Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Shine your light






Public School

Tessa was in a state of suspended disbelief and sometimes shock her first year teaching in the public schools. The terrain was completely different than she had in other academic work environments. She was unsure how to navigate.

Her classroom adjoined another where English and marketing classes were held. The main instructor, Maria, had a small office space between the rooms where she spent her planning time. 

Tessa said hello and tried to get to know her neighbor, but it never led to much until one bad day following an incident where Tessa showed how green she was. 

Chocolate Alcohol

After the holiday break, a student showed up with a small box of candy. To be precise, it was chocolate in the form of small bottles containing liquor.

Tessa knew the student and, therefore, knew he truly didn’t get that he had done anything wrong. She took the candy away from him and stored it in a place away from the other students.

A busy day turned to a busy week. Tessa forgot about the tiny alcohol-laden chocolate bottles. That was until a fire alarm went off due to a malfunctioning microwave in Tessa’s wing of the school. The assistant principal was checking all the classrooms and stumbled upon the contraband.

The next morning, she and her neighbor were called in to see the principal who held-up the box of “candies” and asked, “Do either of you know about this?” 

Tessa shared her story of how the tiny chocolate bottles ended up in the storage area. “Do you realize this is an alcohol infraction?” Tessa told the truth – she didn’t think about it being a serious offense since the bottles were so small and the student wasn’t known to deeply reflect on his actions. She believed removing it was the right action, but to satisfy the principal, agreed to be more careful in the future.

The Conversation

After that incident, Tessa had her first full conversation with her neighbor. Maria shared the secret of how she survived public school, and gave Tessa her first piece of valuable advice, “Trust no one”. Now she understood why she never formed a friendship with her neighbor. 

Maria went on to say that after ten years there, she only confided in one other person. She told Tessa to watch out. She also said she had been observing her. “You have a good rapport with your students. They seem to be learning. You seem energetic, enthusiastic - uh…well…and attractive. They’re gonna try to knock you down,” but didn't specify who "they" were.

After the incident with the chocolate and a couple of others that displayed her inexperience, Tessa became a target just as Maria predicted. She was bullied by the assistant principal first and others to follow. 

There are a lot of bullies in the public school environment and I am referring to staff, teachers and administration. A lot of talented teaching professionals get run off by them yearly. On a deeper level, people there, and in other toxic work places, will knock you down because they can’t bare to have your light outshine their flicker.

Tessa realized that people were talking badly about her to prevent others from liking her and noticing her efforts which, for the most part, were successful.

Life Lesson

Tessa understood that she either needed to be tougher to remain or leave. She cared about her students and she loved teaching them, but the environment was stifling to someone who was open, warm and creative. She left public school teaching. Maria left the following year.

The sad truth is insecure people are out there in force. They will deliberately knock you down behind your back and to your face. Their objective is to make sure you stay hidden so you don’t remind them of what they believe they don’t have, or that their own light has dwindled to a mere flicker.


IN THE END, both chose to keep their inner light burning strong. 

How do you shine brightly?







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