The topic came up again – forgiveness. It came up in discussion again. They asked me if I had anyone that I needed to forgive. “Yes,” I said. And then they waited for me to say that I would forgive them. I just told them that I was not going to. They looked at me with surprise that I quickly declared that I was not going to forgive. Me. The mentor and co leader of our little group was not living out what I was teaching. Yes, I am not going to forgive that man who did me so much wrong.
I will not forgive the man who fired me from my job . . . the only job I was fired from.
People who know me have a hard time believing that I was fired from my first teaching job. They look at me with blank confusion because they consider me a pretty good teacher. I am not the best, I will admit, but I can get the job done. Anyway, if you really want to know, technically I resigned. But in the back ground my other choice was being fired and my license being revoked. What choice would you make?
The guys at the table did their best to guide me into forgiveness but my clichés were in full force today. “You don’t understand what he did to me.” “I deserve to feel this way.” “You would feel the same if it happened to you.” “He put me through Hell.” Just bringing it up was like reliving the whole time in my life. We are not talking about a day or two or even several weeks. We are talking about a methodical and persevered process of getting enough evidence and case to actually feel like you can have a legitimate reason to fire a teacher. I mean come on; it was just vindictive to do this to a person who was trying to do the best job they could. I was not a bad teacher! It took years . . . years, for him to do what he did to me. What did I do to deserve this?
To this day, I still don’t really know. I never will. Maybe that is part of why it is so hard to forgive him.
Here, let me help you with what kind of hell he put me and my family through.
Let’s start with the first evaluation that changed my life. I came into the office with no idea of the boulder that was about to be laid on my shoulders. I sat down and he calmly expressed that I was doing alright and that I will receive “needs improvement” on my evaluation which meant that I had a few things to work on to make my teaching more effective. No problem, I am always up for constructive criticism and wanted to be better at what I chose as a career. I didn’t see his façade until the next year. So, I went through the whole year going to conferences and weekend developments gaining new things to use in my classroom.
Then when the next eval came up, I received another “needs improvement.” But this time was different. It came with what was called an “Improvement Plan.” This was a set plan of things I had to do that were required or I could be released from my position. Let me tell you, It was close to turning me into a slave. It had lesson plans that were lengthy to fill out and had to be submitted two weeks in advance, it had premade logs to enter all contact for students and parents and even other teachers. To put this improvement plan in perspective, it went as far as requiring me to wear a tie everyday (in which no one else was required) and the types of shoes that I should wear. And then I was told by my representative from the union that this was basically the last step the principal had before firing me.
Well, the year went by with me spending about every last minute with school and trying to keep a family and home going. I left every morning to get to school an hour and a half early so that I would have time to complete the mountainous paperwork. I would stop at a Micky D’s to get a coffee every morning so that I had something that would keep me from getting drowsy. The woman who worked there was a real angel. She would even have the coffee ready for me when they weren’t quite open yet. She would just wave me around and not charge me some days. I am not sure she realized what she was doing for me.
In the end though, it was not enough. I remember sitting in the chair out of sight in a conference room while I had my dignity and decency stripped away as he so calmly stated all the things that I was not able to do correctly. Then he stood up and said that I was going to be released form my job and walked out while I sat stunned and broken inside. I had more classes to teach and there was no way that I was in any condition to finish the day out. That is when the union rep said to go home and he would take care of it. I went home in my broken state and waited. I waited to tell my wife the most humiliating and worst news of my life – that I failed to keep my job. I failed to hold the essence of providing for my family.
The fear I felt is beyond anything I have ever known. The fear of losing my ability to provide for my wife and 2 year old son was suffocating. I promised her that I would care and keep her was fleeing from me and I had to look her in the eyes and tell her that I failed at keeping my promise. I will never get the image and time to fade into a lost memory. Ever.
I ended up moving states, my wife developed depression, our finances were unrecoverable, we were cut off from the life support of our families, we felt like nomads, and the stress of learning a new culture, a new job and new environment was uphill all the way. This story can go on for pages but the end will still have me in the same place . . . Forgiveness.
I am not forgiving him. I am not. I have a lot of hurt feelings and the fear of that time was worse than anything I had ever felt. I was debilitating. The suffering I had to endure and especially my wife is what fuels my anger and feelings. For goodness sake – my wife’s chemical balance was permanently changed because of it. She will for the rest of her life be on medicine for depression. I forced to move my life, home, and sever all ties to where I was settled and ready to live out our lives. I know that forgiving is the thing to do and it is not for them. It is for me. I just can’t do it though. I will not.
The pain is still too real for me. I just can’t. I am not ready to forgive.