Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I Want to Teach or Retire

This follows up an entry I wrote in September and a promise to my family and my students to remain positive this school year. I've kept up my end of the bargain. I'm having a solid year. In fact, this is probably the best schedule I've ever had, certainly since I started working in my current school district eleven years ago.

But we got dumped on again yesterday, and it fucking pisses me off. The state issued new requirements and imposed new regulations for hiring independent contractors to work in our schools. The application is about four or five pages long and requires multiple levels of red tape for approval once completed.

Look, I understand the need to make sure our students are safe. I have two teenagers. I know. But, this is not at all about the students. It's about protecting the districts so they aren't held liable or accountable should anything go wrong.

But that's just the start. We're also required to initiate contracts now when we rent equipment. That fucking document is about ten pages long and requires an attorney to translate.

So that means when I need props, costumes, scenery, or anything else for my theatre program (and I rent one thing or another for every show I produce), I have to complete multiple applications, and then fax, email, or snail mail them for signatures before submitting to the school and district for approval. Those procedures will take weeks at the least! School districts take several days just to put toilet paper in the bathrooms so we can wipe our asses. Tell me how the fuck all that serves the best interests of our students? Not to mention art and artists don't work that way. We need what we need when we fucking need it.

Since when did public schools become corporations? We're micro-managed every step of the way. I'm almost 50 years old and have been in the business nearly 25 years. That's half my life. Why can't I be trusted as a professional? Why do I need to ask for permission to make decisions that I feel are in the best interests of my students and my program?

Despite all this (and this doesn't take into consideration any of the dozen initiatives launched in our schools each year), we're expected to wake up each morning and give our students our best.

Maybe it's easy when you're young. You know, to look at the smiling faces and think, this is why I do this; I don't care about all the bullshit. I got news for young teachers - those feelings go away. And it's a shame. They want us to be bookkeeping, data-crunching valets, but we're not. I didn't go to school for accounting. I'm no one's doorman. I want to teach or retire.

But here's another kick in the ass. The pension I earned in the state where I worked previously is locked in their retirement system. There's no reciprocity. I can't transfer those years. Not unless I want to pay about $100K per year. Oh, I'll still collect my pension, of course. But what good will it do when I can't combine it with the years in my current state? I don't even think it'll be enough to pay my monthly electricity bill.

There are things I'm good at. I read, write, edit, sing, play guitar, photograph, film, cook, make people laugh. I'm an artist. I won't be able to make a living that way, even while collecting both pensions, but I'll drive a fucking forklift at Costco if I have to. I hear they're an amazing company. And at least there I'll know what I am.

I've only got four years of teaching to go after this one. I'm thankful for my wife. Not only does she listen to these complaints every night, but she supports every thing I do. Helps me fulfill every dream. She never thinks she's enough. But she's everything. I look forward to the day when I close the lights in my classroom for the last time and go home to hold her.

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