Teachers face enormous responsibility and so much pressure whilst in teaching institutions. The reason is that these spaces systemically do not cater for the best interests of the teacher or the children in their care. Due to this, I faced such a painful experience I wish to talk about and finally bring to light. A criminal case that changed the trajectory of my life.
Consequently, some processes can harm children, and some procedures do not protect the teacher.
As a result, children under any spectrum of functional needs become the responsibility of a generally qualified teacher whose training does not include the care of a child requiring deeper functional attention.
Moreover, it is much more difficult in a classroom where a teacher is accountable for numerous lives.
What role do institutions play in this painful experience I wish to finally bring to light?
Nursery schools and ECD centres responsible for childcare are first and foremost businesses, so even though some may be picky, they need the numbers to survive.
Then there’s the poor quality of education, resources, and facilities on offer for children on the spectrum and with functional needs in the government sectors.
Therefore, schools in the private sector offering this specialised care exist very far spread, expensive and packed to capacity.
As a result of the realities mentioned above, nursery schools and generally trained teachers face the accountability and responsibility of children in an environment not equipped to care for them.
Structurally there are no safe isolation rooms, tools and/or equipment; other children of varying temperaments attend the same classrooms and are subjected to violent tantrums and abuse from their peers. Overworked teachers must still protect everyone involved.
I was one such teacher.
Little did I realise that I would have my entire life ripped from under me by trying my best to navigate this system and unfairness.
Why I chose not to talk about this painful experience and why I am talking about it now
It was a very sensitive case involving a child and the family. I did not wish to talk about it to protect myself, the family, the child, and the school. Also, just because it is my story to tell, as the entire situation happened to the child and me by everyone else involved, I wished to do it when I was absolutely ready.
But I have built a brand and name in the online public sphere for a while. And in that time, a couple of individuals compromised my feelings of safety and safe spaces to share my thoughts and opinions because of their outsider’s view and warped insight regarding this experience of mine (the experience addressed below).
I was rightfully concerned.
My dad had an altercation with the employer at his previous place of employment just yesterday. Because of toxic masculinity and the conditioning effects, I have not seen my dad cry often, but the handful of times I did was for us and for me. When my dad came home in tears and a state, I was livid, and my nervous system went straight into a pile of past experiences of people taking advantage of my parent’s good nature. And, in a compounding effect, anyone’s good nature, and then further creating a narrative to save their face for the proverbial ‘people’.
I expressed my anger on my Instagram profile without any names or direct references. In that state of anger, I missed some of the nuances and minor facts of the situation and later realised that I should not have given my anger a public platform. So, I removed the post as this will be taken further, and anything said can and will be used.
When I engaged in a private conversation with the involved parties only because of being acquainted online, this person very strategically reminded me, as an attempt at silencing me, of my past experience and what it could mean for me if it came to light.
I say, let the light shine on all there is to see.
So, today I choose to take control of the narrative, and I will never have it held over my head like a noose again!
The painful experience which changed my life
As a teacher – A painful experience I wish to talk about and finally bring to light…
As a nursery schoolteacher with over a decade of experience, I received a promotion to the role of senior teacher in an ECD capacity. I was brilliant at my job, and I loved it. My entire life revolved around me being Tr. Fairy. Children visited me on weekends; I took them on outings, attended every birthday party and babysat most of them when their parents needed some time off.
I had a stellar reputation and outstanding references. My home and heart were open to my career and the families in my care. I changed children’s lives and, as a result, their families. In my archives and a little box of memories, I have hundreds of personal letters from families whose children I taught.
I did not know that my sentimental keepsake would become evidence to save my reputation.
The context – A painful experience that I wish to bring to light and talk about finally.
About nine years ago, a child diagnosed with being on the autism spectrum came into my care. I was about 25 years old then. I grew to love this child and saw the helpless world around me, which did not cater for the needs of this child. The child’s parents were both working parents and tried their best to give him all he needed in a ‘normal’ environment. They believed it was a result of vaccines and that it was curable. Consequently, an entire team of therapists, the school, and I became dedicated to the child’s care, progress, and cure.
We made so much progress, and the child was beginning to thrive; the slightest upsets and changes would send the child’s behavioural and regulating challenges into deep chaos.
This I believe now because everything involved centred around isolation and discipline. It was a warped system from the start. The space did not just cater to receiving the child as is and giving and holding space for the child. It chose to change, control, and fix the child.
The Plight just got worse
There were numerous aggressive and violent situations almost daily by the child. Other children’s parents had several meetings regarding the safety of their children in the same class because of incidents where their children were hurt.
It was a lot to navigate. There had to be special rules, procedures, and processes in place to deal with the child, which was ever-changing by the therapists, the school’s capacity, and the parents. Teachers all refused to have the child in their class or take on that responsibility, and in retrospect, I understand why they were so afraid. Previous schools also refused to admit the child to their institutions.
The loneliness journey of a teacher unprotected without much say
Parents of children needing special care pose a force to reckon with, and that space many teachers want to avoid. Because the slightest thing can provoke a reaction out of context.
There is also zero protection for nursery schoolteachers to date.
There were therapists telling us to isolate the child outside the class on a chair facing the wall. This would later result in the child putting their fist through a glass panel in the class’s door. Others advised physical restraint. This would result in teachers going home with bruises, bleeding noses and sometimes a sore eye. That impending headbutt to the face is sometimes unavoidable. Not to mention the emotional effects it may have on a child who cannot regulate.
Some of them seemed outrageous.
Some wished to use a water gun to train the child out of what they all assumed was ‘bad behaviour’.
I feel appalled right now, thinking back to things. To think about how far I have come in my gentle parenting journey. I always knew and hoped there was another way. But at that time, no one argued with a team of professionals or encouraged connection. Especially as a young teacher with no children of her own and one in need of a job.
We, as teachers, are also told that this is our job. And we must accept responsibility even if we know we are not equipped. Teachers must care for certain children needing specialised functional care because it is an institutional requirement. Children needing specialised functional care should be in environments where they can thrive. A place where they are not made to conform to what society believes is ‘normal’. Not made to suffer through conventional schooling environments and systems because they must fit in.
The unfolding of the incident in question
After more than two years of caring for the child, the child’s behaviour began to decline severely. I am unsure if it was due to the child getting older or the numerous isolating methods that were collectively used to try and control this little body.
We were at a stage where I was writing full-length reports daily via email. These emails needed to go to everyone in this team navigating this child’s wellbeing. And, every day, there was a lot to write.
Early in the year, I was dealing with rushing a class of 16 children out of the classroom every day. Because the child tossed, turned, and threw everything around, from tables to chairs and even puzzles. It was easier to take 16 children out than it was to put myself in between. Being in between the child and the amount of anger and aggression he needed to release was tough. I still had to subject myself to this once I ensured everyone else was safe. There was no training with regard to the safe restraining of a minor. We did not get practical examples of how to actually manage one of these aggressive outbursts.
Every other staff member would stand back and watch.
Every single day.
Everyone in the team was at wit’s end as to what to do.
I shake my head as I realise that I know now.
I know now all the things that child truly needed, and it was nothing that the advice given called us to do.
All extra murals where the child attended, I would go with. No one could manage; they would always send the child back within the first few minutes. The child found so many things challenging. Sharing anything, even space, was a big one. Waiting was another one, and these triggers are plentiful in a group setting.
After two weeks of nonstop aggression and classroom chaos, a few children were physically hurt in the process – I used the extreme advice I was given when dealing with a child on the spectrum having a violent and aggressive episode which could cause harm and hurt.
See this read-up for how the proper training goes and how to do it.
I did not have a compression band or any other form of material restraining tool. As a Muslim, I was fasting, it was the Holy Month of Ramadan, and I did not have the strength to use my body to restrain the child again. There was no assistance, and no one else would step in.
I feared for the child’s physical safety as the child began hitting the walls, tossing tables, kicking things in the classroom, etc.
The last resort
So, I got a piece of soft, fluffy wool that I used to crochet big fluffy slippers for my class. And as I tried to hold him in my arms, I very lightly wrapped the wool around his hands behind him. It was chaos, and moving a child in that condition was tough while being extremely careful to cause no harm.
That immediately shifted the child’s attention and focus. I carried him and sat him down in the library area on a soft pouffe where everyone else watched me. He was crying for me to remove the wool as any child would in any form of restraint or hold to stop aggressive behaviour.
I got up to get a glass of water and breathe before speaking to the child. He was safe; the wool was hanging light around; it was more the effect than anything else. I got down to the child’s level and spoke to the child about the behaviour and how it is unacceptable to hurt others.
The manipulative instigator
A teacher was standing at this point with her phone and recorded just that moment when I went back and spoke to the child after a few seconds.
I then carried the child, pulled the wool away, which was not tied and held the child in my arms and on my lap for the rest of the day.
It would be about seven months later when this short out-of-context video would make an appearance.
Envy, jealousy, blackmail – I did not see it coming
I resigned, and I readied myself to start teaching at a big school that had just got built. That teacher was to take over my class and expected an increase in salary.
When this teacher was told that she would not be receiving an increase as she was still studying and that it was a lateral move, her partner emailed the principal, threatening and blackmailing her with a video they had.
Things got out of control very quickly as the principal called her lawyer, and the teacher and her partner took the video clip to the police station.
I was suspended from my job immediately, and all I was told was that I needed to fend for myself and that the school would advise me to get a lawyer.
A lawyer on a nursery schoolteacher’s salary? I might as well have served time already.
The painful experience I wish to talk about and finally bring to light – brought to light. Many years later, I am an entirely different person now. I cannot let this hold onto my person anymore.
The case – A painful experience I wish to talk about and finally bring to light…
I was charged with assault.
The parents chose to open a charge against me, and I took the full fall for everything.
My father used his last bit of savings to get me a lawyer who wasn’t in any way capable, and due to the lawyer’s incompetence in getting the prosecutor to accept the evidence we collected, I was dragged to court for eight months. Mind you, and this was through my pregnancy with Arsalan.
My unborn child and I suffered such deep anxiety and trauma through this period.
Why they dragged it out?
Because the prosecutor refused to read the evidence I collected and served to them directly. Imagine that!
I took control again.
After logging my complaints with the legal firm I hired, the best lawyer there stepped up for me and, within a month, submitted and ensured that all the evidence was received and looked at.
There was a lot of evidence that I had as I was required to take videos regularly, email detailed reports regularly and constantly avail myself for chats on WhatsApp with the team and the child’s parents. All of which I had archived and made sure to note the one about the full incident in detail – not just a small video clip out of context.
There was also the written report from the ABA therapist with the restraining options for me to use, including the one used above, attached in the docket.
Every one of those appearances for eight months was just to postpone and ensure I was showing up. Such a tumultuous time.
Eight fucking months of my life in my first pregnancy. Shoo!
The results of the entire experience
The case was immediately thrown out of court.
Just like that.
It was thrown out, and everyone went on with their business. I was given ten trauma therapy sessions by the judge in apology for the ordeal and to ensure I got the care I needed afterwards. Haha
The counsellor saw me through the last bouts of my pregnancy and after I gave birth to my son.
It was not enough.
This contributed to my experience of PPA/PPD, and I have had the biggest struggles with my mental health post partum.
My healing was prioritised, of course, by me.
As a better mother, teacher, and conscious being, I see so many things that were so wrong.
The ways that were used and encouraged to care for and deal with the child are methods still used and are still being practised. Some advocate that it is needed desperately for parents and caregivers of older children on the spectrum with aggression. Read more here.
It was what was known then and encouraged in school and class environments, and it still is.
I have no ill feelings towards anyone involved, but I will never want any of them in my life again. It was unfair; I was gaslit and a victim of everyone else’s needs in the situation. I have accepted my part in the process and since have healed from that way of raising children.
I am an advocate for responsive and gentle parenting. Even here, there are restraining methods for aggressive behaviour.
I am an advocate for the mental health and well-being of all.
And I am an advocate for allowing children space in environments and in the care of those who are trained and equipped to offer them a thriving atmosphere where there are facilities to cater for anything that they may need to express and experience.
The school director where I was supposed to work after I resigned was friends with the child’s parents, so I also lost that opportunity. The Director then threatened teachers who later landed up with the child in their class with my story, saying that he got my teaching license taken away and that I would never be able to teach again. He claimed he could make the same happen to them.
I have this information from a teacher who later went through a case just like mine with the very same child in the bigger school. She also won her case and resigned from her job there.
I want to say officially that that is false. As a teacher, I am able to teach whenever I want to; I say this as I taught at one of the largest schools in the area just a few months after my therapy sessions. Now I choose not to teach anymore as teachers are severely underpaid, overworked, have no protection and give of themselves way too much to be underappreciated.
In conclusion – A painful experience I wish to talk about and finally bring to light…
I am so sorry for that child. So sorry that you were not seen, heard and held in all you showed up as.
My wish for you was only for the best, and I loved you wholeheartedly. My attempt to do what everyone else stood back and refused to do was just so that you could be a part of the environment you were expected to fit into. In the hope that the child’s beautiful heart is thriving and everyone is at peace. Also I hope that the child has the working gentle tools to survive and be the best by being accountable and regulated in gentle ways.
My wish is for every teacher, carer, and guardian to try and do their best with what they have. Such as the opportunities for training, the funds for facilities and equipment and the knowledge of gentle raising of children. I wish schools were equipped with proper written documentation, policies and procedures when accepting children; and that they are honest and open to guide the parents elsewhere when they are not fully equipped to care for them properly.
I hope for a voice for the teachers in this situation too.
My experience should not repeat, even though just months after my incident, the same occurred with other teachers.
Take control of your own story.
For far too long, society and people have used things against us for selfish benefit.
- I refuse to give that kind of control to anyone anymore.
- I will not be threatened by people trying to use this story from here on forward, and it will not be a thorn in my career, life, and path.
- I am glad I got to tell it first before someone spitefully used it against me, and then I would have had to come from the defensive, especially when the masses would have already formed an opinion of me.
- It has been almost seven years. I am a mother of two now.
- I am a healing, thriving woman passionate about breaking cycles, setting wrongs right and calling myself out when needed.
- I won’t be silenced or falsely judged. I have a respected reputation and value system I uphold, which I have put in a lot of shadow work for, and I am not about to let it all go to shit.
- I wish for support, a voice heard, and self-love so deep that the world embraces it for everyone.
There is hope that we can do better and not place such expectations on teachers and caregivers without fully equipping them with tools and support.
I will not tolerate bullying, false accusations, rude and abrupt commentary, name-calling or dialogue that could be dangerous to any parties involved.
Disclaimer: This is a recount of a personal experience. The views and expressions above are based on my personal experience and factual evidence I have in my possession and are in no way a representation of the thoughts and opinions of any other parties involved. No names are mentioned or will ever be mentioned, and I do not accept any liabilities based on assumptions, coincidences or the other parties making themselves known.
This recollection is in no way exhaustive and does not encompass the full extent and detail of this experience. I don’t think any write-up will ever be able to do that.
As the case was closed and thrown out, it is public record, and should the need arise; I will share the docket number for any interested parties. Therefore this post is also public.
I hope that you will see me as I am now.
Lots of love,