There is Always a Way Out, But it Might Be Ugly: Advice from a Kentucky Packhorse Librarian

Heather Jauquet

“There is always a way out of a situation. Might be ugly. Might leave you feeling like the earth has gone and shifted under your feet. But you are never trapped, Alice. You hear me? There is always a way around.” —Margery O’Hare, The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Twelve years ago I left a job I loved. I left after a year of daily tears and gaslighting by the administration. I left after months of someone tapping at my office door and crooking a finger at me in a “come here” motion while I was in a meeting as if I was a naughty child. I left after email upon email requesting my entire schedule from the time I walked into the building until the time I left as if I wasn’t working if they couldn’t account for my whereabouts…my whereabouts being in other people’s classrooms teaching them how to use strategies and tools to teach reading in their subject areas or doing observations.

I was once called on may way to a documented meeting off campus to come back and return a school laptop I was using after my meeting because a member of the admin team needed it, only to find out that the person who called me also failed to tell me that her colleague was gone for the day and wouldn’t need it at all over the weekend. This was all in an attempt to keep tabs on me.

The distrust and manipulation was too much in a place I once loved. I had wonderful colleagues, but as time went on the administration’s manipulation of the staff made many of them distrustful and closed off. The final straw was when the administration started writing me up for made up offenses. When I started looking for other positions the principal told me that he would purposely “blackball” me (his words, not mine) so that I couldn’t find a different position in my school district.

I had been teaching for 9 years and was a brand new mom. New motherhood could not have possibly been that hard, could it? But it was because it was compounded by a horrible working environment where I couldn’t seem to do anything right, even though I was doing everything right. I didn’t know at the time that gaslighting was a thing, but in looking back, it was and it broke me.

I had never felt so inferior in a job where I knew that I was doing good work, where my students were thriving, where I had built a rapport with my colleagues only to have it come tumbling down when new administrators came on board.

I recently read the historical fiction novel, Giver of Stars about the Packhorse Librarians that originated in Paintsville, Kentucky. Even though the book is based in depression-era America when Kentucky packhorse librarian, Margery O’Hare, tells Alice Van Cleve that she is never trapped, that there is always a way out really struck a chord with me. Especially when Margery says, “Might be ugly, Might leave you feeling like the earth has gone and shifted under your feet.”

This. All of this.

I wish I had realized that it was never going to be easy getting out of that situation; that I would feel defeated every time I went in to do my job. It was ugly when I left and it definitely felt like the earth shifted from under my feet. When I left teaching, I lost a huge part of my identity. I didn’t know who I was anymore.

But I found my identity again and I am stronger and better than I ever was because I no longer need to fit someone's idea of me. Want to know how I did it?

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Certified educator K-12 and Reading Specialist with a focus on the adolescent brain. I write about how educational decisions affect parents, students, and staff. As an educator and parent I also focus on community events for the whole family.


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