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Stafford America

I was fortunate enough to end my 14 year teaching career with my dream job teaching AP Macroeconomics and AP Government at Stratford High School in Spring Branch ISD. Everyone I encountered (students, parents, teachers, administration) were so friendly and professional. I only taught there one year (I decided to be a full time stay at home mom once I got pregnant with Finley) but it was a year I truly cherished.

During my new teacher orientation, I remember my principal telling us that he was excited about lots of new technology that was supposed to be delivered any day to Stratford. He said they hit a snag when he found out the delivery company accidentally sent thousands of dollars worth of equipment to the wrong place- Stafford High School. I almost let out a laugh or cry when I heard that. He just said Stafford…I knew Stafford and my mind could not help going back to that one crazy year of my life when I taught 9th grade World Geography and 12th grade Economics at Stafford High School in Stafford, Texas. 
After I moved to Houston I taught many years at a wonderful alternative school (Spring Branch School of Choice) that incorporated art based projects into the traditional school curriculum. Once the school started to transition to a more online school format, I decided I wanted to get back to teaching at the traditional high school. 

I interviewed with lots of school districts and ended up being offered a job by Stafford’s new principal. I really liked her and was excited about my new job. Once I met my awesome co-workers, I was even more excited. 
Then the “honeymoon” came to an end!!! Quickly! 

There seemed to be so much chaos at the school. After I found out the school had somewhere around 9 different principals in 14 years, I shook my head. What had I gotten myself into?
Stafford is the only place in Texas that is called a “municipal school district”. They have one elementary, one middle school, and one high school all next door to each other.
It became quickly clear that the “parents” ran the school. They would just show up, walk into your class, and sit down.

Early in the year we had an evening open house for parents to come and meet the teacher. I was standing outside my class, smiling, and greeting the parents. All of a sudden I had a VERY ANGRY mother come up to me and start SCREAMING at me and cursing me out. All I could think was, “who is this lady and why is she screaming at me?” I was also taken aback because she had a huge GRILL in her mouth. It is one of those moments that you never forget. Apparently I wrote her son up for cursing at me and refusing to do work in my class. She did not appreciate this. 

I went home shocked. This is not what I had signed up for. Students did whatever they wanted and got away with it. Why? Because they (and their parents) were always allowed to get away with this awful behavior.
A week later I saw her again and she smiled at me and was so nice. I smiled back thinking “really grill mama, don’t you remember last week?” It’s as though these behaviors were normal.
I remember having this one senior in my class.  He was charismatic and everyone loved him- other teachers, principals, ect). I could not understand what they saw in him. Everyday when he came into my class he was late, rude, refused to work, and disrespectful. One day I wrote a referral for him cursing me out (he told me “f you, and lots of other bad words). I sent it to the office and went on with teaching. About 10 minutes later I was being called to the assistant principal’s office.
I had no idea what was going on. When I got to the office I saw a very angry mom, the assistant principal, and the school police officer. The irate mother was INFURIATED that I wrote her son up for cursing me out and DEMANDED that they get me out of class so that she could “talk” SCREAM at me. They obliged. As soon as I got into the office, she started yelling and cursing at me. I was having another “de ja vous” moment,  not quite understanding what was going on. 
She did not make sense. She kept yelling at me that “she was going to make sure I was going to jail”. Lots of f bombs where thrown at me. All the while the assistant principal and cop were just standing there.


These were my thoughts:
“Really lady, you want to send me to jail because I won’t let your kid curse me out? Please send me to jail! I want to go- anything is better than being in this awful, abusive place. At least if I was in jail I could sit in my jail cell in peace and quiet and not have to be subjected to this daily harassment by students and parents”
“Why would the assistant principal pull me out of class and allow this to happen?”

“It is not even December and I want to quit this job. I am not a quitter. I want to quit this awful job. I can’t quit this job, my husband is a full time graduate student and I am the breadwinner, I want to quit this awful job.”
A few weeks later I continued to document her son’s bad behavior. One day both of his parents showed up and sat in my classroom. The administration allowed it and did not make them leave. They then passed around a petition to have me fired. A bunch of the students in the class who were “cut out of the same cloth” signed the petition.

I was hurt, angry, and upset that these parents were allowed to bully me. I was a good, fair teacher. My only fault was having high standards and not allowing these kids to get away with cursing me out.
After months of harassment by these parents, I finally scheduled a meeting with my principal and the mom. I informed both of them that I had been in close contact with my attorney, had everything documented, and if she continued to harass me, I would sue her and the school. Of course I was bluffing, but it seemed to work.

One day I heard screaming from across the hall. I looked outside my window and saw a parent spanking a kid with a huge paddle. Apparently every year when the parents had enough of the kid’s bad behavior, they were allowed to come up with a huge paddle to spank this teenager hard enough in the hall so the kid would be humiliated in front of his classmates and teachers. How sick is that!

The craziest event that occurred while I was there occurred towards the end of the year. We were called into a special meeting and were told that a TAKS test had been stollen the previous day. It was a nightmare. Someone (I wonder who) called the news stations to let them know about the breach. It was such a big deal.
So the good news is that I only had to endure one year of my life in Stafford America. There were glimmers of sunshine in this storm of a school. The teachers I worked with were amazing. We got to be so close and were like family for that one year. 
I believe everything happens for a reason. I was placed in Stafford America so that later when I continued my career at a normal school like Stratford, I could appreciate what I had. 
If you are a parent, here is my advice. 
– If your child gets into trouble at school, don’t immediately say, “I want to hear my kids side of the story”.  Trust that we aren’t out to get your kid and if we took the time to write them up (time we don’t have) it must be serious or a persistent problem that is disrupting the learning environment so much, learning can’t occur.
– Don’t try to keep tabs on other kids and their punishments. Every situation is different and there are often factors that legally we can’t talk about to others (if the child is classified special Ed and has an IEP- individualize educational plan. The kid my be ED- emotionally disturbed). Your general education child might not receive the same punishment as an ED child for doing the same infraction. Is this fair? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s the way it works.
– We won’t hate your kid or treat your kid differently if you curse us out or yell at us, but we will never forget. It’s human nature. 
– If you have a beef with a teacher, try and go to the teacher first to work it out. We don’t appreciate you calling our boss and turning us in for something in fact you later found out was not true. We appreciate you coming to us first because we care about all of our students and want to clear up any concerns.
– If you child has an AWESOME teacher, take two seconds one day and shoot them an email saying how much you appreciate them. Even better, if it is a positive email, cc their boss. If it is negative, don’t.

– My favorite Holiday gifts/end of year gifts were hand written notes from your children. I still have all the ones I was given. I’m not saying I didn’t appreciate gift cards,etc (I did!!), but the notes were special.
– Try and get involved someway in your kids school. If you work full time, ask the teacher if they need help cutting things out at home. You could also bring up a dish during teacher appreciation. The gesture is twofold. First, the teachers appreciate these gestures and second, your child sees that you appreciate education and the school.
In conclusion, just know that 99.9 percent of educators out there are working very very hard because they love children want your children to be successful. Please have patience and understand that we are not perfect and sometimes make mistakes.
Our question for you, do you think the education system has the respect from the community that it has had in the past?

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