“Polar Vortex 2014” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Snowy Landscape Photo (Retrieved from http://wallpaperweb.org/wallpaper/nature/snow-steps-in-winterland_62252.htm, January 7, 2014)

Snowy Landscape Photo (Retrieved from http://wallpaperweb.org/wallpaper/nature/snow-steps-in-winterland_62252.htm, January 7, 2014)

The cold is no joke!  The biggest weather – and news – event occurring during the past couple of days has been the 2014 Polar Vortex that has swept across the United States.  Extremely frigid polar air from the Arctic has dipped down to the Deep South of the US.  This morning, January 7, 2014, in Snellville, Georgia, near Atlanta, where I live, the temperature at 7:00 AM was 3 degrees Fahrenheit, and that’s without including the wind chill factor!  Already at around 9:00 PM this evening, the temperature was back down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit after reaching a high of about 25 degrees Fahrenheit this afternoon at about 3:30 PM!  One online news article (Henry, 2014) reported that temperatures around parts of the US are colder than those currently in Antarctica!

It is definitely true that people – especially those folks in the South who are not accustomed to such icy temperatures – may not be entirely aware of the dangers of extreme cold.  Regarding myself, being originally from the Buffalo, New York area, I know about the cold, the dangers of it, and know not to take any unnecessary risks, nor to potentially place myself or others in danger in such frigidly cold weather.   Extreme cold can cause frostbite, hypothermia, and/or death.  It is not something with which to play around or take chances.

I am an individual who remembers the Blizzard of 1977 where I lived in Collins, New York.  I was 6-years-old at the time, and in the first grade.  Even at such a young age, it was exciting for my brother and I to remain at home for two straight weeks due to the school closures related to the Blizzard conditions.  I recall and have photographs that my parents took of my brother and I standing atop snow drifts that were as high as the roof of our garage.  Similar drifts created by snow plows clearing snow from the roads caused rises of snow that were of the same height.  Once the blizzard conditions passed, it was fun to play outside in the snow for awhile, but not long enough to get too cold.

In my mid-teens, there was a time when I believed I could outsmart Mother Nature by going out and riding snowmobile in temperatures that were less than 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and with wind chills of about -20 degrees Fahrenheit.  I promised that I would not be gone long, and was not riding for more than one hour when I returned home and was unable to feel my left hand.  I had decided to return when my toes and feet began tingling, but did not realize that I had already lost sensation in my hand.  I only realized it upon taking off my glove upon entering the house, remembering that I could not feel anything in my hand.  It was the beginning of frostbite.  Thankfully, it was not serious, and my mom saw to it that my hand was warmed carefully and quickly.  However, it is an experience that I have always remembered, and no longer take risks in the extreme cold with Mother Nature.

What is tricky in the South is that it can be frigidly cold, but there not be a speck of snow on the ground.  For me, coming from Buffalo, that is always a big disappointment.  When there is cold, I have always come to expect snow to accompany it.  However, that is rarely the case in the South.  And, that is something that can fool people into a false sense of security.  Simply because there is no snow on the ground does not necessarily mean that it is not cold – or even frigidly cold, as it has been here for the past couple of days now.  One must get bundled up if going outside, must not remain outside for very long, and must be assured of having a warm place to go – or even emergency measures to use – if one’s vehicle breaks down or if one’s utilities stop working in one’s home, for examples.

Also, what I noticed this afternoon when I went out to run a couple of quick errands was that people on the road are impatient with other drivers.  For goodness sakes, it is COLD outside!  I was out and about for only 20 minutes or so, and within that time, there were already two drivers who honked their horns at other drivers who were stopped at traffic lights, and who did not resume driving quickly enough for them once the traffic light changed from red to green.  People are not used to the cold.  Vehicles are not used to the cold.  And, people need to give each other more understanding and be more patient in extreme weather events such as this.  The buses may be off the roads because schools are closed, however that does not mean that some folks are entitled to race down the empty speedway through the city.  People should be more cautious and careful, and give each other more consideration in situations such as this.  That is definitely the intelligent thing to do.

So, be careful out there in the cold.  And, don’t go out into it if you don’t have to.  Bundle yourself up, make sure there are extra blankets in your vehicle – and for many, a shovel and even hot packs.  People who are used to the cold such as skiers and snowmobilers from the North such as myself know these things.  Listen to your body when you are out in the cold.  And, better yet, listen to your brain.  Stay inside where it is warm unless you have to go out.  Don’t take any unnecessary risks, or place yourself or others in potential danger.  Hopefully, you have some food stocked up, or if you don’t, get some when the temperatures have risen during the day.  Stay warm, stay healthy, stay inside as much as possible!

References:

“2014 North American cold wave.”  Wikipedia.  Retrieved on January 7, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_North_American_polar_vortex

Henry, R. (2014).  “Polar air blamed for 21 deaths nationwide.”  MSN News; Associated Press.  Retrieved on January 7, 2014 from http://news.msn.com/us/polar-air-brings-single-digit-cold-to-east-south.

“Fantastic Swimming Experience at Local Park Pool” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My Son Enjoying a Summer Swimming Lesson, Briscoe Park, Snellville, Georgia, July 2013

My Son Enjoying a Summer Swimming Lesson, Briscoe Park, Snellville, Georgia, July 2013

For the past five years, my son has taken Summer swimming lessons at Snellville’s Briscoe Park.  For four of those five years, the area business, Positively Pools, has been contracted to provide life guards, swimming instructors, supervisors, and maintenance for the pool.  It is my absolute pleasure to share the overall wonderful experiences my son has had in taking swimming lessons, as well as in swimming recreationally at the pool.

I would like to take this time, therefore, to thank the managers and staff of Briscoe Park, as well as the employees of Positively Pools for consistently providing my family with such outstanding experiences with swimming at Briscoe Park.  Folks such as Justin, Stephen, Amber, Gabby, Deluir, Gabby, and so many others have repeatedly evidenced their exceptional professionalism, customer service, courtesy, and expertise to us. 

Thank you, everyone, for all of your hard work, commitment, and dedication to consistently doing the best of your ability in being flexible, open-minded, professional, courteous, and dedicated.  It is folks like you who help make swimming an enjoyable and safe experience for everyone – and that’s how it should be.  Keep up the great work!

“Neighborhoods that have Gone to the Dogs” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

When was the last time that you were able to take a stroll on your street or in your neighborhood, and not be bothered in some way by a loose dog?  Really, I cannot even walk down my own street and enjoy a leisurely walk with my son and dog without being approached and/or attempt to be attacked by some territorial and/or aggressive dog! 

These situations that I have encountered (with or without my son and dog) of being unable to experience a calm and peaceful walk on my street or in my neighborhood have reached beyond the level of patience, and have entered into the realm of frustration and discouragement.   A neighbor is not a good neighbor if he or she allows his or her dog to run loose.  Whenever I am out walking – whether with or without my son and dog – somebody’s loose dog always finds me.  And, while there is absolutely no reason for the dog to feel threatened, it is going to act like a dog, becoming territorial and/or aggressive, as I have experienced on the majority of occasions.

Pit Bulls may Appear to be Calm, but can be Unpredictable, Retrieved from http://greyhoundinjuryfund.wordpress.com/tag/foster-pit-bulls/

Pit Bulls may Appear to be Calm, but can be Unpredictable, Retrieved from http://greyhoundinjuryfund.wordpress.com/
tag/foster-pit-bulls/

In the past month, I have taken five walks on my street with my dog, with four of the five of those walks also with my son.  On four of the five occasions, we have been approached by a territorial and/or aggressive dog.  I have reached the point with people’s dogs where it has crossed the line; enough is enough.  Literally every time I go out on my street to take a walk, I encounter some confrontation with someone’s loose dog.

The new people who moved in on my street two months ago have completely ignored the leash law that is on the books in my city.  They have a brown male pit bull dog and a black Labrador retriever.  Both dogs ran up to us in a territorial and/or aggressive manner in the street and away from their own property while we were on our walks.  Neither of the dogs backed off, but instead came closer, with one barking and growling at us.  Both dogs got a face of mace, with one getting it twice before it backed off. 

On the encounter with the black Lab owned by the new neighbors, the owner came out of her house when she heard her dog barking, calling the dog inside, at which point I pleasantly informed her about the leash law and to please keep her dog leashed.  I also called the police in regard to both instances, and on both occasions, action was taken by the authorities which is very much appreciated!  Police who take these issues seriously provide a wonderful and needed community service to protect citizens such as myself and my family.  I have since found that these neighbors paid the citation that they were issued; being ticketed and fined appears to cause dog owners to take these situations more seriously. 

Black Labrador Retriever, Retrieved from http://lesliedenning.com/musings-from-the-lake/

Black Labrador Retriever, Retrieved from http://lesliedenning.com/musings-from-the-lake/

Another neighbor on my street has a white poodle and a brown female pit bull dog.  A similar type of situation occurred regarding the bit bull in which I was walking my dog, and the pit bull ran up to us in the street, this time at the location of it’s property/territory.  The pit bull felt so territorially-threatened simply by us walking down the street that it ran up to us with it’s fur raised on it’s back.  The owner was in his back shed, and I yelled out to him, asking if he could call his dog, and he did as I shared with him what had occurred.  He said that the dog is timid, however that he would put her in her pen.  Typically, this dog owner is reliable, however there is always that one time that is unpredictable.

Just today, my son and I were walking down our street with our dog again, and guess what?  You got it, there was a loose white poodle that approached us and tried to attack both my son and I.  This dog belongs to yet another neighbor in the cul de sac nearest to us.  Those dog owners also have at least two Labrador retrievers, as well, though they are always maintained in the fenced backyard. 

White Poodle, Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:White_Standard_Poodle.jpg

White Poodle, Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/
wiki/File:White_Standard_Poodle.jpg

Regarding this particular poodle, it was barking aggressively and ran over to us from fully two yards away from it’s own property, trying to bite me. To defend myself, I was flailing my leg, trying to kick it, but instead, my sandal flew off.  My son ran in the other direction away from the dog, and the dog went off chasing him.  I called to my son to stop, otherwise the dog would bite him, and I threw my sandal at it.  When the owner came looking for her dog, I explained what happened, and she was very uncaring and insensitive about it.  I therefore stated that she keep her dog on a leash, or I would call the police.

In my current neighborhood, in the past five years, there have also been three other occasions during which I have been approached by other brown male pit bull dogs in a territorial and/or aggressive manner.  It has been because of those occasions that I began carrying dog mace.  I do not desire to be a prisoner of my own street or neighborhood because of being unable to take a leisurely stroll, but without mace or some other protection from people’s loose, aggressive and/or territorial dogs, that is what is necessary to protect oneself at the minimum.

In my previous neighborhood in which I lived, during a three year period, I was approached in an aggressive and/or territorial manner by several of the pit bull dogs owned by one particular family.  In those three years, I called the police in regard to those encounters on four occasions.  While the county animal control agency responded on each occasion, it took four times of calling the police in order for these people to get fined, and to finally begin making sure that their dogs remained penned or leashed. 

These occasions were particularly sensitive because they occurred during a time when my son was a baby and/or toddler, and we did not have a fenced backyard.  Therefore, these pit bulls from three doors up the street from us were often loose, even approaching us while we were in our back yard.  Imagine peacefully playing with your toddler in your backyard, and then staring at a pit bull coming toward you.  I remember that on that occasion, all I had for protection was a broom, which I held at the dog while telling it to go away. 

Here in the Atlanta area, it appears that the dog of choice for many people is the pit bull.  While many people like pit bulls and tell of how wonderful they are, I disagree.  On each and every encounter that I have had with a pit bull – particularly the male pit bulls – they are territorial and/or aggressive, sometimes ferociously aggressive.  And, there is no reason for it.  A person cannot even take a peaceful, leisurely walk in their own neighborhood without having to constantly watch out for and protect oneself from someone’s loose, nasty dog.  All it would take is for people to be sure that their dog is leashed and/or properly maintained in a fenced backyard or pen so that it is unable to get loose. 

So, here around Atlanta, there are many neighborhoods that have gone to the dogs.  Too many people are inconsiderate of their neighbors, and are unable to simply keep their dogs leashed or in their fenced backyard.  In fact, of each of the dogs who have approached me and/or my son, dog, and I on our walks, all of their dog owners have fenced backyards.  Rather than maintain the dogs in the fenced backyards, however, they allow them to run loose.  This certainly creates an unfair situation for all of us dog owners who always leash and control our dogs, and it creates an unnecessary stressful and hostile situation between people who are outside walking and the dogs that have been allowed to run loose. 

It would be nice to be able to take a walk on my street and in my neighborhood, and enjoy it rather than have to face and confront another loose, territorial, and/or aggressive dog that someone has allowed to run loose.  It would be nice, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.  There is a leash law in my city, but most people in my neighborhood disregard it.  These people are not good neighbors, and more than that, they are contributing to a situation that may be potentially harmful and injurious for others.  

Therefore, would like to appeal to everyone to keep your dogs leashed or in your fenced backyard, for the enjoyment and safety of everyone.  Dogs can do much harm and injury to people (as reflected in two of the photo sections shown herein) – and even cause death.  All of this is unnecessary if dog owners would remain mindful about their pets, keeping them properly controlled at all times.

“A Golden Fifty Years of Marriage” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary, Dad and Mom, July 2013 (Photo by Emmett Clower, July 2002, Snellville, Georgia)

Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary, Dad and Mom, July 2013 (Photo by Emmett Clower, July 2002, Snellville, Georgia)

What does it mean to be married for 50 years?  My parents can tell you!  This month, July 2013, my parents are celebrating their golden wedding anniversary!  All I can say is, “Wow!” 

My parents are a living and true example of what it means to be married to each other for fifty years.  My parents were married in July 1963, very shortly after they both graduated from high school in Western New York State.  They have lived and grown together in married life during these past 50 years.  They have experienced many ups and downs in their lives, and have weathered and survived them. 

My parents are a true example of people who are meant to be together.  They seem to balance each other in personality; what one may lack, the other makes up for, and vice versa.  It has always been interesting to me that they both share the same astrological sign, though they seem to get along with and understand each other very well. 

My Parents on Their Wedding Day, July 1963, Gowanda, New York

My Parents on Their Wedding Day, July 1963, Gowanda, New York

I can say that, throughout the years, I have witnessed much love and forgiveness of my parents toward each other.  This, I believe, is the glue that has held their marriage together.  They have forgiven each other for the wrongs that they have done to each other – whether realized or not – and this outlook has helped them to reach such a monumental achievement.

In this age when most marriages likely don’t make it to a silver anniversary of 25 years, my parents have doubled that!  My marriage lasted 7.5 years, and the relationship, itself, endured for 9 years.  I have said to my former spouse that my parents experienced alot worse things in their lives than he and I ever did in our marriage, and my parents have remained loving, committed, and bonded to each other.  I asked my ex why we couldn’t achieve that, however it was just not possible.  People have to be willing to be open, loving, understanding, and forgiving of each other; some people simply are unable to be that way, and so, their marriages do not last. 

My parents celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary, July 2013, Snellville, Georgia

My Parents Celebrating Their 50th Wedding Anniversary, July 2013, Snellville, Georgia

In good, strong marriages, those who benefit the most from the stable and loving union are the children and grandchildren.  My parents have been wonderful role models for my brother and I, and also for my son – my parents’ only grandchild.  My parents’ strong, loving union has served as a beacon of hope for our family, in good times and in bad.  It is a great comfort to know that whatever happens in our lives, our parents (and grandparents in the experience of my son) are always there for us. 

Thanks, Dad and Mom, for remaining loving, committed, and loyal to each other through these many years.  You have achieved an amazing accomplishment, one that I never will and can only imagine and experience as an observer.  Congratulations and best wishes on celebrating your Golden Wedding Anniversary; and may God bless you!

“In Celebration of Spring and Easter” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Easter Chick with Easter Eggs, Easter 2013

Easter Chick with Easter Eggs, Easter 2013

Spring has sprung, and Easter is again upon us!  There is much to be thankful for in celebrating another Easter – Christ’s ultimate sacrifice in giving his life for us, dying a horrible death beyond words and resurrecting his spirit for us.  Jesus is the God who continually forgives our sins and is our ultimate savior, unable to be replaced by anyone or anything.  And, though there are many things in our world by which we may attempt to replace our Creator, what it all comes down to in the end is that God is the ‘be all and the end all,’ the first and the last, the alpha and the omega. 

So, while many of us are spending additional time at church during this Easter season, reflecting, praying, and meditating on Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection, we must always remember that we are all His children.  With that in mind, those of us who have children of our own must be mindful of not only teaching them about our religious values, but also participating in fun Easter events, such as getting pictures with the Easter Bunny, going to Easter Egg Hunts, or enjoying other fun Easter or Spring activities, including something as simple as walking in the park and viewing the flower blossoms on the trees.

Easter Egg Hunt at St. Oliver's, Snellville, Georgia, March 30, 2013

Easter Egg Hunt at St. Oliver’s, Snellville, Georgia, March 30, 2013

I hope that everyone enjoys a beautiful, wonderful, rejuvenating, and refreshing spring.  And, regardless of the religion that you may or may not practice, hopefully, you will take time to reflect upon and be thankful for all that has been bestowed upon you in your life.  For me, as a Roman Catholic Christian, celebrating Lent with the culmination of Easter in spring is a wonderful time of reflection and renewal.  I hope there are events and celebrations in your lives in which you experience the same!  Happy Easter!

“Experiencing Workplace Discrimination and Retaliation” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Shiloh Middle School Science Storage Room Teacher Workspace, March 2008

Shiloh Middle School Science Storage Room Teacher Workspace, March 2008

From 2007-2008, I taught at Shiloh Middle School in Snellville, Georgia, located in Gwinnett County.  Shiloh is a public school, and is a school that is part of the largest public school system in Georgia – which school system is also Georgia’s largest employer.  Due to unbearable discrimination and retaliation that I experienced as a teacher at Shiloh, from school administrators, and as a result of upper administrators doing nothing to stop it, I taught there for only one year, having already had several years of prior outstanding experience, positive recommendations, and excellent formal evaluations of my teaching at other schools.

During the painful experience that I had at Shiloh, I resigned mid-way through the academic year with such resignation taking effect at the close of the academic year, hoping that the discrimination, racism, harassment, bullying, and retaliation that I was experiencing would stop, but it only increased and escalated.  😦  For the past five years, my experience has been so painful that I have not shared about it, publicly.  However, I believe that it is important for my experience to be shared; perhaps sharing about my experience with help others who are coping with similar discrimination.

Discrimination – in particular, workplace or employment discrimination – is something that people typically do not want to talk about, recognize, or address.  In my experience, it was also something that virtually no one who had the authority and ability to stop it did so.  😦  The discrimination that I experienced included many different actions by school administrators, such as deliberately falsifying my students’ county benchmark test scores and thereby reducing my teacher performance rating, stating that I had more below grade performers than was accurate on the school system’s internal rating instrument, termed the Results-Based Evaluation System (RBES).  It also included creating a hostile work environment in many ways, including being administratively unsupportive of me – and instead, supportive of the student – when the student threatened me with physical harm in class.   

Other ways in which I experienced an unsupportive and hostile environment were when administrators placed me on a type of “improvement” plan, evaluated me approximately 25 times during a three month period, and had virtually nothing positive to say about my teaching in any of their evaluations.  Note that I came from all prior teaching employment positions with positive recommendations and satisfactory evaluations; my reputation was outstanding.  Yet, when I successfully completed all of the facets of the “improvement” plan at Shiloh, further “evidence” was fabricated by the principal to support that my teaching was “unsatisfactory,” thus causing him to fulfill his goal in “proving” that my teaching was not satisfactory.  Additionally, when administrators observed several lessons per week in my classes, many students found it amusing and entertaining.  Thus, my credibility and reputation were diminished, and it made it more difficult and challenging to teach effectively. 

Chemicals in Shiloh Science Storage Room Teacher Workspace, March 2008

Chemicals in Shiloh Science Storage Room Teacher Workspace, March 2008

Further discrimination I experienced were denials from administrators for me to participate in off-site professional development opportunities, as well as the school system purposely failing to supply the Professional Standards Commission with any of my professional development hours and credits earned during that year to go toward my recertification.  Other discrimination I experienced included not being provided with the necessary educational materials for required curricular lessons (though I repeatedly requested them and they were not ordered by administrators), and using such lack against me in evaluations and performance reviews.

Other types of discrimination that I experienced included when the principal gave false information about me to a human resources employee, also causing such employee to be completely unsupportive of me as a competent and valued employee of the school system.   I was also subjected to dozens of “disciplinary” and performance-related meetings; and was required to observe the instruction of several colleagues as part of my “training,” including that of an inexperienced, first-year teacher.  Because I stood up for and defended myself to my immediate superiors, many upper administrators within the school system – up to and including the superintendent – as well as by providing documentation about my experiences to leaders at the Georgia Department of Education and Professional Standards Commission, I experienced even more discrimination and retaliation from the school principal.  While an official from the state education commissioner’s office contacted me and was supportive of me, he stated that the department did not have oversight pertaining to the issues that I was experiencing.  And, the state standards commission for educators did not recognize any policy or ethics violations of my administrative supervisors, expunging the cases.

Eventually, the school principal had so much documentation against me that he was able to falsely substantiate changing my teaching position from that of a science teacher to being a careers teacher.  Removing me from my team of core teaching colleagues, he informed parents by letter sent home from school through their children of his “personnel change.”  Eventually, my replacement in my subject area of science was made through cronyism, the fact that the school administrators placed one of their close faculty friends in my position.  Interestingly, for some time during and after the “personnel change,” this replacement faculty colleague of mine was not identified on the school’s website as even being employed at the school; her name was removed from the website.

Upon the change in subject area that the principal forced upon me for the last quarter of the academic year, he directed that my work space be the school’s science storage room that housed flammable chemicals.  So, not only did my workspace change from a formal classroom to a storage room – it was a storage room in which there were many flammable chemicals and materials, most of which were not properly stored.  In this storage room, I was provided with a desk and chair only.  I was not provided with a computer or any access to an intercom or other communication device, as were present in each teacher’s classroom.  Throughout this article are found several photographs that reflect this workspace that the school principal directed me to use. 

Shiloh Science Storage Room Teacher Workspace, March 2008

Shiloh Science Storage Room Teacher Workspace, March 2008

Upon my being required to use the science storage room with the flammable chemicals as my workspace by the school principal, I wrote to and informed the regional director of OSHA about the situation, and received a response from him that because my workplace was a public rather than private employer, nothing could be done to stop or change it.  I wrote to the state’s governor.  I wrote to the school system’s superintendent and internal resolution director.  Prior to that, I wrote to and met with the human resources division director.  I contacted the superintendent on three occasions, and never received a reply.  When nothing was changed or improved, I contacted each member of the school system’s board of education.  It was only through those communications did the superintendent act to have the human resources chief officer meet with me, at which time I explained to her what was occurring, including being required to work out of a science storage room, filled with flammable chemicals.  As a result of meeting with her, the discrimination and additional racism that I experienced continued, though my work space was changed to an outdoor trailer.

One particular racist situation that I encountered was when a school administrator who was African-American, directed me not to eat my lunch during a staff development meeting, however she did not inform or direct my African-American colleagues not to eat their lunch during the same staff meeting.  When I approached the school principal and informed him about the unfairness of this situation, he became angry with and yelled at me, stating that he was “disgusted” that I brought race into the situation.  I brought race into the situation?  Race was made a factor in the situation by the school administrator; I only approached and informed him of it so that he would be aware of it and so that such types of situations would cease.  This situation, however, worked in my favor because this particular administrator happened to be my second main evaluator, and because of the situation and the racism that I expressed that I experienced, my evaluator was changed to a different administrator who was somewhat more supportive. 

There were also several other racist experiences that I encountered, including being overlooked for off-site professional development opportunities that were instead issued to African-Americans, being nearly prevented from participating in certain school-related activities such as judging in the science fair, and being repimanded for my class being talkative though certain classes of my African-American colleagues were out-of-control, without that being addressed at all.  Several of my colleagues also experienced racist encounters with school adminstrators, the same and/or similar to those that I did. 

All of those 15 of my colleagues who experienced those similar encounters left the school, as I did.  When the “leaders” of large corporations such as that which this school is a part treat their subordinates in the manner in which we were, many employees discover the harsh reality that they and their well-being do not matter, and that money and image are indeed more important than they are – the hard-working and dedicated talent who comprise the very foundation of the company.  It was proven that people don’t matter to these corporate “leaders” – only money and image matter.

Throughout my employment at Shiloh and as a result of the constant and unending discrimination that I experienced from school administrators, I experienced a variety of health problems, and sought and obtained regular medical treatment for them.  In all of my employment positions, I have been a dedicated worker, and have been absent during very few days during each year.  During my year at Shiloh, I missed 20 days due to the stress and medical problems that I experienced as a result of the discrimination I endured there.  Both my physician and legal representative repeatedly encouraged me to leave Shiloh as soon as possible, however I was unable to do so because 1) I love teaching; 2) I needed an income; 3) I was unable to obtain a teaching position with a different school system; 4) I was not released from my contract; 5) the state stipulates that a teacher must not abandon their contract; if that occurs, then licensure could potentially be revoked; and 6) human resources did not honor my request for a transfer.  Additionally, this particular time in my life was the worst due to experiencing severely stressful issues outside of employment, including divorce, grief, and a family situation that involved trauma.

During my year at Shiloh Middle School and throughout the discriminatory experiences that I had, I survived my experience through the assistance of my legal representative with the Georgia Educators Association, a professional teachers’ group.  My legal representative, a man of about 30 years of experience in providing professional support and legal suggestions about how to proceed and how to best protect myself, is a graduate of a prestigious Ivy League university.  In addition to his advice, my legal representative also informed me that the school system, in fact, trains their administrators on how they can discriminate and retaliate against employees.  I will always be thankful and grateful for this man’s assistance as he helped me through this extremely painful employment experience.

Shiloh Science Storage Room Teacher Workspace, March 2008

Shiloh Science Storage Room Teacher Workspace, March 2008

Following my departure from Shiloh, I contacted a few attorneys about the situation that I experienced, and none wanted to take my case.  My educators’ association legal representative had also informed me that unless there were others who were willing to come forward about their experiences (there were 15, however no others pursued the matter, and instead transferred, retired, or left the school), a legal case would likely not be successful.  He also informed me that individuals who had similar legal cases against the school system, at that time, were already in their fourth to sixth years in adjudication, with no end in sight and no guarantee of success. 

In order to make myself “heard” and to receive possible support from government agencies, therefore, I applied for unemployment compensation through the Georgia Department of Labor, and was denied.  I appealed the decision, and was again denied.  The reason that I was given was that, basically, the employment situation that I experienced was not of a quality that I should have resigned.  It wasn’t?  Following those denials of support, I called up my bravery and courage, and submitted a charge of discrimination with the EEOC in Atlanta.  Again, I was unsupported; and the case was closed, with the EEOC investigator informing me in March 2010 (more than 1.5 years after placing my charge) that the agency was unable to conclude that a violation of statutes was established, though it did not mean that the employer was in compliance with the statutes.  So, it would appear that all of what I experienced was entirely legal – or, my case was not strong enough.

Since working at and leaving my employment at Shiloh, I have been unable to secure employment in teaching – the career that is my passion.  I have volunteered as a teacher and/or adult leader on numerous occasions and throughout many years with particular schools, churches, and organizations, so my life continues to be enriched and fulfilled by being able to teach.  However, the eduation for which I built my teaching career has not continued in the manner that I had anticipated.  Though there are other interests that I have pursued, and that I am able to be more fully available as a mom to my son, I miss the opportunity to teach and more fully utilize my education and background to support others and assist them in reaching and exceeding their potentials.

I believe that the discrimination that I experienced by the school administrators at Shiloh was a result of being outspoken and perhaps being intellectually threatening to my superior(s).  Because I am a person who likes to learn and understand, I have a natural capacity to question.  Sadly, people may misjudge an individual’s questions as being threatening when they are only trying to learn and/or support themselves in understanding others.  I always put in extra time on the job, always went the extra mile, always bent over backwards in my work.  When I saw something that could be improved or done better, I identified it and supported it to administrators.  When I observed student gang activity at the school, I became outspoken about ways to stop it.  The principal was angry and hostile with me about it, and therefore, did anything possible to be professionally and personally unsupportive of me. 

Additionally, during the prior academic year, the school did not achieve a passing rating on Annual Yearly Progress (AYP), so it had been officially identified as a failing school.  And, the much-loved and experienced veteran principal had retired at the close of the previous academic year.  Because of these two issues, as well as the student gang activity, faculty morale at the school was extremely low; I took the initiative and met with the principal on three occasions early on in the academic year, sharing my suggestions with him on how to raise and improve faculty morale.  As a result, I believe that the principal and his administrative colleagues did whatever they could to attempt to silence me and/or force me out so that their own actions or inactions regarding particular issues would not be called into question.    Simply because I desired to learn, understand, and contribute to creating a better and safer school for everyone, I experienced discrimination by the school administrators that was the most severe of anyone at the school.

Shiloh Middle School, Snellville, Georgia, 2013

Shiloh Middle School, Snellville, Georgia, 2013

Some people have advised me not to publicy-share about my experience, while others have.  Those who have advised me to remain silent believe they are protecting my best interests so that no further retaliation toward me will occur in other avenues.  I have been particularly inspired by two people to share my experiences, publicly.  Those who have encouraged me to share about my experiences have stated that by being silent, I am protecting the offenders.  As I have gotten older and have reflected upon many experiences in my life, I do believe it is important to inform others of our experiences – as a way of it being individually therapeutic, but also so that others will know and understand my experiences, and perhaps be able to change and improve such situations for others. 

By sharing my honest and true experiences, publicly, I would like to request positive change, and for people to support – rather than harm – each other in the workplace, and in our society.  My article provides an opportunity for agencies, organizations, and employers to recognize and support individuals, such as myself, who have had experiences similar to mine.  It is much easier and more cost-effective for employers to support employees rather than focus unnecessary and inappropriate energies on harming them.  Recognize and support good employees for who they are; no longer harm them through harmful and negative control, bullying, intimidation, and domination.  Please pray for, reflect upon, and support this occurrence.

As a further result of my workplace experience while teaching at Shiloh, I created the LinkedIn group, “Educators Against Retaliation,” in September 2011, later renaming it “People Against Retaliation and Bullying.”  This is an open group in which any member of LinkedIn can view and/or join.  The main purposes of the group are to identify and address bullying, retaliation, intimidation, and bullicide (suicide due to bullying), as well as the prevention of all of these.  Participating members have helped and supported each other by sharing their experiences and/or the experiences of others, related to workplace bullying, school bullying, bullicide, and retaliation.  One group member actually shared her personal success story in winning her legal case against her employer for wrongful termination.

With bullying and retaliation having come to the forefront of social issues within our society, people must realize the seriousness and severity of such actions.  😦  When adults are bullied at work by other adults, when children are bullied by peers and/or adults at school, and even when citizens in the community experience bullying throughout our society, it is clear and obvious that the issues must be identified and addressed, and for improvement and positive change to occur.  When large corporations can get away with the type of illegal actions at work that I experienced, one realizes that such actions are engrained in our workplaces, culture, and society.  Countries throughout Europe have strict laws against the types of discrimination and retaliation that I experienced.  It is long past time for such laws to be enacted and enforced in the United States, in order to protect the rights of individuals who have experienced such wrongs, rather than shielding employers from being accountable and responsible for the actions of toxic employees who are free to utilize such harmful practices.

“Thanks for the Beautiful New Roads in my Neighborhood!” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Newly Resurfaced Road in my Neighborhood, Snellville, Georgia, February 2013

Newly Resurfaced Road in my Neighborhood, Snellville, Georgia, February 2013

Yes, here it is, folks!  It’s the road that you’ve been waiting for!  And my, it is quite a beautiful road, I must say.  Seriously, several streets in my neighborhood have been newly paved, and they are beautiful!  I guess this is what you would call ‘resurfacing,’ to someone who doesn’t know alot about the appropriate terms to use when describing road paving.  It is all really nice.

Newly Resurfaced Street in my Neighborhood, Snellville, Georgia, February 2013

Newly Resurfaced Street in my Neighborhood, Snellville, Georgia, February 2013

About three weeks ago, the workers, trucks, machines, and equipment were in full gear in my neighborhood, paving two streets and a large portion of one lengthy road.  The workers moved along quickly and appeared to take pride and were professional in their project.  On one particular day, I stopped in my vehicle and spoke to two workers, complimenting their handiwork, and one replied, “The pleasure is ours, Ma’am.”  Not only did the E.R. Snell Contractor Inc. employees of Snellville, Georgia do fine, professional work, but they were also courteous and pleasant, as well.

Newly Resurfaced Road in my Neighborhood, Snellville, Georgia, February 2013

Newly Resurfaced Road in my Neighborhood, Snellville, Georgia, February 2013

So, my thanks goes to E.R. Snell Contactor Inc. and their professional and courteous employees for resurfacing several of the streets in my neighborhood.  They are really beautiful, and the work appears to be of high quality so that the roads will last a good long while. 

I have been wanting to make this post ever since the roads were re-paved, though I must apologize since my son was ill for several days, and I have been ill, and we have also had some other issues going on.  So, please don’t think all of this wonderful work has gone unnoticed – it certainly hasn’t!  It’s not every day that the roads in one’s immediate area are resurfaced; and I, for one, certainly appreciate it.

“Christmas Lights Strung with Love” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

A Home in my Area that has an Outstanding Christmas Lights Display, Synchronized to Music, December 2012

A Home in my Area that has an Outstanding Christmas Lights Display, Synchronized to Music, December 2012

There are a few homes in my immediate residential area in and around Snellville and Lilburn, Georgia, of which the owners have decked out their residences with amazing and breath-taking displays of Christmas lights.  In past years, there have been two homes, in particular, at which the Christmas lights have been extremely impressive and enjoyable.  Just this year, I located another home that has an outstanding display of Christmas lights, and it tops my list for my immediate residential area. 

Part of a Christmas Lights Display at a Home in my Area, December 2012

Part of a Christmas Lights Display at a Home in my Area, December 2012

I have taken opportunities this year – as in past years – to tour parts of my area to scout out, view, and enjoy homes with Christmas light displays.  Before Christmas, I was able to take my son and family on an outing to enjoy one such Christmas Light Tour.  It was great to view the displays, express our “Ooh” and “Ahhs,” and identify the parts of the displays that we liked the best. 

Another Part of a Christmas Lights Display at a Home in my Area, December 2012

Another Part of a Christmas Lights Display at a Home in my Area, December 2012

That was also an opportunity for my dad to tell my son about the Christmas light displays he fashioned, painted, and made in his younger years when I was just a baby or toddler.  It was good for my dad – and for me and my mom – to tell my son of what we remembered about my dad’s own festive and creative Christmas lights displays.  My dad recalled that for three consecutive years in our small town in Western New York State that he earned the winning cash award for his displays.  He also remembered that the competition was discontinued when it was realized that no one could defeat his artistic craftsmanship.  For that, he is very proud, and he was able to share that pride with my son.

An Impressive Display of Christmas Lights in my Area, December 2012

An Impressive Display of Christmas Lights in my Area, December 2012

Similarly, I can imagine the pride and joy that is felt by those home-owners who adorn their own houses and yards with 100s of Christmas lights.  There are so many lights that fill the darkness that one can see their glow before even arriving in view of the homes.  I have been able to personally express my gratitude and appreciation to two of the three home-owners at which my favorite three Christmas lights displays can be viewed.  The third home-owner is a professional contractor whom I have not yet met, though a number of photos of his displays are included within this article.

Another Festive Display of Christmas Lights in my Local Area, December 2012

Another Festive Display of Christmas Lights in my Local Area, December 2012

While my family has our own small display of Christmas lights that we can view in our back yard from our dining room picture window, we very much appreciate and enjoy everyone’s festive and decorative Christmas lights for the holiday season.  Most especially, we appreciate all of the time, effort, creativity, expense, and love that is invested into the most impressive of all of the Christmas lights displays.  I take the opportunity whenever I can during the holidays to view and enjoy these displays with my son and family.

“In Gratitude to the Snellville Police” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Snellville (Georgia ) Police Department, Decorated for the Holidays, December 13, 2012

Snellville (Georgia ) Police Department, Decorated for the Holidays, December 13, 2012

Last week, I experienced a situation in my neighborhood that necessitated my emergency telephone call to police.  Police officers and higher ranking members of the Snellville Police Department responded to my call and report immediately and in a timely manner.  Each of these men were extremely professional, serious, and thorough in their interactions, investigation, and handling of my report and communications with them.  For all of this, I would like to express my deepest gratitude. 

The situation that I had is not one that I had ever before experienced.  It was a very sensitive and serious situation, and was handled with equal sensitivity and seriousness.  The manner in which the situation that I experienced was handled is an exceptional reflection on the Snellville Police Department.  Never before in my entire life have I had such a wonderful experience in interacting with police in such a serious situation.   

Snellville (Georgia) Police Vehicles, December 13, 2012

Snellville (Georgia) Police Vehicles, December 13, 2012

I believe this is a testament to outstanding policing by the professional and dedicated members of my local police force who have given their lives to their profession.  The very best of the police and of police work was obvious throughout my experience of communicating and interacting with these men.  I have come away from the situation having been heartened and inspired by the integrity, professionalism, seriousness, dedication, and consideration of the men involved in the case. 

‘Thank you’ to the Snellville Police Department and all those who so professionally-handled the case involving the situation that I experienced last week.  I am truly overwhelmed by the exceptional experience that I had in my interactions and communications with you.  Thank you very much for working so hard to keep our neighborhoods, residents, community, and city safe!  I am so happy you are there for us!