Jun 10, 2013

Just So You Know, It was Really, Really Hard

I survived another year of junior high.

Let's recap my years of junior high, shall we? Yes, we shall.

The first time was in the late 70's. I was awkward, gangly, and uncertain of myself. I began in adolescence. It took three years to finish this chapter of junior high but I made it. My reward? High school.

My second stint in junior high was in my twenties. I was not yet completely exposed to the politics of junior high faculty and was greatly traumatized for years afterward. Reader's Digest version is simply that a certain teacher was going to the brand new University of Phoenix, Utah based. She was going to be a counselor. She was crazy and she wanted my job. She terrorized me the entire year. By April, she resorted to a thinly veiled threat of knowing who to call to find out the price of a regular hit man, quoting the price to me ($50,000, according to her), and flippantly remarking that she had the money. Even though I only worked with her one year, I kept track of her for the next 20.

Now I'm back in junior high. My third time. It's been a living, breathing hell. My colleagues hate me. My administrator reacts whenever their hatred gets all riled up and complicates matters. I then spend an inordinate amount of time justifying myself and explaining myself and the overall joy of school counseling is draining from my soul.

The crux of the matter is that there is a deep-seeded resentment, particularly by one of my colleagues, that I work part time when they do not. Not that they can not, they can. They will not because of the deep cut in their pay were they to do so.  Rather than honor my part time contract, they have accused me of not carrying my weight, tell on me whenever they believe I am not following the rules, go to one of their offices, close the door, backbite, get worked up, and then, as a united threesome, take their grievances to the administrator in charge of us.

Here's the thing. They are wrong. But they don't see that they are wrong. When I explain that my part time contract means I do half what they do, I am verbally pummeled and told to step up and stop trying to weasel out of my duties. Then they run to the administrator who hears the squeakiest wheel and acts on it. This last time, she made some decisions that were ethically questionable and legally wrong.

I have a friend and former colleague who has a daughter with a severe case of spina bifida. She chose a family doctor during her pregnancy and was incredibly impressed with her devotion and knowledge of spina bifida. It's not that she knew more about the malady before her daughter was born but she was devoted enough to her patients that she educated herself and listened to Sandy when she talked. She gave Sandy her home phone number and ordered to call her at any time if she needed her. She's met her at Primary Children's Hospital even when she doesn't have physician rights. She chose to keep her practice at part time. She took a lot of flak from her colleagues about it. There were political wars but she would not budge. Her first priority was and is her children. When the politics got too hot, she quit the practice she was in and is currently taking a break.

So here is my rant on behalf of all women who have chosen to work part time, particularly those in the professional fields. What we have chosen to do is to accept half of the salary our full time colleagues enjoy but we do not, I repeat, DO NOT work half the time. We work far, far more than that. Although I have enjoyed colleagues that have respected my choice in the past few years, this is not always the case. Like this year. When colleagues are passive/aggressive and schedule us during our personal and family time, overload us with work they ought to be doing themselves, or wasting our precious time by creating situations where we have to "problem solve" with them, they are being incredibly disrespectful.

What they don't see and will not acknowledge are some sacrifices they are not willing to make. If they were willing to do so, they'd already do it. Here they are:
  • Half salary. Hear that? HALF. I am earning HALF of what they are earning.
  • Less money per hour. I acknowledge that half contract really means three quarters. They acknowledge three quarters and regularly schedule me for that extra time.
  • Less credibility and status/respectability. 
  • The loss of opportunity for affordable group health insurance.
  • Professional stall. There are far less opportunities for career advancement for the woman who is openly, by choosing a part time position, putting her family before work. Everybody else is doing it with a full time salary; taking off early to take a child to the doctor's office, sneaking away for a school activity and never letting their supervisor know. We part - timers take all kinds of crap for that kind of thing AND a pay cut.
  • Half salary. It's worth repeating.
Just so you know, I did take the most recent debacle over my supervisor's head. In all honesty, I should have done it months ago. My first clue should have been their reaction to my statement, "My husband is having is having brain surgery and I will not be able to work all day, teaching in the classroom as you have scheduled me to do so. You do know I work part-time, don't you?" Just so you know, husband having brain surgery is not a free pass. Getting those three days off work was met with open rage and hostility by them.

So as I sat, wasting another day of work, in my supervisor's office, processing it all over again, I asked her to please publicly establish, support and publish my schedule so there is NO confusion. She just wanted to avoid that. Phhhhhffff. She later did send an email that established my regular schedule. By the way, the most recent debacle included my own confusion over my schedule which was a call to arms by my team. Again, I was not really confused, they were unable to communicate with me that they wanted me to be at work more than I am paid to be. THAT is where Fair Labor Laws come in. But I didn't have to invoke that threat. Nooooo. My unpredictability (which is in response to their scheduling me) was the source of my supervisor's upcoming rant. In beautiful, unchoreographed manner, one of my colleagues stood up, mid-meeting, five hours before the end of the work day, and announced she had a previous engagement. She left. I almost laughed out loud, clapping my hands in glee. But I did not.

And my supervisor informed me that this year has been the most peaceful year in the counseling office since she's been at the school. I dropped my head into my hands and wailed. Seriously? This is the norm? How is this acceptable behavior?

And that, my dear friend, is junior high. The grown-up style.

I'm going to go bury my head in my pillow and say naughty words.

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