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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Employment status: unknown

I don't know how to write this all without being too specific, which is why I haven't written anything in a while, but we'll see what I can do.

I have been on a roller coaster ride concerning my employment status. A few weeks ago during our staff meeting we got a visit from District Bigwig. District Bigwig informed us that, despite the fact that they had been reassuring everyone all along that jobs would not be cut in the district reorganization, they had been wrong. In fact they would end up needing to cut jobs - a lot of jobs. Most 1st year teachers would be reduced out of the teaching force. District Bigwig had a magical list on which each teacher was placed according to seniority. Those of us first year teachers were sitting at the bottom and a great majority would be kicked out. District Bigwig told us to call or email or go to set up a meeting to learn our numbers on the list. I emailed immediately the next day and received an email response saying that I needed to call instead of email (even though we'd been told the previous day that emailing would be okay).

So, I called.
District Bigwig was busy.

I called again.
District Bigwig was in a meeting.

I called again.
District Bigwig was in a meeting. ("The same meeting as before?" I asked. "No, this is a different meeting," the administrative assistant informed me.)

I called the next day.
Nobody answered.

I called again.
District Bigwig was in a meeting.

I emailed District Bigwig, explaining that I had called many times without success, and could I please find out something via email?

Someone called the school secretary, who informed me that District Bigwig wanted me to call, again. So I did.

Guess where District Bigwig was?

This went on for about a week with me growing increasingly frustrated each time I made the phone call. Everyone at school kept asking me if I had found out what number I was on the list, not expecting me to explode with frustration each time I was asked this question. It got to the point where District Bigwig's administrative assistant recognized me by voice. One day when I called and asked, "Can I please speak with District Bigwig?" She responded, "Bigwig is in a meeting right now...Is this Notquite Grownup?"

Finally, finally I somehow got into contact with District Bigwig. Upon doing so I was informed that I was surprisingly high up on the list. High enough that, while I wouldn't automatically be rehired, there was a 95% chance that I would end up being rehired shortly after regular contracts went out.

I was elated and shocked and didn't tell anyone for a few hours. Finally at a staff meeting I let it slip out, and the principal made me announce the excitement to the whole school. Each grade level was supposed to mention something good that was happening with their grade level, and my grade chose to share out that I was high on the magical list. It was marvelous.

That day I called the University in town to see if I could still apply for grad school for the summer, assuming that I would have a job and be staying here for the next few years. Over the weekend I emailed a professor to ask her a question about the program, I stopped worrying so much, I almost kind of relaxed.

Then, the next week I was in class teaching a whole group lesson. The students were engaged and working well when my class phone rang. I gave them the "freeze and be quiet" sign, and went to answer the phone. Usually it's the secretary asking for a student to come to the office, or informing me that I forgot to submit my attendance, or something like that. I quickly answered the phone, while glaring at the students to stay quiet for the moment.
"Ms. Grownup," I answered.
"Yes, hello," said the voice. "This is District Bigwig."
"Oh? Hello." I was confused as to why I would be getting a call from District Bigwig.
"Yes," the Bigwig said. "Unfortunately, we made an error in the list. You are not actually where I told you that you were. You're quite a ways further down. We forgot to include a whole category of people when we initially created the list, and this whole category is above you on the list."
"Oh..." I said. As the class was done being good and started to devolve into chaos.
"Blah Blah Blah Explanation Blah Blah Blah." The Bigwig continued for several minutes, as the class stared at me while I stood mostly silent on the phone as my heart was slowly breaking into bits. Or rather, rebreaking after nearly a week of being on the mend. I occasionally made active listening noises, ("uh-huh," "okay," "oh,") while trying to simultaneously listen to the District Bigwig and will my students to keep quiet on the rug. I didn't know how to stop the awkwardness of it all. I didn't know why District Bigwig chose this time, in the middle of class, of all times, to call. (When I relayed the story later, others pointed out how it was an excellent example of how out-of-touch District Office really is with how teaching actually works.) I started making faces at my students to keep them entertained as they gave me quizzical looks, questioning why I was on the phone for so long instead of teaching them. Finally, after an incredibly long and uncomfortable 5+ minutes, District Bigwig finished the prepared speech, and hung up. I took a deep breath, trying to collected myself, and went back to teaching.

Later that day, we had staff meeting and my principal announced that things around the district were still changing constantly, "And here we have Ms. Grownup as an example. I just heard that she got a phone call from District Bigwig in the middle of class, kind of explaining to her the situation, and informing her of her number-change, while her class of six-year-olds went crazy in the background."

And that's where I am now. District won't know about certain state funding things until the end of June or so, so district won't know how many teachers they actually need until that time. I'm hoping to have a new job lined up before the end of June. If I don't figure something out before then, I may or may not end up with a position in the district, depending on this elusive state funding.

So, it looks like this experiment into the Southwest has been a failure. Unless I get another call interrupting my precious instructional minutes and informing me that actually I'm back at the top of the list, I will be packing up and shipping out of this state after school is out. Where I'll go and what I'll do, I haven't a clue.

I had so many worries and fears going into teaching, coming to this state all alone. What has happened here was never something I had imagined would happen. I was afraid I would hate the school, not get along with my coworkers, not enjoy teaching. In reality though, I love my school, do get along with my coworkers, and am finding teaching so much more satisfying that I had initially though I would. It's the district that doesn't want me. My principal praises me, my literacy/math coaches praise me, my coworkers praise me. Unfortunately, it's not up to any of them. I'm booted out and I need to accept that.

The only way to describe my emotions right now is to say that my soul feels tired. One week I had a few days where I barely taught anything - I was worried and stressed and couldn't focus. I kept distracting myself and couldn't get a whole sentence out in class before forgetting what I was going to say. The poor children are suffering as I suffer. They're not learning because I can't focus to teach. I'm past that, finally, most of the time. Right now though I'm just living with constant butterflies in my stomach. I don't know what I'm nervous about - I'm nervous about everything. I'm tired of uncertainty.