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luv2teach2017 luv2teach2017 is online now
 
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parents who bully schools
Old 12-15-2018, 09:01 AM
 
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https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/c...-bully-schools

I am posting the above article link because it addresses a problem I've experienced at the elementary schools where I've subbed. Apparently, it's becoming commonplace for parents to become school bullies! These parents will also unfairly target teachers (including subs) because somehow the teachers didn't go along with their agenda.

I have been now blocked twice from schools due to being blindsided by entitled, bullying parents. Most recently, I was greeting second grade students one morning as they entered class. A woman showed up and started intervening, talking over me, and calling out orders to the students both in and out of the classroom. From her aggressive behavior I thought maybe she was another teacher. She then stepped in between me and the children with an air of importance and introduced herself as the mom of one of the students and the "PTA president" (really???) and told me she'd be helping out during the Art lesson that day. I assured her that I was aware of this because it was on the lesson plan and thanked her for her help. I then got busy with the children and noticed the parent walking off.

When the art teacher arrived for the lesson, the "PTA president" was nowhere to be found. It was my prep time, but I ended up spending it to assist the art teacher myself. The art teacher thanked me for this. Then during the last 10 minutes, the parent finally bothered to show up. She started helping a bit, but I continued to help since I'd already started.

Suddenly, as the art teacher was packing up, this parent started making a scene. She accused me (in front of the class) of being "rude" (what?????) and then rushed to the back of the room to grab her (now crying) child and said she was leaving. I asked her if it was for early dismissal and stepped towards her to speak to her. She pushed towards me and said "Are you trying to block me?" I backed away and realized that she was out of control. She left the room in a rage, leaving me totally shocked and wondering what had just happened.

The next thing I know, I got a call from the VP asking me to come in after class. Turns out the "PTA president" accused me of pushing her! (I didn't touch her. And mind you, I am half her size and twice her age!) I simply explained my side of the story.

The conclusion was that even though the school admitted this woman is "trouble", their solution was to temporarily block me from the school (for my own "safety"). I sub a lot at this school, so it's really upsetting that instead of recognizing me as a valued guest teacher and dealing with the bully, they choose to penalize me.

The lesson I've learned to is to be extremely cautious around parents and not try to deal with those who are being unreasonable. Just stay out of it and report it to the principal later.

Unfortunately, as a sub, no matter what you do, you still may be falsely accused (as I was). As I'd said before, subbing is essentially like walking through a mine field. You never know when you're stepping into an explosive situation. Seems the schools are dealing with the same dilemma.

Have you had any encounters with bullying parents? I'd like to hear from others.



Last edited by luv2teach2017; 12-15-2018 at 11:08 AM..
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Old 12-15-2018, 09:47 PM
 
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I am a freelance writer, and somehow some parent found out that I also sub occasionally in her school district - maybe she saw my name on the sub list or her daughter told her I was in her class. She basically bugged me for nearly 3 months - email , texts, 2 lengthy phone calls to do an article about how the district was " discriminating " against her daughter because she was being made to do gym even though she had some sort of disability.
Finally, I just told her my editor wasn't interested in the story just to get her out of my hair. I felt the mom had some sort of vendetta going on, and I didn't want to be in the middle of it. I also sincerely doubted the district would risk a lawsuit and make a child with a serious disability take gym.
A week later, my editor called me to tell me either I stop subbing there or be let go from the paper. Since I love writing more, I gave up working at this district. To this day, I wonder if it was the parent that called him. The timing was too much of a coincidence I think.
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Old 12-16-2018, 01:18 AM
 
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I learned lesson before .
Nowadays any parents or volunteers coming to class,I pretend to pay lot respect .
Or chances are they get back to the helpless sub .
Another issue is sometimes these people’s. names are not mentioned in sub plans .
They might not have a visitor pass too .
They make themselves authorized because they are in pta or active volunteer
How can a sub knows who this person is or can they work with children that time ?
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Old 12-16-2018, 07:41 AM
 
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Earlier this year I was subbing at a “primary center” (K, 1, 2) in the second grade. During morning meeting I noticed that some of the students were looking towards the classroom door. Since some students left I thought nothing of it until morning meeting was over. I discovered a “mom” was standing in the doorway, phone in hand, texting.

I asked what she was there for, thinking she was a teacher there for students, she replied “we don’t get many men here, I just wanted to see what was going on.” When the reading teacher arrived a told her what had happened and she told me to contact the office, I did when the class was at art.

The office knew who she was and said she shouldn’t of been there, she was helping out in KDG with some sort of project. Nothing further was said that day. However, ever since that day every job I pick up for that school I get the “you have been removed... “ makes me wonder.
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Old 12-16-2018, 09:58 AM
 
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Quote:
Nowadays any parents or volunteers coming to class,I pretend to pay lot respect .
Or chances are they get back to the helpless sub .
Another issue is sometimes these people’s. names are not mentioned in sub plans .
They might not have a visitor pass too .
They make themselves authorized because they are in pta or active volunteer
How can a sub knows who this person is or can they work with children that time ?
I hate to say it, but I think you're right. I did try your approach the other day when there were 2 family members volunteering in the class. I gave them plenty of acknowledgement and thank yous. Fortunately, I had expected them because it was in the lesson plan (one of them was the teacher's mother, who was there...I suspect to keep an eye on things... ALL DAY. Fortunately she "approved" of my teaching style and was very nice). I'm not one to be a phony or "brown nose" people, but it seems that's what we need to do with staff, parents, and volunteers if we don't want to step on sensitive egos and be targeted. Guest teachers are the "outsiders," which makes us easy targets and very vulnerable to the mean politics and bullying tactics at any particular school.

You do have a good point about "unauthorized" visitors. HR told me that guest teachers are the "teacher of record," meaning WE are responsible for anything that goes wrong in the classroom we're assigned to. If someone is unauthorized, I think we should immediately report it to the office rather than trying to deal with it ourselves.

Wow, SubMan...that woman is guilty of blatant harrassment! She had NO business making a statement that implied you were "unwelcome" because of your gender! She created a hostile work environment for you. Have you considered filing a report of " harrassment"? I'll bet you're right...that incident is the reason why you can't get jobs at that school. Who knows what kind of story she told them?



Last edited by luv2teach2017; 12-16-2018 at 12:08 PM..
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special ed notification to subs
Old 12-16-2018, 07:54 PM
 
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HR told me that guest teachers are the "teacher of record," meaning WE are responsible for anything that goes wrong in the classroom we're assigned to.
This is incredibly irritating to me. I hear this ALL OF THE TIME, yet we are not privy to students that are in special ed. I have had a couple of incidents (some pretty drastic) with students that I would have approached differently had I known they were in special ed.

I was the one grabbed over the cell phone incident. He turned out to be special ed. I should have known this. All of this might have been avoided if I had known.

By the way, he was expelled.

Last edited by dietcoke99; 12-16-2018 at 07:56 PM.. Reason: added info
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Knock on wood...
Old 12-17-2018, 05:05 AM
 
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This has not been a major problem for me personally. I have, however, witnessed it with both other subs and teachers.

I have a "show no fear" attitude and practice. One compliment I've particularly appreciated is that I am "quietly powerful." The kids mostly have it figured out. Being the "teacher of record" is something I actually insist on... and I have actually confronted kids who want to have a power struggle with me by identifying it as such and letting them know, I'm older, smarter, and will win if they truly want to play that game. Bullying is about power and is typically based on the insecurity of the perpetrator. I'm convinced that the most effective way to stop bullying is often to remove the victim.

I do think most administrators often make the safe plays and tend to give in to parents too quickly, thereby fostering the problem. I find it strangely ironic that those responsible for trying to build a safe learning environment and eliminate bullying are acting like victims most of the time.

However, I also know a sub who jumps on Facebook every morning to tell the world where she is subbing and in what grade. She actually asks who others know in the school so she'll have people to talk to... This (announcing her assignment publicly) is a violation of policy in at least one district she subs in... and I think an invitation to trouble.

I do think we are working in a volatile environment but I don't feel (or at least don't act) like I'm walking on eggshells. I know that if I alienate the wrong kids (or their parents) it won't take much for me to become history--I've seen it happen to others. But I'm not going to teach from a defensive position.

I've often said, "Sometimes the best way to win is to refuse to play the game."
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Difficult parent
Old 12-17-2018, 05:08 AM
 
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sila...I have also had adults (usually parents or relatives) enter the classroom without authorization. Some get testy when I ask who they are and ask them to check in with the office. They're supposed to check in and get a "visitor's" pass. The problem is that some folks feel entitled and don't think the rules apply to them. As a guest teacher, we're supposed to monitor whoever is in the classroom. But we are not equipped to deal with hostile adults. I think it's best to just notify the office that the person needs a pass and let it go at that.

Last edited by luv2teach2017; 12-18-2018 at 05:05 AM..
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Old 12-19-2018, 08:01 AM
 
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I do think most administrators often make the safe plays and tend to give in to parents too quickly, thereby fostering the problem. I find it strangely ironic that those responsible for trying to build a safe learning environment and eliminate bullying are acting like victims most of the time.
Yes, administrators do give in too quickly to bullying parents. It's not just in the schools. I saw the same CYA behavior with management when I worked in the corporate realm. There is bullying in the corporate workplace too. But management chooses to look the other way or even punish the one who reports the problem.

The difference is, as you point out, schools are supposed to be champions of the "anti bullying" movement. Yet when it comes to confronting and exposing the bullies, the school administrators run for the hills!

As I mentioned before, this is the second experience I've had where entitled, bullying parents got me blocked from a school simply because in the process of doing my job, I unintentionally offended them. The most recent parent blatantly lied to the VP and claimed I'd pushed her when I had NO reason to and had not even touched her! I believe this woman may be psychopathic or have borderline personality disorder. If so, she should not be allowed on campus. But who took the bullet? The most vulnerable staff member...the guest teacher.

Even the VP slipped and admitted that this woman is "trouble." But rather than deal with the bully, the administration opted to block the sub (me) to appease the bully. She will cause more serious problems soon enough. I'm glad I won't be there to see it.

As I've seen with so many bullying students, the bullies plow down many victims before something (if anything) is done about it. Oftentimes, it's too little, too late.
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Yes, but...
Old 12-20-2018, 03:03 AM
 
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Even the VP slipped and admitted that this woman is "trouble." But rather than deal with the bully, the administration opted to block the sub (me) to appease the bully. She will cause more serious problems soon enough. I'm glad I won't be there to see it.
Understand that I'm not disagreeing... but one reason we (schools) aren't succeeding with our "anti-bullying" programs is they are one dimensional. Without blaming the victim, I would merely note that being a bully requires a victim. The victim is as much a part of the problem as the bully. In this case, the VP's solution to the bullying situation was to give the parent another victim--the VP and, in a sense, the entire school system.

More thought needs to be given to words like "courage" and "resilience." I believe it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, "No one can make a fool out of you without your permission."

I constantly see relationship difficulties develop between kids and their immediate solution is to claim they are being bullied because doing so means someone else will solve their problem. The challenge I feel is managing that situation to a successful outcome so one kid doesn't go home and claim nothing was done about bullying.

A silly example: this week I worked in classroom where kids sit in groups. One boy complained that his neighbor kept "bumping his elbow." I suggested he move his desk away enough so she couldn't reach him. Problem solved.

We can always manage our own behavior much more quickly and easily than someone else's.


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Old 12-20-2018, 08:13 AM
 
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I would merely note that being a bully requires a victim. The victim is as much a part of the problem as the bully. In this case, the VP's solution to the bullying situation was to give the parent another victim--the VP and, in a sense, the entire school system.
In fact, I think the school/school system IS this woman's real target, not me. I just happened to step in front of a stray bullet.

This woman has 2 sons enrolled in this school. Apparently, she's made herself the "PTA president" and a "volunteer" who's there every single day...I believe to "keep an eye on things." She and her sons are glaringly out of place there (I have to wonder what brought them to this school). It's a low income urban school that happens to be in the heart of a large community of mostly Muslim refugees from the middle east. Many of the students are children of these refugees. The rest are mostly latino or black. The parents I've met are low income folks who are struggling to make ends meet.

On the other hand, this "PTA president" is a white, middle class woman, (who looks like she'd be more comfortable in a country western bar). From what I saw of her youngest son, he's shy, but a good student who excels well beyond the other kids (many of whom do not speak English well if at all). This is NOT a school where parents are exactly waiting in line to be volunteers and PTA presidents...quite the contrary. Many of these parents do not speak English! So this woman probably walked in and took charge where there was NO competition for the position. Is she just being philanthropic? Umm...I seriously doubt it!

From what I saw, she was NOT interested in volunteering for the art teacher (she only showed up for the last 10 minutes)...that was likely just her way to gain daily access to the campus. Why did she target me? I think because she felt I was getting in her way. I used my prep time to help out the art teacher when this "volunteer" didn't show up. Shortly after the "volunteer" arrived, rather than apologizing for her lateness and thanking me for filling in, she literally staged a confrontation with me. I think she was trying to deflect attention from the fact that she was not at her post as a volunteer (which leaves me to wonder...where WAS she?).

Only a seriously disordered person would throw someone under the bus just to divert attention from their own misdeeds. What this woman did (lie about me to get me blocked) is unthinkable to me. Yes, the school removed one "victim," but bullies always find new victims. All this school did was reward the bully, which means she will do it again. The real solution is to confront and deal with the bully.

MaineSub...To address your point, could I have done something differently so as not to be her "victim"? I have thought this through again and again, but come up with the same answer. No. I had no previous encounter with this woman. She entered the classroom and literally blindsided me by flying into a rage in front of the class (like a disruptive student would) when I was too busy working with the class to see what she was doing. Then she immediately left (with her son in tow) and headed directly to the VP to "complain" and cast herself as "the victim" ( a common bullying tactic).


MaineSub...I agree that children (and adults) sometimes look to others to solve their problems rather than deal with it themselves. But I've also seen how real bullies operate. If you remove one victim, a bully will just find a new victim...and never an equal match. Bullies look for easy targets...someone who they perceive as vulnerable. Even more sinister, a bully may even PRETEND THEY are the victim in order to gain sympathy, falsely accuse the real victim, and thus deflect from their own wrongdoing! (as was the case with this woman I described).

In the scenario you mentioned of the child complaining about being "elbowed," you are right about suggesting the student move his desk. But if the troublemaker is a bully, then he will just slide his desk again towards the same student or another one and pester that kid instead. Then if you confront him, he will turn on you (his new victim) and make a scene. He may even threaten to go to the principal and accuse YOU of "using a bad word" or "pushing" him or whatever so that "you will get fired because YOU are just a sub." (I've had a 3rd grader say this to me!)

There are real bullies in this world...disordered, psychopathic, and dangerous. And they likely began as children who were bullies. The imbalance of power is what makes people into targets and makes them unable to fight for themselves. That's why it's important for those with more power and authority (teachers, administrators, etc.) to offset the imbalance by intervening.

As a teacher, I always try to bring the students together to talk through their issue (as the VP SHOULD have done with me and the parent). But if I know that a child tends to bully others and is a repeat offender, I will penalize that child with consequences. Is this taking the more difficult path? Yes. Wouldn't it be easier to just tell the "victim" to handle it themselves? Yes. But if there's bullying going on, putting it back on the victim doesn't solve the long-term problem...in fact, it will probably make things much worse. It invalidates the victim and gives the perpetrator (bully) a green light.

As I see it, at some point, the buck has to stop getting passed. The question is then...who is willing step up to the task? (Do I hear crickets?)

Last edited by luv2teach2017; 12-20-2018 at 01:41 PM..
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Chirp... chirp...
Old 12-21-2018, 05:11 AM
 
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(Do I hear crickets?)
I hear them too. Thanks for a long thoughtful reply... I hope you sense that we seem to fundamentally agree on all points. Your assessment of the situation sounds very accurate.

I doubt you could have done anything differently... and this can be a bitter pill to swallow, to acknowledge that there are situations where you just can't win. Another of my favorite sayings is "If someone is determined to be stupid, no force on earth can stop them." We can insert the word "mean" in place of "stupid." You're right; the true bully will move back close to the person he/she elbowed--or find a new victim. If/when that happens I would intervene. But as you also point out, this is ultimately about an imbalance of power. What I find interesting about that is that power is ultimately perception. As you point out, if the student sees me as "just a sub" I have little power with him--unless I can find some way to offset or change his perception. If I also act like "just a sub," he'll come in for the kill--particularly if he feels threatened.

That's why I'm suggesting that we need to build stronger victims. (That's not quite accurate, but I think you know what I mean.) It changes the balance of power. I do agree there's a balance in it and there should be consequences for repeated bullying. The challenge is to find consequences that actually work. In some cases, the bully simply goes underground or takes it out of the school environment to social media or after school.

One of the things I find frightening is there seem to be more and more "bullies" in the world--when we define a bully as someone who has no compassion and empathy for another and wants the world to operate for him or her. I've been dealing with one... it's a long story (not about school or subbing) or I'd share it because I have reached the conclusion that I'm never going to win--this person (who does have limited power over me in a specific situation--and has pointed that out more than once) is seriously suffering from some personality and emotional disorders. She believes my job (and nearly everyone she works with) is to make her feel better about herself. She's quite good at what she does--I'll grant that. The best I can hope for is to not lose.

I actually can't lose because she doesn't make me feel inferior--quite the contrary. Nearly every day she reminds me of how desperate she is for power. Fortunately, I don't have that problem. I've even said that fixing her and building her ego is not in my job description. I've created alliances in the organization to "protect" myself but I'm also a realist.

And that's at the core of my belief system--victimless living, a simple but hard concept. In the grand scheme of things, when we pass the buck it often equates to not understanding that it's a shared problem without one single solution.
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imbalance of power and "victimless living"
Old 12-22-2018, 08:33 AM
 
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I actually can't lose because she doesn't make me feel inferior--quite the contrary. Nearly every day she reminds me of how desperate she is for power. Fortunately, I don't have that problem. I've even said that fixing her and building her ego is not in my job description. I've created alliances in the organization to "protect" myself but I'm also a realist.

And that's at the core of my belief system--victimless living, a simple but hard concept.
MaineSub...First of all, I'd say this woman you're dealing with sounds like a narcissist of the "personality disorder" kind. And you're right, there's only one way to deal with these people, namely NOT play into their game. Keep any interactions neutral and to a minimum...called "grey rocking" (which it sounds like you're doing).

I do think that narcissists and psychopaths ARE on the increase in the world, and they are a very treacherous breed. They come in every shape and size and walk of life, but can be found especially in positions of some kind of power (e.g."PTA president"). The best defense is to become familiar with the characteristics of these personality disorders and learn how to recognize them (I believe that "PTA president" i dealt with has a personality disorder.) And you're right about not being a "victim" when it comes to these types. Wherever they smell blood (fear and vulnerability), they will attack.

However, there's a lot being said these days about "imbalance of power" when it comes to victims of abuse and harassment. Maybe it's because I'm a woman, but I know that there are situations where I have been "outgunned" from the get go, through no fault of my own. That person may be a date who's physically bigger and stronger, or be my boss and have the power to fire me, or (as in this case I mentioned) be a malicious "and disordered parent at school who knows they can easily get a guest teacher blocked by lying about them. I've experienced all of these myself. What power do I have to counter these very real imbalances?

In the case of this "PTA president," I didn't cower or act like "just a sub" with her. In fact, just the opposite. I was doing my job with an attitude of competence and authority. And maybe that's exactly what triggered her. I didn't bow down and lick her boots just because she announced that she was the "PTA president." And when she didn't show up to her "volunteer" post to assist the art teacher, I stepped in and helped the art teacher myself. A narcissist (which she may well be) will hone in and attack when they feel ignored or slighted. Is that what happened here? I don't know, but I suspect that's the case.

I just know that if there hadn't been an inherent "imbalance of power," this woman couldn't have gotten me blocked. (In fact, she probably wouldn't have even tried.) As it was, despite how ridiculous her claims were, this woman, someone I didn't even know, damaged my reputation and deprived me of job opportunities with nothing but a single lie.

I talked to HR and the school VP. and explained what really happened. But it didn't matter. It was just easier for them to block me than deal with the irrational parent. Would they have blocked me if they knew there would be costly consequences for doing so? No. But sadly, the only "consequence" might be that I opt to leave the district. Then HR wonders why they have so much attrition. Seriously????

I'm not the only guest teacher who's experienced this kind of injustice. This forum is full of posts from guest teachers who've had similar experiences to mine. What's the remedy for this kind of imbalance and injustice? How can we be "victimless" when guest teachers are inherently vulnerable because we're considered so expendable?

Is the remedy to just stop subjecting ourselves to the abuse that subbing exposes us to and find a "safer" kind of work (if that even exists)? I'm all ears.

Last edited by luv2teach2017; 12-22-2018 at 01:23 PM..
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Old 12-23-2018, 03:21 AM
 
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I'm enjoying the thoughtful discussion... and would again emphasize that we are for the most part in agreement. And I hope it's clear that I'm not "blaming" you for what happened.

I understand I think, imbalance of power. That lies at the core of the "victimless" thinking. I have a chapter in a book I wrote entitled "I done me wrong." It's about being robbed at gunpoint. I was definitely a victim, lost some money, etc. The robber done me wrong--his power was found mostly in the gun he held. When I realized some months later that I was still living in fear while walking through dark parking lots, I realized I done me wrong. He just wanted my money and only had power over me while he had the gun pointed at me. He didn't want me to suffer permanent psychological damage. His power ended after the crime.

Without diminishing the experience, you're temporarily blocked "for your own safety." For all the PTA president knows, it was YOUR choice. In my fantasy world, the VP might even point out to her that she cost the school a good sub who doesn't want to put up with her crap. (There's probably a better way of saying that.) To be truthful, I don't see the VP as being wise enough to facilitate that... and I'd say again, you're as much his victim as the PTA President's.

So I don't disagree that subs are a bit of a commodity. But I don't think it's because we're necessarily underappreciated or singled out for maltreatment. I think it's the nature of the business, at least to some extent. We have far more rights than we realize--the right to not work tomorrow, the right to refuse an assignment that we don't like, etc. There is, at least at some level, more of a balance of power than we sometimes realize or remember.

Quote:
What's the remedy for this kind of imbalance and injustice? How can we be "victimless" when guest teachers are inherently vulnerable because we're considered so expendable?
If I knew the answer or thought it was simple, I'd write another book. Conceptually, I think it requires a systems change wherein subs give up some of those freedoms mentioned earlier and make a greater commitment to the district/school. As an example of that, we have "building subs" in our school. They show up every day and accept whatever assignment they are given... they actually get an employee badge with their photo, a key fob, etc. I'm quite certain they are more "valued" than the rest of us subs.

I would also add that I have seen teachers and paras suffer the same sorts of treatment. One of the best teachers I know crossed the wrong parents and was, ultimately, forced into early retirement--after she suffered innumerable health issues as a result of the harassment and being put under a microscope.

And, for those who think unionizing is the answer to the way subs are treated, the above-mentioned teacher was represented by her union.

I fear we live in a hopelessly unfair world. (Or, as a friend says when a kid cries "that's not fair!" "A fair is a place where pigs compete for ribbons.") I don't think that's a pessimistic view because I also believe the world is imperfectly perfect.

I also don't think it's going to get any easier based on societal trends that include increasing mental health issues not limited to narcissists and psychopaths. I had a kid ask me this week "Is Santa Claus real?" Ten years ago a question like that wouldn't have bothered me. Today I answer very carefully. I also teach in the private sector as an adjunct adult instructor. I can tell you with certainty, that job is not getting any easier either--and, as an independent contractor, I'm ultimately only as good as the last class I taught. I've yet to have an adult student ask about Santa Claus, but I have had students claim I've said and done things I haven't.

I'm rambling this morning... perhaps because I'm not sure there is an answer to your final question.

Quote:
Is the remedy to just stop subjecting ourselves to the abuse that subbing exposes us to and find a "safer" kind of work (if that even exists)?
We each have to find our own answer to that question. For years, I ran my own business... people were often envious but would sometimes say, "Oh I could never work like that, I need the security of a paycheck every week." I would challenge that security because I once worked as an employee where there was a 50% chance your paycheck would bounce if you didn't get to the bank quickly. (The job lasted three weeks. My final assignment was to outplace every employee and/or help them apply for unemployment, including me.)

I think, in the final analysis, safety and security are relative and individualized. For many reasons, my position as a sub is relatively secure but I also know that that could change overnight. There have been days when I ask myself if the risks are worth the rewards. So far the answer has always been "yes."
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