Odd Girl Out

Odd Girl Out is actually the title of a book by Rachel Simmons that I read many years ago about girl-on-girl aggression, and, no, don’t get stuck on the “girl-on-girl” part. That is not what I’m talking about…preverts.

It’s about cruelty, ostracism and bullying that takes place among girls. I just didn’t want to take credit for the title.

This is a negative post, but I was thinking about it the other day because of Sue and her shenanigans.

We moved to New Hampshire’s Seacoast in July of 2004 for a job I was offered from a small private school, let’s call it exactly what it was: The Bitch Tree Center.

My tenure at Bitch Tree spanned approximately six weeks before I was forced to tender my resignation.

The classroom to which I was assigned consisted of four 7-10-year-old students and four teachers. One of the teachers, let’s call her Jenn, was nice enough. Another, let’s call her Christine, was okay, a bit stuck on herself, but otherwise harmless. Also pregnant and on her conceited little way out, anyhow.

The other two women, let’s call them Melanie and Earlene, were close friends. Earlene, who was unpleasant on a good day, disliked me instantaneously, and soon after, her companion followed suit.

These were the teachers tasked with training me to A: perform the teaching methods of applied behavior analysis (ABA), and B: collect accurate data while doing so.

Melanie and Earlene had little patience with me during the training. It was already painfully clear to me that Earlene didn’t like me (Unfortunately, I am quite good at sniffing out how people feel about me), which naturally made me nervous.

When Melanie began to get curt with me as well, I became even more uncomfortable, and I never perform well under that kind of strain. Never. Not even on tasks I’ve already mastered.

One morning, Melanie actually pulled me aside and lit into me, angrily accusing me of demeaning her for asking her a simple question that the BCBA had directed me to ask her the day before.

“Is there anything I’m doing right?” I asked her.

Their rudeness toward me was so overt that other teachers noticed it, without me ever having pointed it out to anyone, as, in deed, I had no friends there, and someone reported them to management. But it didn’t ultimately change their behavior toward me. The situation just got worse.

Due evidently to a lack of progress on my part, Jesse, the behaviorist, got involved somewhat in my training. It didn’t really help, though. Tension between Melanie, Earlene, and me continued to build and I made more and more mistakes, inducing their blunt criticism.

These women may have been close to my age, perhaps a year or two younger. Most of the teachers were young. But it was obvious that the two of them were running their mouths behind my back. One afternoon, the entire staff went out to Margaritas, leaving me behind and rubbing it in.

Finally, management called me into their office one morning and asked me to leave. They said I was a “nice person,” (Gee, thanks so much for patronizing me, that’s not humiliating at all!) but I didn’t have the necessary instinct to teach ABA.

They said if I resigned, I’d be able to collect unemployment. That was incorrect. When the state department of labor contacted the center, they told the department rep that I had not met their expectations. Therefore, the department determined I did not qualify for unemployment.

Luckily, I found another job within a few weeks, just in time for the new school year, where I completed my internship and finished my M.Ed.

After a couple of months, I wrote Bitch Tree a letter about how I had invested so much of our lives, had moved across the state with my husband to take that job, only to be let go after six weeks of disrespect and condescension from half of my so-called trainers.

I wonder what would have happened had I been assigned to a different classroom, perhaps the preschool-aged children. Would I have done better? Would I have had more confidence and made fewer mistakes? Would I have picked up the necessary skills and met their requirements in the expected time frame? Would the teachers in another room have seen my true ability and not written me off as incompetent?

I think the answers to all of these questions are yes. Later in my career, I was able to acquire those same skills Bitch Tree had told me I had no “instinct” for, although I didn’t end up using them as extensively as I had planned.

Nevertheless, in a more supportive, less toxic work environment, I proved, to myself, at least, that my raw ability had not been the problem in that situation. Their petty cliquishness, intimidation, and marginalization were the problem.

Some girls are just plain mean, and they never grow up.

I can clearly remember being told—scolded, really—that redirection was never supposed to be punitive (something to do with my tone of voice), and thinking, funny, their teacher training methods are rather punitive.

Earlene and Melanie were what I would consider adult bullies. I was afraid to defend myself at that job. I simply agreed with them to avoid making waves and getting fired. Then I lost the job, anyway.

I hate bullying. Just plain hate it. I was victimized enough in grade school. I am not letting this happen to me anymore.

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