Saturday, 22 February 2014

Why was the school so disrespectful to my Dad's memory?

My Mum and Dad were both science teachers. At the time they were both killed they were employed as Head of Science in two different schools. Not long after he died the school where Dad had worked named the largest science laboratory after him. There was a notice by the door with his name on it plus a comment "a much loved and respected teacher and colleague" plus the date he died. In June 2013 I found out from one of his former work-mates that the newish Head Teacher was going to remove the notice because she wanted to rename the room after another member of the science department who has just died from breast cancer. I realised that it was over 3 years since Dad had died and that the Head Teacher had never known him but I found what was going to happen quite upsetting.

In the end I sent a polite note to the Head Teacher saying what I had heard and asking if it was true.  In the letter I said that it has meant such a lot to me to know that my father was remembered and honoured and that I would be sad if his memorial was taken down.

I didn’t get any reply to this letter but a few days later when I got home I found that somebody had been to my house and had just left Dad's memorial propped up against the front door. No note, not even in a bag, just the memorial on its own.

I wasn't 100% surprised because when the Head Teacher didn't bother to get in touch with me I guessed that the decision had already been made and that she wouldn't think she needed to justify it to an outsider like me. But I was sad and Stewart and my other housemates were sad for me.  I have a support package from the university and if I have a crisis I have a phone number that I can ring - so I did. I think the first person I spoke to was quite shocked at what has happened so he passed me on to his own boss. She was very unimpressed with the school and, with my permission, approached the school on my behalf.

I knew that Dad would be laughing at all of this. He never had a very high opinion of some Head Teachers and I didn't think he would have been even a little bit shocked at how things had worked out. But I knew that he would be cross that they upset me because he would think they were acting like bullies and he hated bullies!

Eventually the Head Teacher agreed to meet with me. I didn’t go alone!

The absolute boss of the legal section of the university came with me. Before we went in he told me that every single person in his department had wanted to come along to sort out the Head so he had exercised "bosses rights" to choose the best job for himself. It made me happy and sad at the same time that a busy and important person like him wanted to help me.

I don't think the HT was expecting me to come with a legal expert and she wasn't very pleased. She started off trying to be all bossy and to make herself seem so important and to make my Dad and I sound as if we didn't matter at all. But my legal helper wasn't having any of it. He was very firm with her and made her seem rude, insensitive, ignorant and all sorts of other nasty things in front of her PA who was taking notes. But the clincher was when he made it clear that unless everything was sorted out at the meeting our next appointment was with the local paper and the one after that with the local radio station.

He pointed out how much advertising the university puts in the paper and how the editor would "just love" a human history story like this. He came up with some headlines - all designed to make the HT look like some kind of monster. It was brilliant to watch him in action and my Dad would have been so proud!

Between us we drew up a list of all the things that needed to be done and the Head Teacher signed both copies. I've kept one copy so she couln't wriggle out of anything.
I very nearly had a little cry when I got back to my car because I was happy and I knew that I had done the right thing by my Dad.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Two and a half false offers of "help" - grrrrr!

I have always known that I would need emotional or practical support if I was going to get over Mum and Dad being killed and I would like to think that I have always welcomed into my life anybody who wanted to help me. I have been lucky that loads of people of different faiths or of no faith at all have supported me on what became a long and rocky path.

The only people who have offered help that wasn’t help at all were an evangelical Baptist counsellor (suggested by the local vicar), an American lady I met through Facebook and my Mother's closest friend.

Mum's friend was the saddest of the three. The two of them had been best friends for years and I knew her, her husband and her children really well. She had spoken to me before and immediately after the funeral but after a couple of weeks of providing really valuable support she seemed to lose interest. Her emails got shorter and shorter and the delay between me contacting her and receiving any reply got longer and longer. I still see her in the town, she shops in the same supermarket that I use, but even four years after the accident she still cannot bring herself to have a proper conversation with me.

The evangelical Baptist was only ever on Granddad’s side. She actually supported his right to beat me on biblical grounds. Her main interest seemed to be trying to get me to see the error of my ways. What I wanted and needed counted for little or nothing. She wanted me to have a theological debate with her and her colleagues and to give up almost everything that made my life half way bearable.

The third of the three was as recent as August 2013.  I had an exchange of emails with an American lady who had contacted me totally unsolicited. She approached me as a mature (good), lady (better) and experienced (crisis hot-line) person. She said “there was nothing that is too much for me to handle” – (perfect). I feel I gave her every possible opportunity to share her relevant knowledge or experience with me but she didn't seem to want to do this. So exactly why did she, as she claimed several times, “reach out” to me? It felt as if she was putting her church at the centre of the process rather than me and that seemed a horribly cruel thing to do! Her first email was on Monday, by Tuesday it was a Bible Study course that was being promoted, by Wednesday it became clear what religious group she belonged to, by Friday I was feeling pressurised to meet with members of her church and by Saturday she had researched in detail exactly where I lived. This was all rather frightening if I’m truthful.

Overall I know I have been extremely fortunate in the support I was able to access but sometimes I do wonder exactly what was going through these three people's minds!