“Have patience and curse quietly”
“Tener paciencia y maldecir pacito”
“The instruction not to complain can be internalized, because that is what you had been taught, that to complain is to be oversensitive, to be easily affected, easily hurt, bruised, damaged. What others say to you repeats what you have said to yourself. What you say to yourself repeats what others have said to you. The work of complaint can involve an internal process of coming to terms with what you are experiencing. Even if you have to complain about something that is being done to you, whether by somebody else or by a structure that is enabling somebody else, you still have to come to terms with yourself. A complaint can feel like an existential crisis, a life crisis.” (Ahmed 2021: 114)
I am a woman; I am young, have tattoos, and like punk and emo. That characteristic makes me see myself as a professional without experience, and we are used to seeing youth as a flaw.
I was working in a private school as an English teacher. I taught in high school. I liked my job because I could share with my child, who studied there. Besides that the school was beautiful, with a lot of green and animals, we had pure air all the time.
One of my colleagues was an older man working there for a long time—that person used to teach English to the student I was now leading. And I think that is why he thought, even if that was not his responsibility, to supervise my work.
This teacher started to call me “the emo teacher,” he used that nickname without my authorization, and he used it because he could be related to the way I dressed. I like punk, emo, neopunk. I love that music and its aesthetic, but that has nothing to do with how professional I am.
He makes me suggestive comments, looks at me in a way that makes me feel uncomfortable, and harras me via WhatsApp. Furthermore, I did the whole work in the English area, and he always took all the credit.
Once, he called me at 7:00 am on a Sunday to ask me for money, and he threatened me, saying: “If you lend me that money, I will tell you what thoughts has the school principal about you and why they hate you so much.”
(I need to clarify here: I have anxiety and depression, and those comments are not suitable for my mental health. This condition was well known in the school, and he took advantage of it, so I lent him the money)
As he was a teacher working there for a long time, it was difficult for me to complain to my superiors. Especially as I said before: “we are used to seeing youth as a flaw.” I knew no one would believe me, or nothing would happen. Additionally, that process would mean something huge for my mental health lead.
As I was tough as a child, we needed to “have patience and curse quietly.” So that was what I did. I wanted to have a low profile and keep my distance from that teacher. That was super difficult because we work in the English area. I already decided to change jobs as soon as the year-end because I did not want to cut the process I had with my students.
One day I arrived at the school, everything was normal, and one person from the principal office asked me in a demanding tone that I had to go to the office. They did not even let me go to the teachers’ room to leave y stuff there. When I got into the room, the principal, the coordinator, and a lawyer waited for me. Apparently, the teacher who has been harassing me accused me of harassment because I said: “my love” to one of the students.
It is not OK to corner someone, and I felt accused without my right to defend myself. I could not believe what was going on. Saying in a lovely way to a student was not, for me, sexual harassment. I was shocked, and the coordinator said: Is there something you wanted to tell us?
Even if I did not want to complain about the abuses I received from that colleague, at this point, I saw my opportunity. It was evident that these people had no idea what was going on with that teacher.
So, I told them everything. And as proof, I showed some screenshots of the chat on WhatsApp. They were stunned. They did not have complete control of the situation (“El sarten por el mango”) as they thought.
The person that accused me was, in fact, a stalker. Could you imagine? If that behavior had to me “another teacher,” What could he do with a student? At that moment, the institution (The school and the principal) see themselves cornered. They know that my accusations are severed, and I had proof.
So by then, the narrative and their behavior had changed. The voice tone was not rude anymore. I felt relieved because I could take all out of my system. The meeting ends with the agreement that that teacher or I will continue working there. However, there would not be any process against that person. As institutions tend to do, the institution will protect that kind of people.
With time I found that that teacher is still working in the school. It is always more important to maintain the reputation than the truth. More important than protecting the institution’s students and workers. They always manage the problems under the desk without giving them a real solution. Institutions tend to wait for the environment to calm down and do nothing, which causes this kind of abuse never stops.
There are no supporting routes to this kind of case. The private schools have an inner regulation that can apply as they want. But the people do not know how is the complaint route. I feel after this experience that the complaint does not have any effect if the institution does not want to make a change.
This story was told in a meeting between two friends on the 19 of February 2022.