From Jessica Darden:
On January 18th my mother, Susan Works-Darden, will be closing the final chapter in over 30 dedicated years of teaching. Unfortunately, my mother, like an increasing number of teachers in Harford County, is not ending a career she loves and has dedicated her entire heart to in a way she, or any of us, could have ever imagined. My mother was targeted, mistreated, and professionally humiliated until she couldn’t take it any longer.
My mother is the teacher who is the first to arrive and last to leave. She is part of the heartbeat at her school. For the faculty, staff, and students at her school she is a warm hug after a long day, a listening ear for the often ignored, and guide for those who need support and direction. My mother has modeled lessons for incoming teachers to the county and mentored other teachers throughout the building, not for recognition or compensation (which teachers hardly ever receive anyway), but because that’s the type of educator she is.
For over 30 years, my mother received glowing observations. Then suddenly, after 4 years of successful observations at her school, this year her math instruction was deemed unsuccessful. However, her MSA scores from the previous year, and her current students’ unit math assessments reflect a totally different truth. After all the years of dedication, there was no support for my mother in the end. There was no honesty, integrity or fairness in the manner which the school leadership treated my mom. My mother who encouraged other teachers to keep an open mind and trust that the school’s leadership could change for the better; my mother who the school leadership often turned to when they had students other teachers couldn’t reach, was put on an unnecessary and humiliating “plan of action.” This means, increased hours of “busy” work added to the already overwhelming work load of an elementary school teacher. I am saddened most that there wasn’t any support just continuous criticism and unrealistic objectives set for my mom to meet. Even though the school leadership continued to take from her, she continued to put on a brave face and a warm heart for her students because for my mother they are who matter most.
As concerned phone calls from parents and the community continue to go unanswered or even acknowledged by Harford County Public Schools leadership, one can only ponder in dismay the intentions of the county and school leadership. But, for Susan Darden, and her beloved colleagues, each and every single day it is still the children that they wake up for and give their best to.
And so, after 30 years it is not the mistreatment or the embarrassment that brings my mother to quiet tears each night. It is leaving her students, missing the graduation of former students, and not being able to be there on a regular basis for my sister (who is also a teacher at her school) and other teachers that she regards as her “work family.” I also work with children, and it was watching my mother spend hours planning and preparing lessons with excitement and vigor that encouraged my love for children. It was coming in and observing this dynamic teacher that fueled my desire to want to also be responsible for that gleam in the eyes of babes. But now as we approach the final days, I am coming in to help her pack up her classroom for the last time.
Mom, it is not how you imagined your final days in your beloved profession, but as you hug the last student and kiss the last co-worker’s cheek, may your head and spirit be high. You gave it your all each and every day, right up until the end and for that you will continue to be blessed. And as one chapter closes, so the next one will begin…