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Monday, April 28, 2014

Change from within


Soon, right around the bend, we'll be receiving pamphlets and literature about local, state and national elections, as well as  about measures that will affect local quality of life. My front yard will display what we believe are the right  candidates and the right measures to support.

Were we always this open about our political views?
Not really.

Most of our adult years were spent raising a family and providing for the present while hoping the future would automatically get better by itself, somehow. We accepted rules and the status quo automatically. After all, we were just cogs in big machines.

The first time I experienced a change in policy occurred accidentally.

I was pregnant with my youngest child, and had ten days to go to finish my third year of probationary status as a teacher. Ten days. If I didn't teach those ten days, I could not become permanent.  Ten days at the end of a school year are the most difficult days to teach for reasons teachers know well : teens are most erratic at this time; their families angry at the school and the teacher that dared hand out failing marks; and vandalism can occur even among "good" students. The child was due at the end of April. Returning to teach for the last ten days of school in June meant that I would have to leave a small infant too soon.

I spoke with my administrators about my situation before I left for maternity leave. They told me rules were rules. I offered a compromise. What if I could return to work and bring my newborn and a nanny so I could still nurse him as necessary and not disrupt his life at such a stage? Though this meant that I needed to run to the lounge that existed in the next building over at break time and rush to nurse in the ten minutes left, they agreed it could work out.

The administrators were more than willing. They moved my classes closer to the lounge, and they provided both a rocking chair and an extra heater for that room.  A colleague with a free period before break came by ten minutes ahead of schedule to cover my class and released me to go nurse for a whole half hour!

I was able to nurse the baby every two hours and the school didn't have to get a sub at the end of the year when any change would have been most distracting to students.

It was this act that changed my viewpoint about rules and regulations. Rules are meant to enhance our quality of life not diminish it. When I became an administrator, I made sure my staff had time to attend to their own children's needs.

15 comments:

joeh said...

Rules should be a guide line to be ignored or adjusted when common sense makes...hmmm Common Sense!

Nice that you worked at a school where administrators were allowed to think.

Perpetua said...

Gosh, that was an enlightened attitude back then, Rosaria. Well done for negotiating the compromise and for ensuring that the same understanding was given to those you had responsibility for in later years.

Tabor said...

Rules are meant to be bent if not broken on occasion. And certain staff should be given the benefit of the doubt.

ds said...

Kudos to those administrators and your colleagues! Policies are nice to have, but they must also be flexible. Otherwise, we are all confined to straitjackets.

Helen said...

I love this story ... my oldest nephew is a high school principal, one of the finest. You and he share the same philosophy!

Marty said...

I'm absolutely amazed at the enlightened and creative outlook of your administrators when you were a young teacher!

Brian Miller said...

good for you...i have a good administrator right now that def puts family first as needed...and within reason...i agree they should be to enhance life not diminish it...

Retired English Teacher said...

This warmed my heart. I must be honest. I don't think that ever would have happened in the district where I taught. In fact, I'm sure it would not have. Bravo for those administrators.

#1Nana said...

Now we have laws to protect nursing mothers. Schools have to provide pumping areas and provide release time to pump. Oregon law provides more maternity leave than the federal law. We're making progress, but it's slow!

ellen abbott said...

You are lucky the school was willing to work with you. I truly don't understand why businesses are so family unfriendly.

yaya said...

That was progressive back then. We do many things to help our new Mom's when they return to work. We have a "milking station" in the OB dept and our staff of new Moms are given as much time as needed to nurse. It's proven that a happy work force makes a company more productive. It's nice when people can compromise and make the rules work for the good of all...and not just rules that have to be followed no matter what. You sound like you were a good administrator and champion for Mom's and kiddos!

Rob-bear said...

What a wonderful story! Thanks so much for sharing it, Rosaria.

Blessings and Bear hugs!

And, yeah, watch out for "the expectations"!

Becky Jerdee said...

How lovely that they could bend the rules :)

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Rules with little flexibility are a huge problem in the workplace of today -- and yesterday. I'm so glad you had an administration with some compassion. Too often women have had to make hard choices -- from leaving infants too soon or giving up careers that mean so much or giving up the experience of having children at all. There shouldn't have to be such stark choices.

I was in an honors seminar group in college with five men and five women. All five men had great careers, marriages and children. Only one of the five women had children -- and she gave up any possibility of a career in her field to care for them. While she feels she made the right choice for her, she still gets a little wistful when we talk about what might have been and so do I, having had a career but no children. Despite all the talk about having it all, that's still so hard for so many women.

the walking man said...

Rosaria,

When I was a Union Rep I had to get my whole crew to register for the Family Medical Leave Act in order for them to get time off to take care of family needs.

Working for the city as it turns out in bankruptcy never had an upside, failing in its oft stated goal of take a lower wage now for a better retirement later. *shrug* what is a complete loss of healthcare and another 25% cut on top of that?

As I age now I am reverting back to "no rules can bind me" as a creed.