“We treat everyone equally here!”

This is one of the last things that I ever heard from my former boss. It was after completing a meeting with the my Deputy Coordinator about what I needed to do to complete the school year with that company (as the administration called it), what I intended to complete of my Managebac units so that I could assist the next teacher by making it clear what the students should (in theory) have learned, and what areas I intended to leave blank because they would disappear in the transition to the next school year and never be viewed again.

It was after she ambushed me in a meeting where, as that same Deputy Coordinator had promised me, she wouldn’t be in attendance because she hadn’t been planning to attend any of those meetings.

It was after I walked off because, as I had told the Deputy Coordinator the day prior, I would leave that room if she ever entered it because I could not sit through yet another meeting where she took every moment she could to insult and abuse me while he just nodded in response, allowing her to get away with it because he “needed” that job. I had told him that I refused to sit through yet another meeting where she refused to acknowledge her responsibility in the decline of my work because she had decreased my planning and prep time in order to fill it with her tirades against me or because of the way her constant undermining of me affected my students students.

I had made it very clear that I did not wish to be condescended to because of my neurological differences, as she always took particular target at my being ADHD and claimed that I was purely lazy because I required minor accommodations to make my life a little easier (even though she never gave me those accommodations).

“We treat everyone equally here!”

She had chased me down the stairs after I had left the room, her heels clicking obnoxiously loud on the tile floor. I hate those heels; I really hate that sound because of her. I always wince everytime I hear another person’s heels clicking against tiles; I still instinctively hide behind doors or in alcoves.

But I digress.

I was upset. I had been lied to by the Deputy Coordinator. It wasn’t the first time he’d done it; I shouldn’t have been surprised. He was a jellyfish; he never stood his ground or fought for the teachers who comprised his team. He never protected us, especially those who voiced our concerns. He always quietly allowed abuse to go unchecked, to stand silently as some of us were made to feel like fools for even trying.

But again, I digress.

My boss was trying to convince me to “do my job,” despite the fact that I had more than completed my job. In all honesty, I had performed many more duties than those that were contractually required of me. My contract stated that I was an MYP (Middle Years Program) Teacher, but they had required that I complete the development of two DP (Diploma Program) programs in order for them to progress in the IB’s authorisation process.

The year before that, I acted as the school’s librarian because they never hired one. I sourced books, I collaborated with other teachers to make appropriate orders, and I looked for library management software they would accept because it was “within budget” (i.e., cheap enough). Again, this work was never part of my contract.

I did it all without complaint or a hint of appreciation.

“We treat everyone equally here!”

I told her that I refused to meet with her alone; she pointed out that the Deputy Coordinator would be there.

I openly stated that I did not feel comfortable in a meeting, as we had already attempted this combination of people and it never felt safe; she said I could “have anyone I wanted.”

But I knew I couldn’t. That was a trap. If I picked anyone, if I asked anyone to join me, I knew they would be targeted by her later. If I picked someone who I trusted, they would’ve been abused equally for some other offense she would claim they committed.

She knew this. It was always part of her game. She loves these kinds of games.

I refused to put any of my colleagues through this, even those who were also leaving. None of the people I trusted felt safe in her presence. The people I trusted had either been explicitly and publicly targeted; the people I trusted suffered from anxiety when they thought about talking to her.

I would not submit other people, people who I cared about, to her abuse.

Instead, I told her that I would not be participating in this meeting because I didn’t feel comfortable or safe, that the Deputy Coordinator had more than enough information to “bring her up to speed,” and that I had already discussed which areas of my units I would complete before leaving the school. I stated that all key concepts, related concepts, statements of inquiry, and inquiry questions would be finished; I told her that I would make sure all of the criteria I observed for the units were available, along with the ATL (Approaches to Learning) skills that the students engaged in.

I reminded her that, due to their need to reset the iPads immediately, I couldn’t do my work at work. I no longer had a device to access, making it a little more than difficult.

One simple question threw her: If you wanted me to work here, shouldn’t you have waited for my final day to request the return of my iPad?

That wasn’t the response she wanted; she was going to make that clear.

“We treat everyone equally here!”

She continued screaming at me, trying to explain how I wasn’t “required” to be at work and that she “didn’t know where the idea had come from.” I should’ve been aware, she claimed, that I could “work from home.”

Perhaps, I thought, she should’ve consulted her Head of People and Culture, the very person who informed me that I couldn’t leave until June 28 and who sent out an email about how “people with logged hours” could leave earlier, contradicting everything she had been screaming at me. He was the same one who told me that I “had no hours,” though I didn’t know how he arrived at this decision because no one knew where these hours even came from.

I didn’t remind her about any of this. I just stared out the window, never looking at her, as she continued screaming at me. I only ever responded to say, in a tone of indifference, “Okay.” I don’t remember how many times I said it.

This unnerved her, and she became louder and more condescending.

“We treat everyone equally here!”

It was her final call, it seemed. I don’t think she ever thought anything caught my attention.

But she had the audacity to tell me how everyone was treated equally, which meant that the same things were expected of everyone. The problem with that statement is that everyone who heard it — and multiple people were in the room and hallway heard her say it — knew it was a blatant lie.

I continued to stand there, thinking of so many issues that I ran into as I worked there that I would have loved for her to explain to me:

  • If everyone was equal, how did her close and personal friend got a job in the school?
  • If everyone was equal, why was she able to offer a job to another close and personal friend (who, thankfully for her, rejected the offer)?
  • If everyone was equal, why were the ideas of women and femme-presenting people considered to be ridiculous and tedious when we said them, but they made perfect sense when a man very slightly reworded them (sometimes at our own suggestion and to prove a point)?
  • If everyone was equal, why was my subject leader a person who was literally less qualified than I was?
  • If everyone was equal, why did men notice how cold and distant she was with most women and femme-presenting teachers (except the ones she wanted in her good graces), pointing it out to us?
  • If everyone was equal, why was a teacher who had ten years of experience left as an extremely underpaid assistant while two un- or lesser-qualified people moved into positions as classroom teachers?
  • If everyone was equal, why weren’t we all allowed to use the school bus (without punishment) when there were open spaces due to students participating in extracurricular activities?
  • If everyone was equal, why was I told to ‘deal with’ and ‘get used to’ a man trying to take over work I had been leading for weeks, but he was let off the hook for disrespecting me?
  • If everyone was equal, why weren’t all teachers offered tickets for games played by a major football (soccer) team?
  • If everyone was equal, how did an intern become a financial manager after six months?
  • If everyone was equal, why did only a few people receive disciplinary letters for offences that literally everyone was guilty of (such as incomplete units)?

“We treat EVERYONE equally here!”

This phrase hasn’t left me yet, and it’s been weeks since my last day at that horrible school (at the date of writing). To be honest, I don’t think it ever will.

It’s something that will stick with me for a long time, that will remind me of just how awful people can be just because of their position in a hierarchy, just because they’re sick with power. It’s something that’ll remind me of how people treat others horribly and lie to cover up their own short-comings. And it’s something that’ll remind me of how people respond when we don’t react to their power-trips in ways that they ‘need’ us to.

As if I needed more of that in this world.