When you decide to become a teacher you sign up to be constantly empathetic, understanding, patient and nurturing. But there is no disclaimer that when you sign up to be a teacher you might lose your right to be human yourself.
I have been a high school English teacher for the past 7 years. For the first 4 years, I worked in a Title I public school, and I loved it. I moved to a private school due to the commute, but after a year in private, I realized my calling was helping those in Title I schools so I transferred again to a school with a rough reputation. I worked hard to fulfill all my duties as a teacher during one of the craziest teaching years ever (global pandemic) and I formed wonderful relationships with my students.
On April 14th, 2022 my life partner of 5 years passed away in front of me from a tragic accident. I gave him CPR, called the ambulance, and did everything in my power to keep the love of my life alive.
This was a Tuesday night. I called my principal from the hospital at 4 AM explaining what had happened. We were still under the impression that he might survive. He did not. The guttural scream that came out of me when I found out he was gone was enough to wake my neighbors. They rushed to my door and I explained the horrific news.
The next few days were a blur of screaming, crying, and experiencing more pain than I thought was possible for the human body to experience. I missed the rest of that school week and tried to come back to work on Monday. Bereavement in my state is only 3 days.
Because of the nature of his death, I was immediately diagnosed with Complex PTSD. It was becoming clear that the environment I was working in was more of a detriment for me than a distraction. I had panic attacks daily and could barely make it through an entire day. I would cry during my work periods. No one ever came to check on me.
Two weeks after his tragic and sudden death I was feeling incredibly depressed and did not show up to work that Wednesday or Friday. I should have called, but I was paralyzed with grief and could not perform basic functions.
I was awakened on Friday to find the school social worker at my door doing a “well check” on me.
That following Monday I showed up for work. I had seen my therapist and psychiatrist over the weekend and was feeling like I could handle work. I walked into the building on time and was ready to take on the rest of the year. We had 15 days left – including testing. The day was hard but I worked my contracted hours.
My final class of the day thought it would be funny to scream obscenities at the top of their lungs. They were well aware of my Complex-PTSD and noise sensitivity. I chalked it up to them being teenagers and made it through despite being visibly shaken and upset. After dismissal, I checked my email and saw I had a meeting with my principal and administrator scheduled for that day.
I closed up my room, wrote the next day’s date on the board, grabbed my purse and lunch bag, and locked my door. I even left my coffee cup and favorite pen on my desk. I would be back tomorrow. I had no idea what was about to happen.
I sat in the lobby crying while waiting for the principal to call me in. I wiped my tears away and sat down waiting for the meeting to start. During the meeting, I was told that I needed to resign. I was in shock. We had 15 days left. My principal explained if I resigned I would not lose my certification and I would be eligible for rehire. I was told by my principal that if I didn’t take this route I would most likely be terminated. She had reported my two “no show” days from the previous week to my superintendent and said I was knocking on the door of termination.
I was sobbing. I didn’t want to leave. All these questions started circling through my head, but there was no time. I couldn’t be terminated. I had worked too hard to simply sign my Masters’ Certification away.
My principal then walked me through how to resign. My administrator sat there watching. I felt like I was hit by a bus. I lost the love of my life suddenly without warning and just 2 ½ weeks later I lost my career suddenly and without warning.
I walked out of the office realizing I didn’t get to say goodbye to my students. All my personal effects, binders of lesson plans, unit plans, files, notes, and office supplies were still at school. It felt surreal.
I called my mother and she assured me that I did the only thing I could do to preserve my certificate. We made plans to clean out my classroom together. About 12 hours after officially clicking the “resign” button, I got an email from HR that said I had 24 hours to send them medical documentation of my Complex-PTSD or they would escalate the issue to the state where they would then go after my certificate.
I wrote my principal pleading for help because there wasn’t enough time to get the documentation from my therapist, who was out of the country and unreachable.
I never got a response.
I explained to HR what my principal said about keeping my certification but it was no use. It had been 24 hours so my case had already been escalated to the state.
Now I am stuck in limbo waiting for the state to receive my medical documentation in order to keep my certificate. I have no health insurance when I need it the most for mental health care. I am suffering a secondary loss by losing my career. I am crushed and even more depressed. As if losing my life partner wasn’t hard enough, now I am facing a job search in the middle of my grieving period.
So the lesson I learned was not to bring our humanity to work. We must find a way to shove our feelings down during contracted hours because we aren’t allowed to be human ourselves.
This story was submitted to Teacher Misery, but the author has requested to remain anonymous.
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