Thursday, October 22, 2009

Proof of Invisibility

We've all felt it.  That feeling of being completely alone and ignored even in a room full of people.  It was one of my biggest challenges with my job.  I am a para-educator (teacher's aide).  I am part of the special education team.  I am part of a group of other para-educators.  But because I follow a single student, I am often "forgotten" or overlooked when there are department meetings or trainings.  My contract runs differently from the other aides.  If my student is absent, I am sent home.  I fought endlessly to be recognized and included in meetings and trainings.  I am required to have 20 hours of continuing education, yet my contract reads that if my student isn't in attendance, I am not to report to work.  I've had to be my own advocate and demand that I be paid for mandatory inservice hours.  I've had to demand to be compensated for working through my lunch break because the administration didn't see it as a priority to find coverage in order for me to have my mandated break.  My many requests for coverage went ignored so eventually I finally stopped making them, and insisting I be paid for the half hour break I was denied.  You can imagine the resistance I encountered.  A gentle reminder about labor laws and mandatory breaks changed their minds about paying me.  It's been a struggle....

I was delusional and convinced myself that the reason I was "ignored" was because I wasn't a regular classroom aide.  I didn't have the same schedule or duties as a typical aide, therefore I was often overlooked when memos and information was shared.  I even had to have not one but two meetings last year with our new principal just to be put on his staff email chain for daily updates.  It took him 3 months to do that.  I was never informed of department meetings.  What makes this worse is that my own sister is a teacher in my department! 

My surgery was on September 10th.  I came back to school in August in order to prepare my student for the transition into the new school year, get her comfortable with her new schedule and teachers, and ease the switch to a long-term substitute aide.  I had already lost 50 lbs at the start of school, and had my once long, curly hair cut short and straightened.  I saw almost every teacher at our small school at our back to school inservice meetings.  I passed many of them in the hall when classes started.  I spoke to many of them individually before taking my leave of absence.

Only 3 people bothered to call/check in with me while I was out.  My sister did say many would ask her about me, but only THREE bothered to call/email themselves.

Imagine my shock when I returned from surgery having lost another 25 lbs and these same teachers whom I had seen just 5 weeks earlier were coming up to me and commenting on how "good" I looked.  Many of them were aware of the surgery so it wasn't unexpected.  The biggest shock, however, was how many of them commented on how much they loved my hair cut!?!  I had the same hair cut for the two weeks I was here before having the surgery.  At least 4 of the people who commented on my haircut were ones I talked to EVERY DAY before leaving.  Did I miss something?  Obviously THEY did. 

So that is my proof of invisibility. Nobody even noticed my haircut until I came back and they KNEW about the surgery.

Makes me wish I was still invisible....

1 comment:

  1. I hear ya! I try to tell my boyfriend, who was the quarterback of the football team in high school while I was Miss Chub A Lub... and he does not understand how it feels/felt to be an obese person. I always felt like people were looking or staring at me in public. THEY WERE. He said he thought maybe it was in my head! No, he just does not understand how it feels to be treated unfairly or judged because of being large. It makes me mad cause now, after losing 135 lbs, I AM treated differently; people listen to what I say. No one ever did before. People want to be around me. They never did before.