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When I was 24, I entered into my third year of teaching. I was bright-eyed, optimistic, and excited to start out a new role that combined administration with teaching middle-school math. I felt in control of my career and my job. But about six months in, an awkward encounter left me wondering whether that sense of control was indeed as real as I thought it to be.
While closing up my classroom one afternoon, the father of a student casually strolled up to me. I turned to greet him, assuming he had a question about his son’s performance in my class. But instead of asking me anything of that nature, he said:
You know, Ms. Madda, those heels you’re wearing today are really sexy. Some of the other fathers and I were talking about it earlier. You should wear them more often. We’d love that.
Up until that point, I had never dealt with something of that nature in a professional setting, something so overt, something that made me feel like an object rather than a professional. And the worst part? Every time I looked at his son in my classroom from then on, I was reminded of that incident.
As a young educator, I was unsure of what to do. I was scared to bring the matter to our administration—this father was on the school board. I didn’t tell other teachers about it, perhaps out of shame. One thing is for sure, however—it was the last time I ever wore those shoes to work.
And now, having watched the #MeToo movement unfold over the past year within the arts community, I find myself asking, “Is the education industry really all that different?”
Read more about sexual harassment in the education system by Mary Jo Madda at EdSurge