I have not been teaching this year. I was let go from my teaching position because I did my job but according to a person that had no idea how I taught or how I was meant to be a teacher I was let go. Why? I wrote a letter, oh I am sorry, I sent an email of my letter.
About 4 years ago, the diocese, I guess, decided that every teacher had to have the hours that would make them able to teach religion. People in charge believed that every teacher should be able to teach religion. For four years I would go to my principal at the beginning of the school year and I would ask if I had to take all of the hours since I did not teach religion because I did not have students during first period which was set as the time where the entire school was scheduled for religion class. I was given the answer that I did not have to take the extra hours by both of my principals. The last year when I asked I was told, ” No LaBolt, why would you take those extra hours, Ms. F is already certified. She will teach religion.” By the way, there was a curse word thrown in there but I am going to quote the response nicely. Once again I went back to my own teaching and was relieved that I did not have to become a certified catechist. Why? Honestly it is not my calling. By the way, my one mistake is that I never got that response in writing. If I had I would have been an episode for sure when LA Law returns!
I went on with my science teaching and everything was aligned with how each school year moves along. We taught through the heat of August because we start the first week of August in 100 degree temperatures, we move on to September, we get to work into October and at the end of this month we get to dress up for Halloween. Yep, in the Catholic Schools we still get to celebrate and dress for Halloween. We move into November and then the Thanksgiving Break is upon us. We get an entire week off to eat to our hearts desire. We then have two or three short weeks left and the first semester and the Christmas Break is upon us all.
It was at this time right before Christmas Break when we had a meeting and eleven of us were kept behind after a regular scheduled teacher’s meeting. As we all met at a singled out table I remember looking around and thinking that all of the “good” teachers were in this group so it had to be good news. My instincts were wrong for this one time. We were all told that since we were going through an acredidation that everyone sitting there had to finish their 170 hours of catechism training classes by May or we were not to be given a contract for the following school year. What? When did this happen? Why weren’t we told this previously?
Let me first put this into perspective with the hours needed. I went to a four year university, the University of Akron, Go Zips! I majored in Biology and minored in Earth Science and would be graduating with a degree in Secondary Education. If I look at my credit hours to obtain this, there are about 156 credit hours. I took classes that the Pre Med majors were taking and classes that the Civil Engineers were taking. I had some classes that I had to really work at. Did you ever take Genetics or Organic Chemistry at the college level? Throw in some Paleontology and some Soil and Water classes and tell me what you think. I worked hard in those FOUR years to pass with a B average to graduate in 4.5 years. I did do my student teaching during a fall semester, it wasn’t my fault that mono delayed two classes. Schist happens!
So now as I am sitting listening that I needed to obtain 170 hours of instruction by May. I asked the question that everyone at that table was thinking. “Why were we not told that we had three years to do this and who told you that?” The superintendent of the Galveston/Houston diocese was the giver of this news to our principal. Our principal did say that she was going to get a two year extension for us so I was feeling ok about this predicament. Of course I also asked, “You told me that I did not have to take all of these hours. I have 24 hours of credits because I have gone to the classes on teacher in-service days. What am I supposed to do?” My principal said that she would ask for the extension and that it would be ok.
Here is the “funny” part. I looked around and noticed that the new teachers were not with any of us and the non-Catholic teachers were not there either. Of course I asked why they were not with us and I was told, “Oh they have three years to finish and if they are not Catholic they only have to get 60 hours.” “Wait they only have to take 60 hours? Well then sign me up as non-Catholic!” That was not an option! I also stated that I had proof that I did not have to take these hours. I had a sticker on my personal teaching folder that states that I am not required to take religious hours. (I have uploaded this picture proof for you.)
Look I love teaching in a Catholic School and I will fulfill any job that is asked of me. My problem was that we were never told that we had to take all of the hours in a matter of three or four years. (To this day no one can tell me if the time restraint is three or four years, none of the “rules” are clear.) I never have had the calling to teach religion and I do not want to be a catechist. Believe me, there are people out there who are great at teaching religion. Should all teachers be able to teach science or math or history or language arts? If we all could teach all of these subjects then why do any of us choose to major or minor in what interests us through college? I was not meant to be a religion teacher, it truly is not my calling. I was not called to be a nun, I am not allowed to be a priest or a deacon, and I do not have the call to teach religion.
This whole process bothered me so I went to my principal and she also said that I should be annoyed. I told her that I was going to write a letter to the superintendent and she told me that she did not blame me for doing this. I composed that letter in one day, had a few teacher friends read it, and I pushed that send button. Oh I forgot that I had to get the email address from my principal because if you search on the diocese website it is no where to be found.
I waited and waited for a response to my letter. I asked a few people if they thought that it was weird to wait that long for a response and they said to just wait it out. I never got a response of any kind. I continued to teach and then it was contract time once again for the following school year. The Catholic Schools go year to year with contracts. Every May we have a meeting with the principal and we are told whether we have been asked to stay or to maybe teach at a different level. I have always been told within five minutes to sign the contract for the next year.
I went to my contract renewal time and sat down with the principal and the assistant principal. Right away I was told that they were told to not renew my contract because of my letter! Wait, she read my letter and did not have the decency to respond? Yes I was told. You have got to be kidding me. I had to leave teaching because my principal(s) did not have me take the hours for catechism training AND because I wrote a letter stating my case I was told that I could not return. My principal told me that I was a great teacher and that I would find somewhere else to teach! The assistant principal asked me what I thought I would do next year! I should have responded that I was either going to become a pole dancer or would start writing my sign for standing out on the sides of the many highways in Houston. My sign would read: I’m a great teacher in science but because I was told that I HAD to teach religion I am asking for your offering. I simply walked out of that office, they both had no backbone in which to fight for my staying at St. Rose.
I said goodbye to my students ahead of the actual end of the year because I wanted them to know that I did not get fired and I did not quit. They asked me why I had to leave. I told them that they wanted me to get 170 hours in religious education. The students in all of my classes questioned this by saying, “But you do not teach religion!” See, kids are smart!
My principal at one point did suggest to me, as she walked through my room, that maybe she would hire me as part time. Part time teachers do not have to fulfill any religious education hours. She never sat down with me to work out such a schedule. Oh wait she did tell the soon to be new superintendent that I was offered this. I was not. As I write this, this story is still unbelievable to me and to others that I have told that are not in the teaching field.
I left St. Rose. There were other teachers who did not follow their teaching contracts and they were allowed to stay. The “rules” that they did not follow were, well let me leave it as this: Do you think that all teachers should have a teaching degree and also that maybe just maybe they should be married if they are going to have a child? Shouldn’t all Catholic teachers live with their “boyfriends” after they are married? Well I guess when you do not follow those rules you are really not harming any rules of living in the Christian way. This IS in our contracts.
I did call two lawyers and they told me that I was correct in that employees cannot be given two different set of rules to follow. It is not legal for the non-Catholic teachers to only attain 60 hours of training while the Catholic teachers have to achieve the 170 hours. Both lawyers told me that because of one line in the contract stating that anything that is asked of you as an employee can be asked. “So if they ask for your first born they can do that?” The answer was , “YES”.
I still cannot believe that a religious entity has made a contract that is so flexible in that they basically can make you do anything that they see fit. I’m hoping that they outlaw flip flops in January. They do not see that as slightly weird for a teacher to wear. I’ve seen it and it is not pretty.
I believe that everything happens for a reason. I have stayed home this year and I was able to take my son to Texas Tech for his last semester. I helped him move into his new apartment and that was nice. I was able to visit my daughter in NYC in the fall before it got really cold during Christmas. I was able to travel to Ohio three times to help my mom and dad. I have had a long year off and guess what? I like it but I am ready to go back to teaching. I am ready to go back to my calling, I am a Middle School Science Teacher! I have been interviewing and since there is a new superintendent, yes the one that made me leave decided in August that she had to mysteriously move on, I am once again looking for a Catholic school in which to teach science in. I have the faith that I will be teaching by August and will be meeting some new friends and will be able to help new students on to their journey to high school.
I have uploaded my letter that I sent to speak my mind in how I was not told the correct information for how to stay employed in the diocese. You may want to take this into consideration if something like this happens to you. Would I do it again? Yes I would because I believe in speaking out when you know something is not correct and that it not only affects you but everyone else. Hold on, you do not think that I let that superintendent just get rid of me with no reply did you? I have also uploaded my 2nd letter that I sent to her at the end of that school year. Once again, she did not have the politeness to respond to someone who she denied a contract to through her principal disciples. I guess I can say that I did have the last word!
The new superintendent has got in touch with me and did apologize for what had happened. Because of her getting in touch with me by phone, I have the faith that this year off was really meant to be and hopefully I can once again teach where I know I am meant to be. I am meant to be a science teacher in a Catholic School. It will happen, I will keep in touch.
Amen and Keep on Teaching