remember Me?” as a way to remind people of what I believed the glory days of the school were, as well as a parody of the George W. Bush billboards that were around when Obama was first elected), and being able to understand the situation after the fact, I was 100% wrong to do that. What it was made out to be though, was just as wrong.

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I was brought in to one of the higher up pastors and the superintendent, who I had included in the prank (RULE NUMBER 1 FOR NEW TEACHERS: NEVER PRANK YOUR SUPERINTENDENT, NO MATTER HIS/HER SENSE OF HUMOR), and I was asked to explain my actions. They found out it was me by looking at security camera footage (overkill in my eyes), and once one of my colleagues told me that they knew it was me, I walked in and confessed to being the so-called criminal mastermind.  I told them what I wrote above. There was nothing malicious about it. It wasn’t personal. I was just trying to do something fun to liven up the school. They essentially told me that they didn’t believe me, that what I did was “incendiary” to the powder keg that was the school, and that I was this leader of some faux rebellion. All of these labels were untrue, and as someone unaware of the greater politics of the school, this was highly offensive to me. I was not sentenced to a punishment at first because they needed to deliberate what was to be done with me. I knew it was an intimidation tactic used to make me feel even more guilty than I already was, but it still worked.

It got worse not too much later. The following week I was called into the secondary principal’s office, a feat that I had never managed to accomplish in all of my years of schooling. Around this time, the app, Vine, was growing in popularity, and me being the young, hip teacher that I was, decided to see what all the fuss was about. I made an account, messed around with it a little bit, didn’t find it too appealing, and eventually stopped posting to it. Once again to all of my older folks reading, here’s what Vine was: an app that allowed you to record up to 6 seconds of video that played on a loop. It found popularity with the kids at the time because it forced people to be as interesting and funny as they possibly could in 6 seconds, the ultimate form of instant gratification. It usually ended in extremely exaggerated comedy bits to go for shock factor. One of my posts used another app known as Dubsmash, which allows you to take lines from TV shows, movies, and songs and lip sync yourself to the audio. This post used a famous line from the movie Wedding Crashers about a mother, some meatloaf, with an expletive thrown in at the end for good measure. I never actually said the words, but I did use the app to make it look like I did and post it on a public account on the Internet.

One of the things they never tell you as a new teacher is that your students become private investigators about every facet of your life. If you’ve got a social media account, they’ll find it. If you have embarrassing videos or pictures, they’ll find those too. They will look and find anything that you have deemed fit to share with the world, no matter what stage of life that you were in. So we’re back in the principal’s office. A student had found that one random video I posted on a social media account that I barely even used. While watching that video, a parent caught him or her watching it, and recorded my recording on the computer and sent it to the principal, looking for an explanation. I couldn’t claim ignorance on this one. I accepted the full blame, took down the account, and wondered why one of my adoring students would rat me out. As someone who represented a Christian school, it was a dumb thing to do, and the best I can offer is that I didn’t think that anyone would think to find me on Vine as it was more of a fringe social media platform compared to Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram. Punishment for this was also pending, but at least the chat that I had with my principal about this was more “learn a lesson from this” instead of “you’re starting a revolution to take down the school.”

A disciplinary hearing was scheduled between me and some of the school board members. It had been a hell of a couple of weeks. I was ready to just admit my mistakes, apologize, and move on. I mentally prepared myself for what they would probably ask and show to me. I knew that they would definitely play back my video that I made to me. That’s just guilt trip 101. And I figured that my faith would probably come into question, because that’s a natural question for Christians to ask other Christians when they make a mistake for some reason. My first prediction came true, and they asked why I made the video in the first place. I gave an honest answer. I thought it was funny. Was it right to think it was funny by Christian standards? No, but I’m human. There are a lot of things that I try not to like or do that would be generally frowned upon. Their response to my answer was somewhat jarring:

“We think that this is a real heart problem.”

First of all, uh, no. Laughing at an inappropriate joke is NOT a heart problem. Is it wrong according to the tenets of my faith? Sure. Is it sinful? Yes. But then say that, and not this absurdly vague cover-all for when someone does something wrong. Secondly, what does that statement even mean? This is classic Christian-ese where “holier than thou” types like to resign themselves to the fact that you are a worse Christian than them and therefore you need to cleanse yourself. Let’s make this clear. No one sin is above another. Your struggles and my struggles are both very, very different, and we may even categorize them differently in terms of how bad they are, but they’re all equal in God’s eyes anyway. Not that I’m absolved in any way because the people who were questioning me had their own shortcomings; I was still definitely wrong in this situation. It’s just that, don’t talk down to me like I’m less than you. Yes you have a higher title than me, yes I did something that warrants discipline, but these things do not mean that I am a “bad Christian,” one of my least favorite phrases that people use.

I didn’t say any of that, because it’s bad form to insult the people who hold your job in their hands, so I kept denying that it was a heart issue and that it was just one of those things young people do. Interestingly enough, I was lectured by each one of the school board members there, cautioning me to change my ways and all that, and I humbly agreed to work more on myself. They had me leave the room for a bit, once again, a good intimidation tactic that, while recognized, still worked. When I came back in, they asked me one of the oddest questions that you would ever ask someone with their job on the line:

“If you were in our shoes, what would you do?”

*Sarcastic Alternate Reality Me*: Well sir, as someone who wants and likes this job, what do you think I would have you do? Yes, please, fire me so that my life turns to tatters.

*Actual Me*: You have every right to let someone go for doing what they did, but as a first year teacher, if you were to let me go after a few mishaps, however large or small they might be, you miss out on the chance to help me grow as both a teacher and a person.

I was glad that Actual Me showed up in that moment, because Sarcastic Me has a habit of sneaking out sometimes and getting me into trouble. My answer seemed to satisfy them and the punishment was handed down. I was originally slated to chaperone the Senior Trip to Disney World. That got taken away from me. In addition to that, I had to prove that I was going to church all throughout the summer (embarrassing that I even had to do this), and go to counseling with the young adult pastor there. The last punishment was amended to me taking a class at the church for people with deep-rooted spiritual issues for 3 nights during the week and then all day on a Saturday. I had to pay for that out-of-pocket. The latter two were obviously to fix my “heart problem” (with no one I worked with actually mentoring me or speaking into my life, because they didn’t bother/didn’t want to ACTUALLY get to know me), and the former was just to make me feel like I lost something. I didn’t care. I was more than willing to trade all of that to keep my job.

For the rest of that year and most of the next year I laid low, mostly because I felt like I had a target on my back. I was walking on eggshells anytime I spoke to someone, I withdrew from most public school settings like the faculty lounge except if I needed to make copies. Other than that, I felt like I really came into my own my second year. I was still ironing out the kinks with classroom management, but I had such a handle on the material that I was teaching, and this was on top of me creating a poetry elective and curriculum and taking on teaching 9th grade having not taught it the year before. I was doing my best to innovate in the classroom, finding some failures and some successes, and I was making sure to choose my words and actions more carefully than I normally would have. I ended up being able to accompany that year’s seniors on their Senior Trip that year (2016) and had one of the best times of my life. I had gotten engaged in late March to marry the woman who is now my wife. Things were trending upward and I had no reason to believe otherwise. I wouldn’t find out until too late that I had ever done anything wrong.

Our school was unique in the fact that every Thursday we would have what we call Chapel. In it would be time set apart from the normal school day where students and teachers could worship together, pray for each other, and listen to a brief message from one of the other teachers, a pastor at the church where the school was situated, or someone brought in from the outside. The last Thursday of the school year before finals week was reserved for passing on words of wisdom, memories, etc. to the graduating seniors that year. It was aptly named “Senior Chapel.” The students graduating that year had been my first class that I had taught, and I felt it important to send them off with some words of my own based on my experiences at the school. I’m including the entire speech here for all to see, completely untouched from the moment it was written, because believe me, I could’ve gone back and changed it to save my job, but my integrity is not to be trifled with. Not to mention I still have to answer to God ultimately anyway. If it ends up proving my accusers right, so be it. Like I said, this isn’t about the people involved and whether I was in the right or they were. It’s about the story needing to be told. Titled “Letter to seniors 2016,” it was saved and printed on Thursday, June 9th, 2016. If anyone needs photo proof that I haven’t doctored it, I’ll gladly take a picture of the timestamp and post it. Any name or abbreviation of the school has been redacted.

Dear Senior Class,

As you near the end of your journey here at [redacted school abbreviation], I can’t help but use an analogy to depict the time that you all have spent here. Try and imagine your time spent at school as if it were a marathon, and all of the different types of people that attempt to run said marathon. You have the people that are super serious about it, and train every day to complete it. You have people that run it with just their natural talent and no training at all. You have people that start it with good intentions, but fall behind despite their hardest efforts. You have people that participate in the race, but walk the whole time, content to just finish the marathon at all. And then you have the people that, upon realizing that a marathon is 26.2 miles, suddenly would much rather try and distract the other runners by having as much fun as possible.

There are some runners that encounter a helping hand that offer them a drink of water that helps them run for just a little bit longer. And still more, there are some that, while running, get a pebble stuck in their running shoes. At first, it’s easy to ignore, because who cares? It’s just a pebble. But the longer that they run, the more of a nuisance the pebble becomes. And now all of a sudden the pebble that was easy to ignore becomes the most prominent issue at hand, and it becomes impossible to take stock of all of the other good things that might be happening around you. Don’t let a small negative overshadow what should have been a world of amazing experiences.

Speaking as a fellow [redacted school abbreviation] graduate, you will look back on everything fondly. Every single time you got in trouble or got yelled at, you will laugh about when telling stories about this weird, quirky school to someone one day. Because the truth of the matter is that you actually love this weird, quirky school and all of its unique inconsistencies. You won’t realize it now, and maybe not even a year from now, but someday you’ll understand what this place was for you. For some of you it was like a second home. For some it was like a first prison.

But if we’re really honest about ourselves (and administration might not like me for this), this place was never about the academics anyway, as much as we try to pretend that it is. More than the grades, this place has always been about forging relationships, with each other, with the faculty, and with God. Long after your GPA has become a whisper in the background of your mind, you will remember all of the people that you experienced life with in the most formative years of your life.

Every senior class believes that they’re the best one to ever grace these halls, including myself. And to some extent, every single one of us has been right. How you remember your time here is just as important as how it actually was. You alone get to decide whether or not you loved your class or hated it. Whether you will shun this school or continue popping back in to see if the people that influenced you the most are still here (sadly, some of them won’t be). Remember that at the end of the day, your time here was never about getting to graduation, it was about the journey that took you there. Because if you live your life only looking ahead to the finish line, you miss out on the experiences and scenery along the way. This is the last time you’ll get to hear me on my soap box. You guys are the first class that I ever taught, and I love you all.

You can clearly see which phrase got isolated. 8 words were the difference between me and employment. I always preached to my students that words have power, and ironically enough (again, if you need me to explain irony, just ask) I saw it firsthand. I walked back to my seat to applause, whoops, yells, and cheers. I had no idea what button had just been pushed. In my head, I had just set the bar very high for whatever speeches were to follow mine since I was the first to go. In retrospect, especially considering my “history,” everyone’s speech probably should’ve been screened beforehand to prevent the wrong thing being said, but you know what they say about hindsight, and if you don’t, you’ll find out one day. In fact, it was a week before I even realized anything might be amiss at all. It wasn’t until someone came up to me and told me, “Wow, those were some strong words up there that you said. I wonder how administration feels about all that,” that I even had any semblance of a clue that something might be wrong. When I asked her what she meant, she responded with something along the lines of, “Don’t get me wrong, what you said was great. It’s just that they might not be too happy that you mentioned them in your speech.” I thought she was crazy.

The speech wasn’t even about them, and the one line that was about them was meant as a tongue in cheek, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, hands-on-hips, shake-your-head sort of appositive parenthetical phrase (sorry for the English teacher words). One of those things where everyone relates to it like, “Well, you know how so and so is…”, and people generally DO know how so and so is, they just don’t say it with a microphone in their hand and half the school in the audience. It’s so blatantly obvious that as a teacher I do care about the progress and achievement of my students, but I refuse to just reduce them to the numbers that average out on a computer screen. I shouldn’t have to qualify that statement. Administration had particularly cracked down on a lot of the tomfoolery that year and was trying extra hard to make us appear competitive academically for the enrollment numbers, and you already know what happens when I think people are taking something too seriously. Who knows honestly if they would have had an issue with it if I hadn’t put those 8 words in there. The message is largely the same with or without them. The main difference is that they now had something to point to and go “SEE! I KNEW HE DIDN’T LIKE US! HE’S STILL TRYING TO TEAR DOWN THE SCHOOL LIKE HE DID BEFORE!” Forget the fact that I had already jumped through hoops for them, started a brand new class, took on a totally new class, led the National English Honor Society, AND was in charge of our school’s Veteran’s Night, arguably the biggest night of the year where the school board president himself told me that he was glad that I was there. 8 words outweighed all the positives that I had done that year. I won’t even get into the fact that they could so easily dispose of me because they already had my replacement working there. But let me get into how they decided to not renew my contract.

Like I mentioned earlier, I was finishing out the year thinking that nothing was actually wrong. I felt good about myself and was looking forward to the following year with a slightly higher salary, the prospects of maybe going to Grad School to get my Master’s degree to satisfy the next step in my teaching certification, and I was going to be getting married. Who wouldn’t be excited? So at the end of the year the faculty, administration, and everyone that works there get together for one final lunch before everyone leaves for the summer. This is also the time when they hand out the contracts for the next year for you to sign (since we’re only technically employed year to year). I practically sauntered down the halls that I had been roaming down since I was 15, feeling like I was on top of the world. I was proud for having gotten through the year without any major lapses in judgment. If only I knew.

I walked around the side of the desk in the main office to the mailboxes where I usually grab the mail related things. Mostly everyone’s was filled with the manilla folders that held the coveted contract. My eyes scanned down to the bottom right, where my last name usually ends up, and I notice there’s something slightly different about it than the rest of the mailboxes. Mine only had a piece of paper in an envelope. On the piece of paper was essentially this (I’m paraphrasing):

“Your employment status is under review.”

Well that was confusing. I somehow managed to sit through the entire lunch without an outburst, but my mind was already working at that point. It flashed back to that conversation that I had with my co-worker a week earlier about the speech. No, I thought. There’s no way that it can be that. And yet…My mind trailed off down the spiral into the abyss that is anxiety. I started to play out conversations in my head, ways to display my incredulity while still being respectful. The superintendent was the one who had left the letter in my mailbox, but that confused me more. We had buried the hatchet from last year, and then if there was something wrong, why would they wait until the last day before summer to tell me? Why wouldn’t someone come to me in person to let me know instead of the coward’s way out, slip a sealed envelope into his mailbox? I’m sure he’ll be okay with that. Right, like I wasn’t going to hunt you down as soon as I read it.

I waited for him to finish up the pomp and circumstance of the end of the year superlatives for the tenured teachers, and then went and met him back in his office, glass windows displaying the occupants and furniture inside because, according to him, it displayed transparency. If only he could have been as transparent as his office (sorry, that was Sarcastic Me). I took out the letter and asked what it was all about. At first he tried to work his way around the real issue:

“Well as per what happened last year, we’re just reviewing your status with us to make sure everything is good.”

“Yeah, but didn’t I already serve my consequences already? We shook hands in this office in October to put it to bed. What’s really going on here? Did I do something wrong?”

“Well the words that you said at Senior Chapel were not exactly beneficial to you and your employment status.”

*I tried to hold back my eyes rolling. I really did* “Is that honestly it? You seriously disagree with the things that I said up there?”

“Well you drew a line in the sand up there when you separated administration from faculty,” he said projecting his insecurites and issues onto me.

“IT WAS A JOKE. The speech wasn’t even about you guys. It was about the kids and their relationships within the school.”

“Yeah well…” And so it went. I had to get up out of the room to keep myself from saying even worse things that I would regret even more. On the way out he said something about how we would meet in a few weeks to give a final discussion on my employment status. I sat in my car for a good 20 minutes debating whether or not I would go back in there and just burn every bridge that I had, scorch the earth because I knew they had already made up their minds about me, but I didn’t because I have such a good heart. In the end I left and told my fiancee everything that happened. I had gotten past the events of the year before and they still were using me as a scapegoat for this invisible rebellion that was somehow destroying the school.

I waited 3 weeks until they met with me. It was rescheduled once within that timeframe, because, you know, not like this is an important thing at all. I had one of my colleagues sit in with the meeting with me. He was a former superintendent of a Christian school, a history teacher, and just a great guy besides that. He wasn’t allowed to speak on my behalf, but it made me feel good knowing that there would at least be a witness for my martyrdom.

When I got in there, I walked in all smiles. I absolutely would not betray any feeling to them. I didn’t want them to know how much it bothered me that they would really be that vain and egotistical to make something that was supposed to be about the students into something about them. I pushed it out of my head. I sat in the waiting area and prayed. I prayed for God’s will. I prayed for the right words to say. I prayed that I would have the courage to do right by me. I don’t remember what else I prayed, but I prayed a lot. They probably prayed too, but I’m not too sure on the rules of prayer between two opposing parties. Ultimately what was meant to happen would happen; it was just a matter of accepting it or not.

I think I sat for a good half hour before I was allowed to go in. Intimidation tactics, remember? You know that feeling you have when you know the worst news is coming, and you’re about to cry but you hold it back and try to just focus on breathing? That’s what it was like. They dropped it on me early. It had been decided by a disciplinary committee that consisted of I don’t even know who. They would have only been going off of the superintendent’s word, which is based on what he heard in my speech that one day over a month ago. They didn’t have any transcript of what I had said. I had the only copy, but when you run a private school you can make up your own reasons. I wouldn’t be allowed to teach there anymore. I wasn’t fired, just that they decided not to renew my contract, which is what I tell the interviewers at the new jobs I try to get, but I don’t think they believe it anymore than I did. My bravado held up like a balloon that was just popped but you keep trying to blow air into it.

The best part was their reasoning. They told me that between the previous year and this year (2016) I hadn’t shown enough growth in maturity to warrant me to work there. Well what do you even say to that? If you tell me you’re letting me go because I’m immature, then isn’t everything I say to the contrary just proving that I’m immature? I was backed into a corner, but I did try to argue my case, I’m proud to say. At my resistance, they brought up other minor instances to prop up their faulty case: you give into the kids’ foolishness (whatever that means), Miss Special Education Director thought you were too curt in your email responses (she never contacted me to mediate the issue, so I had no idea there was anything wrong), there were lessons that you taught that were weak academically (they told us we could experiment with different projects freely and see what worked), you got mad at Secondary Principal (also in the meeting) when you went away on Senior Trip and you came back and your sub didn’t cover any of your plans, we knew you were a little edgy and on the line when we hired you and it just didn’t work out, and it just kept going. Forget the fact that no one tried to mentor me, a second year teacher still learning the right things to do, but anyone can see that they were just trying to get me out through any means necessary. When I brought up the relationship thing in the speech, because I was the only one who had the complete copy of the speech, Secondary Principal says to me the most appalling thing that has ever been said to me, and kind of made me glad I didn’t have to go back there:

“If you want to build relationships, go work in a youth group.”

So you’re telling me that as a leader in a CHRISTIAN school and as a teacher that relationships aren’t important in the classroom? You really want to marry yourself to that ideal? At that, I didn’t even want to say anything anymore. I felt sick, I was on the verge of tears, and I just wanted to get to the point in time when they wouldn’t be in charge of my career anymore. As I left, I looked the superintendent dead in the eyes, shook his hand, and told him this:

“I really hope that you fix the school.”

I don’t know the effect that it had on him, but I’m glad that I at least said that. In the following days, after processing it for a little bit, I made it known what had happened without going into details at all. The outpouring that followed from students were the kindest and most heartbreaking things I’ve ever had to read. The love I received from most, and one student who felt oppressed by me that I managed to resolve things with, was incredible. It would be too much to list them all here, as this is already becoming much longer than what I had initially intended, but they were numerous and sincere. When I went back to gather my things from my classroom there was a group of about 15 that showed up to help me. Afterwards we went to a diner and they paid for mine and my fiancee’s food. I tried to protest, but they wouldn’t let me pay. It was the hardest thing that I ever had to do. I was kicked out from a place that I had called home for years, told I wasn’t good enough for their standards, and here was a group of students proving to me that I had actually done something right. Most teachers don’t get that luxury until years down the line. I was fortunate to know that I at least did a good job with them.

That feeling is still there, fleeting, but there. I substitute teach now, so there’s less consistency in who I see everyday, but I see it in the eyes of the students when they see that I’m going to be teaching their class that day. The joy, the excitement, the passion. I think that’s what makes me most upset in the end. I never got into teaching for me or administration. I’m not doing my job to please them, and somewhere along the line the message gets lost. Teaching was and always is about the kids. If you make it about anything else then you fail. I still believe this wholeheartedly, and it’s this thought that I hold onto as I continue to pray for a full-time position and a classroom to call my own one day. Things have been a struggle financially, but somehow we paid for a wedding without a full time job, and now we survive (barely) while I work 3 jobs and my pregnant wife works 1. It isn’t a glamorous life, but that’s why I wonder what might have happened if things were different.

In all this time, God hasn’t left us yet. There are some days that are harder than others when it comes to believing that He’ll come through for us, but we still hold onto Him. One day I’ll be restored, and they’ll have a hell of a time prying me from what rightfully belongs to me.

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