The Indignant Teacher’s Unfortunate, Yet Enlightening, Experience
Last Thursday it rained in Dubai, as I wrote about in my last post…it was a day unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in the U.S., and in more ways than one…
For those of you who didn’t read my previous post…We had an early dismissal at school thanks to the rain and lack of drainage systems on the roads here. By the time we got home, the rain had stopped, and the sun returned. After writing my post and doing some food shopping, I decided to take the boys for a walk around our compound. We were gone for a couple of hours, and headed back to our flat to make supper.
Although the sun was out, the tile walkways in and around the compound were still wet. Halfway home, I slipped – likely thanks to the flip flops I was wearing – and fell. The pain I’d felt was indescribable. The man who lived in the flat where I fell immediately came outside and told me he was calling an ambulance. I told him I was sure I was fine, and went to stand up. He informed me that he was a doctor, and that I had broken my ankle. It was only then that I looked down at my leg, and saw the sole of my foot looking back at me, and the bone sticking out. At that point, I think I may have started to go into shock, because everything that happened afterwards remains fuzzy.
When I got to the hospital I expected to be put into a cast and sent on my way. The x-rays showed that I had managed to dislocate the joint, and break all three bones in my ankle, and it would require surgery to put it all back together. I was told I would need to remain in the hospital for likely a week. I tried to explain to the doctors that this was not an option, as my husband was back in the States for another five days, and I had no one to watch my children, who are 9, 7, and 6…I was sick about them being alone. While they were being cared for by our neighbors across the hall, the language barrier between them and the boys concerned me greatly.
For some reason – likely the excruciating pain coupled with the mass doses of morphine I received upon arrival to the hospital – t didn’t occur to me to notify anyone from school until the next day. I was taken into surgery at 7:30 Friday morning, and when I came to early that afternoon, I sent my principal and head of PYP an email to tell them what had happened.
This is the point I am trying to make…moments after doing so, my cell phone started ringing. The concern I was met with by my superiors was absolute, genuine, and unlike anything I could have imagined. Both came to see me at the hospital at various times, making the fact that my family was halfway across the world feel much less disheartening, and making me feel not so all alone here.
There was no concern from my administrators that the government would be coming into school soon to investigate, nor how this crisis would impact that reality; the only concern was for that of my well being, and that of my boys. The principal sent an email to the staff, explaining what had happened, and asking that anyone who could help out with the boys, would. I was in a complete state of shock by the level of compassion I had felt from my colleagues, who truly stepped up to the plate to help out, no matter the sacrifice.
My good friend, Andrea, also a former Boston Public Schools teacher, came and stayed with the boys Friday and Saturday, until she had to return to her own home two hours away, for the onset of the work week. Here that is Sunday through Thursday, and I was especially worried about getting the boys to and from school – and everything that comes with that – until my husband returned. I knew I’d be in the hospital until at the very least Monday, and so I was worried sick.
There was no need. On Sunday, my PYP coordinator came to my apartment to get the boys ready for, and to, school. The following day it was a teacher in the SEN department. Everyone made sure they were fed, in bed, uniforms washed and ready, had lunches to eat at school, a safe place to go afterwards, and so on. I was in a state of shock. This was truly unlike anything I had ever experienced in the States.
Why? Because in the U.S. all we (administrators, teachers, etc) care about is the test scores. Nothing more. I remembered back to a couple of years ago when, one October, I came down with pneumonia and missed a week of work. When I had returned, my principal sent me home for another week, pretending she was “worried” and wanted to make sure I was “ready” to return. I found out when I did that she had been grooming a first year substitute teacher for my position because she thought it would be “better for the kids” because I had “health issues”. That defeated me. (for the record, I ultimately remained in my position, but the damage was done).
What has happened here in Dubai did not defeat me. If anything, it has motivated me even more to be the best that I can be – to do the best I can for my school and the students in it. I was told by the surgeon to stay out of work for at least one month and given an absence note through December 23rd. Regardless of where I am in my life, I am not someone who is willing (or able) to sit still and do nothing for very long, nor do I intend to now. When I informed my principal of the doctor’s orders, as well as my feelings about them, she told me to take as much time as I needed, and when I was ready, I could return for a limited basis as long as necessary. Because I am now out of the classroom and in the position of SEN coordinator, much of my responsibility is paperwork, so initially I will plan to go in for a couple/few hours and work from home during the others. Having this suggested by my principal was, again, something I found too surreal for words.
Every day I read on Facebook, Twitter, and other edu-blogger’s pages the most horrifying stories told by teachers in America about how corporate reform is affecting their lives, and with each one I grow more grateful for having the opportunity I do today. America’s teachers are being abused by the reformers each and every day. The children are being abused as well. Corporate reform, Common Core, high stakes tests, and the sort of teaching and learning that has grown from it all have abducted the children’s rights to acquire the education they deserve, and surely made it impossible for any of them to develop a love of learning that is so crucial. Students as young as preschoolers now are being expected to perform academically in ways that they are not even biologically able to, as Mary Calamia so powerfully explained in her testimony to New York legislators last month. As a result, many of them are facing psychological and emotional trauma, that are, in some cases, severe.
And there is nothing the teachers can do to stop this from happening. Worse, they are being beaten down by their superiors who, as I said earlier, care about nothing but the test scores. There is not one teacher in America who can’t say this maltreatment doesn’t extend beyond the doors of their classrooms. It is impacting their own personal lives – and their own families, surely – each and every day. It is inhumane, cruel, abusive, and shameful. I lived it; my own mother lived it; every American teacher I know lived it, too. And so many continue to…I suspect it’s because the cost of fighting against it, they think, is too great. And maybe it is. But what they need to realize is that the cost of not fighting against it will certainly prove to be even greater in the end.
These past two months since moving to Dubai – and most especially this past week – have given me so much clarity about everything that is happening in the American public schools. They have given me clarity as to what education is really all about, what good – no, great – teaching and learning is. As someone who began her career during the pre-NCLB era, this was not something I didn’t know myself, but it is definitely something I had long since forgotten…or had been forced to forget, I suppose.
Today, on this Thanksgiving Day, I am grateful for being one of the lucky American teachers who doesn’t have to live life succumbing to the horrific impact of Bill Gates’s tyranny any longer. I am grateful that my boys will not have their own lives destroyed by these corporate reformers who don’t know the first thing about educating children. I am grateful for administrators and colleagues who realize that life happens, and understand that the best thing we, as educators, can do for one another is to help each other grow and thrive as such. I am grateful for being in a place where teachers are guided as to what concepts need to be covered in a certain grade, or within a certain time frame, but trusted enough to be able to use our own skills, abilities, talents, and creative passion to achieve what’s necessary.
In my opinion, good teachers are not made; they are born. Any good teacher will tell you that there is but one single motivating factor that gets us out of bed in the morning – to help our students learn. Today I am especially grateful for the opportunity to be in a position where I can once again do just that. And I intend to do it well. I only hope my American colleagues will someday be able to say the same, and not have to travel halfway across the world to do so. Happy Thanksgiving, America!!