Five years ago this August I applied for a job as a librarian at a Catholic
school. I had been toying with the idea of getting a second Master’s degree
and becoming a school librarian. I don’t know what possessed me to consider
this as a great career choice since:
A. I had no teaching experience other than 3/4 of a teaching certificate.
B. I’m not a librarian per se.
C. I’m not Catholic.
D. I don’t like children.
Unfortunately, I was hired on the spot 3 weeks before school started by a
desperate man who needed someone who was willing to do the job as long as it
didn’t include molesting the children and sacrificing kittens on the new
Basically, I was the perfect candidate.
I suspect I was also the only candidate.
My new boss, we’ll call him Mr. Bastard, encouraged me to call the previous
librarian to see if there was anything I should know about the library. My
conversation with her was rather dark and foreboding as she ended our call
by saying “I don’t want to discourage you…I…well, just good luck. It
wasn’t the right job for me, but I hope it works out for you.”
After accepting the job and spending a week freaking the fuck out over it, I
assembled a team of my favorite librarians to help me get my classroom
together. While there, the custodian stopped by to chat and offer his help
and also to scare the crap out of me by telling me that the school had been
through FIVE librarians in the past FOUR years. I was lucky number six and
he wished me the best saying, “I don’t know what they have against
librarians, but keep your head up and don’t let them get to you.”
That was also the day we learned that my library had only one computer with
no content filters or firewall security on it whatsoever. Instead of a
computerized library catalog, there was a dusty old card catalog that was
totally shaquaed (that’s not a real word so don’t look it up) because it
hadn’t been updated since 1982, a ten year old set of World Book
Encyclopedias (complete with pages missing for that “air of mystery”), books
from the 1950’s, and a budget of $500 for the entire year which included
paper and ink for the school’s only color photocopier. After paying for the
copier expenses, my book budget turned out to be about $25.50 for the year.
My students, God bless their sweet little Catholic spoiled brat private
school hearts, ranged in age from 3-13 and I had absolutely zero experience
with children of any age. None. Ever.
I was unbelievably fucked in every way possible and school hadn’t even
It was exactly like in a scary movie when the caretaker warns the teenagers
not to go into Old Man Foster’s place, but the dumb bunnies never listen and
they go in anyway and get their asses handed to them.
And I did.
I got my ass handed to me on the first day of school as I found myself:
-holding a crying second grader and dabbing blood off her cheek with an
inferior quality Catholic institution type Kleenex after her classmates
attacked her during a not-so-Christian game of Simon Says.
-Inadvertently reading a story about population control to a group of
Catholic fourth graders and subsequently answering some pretty tough
questions about birth control. Whoopsie.
-Taking a class of thirty-one Kindergartners to mass having no clue where
the church is, where to sit, how to do the Jesus, Jesus, bo-beezus hand jive
thing the Catholics do, and not knowing how to keep 31 five year olds quiet
during the whole stand up, sit down, kneel and shake hands business.
How many bad omens does one need in order to know that shit is not gonna be
okay? Well, I’m not that smart so the events so far weren’t enough to send
me screaming from the Catholics and their offspring.
I stupidly continued to show up every day thinking that if I just tried
harder it would get better. I was so stressed out and exhausted that over
the course of the school year I had four double ear infections, two sinus
infections, bronchitis, and a Rheumatoid Arthritis flare up severe enough
that I couldn’t walk up the stairs to the lunchroom or the ladies room, so I
wound up eating cold lunches in February and holding my pee pee for seven
One day I reported to my library to find that they had moved it from a big
sunny yellow room with tons of windows to a narrow, gray walled, dingy
basement room without windows, heat, or ventilation. It felt exactly like
being in one of the gas ovens at Auschwitz. Imagine my surprise when I found
that my entire library had been moved, and I had classes coming in 10
minutes, aaaaaand the shelves had been installed with the books in RANDOM
ORDER. I had a dewey decimal lesson planned for grades 3 through 8 with
fucky shelves. I sat at my desk and cried bitter tears while Joan the Art
teacher, or St. Joan of Art as I called her, ran to her classroom and
grabbed some stuff for the kids to color with since my lesson plans for the
day were totally in the shitter.
Oh, and the second grade teacher used to bring the kids in from recess, give
them candy, and send them to me on a sugar/recess high like you read about.
And then she would report to the principal that my classroom was out of
control and I’d get called in for a spanking and a “this is unacceptable”
It seemed like I was in his office at least once a week for some bullshit
My favorites though, were these:
-Eating lunch at my desk in the library.
-Being seen “crying alone in the classroom” on the day my library was moved.
Apparently someone saw me crying and reported me to the principal instead of
coming in to see if I was all right, and maybe offering a word of
encouragement to a new teacher who was at the end of her rope. That would
have been the Christian thing to do. Right?
-Having my classroom clock break and accidentally sending the kids back to
their regular classroom too early thereby shortening their teacher’s free
period by approximately 1 minute, 36 seconds.
-Threatening to kill the students if they touched that god damned photo
copier without permission. (Okay, so perhaps threatening to kill the
children was my bad, but the rest was total bullshit.)
And finally, the coup de grâce came when — as far as I can piece it
together — I was busy at the other end of the library checking out books
for some students about two minutes before their teacher was scheduled to
collect them, when a 4th grader sat down at the filterless, securityless
computer and typed “pokemon” into Google. From what I’ve been told, a
picture of a girl in a bikini appeared. At exactly this moment, his little
bitch classroom teacher (who had been trying to get me in trouble all year)
arrived at the library to collect her students and saw the bikini girl on
the screen. Saying nothing to me — and not letting on that anything was
wrong — she left with her students and then reported to Mr. Bastard while
“shaking and crying” that I was letting the kids look at porn.
Mr. Bastard called me to his office and told me to collect my things and
leave the building immediately, before the end of the day, never to return
again. I was not given a chance to defend myself.
“I’m doing you a favor,” he said.
I broke into uncontrollable hysterical crying right there in front of him.
You know the kind where you cannot breathe and you have snot pouring out of
you and you make all sorts of animal-ish snorky sounds? Yeah. Way to keep
your dignity, Kristen. And it took me a good 10 minutes to wipe the copious
snot off my face and regain a normal breathing pattern to leave the office,
hang my head in shame and humiliation, and go collect my stuff.
Looking back on it, he really did do me a favor by firing me because I got
to collect unemployment for the summer, but still — it was a devastating
I should have trusted my gut because taking this job was perhaps the single
worst decision I have ever made in my life. Worse even than the time I
decided to sell my underpants on Craigslist, but that’s a story for next
month’s Back Fence theme What the Fuck Was I Thinking?
I’m just kidding. I don’t really think they’re planning that one, but they