I surprised myself today.  A colleague had stopped by my classroom during my lunch break to “talk shop” as she often does.  Only this time, something was different.  I was different.

And I was unapologetic.

You see, we have a person in our department who bullies everyone into allowing her to be in charge of everything.  She thrives on playing the martyr so while she is constantly wrenching control, she is also regularly dropping the ball and then flying off the handle at anyone nearby because blame has to land somewhere.

A couple of days ago, she notified the entire staff – about 100 teachers – that she had forgotten to let them know that there was going to be a special program for all music students at 1 PM the following day and so sorry for the late notice, but would they please allow the students to miss class in order to attend.

Well, of course without the professional courtesy of a few days of advanced notice, most teachers simply could not adjust their course work this late in the school year in order to allow the students to be absent from class, so most teachers did not allow their pupils to attend this program.  In order to drum up an audience, the “bully” then invited entire classrooms of non-music students to attend so that the auditorium would be filled.

As my colleague mentioned the program, she expressed her dismay that several of her students had been unable to attend the program because they needed to be in class.  Then she declared, “Oh well.  It all turned out okay in the end.”

To which I responded with a great deal of indignation, “That is not true!  So many students who would have benefitted from this opportunity lost out!  Students were denied a wonderful opportunity and that is not ‘turning out okay’! That’s just ‘Well, we got through it’ because there was an audience so it looked like it was okay.  But it wasn’t okay when the majority of the intended audience couldn’t even be there!”

My colleague looked at me in wonder.

Because in all the years that she has known me, I have never expressed an opinion so strongly and I certainly have never raised my voice in indignation.

For years, I was meek and quiet.  I kept my head down and my mouth shut and rarely offered so much as an idea in department or even full staff meetings.  I had quit doing that years ago.  Back when I was told that I couldn’t participate in service of any kind in my church and refusal of an explanation.  The mandate that I must measure up to some unknown bar caused me to become too frightened to speak out because perhaps it was speaking out that had brought judgment down on me.

Not only did I not speak up, I didn’t look people in the eye – because maybe I had looked at someone wrong.  And I always tried to smile – because when God is disciplining you, you’re supposed to like it and count it all joy.

Well, I certainly wasn’t smiling today and I was looking directly at my co-worker.  And I wasn’t speaking quietly, either. My students deserved better than “Oh well, it all turned out okay in the end.”

And if somebody doesn’t say so, it’s just going to keep happening like it has happened for all of the years that I have taught with the bully.

A little bit of the real Ellen spoke up today.  It felt foreign.  But it felt good.  It startled my colleague.  It startled me.

And then she said, “You’re right.  It didn’t turn out okay.  Those kids deserve better.”

And I knew it was okay to go ahead and be me again.

  1. Good for you! Keep speaking out 🙂

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