I have received a flood of messages today from colleagues, and colleagues from other schools. All due to a very insensitive write-up in our union’s semi-annual mail-out. This mail-out goes to every single teacher in my district, which is
one of the largest in Ontario. It arrives in our mailboxes at school, and is a lunchtime favourite for teachers, who sit around the lunch table, crunching an apple in one hand, and turning the pages of this mail-out in the other. This publication outlines all of the retirements, new hires, transfers, births, promotions, and condolences. Basically, it is the gossip column for the largest school board in Ontario, but NEVER have I ever read negative news that was not consented- even condolences have needed to be approved by the member affected.
Given all of this, you can imagine how surprised as shit I was when a colleague from another school text messaged me a photo of my name mentioned in the fall/winter union mail-out. In fact, the exact words were:
“We would also like to say farewell to the following staff who are on leave: _____________ .”
First of all, since when is it anyone else’s business that I am on leave??
Second of all, “farewell”????? Where the hell do they think I am going? They use “farewell” when people transfer schools, are promoted, or retire. It is not appropriate in this context. How the hell is that supposed to make me feel? How is it supposed to make me feel about coming back to work?
Thirdly, why was this included without my consent?
Lastly, how insensitive for the colleague who wrote and submitted this, to not consider the repercussions of announcing to essentially the public that for some unknown reason, I am not working. For example, the emails and messages from other colleagues who are wondering if “everything is okay?”. This puts me in a position where I either have to disclose our miscarriage to people that I have a professional relationship with, or come off as an asshole for not replying/not revealing. Even worse, most people assume that a “leave” is usually stress related unless it specifies maternity or illness. So as it reads, everyone who doesn’t know what’s going on in my private life is led to believe that I’m having a hard time “hacking it” at my job. When in reality, I’m physically and emotionally trying to grieve, and know that it’s not fair to me or my students if this isn’t done properly.
I haven’t slept in two nights, as my anxiety has been sky-high from a phone call from our school board’s long term disability provider (I’m not collecting LTD yet, and probably won’t be at all because my leave is so short), asking all sorts of intrusive questions about the nature of my leave, feigning sympathy, what medications I’m on, who my specialists are, and etc. Apparently I have the right to not disclose anything to her, as she works for the insurer and indirectly, my employer. But I told her everything, and I did so honestly. I became shorter with my answers though, when she started to sound like she was really prying, and asking inappropriate questions. I called our union to complain about this phone call, as it truly set me back in my emotional recovery. And remember, I’m not just grieving one miscarriage, I am grieving our two years of infertility, three miscarriages, my mistreatment at work while this has been happening, as well as processing the fact that my body killed off a perfect, chromosomally normal baby girl.
The publication of my “unspecified leave”, and its distribution to the entire membership of my district, feels like a public shaming, and has brought me to a higher level of anxious and pissed than ever before. A medium that is normally used in the same way as your great aunt’s Christmas family update mail-outs, should not have been used to share my private status with my school with the 15,000 other staff in the board.
Needless to say, I am extremely pissed off by this. DW plans to email the editor of this publication to urge her to create guidelines on what schools can submit for these updates (yes, it was my school that submitted this little shaming piece- the same school who has made my time miserable). I feel like I deserve an apology from my school, but I am not holding my breath, because I know it will never come. So for now, I will just keep blindly emptying my inbox, because those who matter, already know, and those who don’t, are just looking for more gossip.