Underappreciation Sucks: 20 June 2020

A woman sits by herself with a wide space around her with a wider circle of lots of people around that

It’s been a while since I’ve written. Between mental and emotional fatigue from the pandemic, the shifting alert levels, making up for lost time at work, the craziness that is the Trump administration in the States, to the horrors of systemic racism and overzealous and overpowered police in the USA coming to the fore again, I have been steering clear of writing, social media, and lots of different things.

I did write a large post about the disconnect between the response to the pandemic back home in the States and here, and how that extended to the Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police movements back home as opposed to the relative harmony and acknowledgements of inequality and crossing a fine line with police here in New Zealand, but I haven’t posted it yet. My thoughts are still not crystalized into the right words yet.

Over the lockdown, I posted blog entries every day. They reflected how I felt at the moment, to snapshot how I was feeling on any given day. Most of the posts spoke about The Place Where I Work and how hard I was working. I think at one point, I worked 22 out of 25 days before I started to throttle back a little to avoid burning myself out.

We are far past the lockdown, but guess what? I’m burned out. I really am.

I worked really hard to ensure our students kept learning and kept engaged in study while we were off-campus and engaged in an online learning platform. It was a massive amount of work. I’m not claiming I did all the work, but I did a huge chunk of work, which took up a lot of my time, both professionally and personally.

When 2020 swung around, my writings were around how I was going to make this year my year. Ease back on the work and forge forward with my own personal projects. Over the last several years, I have given, and given, and given far more of myself, my time, my money, and my personal life to keeping the place running smoothly.

A pandemic happened, and making 2020 my year backfired spectacularly in my face.

So, remember, before the alert levels were announced, and before lockdown started, I saw the winds change and started work on the online learning system.

Throughout the lockdown, all my normal work was shoved aside, and I worked tirelessly (10 – 12 hour days most days with little to no breaks) on the online learning system.

Once we returned to campus, it was mostly me who manned the doors in the mornings to let students in because we needed to monitor the school to possibly keep the virus at bay. Some days, I would be taking a good hour to hour-and-a-half out of my work day to man the doors.

I worked hard, and again, outside of my normal work hours, to try to catch up with my own (very neglected work), but I ended up running interference for my colleague as she struggled to accommodate all the people wanting to come in to apply, enrol, or even see the school post-lockdown. Again, my work was shunted aside for the greater good.

As a team, with strong PPE protections in place for our students at alert level 2, we decided we would not hold final practical examinations but determine the students’ grades based on their performances over the year. The responsibility for determining the final practical grade got tacked on to the normal responsibility of figuring out aegrotat grades.

Pile on to this the normal duties of printing results, printing letters, filing copies of those, printing diplomas, copying diplomas, filing copies of those, preparing for graduation, and so on and so forth, it gets rather busy.

Graduation day rolls around.

I arrive early to set up. On the podium stands the Principal’s speech, containing the same error in my job title as last time. I’d spoken to her or emailed her about it; it’s not been changed. It insinuates I’m at a lower position than I am. I’ve been at my position since the Principal was a student and as long as the Principal has worked for the school. So, around 18 years.

I make a slight correction to the speech with my pen. It’s not scribbled out or written in huge letters; it’s a mere cross out of the wrong title and my neat handwriting putting the correct title in its place.

Graduation. I’m late into the room because (of course) we have people arriving late.

Our CEO has decided to give a speech this year. Short mention — and I mean really short — of the work I did over lockdown, which was extensive and saved the school around $5,000 to $10,000 or more in outside consultancy fees and IT fees.

Principal rushes through the prepared speech. No mention of me other than my name and title.

Graduation comes and goes. Teachers and one of my colleagues get flowers and chocolates and presents and cards and hugs and thanks.

I get sweet fuck-all.

I half-heartedly take the class photos I do after every graduation. This year it is raining, so I take them inside. At one time, I used to take photos of every single student, edit them, and put them on social media. It’s too much work, I do it out of the goodness of my heart, and I get flak when it takes too long to do, even though I’m not being paid for it. So I decide to pull back to do just class photos.

This graduation? This graduation, I’m upset. No thanks, no special mention, absolutely, positively nothing for all the normal 200% I put in plus the extra 150% I put in on top of that this year.

I lock myself in my dark office and try to fix my computer instead.

Before the graduation, as I said, I got to work and ended up working my butt off to prepare for it. I didn’t get time to go upstairs and turn the heaters on for the education team in their offices and the lunch room.

A teacher arrived shortly after we did but about 30 minutes before the rest of the team did. She turned the heater on in their office but not the lunch room.

I spent an entire 15 minutes listening to one of the teaching team complain the heater hadn’t been turned on in the lunch room after she swanned in an hour after we arrived.

After all the graduates left, and a few of us slogged all the furniture back into the common area so remaining students had a place to eat and rest on Monday — many of the teaching team pissed off, exhausted after having to talk to the students, to have a cup of tea and a break instead of helping clean up — I really had had enough, and we left quite early. I was truly fed up.

At home, I found out that the Principal had been severely angry about the alterations I had made to her speech — a total of two words — and had been going on about it. My bosses (thankfully) stepped up and backed me up. Yes, my title had always been that. Yes, I had mentioned that after the last graduation’s gaffe. Yes, I had a right to expect the right title be used.

But after I had been home for a while and after everything sunk in, I realised that I really truly have been, and continue to be, out -severely underappreciated. I just give, give, give, give, and pretty much no one else gives a fuck.

I spent hours and hours getting teaching posters ready for the teaching team — outside the scope of my job, but I hate things around the place looking unprofessionally shitty — and it cost a lot of time and money to print them — to find half of them with markers scribbling words out and writing words in beside them sitting in the offices.

I spent hours making up new forms for the team and students to help save paper and ink and all that jazz, and I ran it by the team to get their input. It looks fine! They are great! Go with those! I do that and… one of them needs a major overhaul over something they should have caught at the first review. So… I’m doing that work over again.

And I get pressured by them. I’m doing their work for them and I’m being pressured over it.

I am really, really frustrated and quite angry about it all, and I am going to be saying this at our meeting next week if I don’t blow my top before then.

Through depersonalization, I have lost so many facets of myself. I have lost confidence, I have lost faith, I have lost hope, I have lost the future. I merely exist in some puddle of a person I used to be in every present moment, and anxiety even robs three quarters of those from me in any given day.

The one area I did have some faith and pride in was my work, until NZQA came in and haphazardly (and rather untruthfully) ruined that a few years ago.

Add to this the recent events of me giving so much of my time and effort outside of the scope of my job description to ensure learning went smoothly for students and tutors alike, and to get no recognition at all for that hard work?

That’s soul destroying to the point where I am questioning my future.

I know this is a negative rant, but I need to stand up for the last shred of my dignity I have left before the puddle of who I was evaporates completely.