Friday, May 25, 2007

What I learned this semester, Part III: Why I really quit my job (and it wasn’t to go back to school).

After 13 years of dedicated service, I resigned my position as paraeducator with the local school district. It was a decision I agonized over for some time, but made one Friday morning while setting up for the vocational business. That morning, the culmination of years of psychological abuse resulted in a shocking display of anger; by me. I went home that night and started reworking my resume.

My son’s counselor stopped by that Saturday and counseled me to go back to school and get my degree. So, that was what I decided to do. I hadn’t even completed one semester of school before I realized what was going on. I thought my supervising teacher was just burning out and becoming increasingly unpleasant. I was wrong. My supervising teacher had always been that way; I was just slow in figuring it out.

A person with an authoritarian personality becomes anxious and insecure when circumstances upset their world views. They seek “security, order, power, and status, with a desire for structured lines of authority, a conventional set of values or outlook, a demand for unquestioning obedience, and a tendency to be hostile toward or use as scapegoats individuals of minority or nontraditional groups” ( They tend to be very superstitious and credulous. The authors of my social psychology book described it perfectly: People with authoritarian personality kiss ass above, and kick ass below.

I don’t know why, but I didn’t recognize her in the guru’s and cult leaders I was reading about when I started this blog. I knew she had problems with one of her daughters, and I knew she was the cause, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I knew that any time she had more than two women working for her, they would end up fighting with each other. I couldn’t figure out why then, but I know why now.

In all the years I worked for her, she never once disobeyed even an off suggestion made by one of her supervisors. It didn’t matter how unfair it was to the students, or how much more work it would make for her paras, she complied. When her colleagues made inappropriate requests and comments regarding our students, she said nothing. She always said, as though it were her badge of honor, that she hated confrontation. Well, I guess she did when it came to colleagues and supervisors, but students and paras were another story.

She would choose a student each year that would be her “whipping boy”. That child earned the dubious distinction of being the in-group reject. She would have no trouble at all confronting that child, daily, publicly, relentlessly. Contrary to what most people believe, most high school students comply with teacher requests, and rarely stand against teachers. Mentally disabled children wouldn’t even know they were wronged, and are usually incapable of advocating for their rights, especially when they don’t know what they are.

Each time she had more than two paras working for her, she chose one of them to be her adult “whipping boy” outcast. It didn’t take her long, and peon workers learn early that it is better to be part of the “in” group than to be the one on the outs. She had no trouble confronting that poor woman either, daily, publicly, relentlessly. Eventually that para would resign, with prejudice.

I wasn’t there while she was raising her kids, but I see the aftermath. She chose one of her daughters to be the family’s “whipping boy”. That daughter is currently struggling with drug addictions and self destructive relationships. The offspring of one of those relationships is currently being raised by her mother, my ex-supervisor, teacher of disabled children. It’s a mess, and I feel sorry for the victims.

When I left the school district, she had hired a new para who unwittingly took the position of “whipping boy”. I went to visit once, and there were many more paras. I’m glad I’m not there anymore. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable things are now. (I do miss the kids, though, I miss them terribly)

It is true that I was a coward. I never stood up for any of the poor chosen victims, because, for a long time, I didn’t know what she was doing was really wrong. By the time I figured it out, I was afraid of her. Once I made my mind up to quit, I also vowed not to sit by and watch it happen without saying something. For those four months, she was on her best behavior. I think she sensed something had changed in me. (Maybe it was my shocking display of anger).

I think there are a lot more people out there who have authoritarian personalities than is generally assumed. My guess is that most, if not all, of the anti-social people committing horrible crimes against others had mothers who had authoritarian personalities. (I guess I’d better start working on that null hypothesis now!)

So there it is. I learned why society is swarming with violence and hate, why I’m so messed up, and why I really quit my job. It’s an awful lot to learn in such a short time. I don’t even feel like I’m the same person any more. I jumped ship, and am just floating, drifting with the current, until I find land to put my feet on again. Who knows what I’ll learn this summer? How different will you find me after this coming fall semester? Will you still like me? Will I?


  1. You've found your Path! Follow it! You will like you so much more than you did before, and what everyone else thinks is irrelevant!! Follow your Path! Or, more precisely, let your Path lead you...

  2. Hmm, I do think there is a place somewhere on this blog where I promise the universe to take a path when it is shown to me. Have you been sent to remind me?