Imagine, for a moment, that your husband has just told you he's leaving. He's in love with another woman, and he's leaving you.
Now, imagine that he says, "But before I go, I'd like my girlfriend to come over here and observe you going about your day. So she knows what to do when she takes over."
This was one of the many scenarios that I imagined the other day. The day that the woman who is getting my job came to "observe" me, so she knows what to do when she takes over in September.
When my boss, the lead teacher, told me about this plan, I kind of giggled. I thought it was funny. "How odd!" I thought. I tried to remember which woman it was who observed chimpanzees. I get the chimp one and the gorilla one mixed up, okay? Jane. Jane Goodall was the chimps, Dian Fossey had the gorillas. So I started calling my replacement "Jane Goodall" in my head because I am more chimp-like than gorilla like. I have small shoulders.
So I imagined Jane Goodall coming to our classroom, and hunkering down behind one of the little shelves...furiously scribbling in a small notebook as she took note of my fascinating workday. In my imagination, she also wore a pith helmet.
"This morning, I observed the subject feeding breakfast to approximately 15 young. She displayed great patience while they cried out her name repeatedly and asked for more pears."
"At 9:00 a.m., the subject suddenly left the room. I was able to follow her trail and found her relieving herself. NOTE: after this mid-morning elimination, the subject was much more relaxed."
"After she had successfully gotten approximately 20 young to sleep for 'nap time', I noted the subject peering into the screen of a laptop. I approached the subject carefully, not wanting to disturb her. I noted that she was looking up 'FOOT PAIN' on a website called 'WebMd'. NOTE: Subject was wearing flip flops and a crude pedicure."
"The subject was wary around me. At times she showed her teeth and I was unsure if this was an attempt to be friendly or a warning."
A few things crossed my mind that day. One of them was, OMG. Could this be any more awkward or humiliating? I mean, it's bad enough to get laid off. But then, they expect me to be all shits and giggles while the person who is taking my job comes to watch me do it?
I know, I know. IT'S NOT HER FAULT. Her only crime is having more years under her belt than me. But dammit. It was really hard to be kind. Especially when she kept asking me the same question, over and over, in a very hard to understand, very heavy accent:
"What are you doing?"
She must have asked me this question a hundred times. The first forty times or so, I answered her. I had to explain to her, very slowly, what I was doing, why I was doing it. There was a slight communication issue. Aside from giving her a blow-by-blow account of my every move, I also had to do my actual job. The kids didn't turn it down a notch because Jane Goodall was in the room observing their Miss Jenny. They went about their day, being kids. Loud, active, brash and bold and did I mention loud?
My kindness waned.
Again, I reminded myself, IT'S NOT HER FAULT. But you know what? I'm human. And while she stood there, staring at me, writing things down, and asking me over and over,
"What are you doing?"
I felt an ugly wave of emotions rolling over me. I was mad. I was sad. I found it absolutely repugnant that someone thought this was a good idea. I started to think about how much I like my job and how much fun I have and how this past year has been so freaking good. So good for me, for my kids. I thought about the job search and how hard it is and what it's like to be middle-aged and scared and how sick and tired I am of being middle-aged and scared. And then I thought:
"Fuck this." (sorry) (actually, not sorry. This was a fucked up situation, folks. F-bomb entirely called for.)
I stopped answering her and I did my job. I decided if the powers-that-be wanted her to learn the ropes, they could give me a paid day off and have Jane MotherEffing Goodall come in and do it.
She wanted to observe me? Fine. I felt zero obligation to stop what I was doing and tell her "NOW I AM ORGANIZING THE CHILDREN'S JOURNALS" or "NOW I AM CUTTING THESE STRIPS TO MAKE LITTLE GRADUATION CAPS FOR THE CHILDREN" or "THAT CHILD WAS UPSET SO I WAS COMFORTING HER".
She asked me, one more time:
"What are you doing?"
I looked at her, looked at this Jane Goodall person, this person I was having trouble understanding. This person I was having trouble liking.
I looked into her eyes and I said,
"I'm doing my job."
Jane Goodall's visit happened earlier this week, and it affected me more than I thought. Today I lost it at work. No worries, the kids were napping. But I straight up lost it, crying and dabbing my eyes with paper towels in the lead teacher's tiny office. I told her how shitty this was, how freaking scared I was. How it felt like I was getting dumped by my husband all over again, and having Jane G. there to watch me was so wrong. I told her I'm scared that I won't find a good-enough job, and I won't be able to stay in this house and how I don't want my kids to ever have to move again, ever have to pack up their stuff and leave. How I'm terrified that we'll have to move somewhere small and cheap and give Walter away and how Molly will have to leave college and she'll hate me.
Oh, and the handle on my car broke. The one on the driver's side. So while I try and figure out how to get that mother effer fixed, I'm going to have to either leave the window down all the time or else swing into my car like freaking Bo and Luke Duke.
It's all going to be okay. I'm just going to keep telling myself that. Everything always works out okay.
"Subject has calmed down since her last episode. During my observations, I noted that she has big feelings and cannot hide them, no matter how hard she tries. Her obvious contempt for me was overshadowed only by the guilt she exhibited for having such contemptuous feelings. She approached me, at the end of my observation period, and reached out. I was afraid, at first, until the subject spoke: "I'm sorry if I was rude to you." she said, slowly. "This is hard for me. I'm not a mean person. I hope you like working here."