I fired my bosses…

9 Nov

2020 has been a year full of ups, downs and loopty loops in between. Although, I cannot say personally that I have had it harder than others. I still enjoyed having a job with a livable salary, a healthy family and a roof over our heads that I knew would not be taken from us. The most important thing was that I had my faith and the ability to hear God’s still small voice, right when I needed to hear it. So, when things continued to go sideways from the year before in my professional world, I knew at some point, a change would have to take place. I have a MA in education, taught abroad, became a teacher to ensure that all students had an opportunity to learn, grow and have options for their future. I. Love. Teaching. So why did I quit the profession altogether? Did my reasons for becoming a teacher not matter anymore? On the contrary, they mattered even more over time, but I realized it couldn’t come at the expense of my well-being.

The pandemic forced schools to close and for teachers to transition into a role that although we were not prepared for, we adapted to quite well. We still created lesson plans and turned them into digital lessons, we still graded work, but thankfully they were also digital, cutting the work down a bit to be more manageable than all the paperwork we had to lug home before. Things were going good.

The new school year 2020-2021 soon came upon us with a lot of questions of how we were going to continue. Meanwhile, teachers across the country, myself included are scrambling to continue to create engaging content for students to learn digitally until we returned face to face in the classroom. Teachers are a rare breed. We tend to do our best work when we collaborate with other like minds. I too indulged in that practice. However, this time, I reached out on social media to pick the brains of my brilliant teacher friends on a lesson I was working on. I received some awesome ideas to add to with I had created, but then the hatchet dropped.

Three days into our new digital school year, I was called into the principal’s office with an alleged complaint (which I was not shown) from a parent claiming they did not feel I was competent enough to teach their child since I had to reach out on social media to receive help for a lesson. I was told that I had embarrassed the school, which was a violation of my contract. I was also told that they were receiving concerns from my colleagues about my mental health. This was a lie as I had not spoken to anyone about whether or not I was feeling unstable. We had been out of school for five months, we barely communicated with each other since it was technically summer.

Since the year prior, I had felt that the school was going into a direction that I just did not fit into. Students and parents were given priority over a teacher. Even if a student was being physically or verbally abusive, there were no consequences. I complained numerous times that I was unable to effectively teach because of the misbehavior of a few. During the summer months, a lower grade position opened. I applied for it and was turned down with the explanation that they would not be able to easily fill my 7th grade position. That is when I knew I had a proverbial bulls-eye on my back.

I and others during the last school year privately exchanged concerns that we would be targeted by administration to be let go so that they could bring in teachers who fit their mold. When I started being what I would call, bullied, in terms of more was being demanded from me than my counterparts, I knew I was the target of the next big chop. So when I was called into the office and told those allegations, I was given 30 days to “get myself together” or I would be fired. There were stipulations in place for a development plan. I signed the document and simply said thank you.

For the next two weeks, I was forced to return to my classroom to teach virtually so I could be watched. In that time, I was forced to pay the school for my son to sit in a classroom with a monitor to do his school work virtually. My lesson plans had to be written almost word for word in my engagement with the students and what I expected their responses to be, I was supposed to meet with my curriculum coach once per week to go over my lesson plans and meet with the Dean of Academics once per week to show my weekly schedule. Though I met with the curriculum coach and it felt like a whole interrogation and belittling session, the Dean of Academics never scheduled our meeting until I insisted in order to meet their requirements. She met with me for 20 minutes…once.

Meanwhile, administration never had the intention of keeping me on, even though I was one out of 2 teachers whose state test scores increased greatly from the year prior. They started holding interviews for my position immediately. Their demeanor, when around me changed. I was treated like the village idiot during staff meetings. I was referred to by the Dean of Academics as a “hot mess.” I still don’t know why for sure.

So the week of August 24th, 2020, I felt an unction to draft and submit my resignation letter. I was not welcomed nor appreciated by the administration at that school. If you were not a part of their clique, you were treated as an outcast. On August 28th, I woke up full of dread. I had drafted my resignation letter days earlier, but was too scared to submit it. I didn’t want to put the school in a position of having to quickly find someone to fill my position, and I did not want to put my family under financial strains. But that morning, I kept hearing a small voice saying, “submit the letter now. Submit the letter now.”

After hours of lamenting and stressing, I managed to finish teaching that Friday’s lesson, packed up all of my personal belongings, books, small items of decor, gave a colleague some personal furniture, turned in all of my technology, and went into the office to withdraw my son. On my way out the door, all of admin were in the lobby setting up for a virtual book pickup. I greeted them with a hello, and walked out. An hour or so later, I hit the submit button and emailed my resignation letter effective immediately. Instantaneously, I received a call from the principal. I ignored it. Then, she text me, so I blocked her. I opened the staff group chat. She immediately kicked me out, but a former colleague took a screen shot and showed a simple message saying, “Esther is no longer a teacher at…, the next message you receive from me will be to introduce her replacement.” All within an hour.

I am so happy that I FIRED my school before they could do me the injustice, as they did two other teachers in the span of two years prior. The moral of this story is, the next professional opportunity, pick your boss, not the job. Pick someone who shares your vision in the field that you are pursuing, someone who not only speak with integrity, but lives integrity. Surround yourself with a group of colleagues who will help pull you up, just as you would pull them up, not ones who will tear you down because you don’t fit their mold.

Here is to growth, confidence, and the pursuit of bigger and better things.

Top 5 Things I Can’t Understand About China

4 Mar

Every country has their little knick knack patty whack things that are incomprehensible. But coming from America to a “developing” country like China, you will find an innumerable amount of things that makes your head turn while the flies shop around for a parking spot in your slack-jawed mouth. I decided to narrow it down to the top 10 things that almost caused me to swallow some flies while scratching my head in confusion.

1. Why is water, whether it be to clear out rain water or the dirty water used to “wash” the streets, swept with brooms made with spaced out sticks?

stick broomsI mean, the water just runs right through it!

2. What’s the big idea about wearing your winter pajamas to the market, KFC or even line dancing….with socks and heels…YES! HEELS!!pjs

3. Why do people allow their children to squat in the middle of the sidewalk to take a dump? Really!? They don’t even have scoop it up sometimes!pooping

4. Sweepers NEVER stop sweeping the sidewalk dust…even when people are walking by! By the time you get to work in the morning, you’ll be covered with three layers of fine dust, enough to powder a donut. sweepers

 

5. Why in the world does one avoid spitting in the bushes but spews a big glob of green and yellow crap right in the path of walkers?! Wreaks havoc on a person’s sanity trying to stay upright while walking, especially on a rainy day.spit

Despite all of those things…I still love this beautiful land as if I were born there. I suppose marrying  into a Chinese family, the Bible proves right for every nation, I feel like we have actually become one…one person with the same loves and the same dreams! A profound love for this country and a dream to one day return there, whether it be for a visit, or to stay…forever. I’ll learn to adapt.

Making room for #3!!! It’s a girl!

4 Mar

It’s official! We are adding to our brood! This time is different, though. No more “snips and snails and puppy dog tails!”—-We are bringing home a “sugar and spice and everything nice” kinda girl!

BabyGirl2016

BabyGirl

She is already making her mark in our lives. All the boys are nervous in our home. Big brother #1 is planning how he will keep the boys at bay, brother #2 is contemplating whether or not he should share his toys since she’s already pushed him out of his room.

Daddyinaction

Daddy? Well, daddy is in a frenzy getting things prepared for the “great coming!” 87 days and counting!

Hard to believe, I am going to be pushing a double stroller, thinking about bows and dollhouses. My dream as a mother has finally come true! The question is, once this dream has been accomplished…what next? I certainly don’t think I could take another 9-month physical blow. Babygirl really did a number on me.

This has been my most painful pregnancy out of all three. Some people (namely my mom) keep telling me it is because it is a girl this time. I tend to believe them as everything has been the total opposite of my experience with my two boys. This baby, whom we shall call “Hannah-Marie,” made her presence known through an almost violent bout of morning sickness, which lasted way too long and an inability to eat nor gain weight. In my 7th month now, I have gained a total of 2 pounds…yes, 2! Mind you, I am not complaining…ok, I am a bit. Only because I am afraid she is not gaining the necessary body weight she needs. I am, however, also rejoicing in the fact that she is making me look good! Right now, I am feeling content. Come what may, I am thankful for this experience and can’t wait to hold my little princess Hannah-Marie!20160201_185626

Study Abroad…dare to dream!

4 Mar

During my time living in China, I encountered so many students dreaming of studying abroad…specifically, gaining admission into a university in the good ole’ U.S of A. Countless times I was tempted to ask them, “What do you really know about the U.S. educational system? Why is it so important for you to study there?” But I didn’t. I didn’t ask because who was I to trample on someone’s dream? Who was I?

I was a dreamer too. I once dreamed of studying abroad as well. I wanted to broaden my horizon and see what life had to offer outside of the United States. Alas, I couldn’t. You see, my parents were poor immigrants from the poorest country in the western hemisphere. My dad had a second-grade education and my mom, well, my mom probably had less. I was the first in my family to go to college and graduate. At a steep price. I guess the thought of that steep price is what made me want to question those students about their burning desire to study abroad. Clearly, studies have shown that it is in fact worth the “steep price” to attend college in the United States, but first, let’s look at what students in China have to look forward to in order to continue their education in their homeland.

In China, students are given an exam during their senior year that will determine what they should be in life. Their whole future hinges on this one test called the Gaokao. Those who score high will attend university, but in a field that the test determines matches their aptitude and personality, while the unfortunate ones who score low, will never see the bland walls of a college classroom. In fact, they just might be lucky enough to pick up trash on the streets or if their parents can afford, they will go into trading, opening up a small shop selling clothes or nicknacks. Many cannot even get hired to work in the fast food industry without a college degree.

Studying abroad can provide many opportunities for global competition and personal growth. That’s why so many want to break out and have the experience. Not only does their future depend on it, but the future of their aging parents as well.  According to a study survey published in 2012 by IES Abroad, a company dedicated to providing study abroad services for students worldwide, “97% of study abroad students found employment within 12 months of graduation when only 49% of college graduates found employment in the same period.” More than half of their graduate counterparts and at a higher salary. The survey of IES Study Abroad Alumni went on to show that, 84%  of alumni felt that studying abroad “helped them build valuable job skills, such as language proficiency, cultural training, tolerance for ambiguity, adaptability, and communication.”

55f19c2dc3e01-imageClearly there is something to be had with studying abroad. In the summer of 2015, a year after leaving China and returning back to America, I received no less than 5 correspondences from former students eager to find out more information on how to qualify for studying abroad in America. So, I became an independent consultant on the matter. I started providing oral English tutoring online as well as guiding their research on schools and their policies for applying as an international student. There are many steps that students must take and many hurdles to get over before the process can be completed. One of which is passing the TOEFL or TESOL exam.

Those 2 exams have proven to be quite a hurdle for my students. A few of them had to take and re-take these exams more than once before contacting me. Others, tired of trying have given up. All I can say to those who wish to study abroad is not to give up. Obtaining a college degree in America may not hold all the prestige that it once did…for an American national, but as an international student, taking back that degree to your country will still prove invaluable! Happy studying!

 

My Reverse Culture Shock…I am struggling to deal!

14 May

I never took stock of what culture shock could do to someone until I was able to compare my culture shock in China to my reverse culture shock to when I returned stateside. In fact, experiencing culture shock in China brought out the anger in me. I would complain about the way people stared or laughed so openly at me. They would come up and stroke my arms (which are super bare…yes, I mean not one hair) and claim how soft my skin was…without permission. Once, I was asked if they could lick my arm to see if I tasted like chocolate…ummm YUCK! and No Thanks!

Oh! almost lost my train of thought….ok, so in the past 10 months I have experienced such extreme depression, which I have never shared with anyone. All of my family, friends and co-workers know is that I miss China…very, very, very much.

What they may not know is that I have become disenchanted with life in America and why that is so.

Before you characterize me as unpatriotic, it is not that at all. My eyes have just been opened to the fact that no matter how much freedom we have in America, there is another form of bondage that arises, whether it be internal or external. I am disenchanted by the lack of security I feel not being around outsiders, but insiders, some people of this very land. I am disenchanted and frankly overwhelmed by the medical system here. I am shocked by the hits I am getting financially and the constant struggle to keep mine and my family’s head above water, as opposed to when I was living abroad, rent was paid by the company, medical bills were covered by insurance and if there was anything to pay, even for a major surgery, it was almost pennies on the dollar.

Political turmoil did not touch us…in fact if things were happening around us politically, we were blissfully unaware. As long as we were living right, not doing anything to break the laws of the land, we had an easy living. I keep asking why I can’t “get that loving feeling” here in America? Why was I feeling so helpless, claustraphobic and often angry at the immediate world around me? It didn’t seem to make much sense…I mean, I was home!

Recently, with the help of a friend, an experienced, life-long traveller, I discovered that I was experiencing reverse culture shock. “According to the Marquette University Office of International Education: Study Abroad website, reverse culture shock is “an emotional and psychological stage of re-adjustment, similar to your initial adjustment to living abroad.” The chance of experiencing culture shock increases the longer you’re away from your home culture and the easier you adapt to your host culture.”–Shelly D. Lane, Ph.D

To better understand my extreme longing for my host country, here is a post I recently penned on Facebook…which baffled some, angered some, while others totally understood where I was coming from:

I miss China….How can it be that I lost my heart to a country that doesn’t belong to me? I long to go back and see her countryside, her skyscrapers that are mile high, the look of awe (or shock) on people’s face when it registers that they are seeing a black person face-to-face, to dance in the square at night working up a healthy sheen of sweat, walking hand-in-hand with my love by my side and the boys running wild with our puppy nipping at their heels playfully…oh how I miss the simple life that is China.

Here’s to hoping for a cure for my longing….until next time.

My every day walk of shame

23 May

Every morning I wake up and turn off my alarm 10 minutes before it rings. I go through my routine of waking up my son, preparing myself then proceed to the kitchen to rummage through the cupboards for “breakfast”.

After breakfast, we run out to try and call the elevator…praying fervently that it will be empty going down all 27 floors.

Not gonna happen.

We walk outside and immediately all eyes turn to us. I feel like I am walking with a poop stain on my butt…no ….no it’s the morning after and I just got caught….being an expat!!! My scary walk of shame. Not even sure why I am ashamed. Is it because of my short, curly hair when everyone else has long, straight , black hair? Or maybe it’s the absence of my almond-shaped eyes, thick lips and large rump.

No, I think it’s because of my smooth, silky chocolate skin. It makes their jaws drop, their eyes twitch and their fingers point as they laugh uncontrollably.

Yes, this has been my every day walk of shame for over 3 years. I think it’s time I get on home. 

I am ANGRY!!…..and I need not be

22 May

I woke up this morning feeling angry. I walked to the bus stop feeling angry. Got on the crowded bus angry.

I was very angry at China this morning.

Angry at the people because I have to carefully watch where I step as I walk for fear that I will step in human waste and green, bloody phlegm among other things. Angry because even though you patiently wait for the bus and it stops right in front of you, someone will come and shove you and your kid out of the way so they can go in first. Nevermind that the bus is so packed people are almost hanging out of the windows and coming in through the back doors.

Mostly, I was angry because as close as we are to getting out of here, the one obstacle standing in our way is so threatning, it makes me feel helpless. I am angry that no matter what I do or say, the visa process is still so annoyingly hard. I am angry at the prospect of staying here another year…well, staying in Chongqing. Although I have many choices in cities, at this late stage in the game, it may be too difficult for me to secure a teaching position in a desirable international school.

I realize the visa process is just that…a process. For weeks now I have been trying in my own strength to guide it. I became angry when I realized I only briefly sent up a prayer when I woke up this morning. I didn’t take the time to talk to God properly. Why? Because I am feeling emotionally and physically exhausted. So, instead of starting the day on a positive note, I started on a negative. I wasn’t a good example for my son as we walked on those dirty, slippery and crowded sidewalks. Words that shot out of my mouth, daggers that cut down the local people staring at us open-mouthed and gestures showing them I could be just as ignorant….were not a positive learning experience for my son. I was not a picture of Christianity.

Therefore, I have decided to re-examine myself. I have decided, to let go and let God when it comes to the visa process. I have decided to have more than one word with my Father when He allows me to open my eyes and see another day. I have decided to repent for my unfounded anger. I was angry…and I need not be.

How the Dukan Diet Works

11 Apr

About to allack this starting on Monday with a group of my girlfriends!!

FAMILY MEETINGS

29 Mar

Struggling with my blended family. Hope this will help me in the immediate future and hope it will help you as well.

The Parenting Construction Site

How is your family dynamic? Are your methods of conflict resolution working? Family meetings work- especially if you want to create a ‘team’ atmosphere. Children as young as three can and should participate. It is an excellent method of communication and resolution when done on a regular basis. I have used it with my own family and as the administrator of Maple Leaf Montessori School, my Elementary staff has had great success using the ‘Community Meeting’ model.

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I will Survive

12 Mar

I came in willingly into my current post. Now I am gritting my teeth just to get through the last 4 months. If it wasn’t for the Lord, who is on my side at every turn, I would’ve turn tail and run. I really enjoyed reading this post from Cortland Jones. I now realized that perhaps this is a lesson in humility from God that I MUST pass if I want Him to work for me in getting me into the ideal school community. I too will survive….but only with God on my side.

Empowered to Teach By Grace

‘To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.’

– Colossians 1:29 NIV

For the past two years I have been blessed to work in what I consider to be an ideal school community. It is by no means perfect, but being here takes me back to where I started my career when I worked in what was considered the ‘country club,’ of middle schools in 1992. 22 years later, after transitioning to 3 different school communities within the past 4 years, I have returned to a ‘country club’ school community where I am currently. In 2010, my first year back in the classroom, I transitioned from an ideal position outside the classroom into a school community regarded as a ‘turnaround school.’ The stress alone associated with working there, I considered to be ‘two week’s worth of stress in one.’

In the fall…

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