"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner

25 March 2010

A Response

*I got an unfair and threatening letter today from the sub system. I felt I had to respond. I took out all names in order to maintain decorum. However, it's my blog, and I need to vent. And plus, as I read the email aloud to Nich before I sent it, I started crying near the end (where I was talking about making a difference and why I teach). And he said it was perfect. So. Here is my *perfect* response to a very mean letter.

Dear Mr.,

Unfortunately, we have not had the opportunity to meet in person, but we have been in touch before.

I just received a letter from your office stating that there is a late cancellation (March 17) on my substitute registry record as well as a no show (March 19), followed by a statement that I will be dismissed as a substitute should this occur again.

While I completely understand this policy and firmly support it, I am a bit upset at the circumstances surrounding this particular situation. The late cancellation occurred because the phone call stated that the location was Saratoga BOCES on Gick Road. As I explained to B at the Substitute Registry, I listened to the special instructions three times to ensure that it was Gick Road and not Old Gick Road as I Mapquested the directions. In the special instructions, the teacher made it sound as though she needed to be in Schenectady that day, and that was why she needed a substitute. I'm not sure how I was expected to make it to Schenectady in the five minutes I had once I had made the clarifying phone call to the Sub Registry.

As for March 19, I specifically remember denying that job because it was in Bolton Landing for a half day, and it would not be worth it for me to drive that far for a half day. I checked my job history on Webconnect, and I see that it is listed on there. I don't know how that occurred, but I verified with my husband that I specifically said to him following that call that I had turned it down.

I know that this doesn't mean much to you because you don't know me personally, but I am a person of integrity. I have an excellent reputation for the teachers for whom I sub, and I have been requested back several times by several teachers. I follow the substitute plans teachers leave for me to the letter (substitutes not doing so is apparently a considerable and frequent problem from what I hear from teachers).  I also substituted long term at High School, and several teachers, including KK, SL, WM, and MC, can vouch for my character and quality of teaching.

I can assure you that I would never intentionally and selfishly not show up for a job or even cancel at a late notice. I know how that affects a classroom, the students, and the faculty. If I had been able to make it down to Schenectady that day in a timely manner, I would have. And had I known that it would create this scenario, I would have as well.

I don't intend on this situation ever repeating itself, but I felt that I needed to write you a response to your letter. Again, you don't know me, so you have no reason to distinguish between me and the next substitute. However, I do feel you need to know that I am one of your best qualified and most reputable employees. The tone of your letter was extremely dismissive and gave me no benefit of the doubt, despite the fact that I made every attempt on March 17 to understand and explain the situation to the ladies at the Sub Registry.

In my two years of substitute teaching for WSWHE BOCES, I have endured numerous racial slurs, rudeness from school staff, physical objects being thrown at me, and being cussed out by adolescents. But because of my firm belief in the importance of education, in a teacher's opportunity to affect the lives of young people and make a difference, the chance that literature and writing gives a child to express himself and exposes him to the bigger world, I continue to substitute until I have my own classroom. I do it remembering my students during my student teaching who told me that I made a difference, with whom I still keep in touch. I do it for the senior at High School who told me this year that I helped turn her around in tenth grade. I do it for those kids who are excited when they realize that they have me as a sub again for the day.

I apologize for the dilemma and inconvenience that the late cancellation to Schenectady caused. I also apologize for the mishap of the Bolton Landing position. I can ensure you that this will not occur again in any circumstance within my control.


23 March 2010

These Are Nowhere Near the Best Years of Your Life

Driving home from work one night, I heard this song on the radio, and I was inspired. What would I tell my seventeen year old self? I thought it would be a good opportunity to take some much-needed time out for self-reflection. I find that it's refreshing once in a while to take a good, long, hard look at my life and assess whether or not I'm "on track" with God.

Only once in a while, because taking a hard look at yourself is ... well, HARD. This growing up stuff isn't for babies, man.

So because I'm all about efficiency and killing two birds with one stone and all that, I decided to assign this "letter" as a discipleship task to our young adults Bible study group. Yes, I like to share torture.

Just kidding.

I just wanted the emotional support. It made facing my teenage self seem less daunting knowing that other people were doing it, too.

Just a little bit.

Seriously, though, I felt like this would be a good exercise for all of us. Sometimes, with the days flying by, we don't take the time or make the effort to think through our actions, thoughts, and speech. We don't learn from our yesterdays to make our todays and tomorrows better for ourselves and for others.

Almost everyone had written their letters for the following week, and we invited people to share as they felt comfortable. Some were short, some were long, some were poetry, some were narrative. They were all meaningful.

But I gotta tell you, Nich's made me cry. Because in his letter to his teenage self, he talked about waiting ... for me.

I'd encourage you to try this. And be honest with yourself. You're not going to have to share it with anybody if you don't want to. I've scoffed when people use words like "cleansing" to describe physical and emotional rituals, but there really is no better word for this. It might take a chunk of time. You might have to keep coming back to it. It might make you cry. But it's worth it.

And maybe I'll be brave enough to share my letter to myself on here ... eventually.

P.S. On a lighter note, I think Nich's "Texan-ness" is rubbing off on me. I now am the proud owner of my very own suede cowgirl boots. And I think I'm hooked on Brad Paisley. Actually, that second item has nothing to do with Nich, because he despises country music. He's grunge. Child of the early nineties. Ha ha.