It felt good to have this little plastic card that declared to anyone who cared to know that i worked at the prison .
It did not matter that i did not hold heavy keys to keep dangerous criminals away from harming more victims of violence, but held pens and markers and worksheets for practicing English . It did not matter that i was a teacher in prison , preparing prisoners for the exam in English, i worked at a high security prison and it felt wonderful to be in such a dangerous place where a notorious Nazi had been executed before i was born , where dangerous criminals behaved well because they had no other choice , it felt good to pass through gate after gate and to show my card and to pass the metal detector and casually chat with the guards and to know this is my work place, a prison, and that at the end of my work day , i could come out while the prisoners would stay behind waiting , actually lets admit it, looking forward to my lessons where they could speak English and broaden their horizons and learn about the USA and Australia and the United Kingdom and geography and history and how to answer questions on an exam and i held the keys to that gate.
I did not mind waking up at the break of dawn, walking the dogs before the sun came up and boarding a train taking me to prison so i can start teaching bright and early.
I loved writing positive quotes on the blackboard and explaining the rules of grammar and vocabulary and to see those eyes who belonged to people who may or may not have murdered or maybe just did other serious crimes like dealt with drugs or smuggled drugs or taken drugs or stole or broke into homes like mine of people who did not have much or homes of people who had a lot or just broke the law and committed serious transgressions , it felt empowering to know that those people behaved gently around me, listened and seemed to respect me.
I did not bring into consideration just how horrible the staff i was part of would be; one woman mocked me constantly , telling me how naive i was, belittling me, another was constantly screaming about how much the prisoners irritated her, the education officer in charge of me communicated by sitting at her computer and screaming orders, she was a very young looking woman who looked at me with pure hate after i had confessed i can not stand the screaming and preferred to stay with the prisoners during the breaks in between lessons.
Calling the office in charge, a pretty dark haired woman of middle eastern origin who had looked at me like a frog at a fly , and complaining was all it took; the elderly woman called Flora who looked at me like she really hated me and resented everything about me; being blond and European and obviously middle class and privileged and not attached by the hip to a man or family but to dogs , had written me a vicious email denouncing me as hostile to the team and i was sentenced to a hearing at some remote little town that would take me an hour and half on the bus to get to since i do not drive.
I decided i wasn’t going to be Jesus christ on the cross of the education company that had offered the prison teachers they had preselected according to those who were willing to travel and work for very low salary with no benefits; the ones who were university graduates were either retired or like one woman ; a lawyer with a bad conscious and a need to do something good instead of spend her money on travelling the world , and then there were the women who had struggled, came from working class families where no one attended more than 8 years of school and they were the bright stars; graduates of a third rate teachers’ college where the entrance requirements were being alive and the grammar they spoke was almost always heavy with mistakes but they were nonetheless proud , always proud and i was the thorn in their eye; the little child calling the emperor naked.
So i skipped the via dolorose , i decided to do something better than be crucified as one teacher had whispered to me that my days at the prison were numbered.
I found a new job , returning to the board of Education and the wild and dangerously violent children and placed my white plastic prisoner employee card somewhere deep at the back of the desk drawer .
I would have planned a prison break sooner or later anway, a rebel at heart , i could not comprehend how the prisoners who had respected me so much and held such intelligent dialogues with me were psychopaths trained to listen and pick up signals unlike the prison staff who were trained to control and to suffocate any signs of a truth that would force them to look into the mirror and see prisoners of the truth held by the lies that kept their egos inflated and vulnerable to my pin.