Homeschooling’s Black, White, & Gray Series 1 Ep. 7
What does it mean about me if a dysfunctional institution led by some “mean girls” throws me out? Here’s what happened, but first of all, my definition of “mean girl” is a sometimes fun, but really selfish, usually gorgeous, controlling woman who uses manipulation to get what she wants and to keep admiring people around her (similar to the mean girls in the movie with that same title)…
I met her on the day I interviewed for the job, and she seemed interested in me and glad to have me come on board. This beautiful, married woman seemed like she could be a friend; since I was used to being friends with my bosses, I thought I could do it here too. I jumped into the job, helping with even more than I probably should have, but keeping my eyes open because I knew the institution had a reputation for dysfunction. I invited her to go see Shakespeare in the Park (which she couldn’t make), we had other interesting conversations, and I thought she liked me.
Because my “dysfunction radar” was on high alert, I didn’t let things slide when my schedule got changed around the day before school started. I spoke up, respectfully. I let her and the boss over her know that it shook me up to have more students thrust upon me and rooms changed around the day before school starts, and I felt disrespected. I thought they understood…
The boss seemed friendly until this situation, and then she cooled down, but I brought up the incident, we talked about it, and I thought we worked through it. Many of the other teachers kept away from her and didn’t seem enthusiastic with how she was leading. I wondered why that was…but I stayed open to getting to know the boss. Then the bosses (“mean girls”) gave me a list of things I needed to improve within two weeks, or I would get fired. I wanted to stay, so I worked even harder, but I shut down toward the boss and didn’t communicate very well. Since I had to work closely with her on a class, I tried to do what she wanted, but I was putting the students first.
So that’s when it started happening: Her being sort of nice to my face, but talking about me with others, even students. I tried to track down a rumor about me, but I got in trouble with her. A flip had happened, I couldn’t do anything right in her eyes anymore (even though I was working 12-hour days).
I had watched the movie, “Mean Girls,” and related to some of the bewilderment Cady felt as she tried to figure out that public school system; she was used to adults trusting her to make the right decisions and people just being friendly and honest. My “homeschoolerness” came out in this way as well: I thought my bosses would trust me and let me teach. The dishonest stickiness of mean girls is what makes me the most angry: If you don’t like me, just show it TO MY FACE. Don’t be nice to me and then stab me in the back. Be honest with your feelings and hopefully we can work through it.
Being honest takes courage, and those bosses of mine chose to not be honest with me about what was going on until it was too late for me to save my job. I tried to fulfill their expectations, but I continued to feel my feelings, be honest, and do my best. I could have stuffed my feelings, bowed to their every desire, but this homeschooler doesn’t do that—I had to be honest, even if it costs me a job. They fired me. (Within 24-hours, I was relieved to be out of that school).
Now I know what it feels like to have been through the wringer with the mean girls. Getting stabbed in the back (having your own words used against you when you were just trying to do the right thing) hurts. I’m still grieving the loss of being the teacher to those students, and I’m sad that the students have to be in that dysfunctional system; however, I do have hope for them to make it through because there still are many great teachers working there.
Thoughts On Preparing Homeschooled Girls for Interactions with Mean Girls:
Since I was homeschooled, I had fewer interactions with mean kids than most people. I chose to be nice most of the time, and I expected others would be nice back to me. Growing up through traditional school teaches you the socialization aspect of “mean girls” and how to cope with them. (Coping strategies such as keeping your head down, not rocking the boat, or easing into things and earning your right to speak up).Here are helpful things homeschooling parents can teach their kids about mean kids:
Teach your children that some people are just mean, but to let it roll off your back (or as Taylor Swift is trying to teach us through one of her new songs: “Shake it Off!”). My first run-in with a mean girl was in elementary school when we had some people over, and a girl that I hardly knew and I had a disagreement. She crumpled up some paper and shoved it inside my glasses. I didn’t retaliate, and I don’t even remember what we were fighting about. I remember being bewildered, but letting it roll off my back. When you stay calm, you don’t give the mean person power over you.
Teach your children to read social situations and be wise with their words. Perhaps I spoke up a little too much in this last situation; I’m still learning. However, guiding children to learn to read people is so helpful—notice when someone tenses up, seems to deflate, or is growing angry. As the Bible says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Placing kids in a multitude of different social situations helps kids learn to read people.
Model unconditional love for people. Love changes people. As I’ve been feeling more loved, I’ve been able to pass it on more. If homeschooling parents can show care for people that are sometimes mean (without being a victim) to their students, their students will go far. Even when the mean girls were firing me, I remained calm and was able to ask all my questions about the situation; I was able to keep control and stay loving even when this was happening. God gave me the love I needed to handle those mean girls.
Model compassionate care (with boundaries) for people. Deep inside, mean girls are afraid little girls who feel they have to control everything in order to feel loved and safe. Mean girls hide behind their looks and the power they receive from that in our society. If homeschool parents can teach their girls about this type of girl, explaining some of the reasons why they are the way they are, then when these girls have run-ins with mean girls, they can choose to just love them.
So back to my question: What does it mean about me if a dysfunctional institution led by some “mean girls” throws me out? What I’ve taken from this experience is that I’ve had a triumph in my recovery journey. Having a dysfunctional institution spit me out shows that I’m too healthy for that system! I’ve become more of my true self, so I didn’t let others change me in an unhealthy way. I’m growing and getting more whole. Since teaching is passing on your knowledge, but also a part of yourself, I’m so glad to be getting more whole because my present and future students will benefit from this wholeness. This homeschooler faced the mean girls and won because she chose to love them.
By M. H. Campbell