Lifting my Gag Order, or Last Year was a Travesty

This is another post that I wrote at the very beginning of the summer. I have edited it significantly for chronological context and ease of reading, but I want my readers to know that my mindset at the time of actually writing this post was months ago.

Last year wasn’t a good year. That’s not quite true. It was a devastating year. The word I recently used was travesty. I can’t tell you about that yet, though, because we’re still in litigation with the school division. I didn’t talk about it all year because when we were in the thick of it, Yoshi had to go to school and see her every day. I didn’t want to rock any boats. I didn’t want to make anything any worse than it already was. But the gloves are off.

old, broken windows

I never thought I’d be that mom: the one that took on the system. Now I’m doing it for the second time this year. I [didn’t] even mean the second time [last] school year, I mean the second time since January. I have two kids. I had to fight for both of them this year.

Ya’ll, I’m tired.

I’m also losing. But, that’s for another day. I can’t comment on the open investigation, so mum’s the word for now. I can, however, finally, finally, lift my own personal gag order and tell you a little bit about last year for Yoshi. [The investigation is still open, still pending, and I can still not officially comment on the case.]

We learned a lot. Teachers can make such a difference. That part I already knew, because in fourth grade we won the lottery and had the dream team of academia. Seriously. These teachers changed lives, and not just ours. Luckily, we got to hold onto one of them going into fifth grade because… teachers can make such a difference.

That year (fourth grade) was tough because we decided to take Yoshi off of his medication. The only reason we got through was because he had the most amazing teachers on the entire planet. Last year (fifth grade) his regular ed teacher was hell bent on ruining his life.

Sounds dramatic, I know. Bear with me. And remember, I have to be careful because I’m not just working around a personal gag order anymore.

At first, I tried to reason it out. Any teacher was going to miss the bar raised higher than high by Mrs. Fourth Grade. (I’m leaving his special ed teacher out of this for now because we got to keep her. She was his teacher for four years and she is incredible. Unfortunately, we had to say good-bye to her at the end of fifth grade.)

My husband was the one that pointed out that we didn’t need to compare Mrs. Fifth Grade to Mrs. Fourth Grade to see that Mrs. Fifth Grade was severely lacking. We were never going to get another Mrs. Fourth Grade, we accepted that at the end of that year. We would have settled for the caliber of any of his other teachers. But as great as Mrs. Fourth Grade was, Mrs. Fifth Grade was exactly like that—only terrible.

I’ve seen more than my fair share of teachers.

I have encountered hundreds of teachers in my life. I was a teacher. I studied with other teachers, I did my field study in an elementary school, my internship was in special ed, I was a substitute, then I taught. My kids have been through three schools where I was very actively involved in the school and the PTA. I was involved in the County Council of PTAs. What I’m trying to say is that I’ve seen more than my fair share of teachers.

Never in my life (before Yoshi’s fifth grade) have I walked away genuinely thinking, “That person has no business being a teacher.” It never occurred to me before because I had never been in the position to consider it. A teacher can make such a difference in a child’s life—but that doesn’t always mean a good difference.

I suppose that means that we’ve been lucky. We’ve had our good years and our bad years; but walking away from our bad years, the worst I ever said about a teacher was that it wasn’t a “good fit”. Different kids need different teaching styles. My kids, like everyone’s, I’m sure, have had a couple of years when they’ve had a teacher with a style that didn’t work particularly well for them. That didn’t mean they had a bad teacher.

Until now. Yikes. I wanted to be crazy petty and write a thank you note at the end of the year.

Thank you for the gifts you have given us. Leaving this school is so hard because Yoshi has to say good bye to Mrs. Fourth Grade and Ms. SpecEd, and that is devastating. He has to say good bye to them, but he gets to say good bye to you. There’s no great loss without some small gain, so thank you for that gift. For the rest of his life, if he has a bad teacher he will be able to look back and say to himself, “Well, at least it’s not as bad as Mrs. Fifth Grade.” Thank you for that gift. You may have nearly destroyed us this year, but I am grateful for the small things.

In the end, I thought it was too mean. Also, I was forbidden from having any contact once the investigation was opened.

I won’t tell you about my current show down fantasies. I’m pretty sure it would leak too much information about the investigation and it also tells you a lot about how mean I can be. I’m full-on Mama Bear about this, so it’s pretty ugly (think: raging-bitch-from-hell level.)

comic about mama bear

I tried to play the game all year. I pretended to be nice so that we could get through this devastation. Survival was the name of the game. But at the end of the day, she knew I hated her and I knew she hated me. And Yoshi? He was the biggest loser of all.

The school board can’t look past grades. They see his straight-A report card and can’t understand why we’re upset. I want to shake pill bottles at them and show them my calendar packed with appointments for him. Yes, he got all A’s (whoop-de-doo, she didn’t challenge him) but he also got an adult size dose of anxiety and a lifetime of emotional scars.

We still had Ms. SpecEd fighting alongside us. She was the only reason I could stand to let him go to school every day. I knew that she was shielding him from the torture Mrs. Fifth Grade was trying to inflict (some of it got through.) We even still had Mrs. Fourth Grade after winter break. There was a morning after the incident when Yoshi absolutely lost it just as it was time to get out of the car in the drop-off loop. I told him to go straight to Mrs. Fourth Grade and I sent her a quick text as I drove off: Incoming.

As hard and as horrible as fifth grade was (between the worst human being on the planet as Yoshi’s teacher and Big Brother’s surgery with its academic fallout) I’m so grateful for the good teachers. I cried (and cried and cried) about Yoshi being in Mrs. Fifth Grade’s class, but I could still send him to school with a smile because I knew he was with Ms. SpecEd and he would see Mrs. Fourth Grade. I knew there were amazing people taking care of him.

Related side note: After Big Brother’s surgery, it was the same. We had some major academic hurdles (that was the first time I took on the system) but when it was time for him to return to school, his teachers were spectacular. I was worried about him until I met with them and saw with my own eyes how worried they were and how much they truly cared for my son. I knew I didn’t have to worry while he was with them.

I’m so grateful for the good teachers.

As I claw my way through this, I will continue to cling to the people that changed our boys for the better. Please be grateful for your teachers. Even if you feel like you had a mediocre year, your teacher deserves your respect. Before you decide that you hate your teacher, ask yourself if it’s the teacher or their teaching style. (I know what that sounds like coming from me after you just read this, but I promise Mrs. Fifth Grade earned it and I will explain it when I can.)

Teachers can make such a difference. They can forever change lives. They do forever change lives. Some teachers will fade into the background of your past and some will stand out. I pray that your stand-outs are stars. I pray that the years that are “not great” fade into your background. I do not wish what we went through last year on anyone.

There will be more posts about this, as the story continues to unfold, as I am allowed to share more about the investigation, and when I have more room since this post is getting very long already!

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Image Source:
Comic courtesy of my husband
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