I am an old lady with many life experiences.
But, when I was 22 I took a teaching job in a small town. I didn't know a soul. It was the early 80's, most districts were facing cut backs and hiring freezes. I had several interviews offered when I graduated from college. I took them, no matter where they were. And trust me, some of them were places I did not want to be.
I had an interview in a small town in Illinois. It was about 5 hours from the Menomonie, WI campus that I lived on. I called two of my former roommates and asked them if they wanted to road trip with me. I didn't have enough money but between the 3 of us, with my promise to pay back after pay day, we made it. We had one night in a very cheap hotel and enough gas money left to get back.
My interview went well. They offered me the job on the spot and unlike school districts anywhere else, they cut me a $200 check for travel. I ran out of the school to my car and friends singing, "we're in the money."
We were excited and I was looking forward to a good career as a "Home Ec" teacher.
I was also aware that small town living could not be as great as often reported. My mom always said, "Be careful, you're always an outsider." She spoke from experience. But being the young optimistic gal that I was, I was going to conquer this place and be loved.
My role as teacher there lasted a year. I was never observed, I was judged and talked about and I never had a chance of survival in that tiny town.
Later, I was told; the principal that never observed me, listened to me through the classroom speaker. He also believed the criticism of the elder math teacher that shared the half wall to one of my classrooms.
Besides that, I had gone out with a young teacher a couple of times, as a friend. He was engaged but we were more friendly than one should be as a engaged man. He was never judged for that behavior. But I was judged by most of my coworkers. His gossip lead to much chatter about me in the small town staff lounge; with the women on one side of the room and the men on the other.
I noticed subtle changes but was too dumb to realize how they started and why they started. After a night of too much beer and me passing out at his house, roomers spread. My almost boyfriend in the community cut off all ties, and I was never treated the same by the adult male co-workers at the school.
One day a couple of the coaches asked me if I was going to go to the conference coaches meeting. I said, "No, I am a cheer leading coach." They talked me into it and said it was a free meal. When I reflect on this, I know it was a game for these men. The biology teacher said he would give me a ride. I didn't think anything of it, as he was a married man with three daughters.
It was a horrible experience, on the way home he pulled over on a country road that was declared a short cut and attempted to assault me. I got away from him and started walking home. I didn't really know where I was but I didn't care. He pulled up and told me to get in the car. With reluctance and fright I did, and he drove me home.
I never told anyone but the Spanish teacher at the school. I really didn't think that anyone would believe me because of the reputation I had, due to my so called male friend.
Needless to say, with the speaker observations and the bad reputation I was let go from that job and left that community never to return.
I only kept in touch with the Spanish teacher of the community. She later reported that the horrible Biology teacher was caught having an affair with a student. The mother found her journal filled with stories of her love for this nasty guy.
I often wonder if I could have prevented the experience for that child if I would have reported what happened to me. But, I don't know, I don't think that anyone in that very male administration would have ever believed me. After all, a male basketball coach was the person that started roomers about me in the community.
It is awful that men were/are rarely discussed or shunned when they did/do these things. But of course woman were and are talked about and slut shamed. I hope that things are better and different than they were in the early 80's, but I sometimes wonder if that is the case.
We still hear about women being awful because they are temptations. It's rarely, "He uses women and objectifies them for their looks."
I am happy to see that women are taking their voices back and letting people know about their abuse in the work place. I hope that we can eliminate this behavior and be happy for the change instead of angry and judgmental. For now, it still sometimes feels like a man's world filled with "good old boys".
I hope that my story can convince those that are skeptical about this movement, that it is real. It is in everyday life. I hope that people realize that saying, "Oh they were just goofing around, they were just having locker room talk", can change the direction of another persons life.
I know it did for me. Luckily, moving from the small town was a blessing in disguise. But, it did prevent me from teaching again for a very long time. It took a great deal of reflection and personal awareness to brave the system and find myself back to my love of education and working with children.
With love from your retired FACS teacher,