Expendable & Education

I…

I am upset.

Can I be upset? Am I allowed to be upset? Is being upset something that makes a derogatory mark on my social interaction with the world that I live in? Will I be judged for being upset? Justified? Crucified? Will being upset actually change the pathway of my own future?

Perhaps the better question is this…

Can I take a moment, and be upset in public? Not hide my face, emotions, feelings, or thoughts? Can I be given the one moment to just unwind, uncurl, and open up the bottle of mixed thoughts that at currently coursing through my veins?

…even if it isn’t acceptable…

I just want to talk anyways.


Two weeks ago, specifically a Thursday at 1:45 PM CST I received a phone call within my classroom, during class, from our district’s human resource department.

I. Was. Ecstatic!

Background: I had put in a transfer request a few weeks prior to the phone call. Anything wrong with where I was? Absolutely not. I enjoy where I teach, but I am also curious as to what else I can do. My initial certification is for high school, and being that, I want to teach at a high school. I think I am allowed to admit that. Like all other employees of any industry that wish to move their own ladder, I put in a request to at least be looked at by a high school within our district. Naturally, I waited patiently and quietly, to see if the phone call to schedule the interview (I truly have no idea how this process takes place) would come.

On that Thursday, human resources contacted me. I answered with curiosity and hush in my voice; my students were working and with 7th graders, you never allow them an excuse to be distracted.

I could feel the adrenaline, the excitement of possibilities, even the whims of dreams versus realities tore across the neuron transmitters in milliseconds.

I was ready for the chance.

I was not ready for the actually conversation.

Long story, short: Our district is in the process of revamping and redesigning the internal boundaries within our schools. This means that the 6-8 building I teach at is changing to a 7-8 building, and there will be two 6th grade buildings within the district. All students from the school I teach at will then be ‘fed’ to one specific high school instead of being split between two (or in some cases three) different options. The concept is unity builds competition and consistency within academics and athletics. We are a large district, and this a design that we believe will result in ongoing success. However, individually there is a risk with this idea. Because of the realignment, teachers may be moved throughout the district to accommodate needs within other buildings. Example: A teacher with certification in two areas of study inside a middle school may be moved from their 8th grade position and used at the new 6th grade buildings because each teacher within the building needs to have certification in multiple fields. Change, in theory, yields results.

The conversation was information to me about a change within my own job inside the district. It was not to schedule an interview. It was to inform, that at that moment, there was a surplus of social studies teachers within our building, and some would not be returning in the fall.

I was one of the teachers.

Now, this does not equate to firing, resigning, dismissal, let-go, etc…I signed my contract three days prior to the phone call. I will still be employed by the district, but the classroom that I have called home will no longer be a reality. Of course, the next question I asked was pondering where I would be relocated to.

I was not ready for that answer either.

As it turns out, again, at the moment, there are no positions open within our entire district for a teacher with my specific certification (5-12 social science education, in case you were wondering).  What this means; currently, when school begins next fall, I have no classroom, no building, no administration…no home.

At the moment, I am a homeless teacher.

Understandably my wife is a mixed bag of feelings in relation to all of this. She is trying to decipher and comprehend my situation. At the same time, in the middle of buying our house, she is relieved to know that I am not unemployed.

This all took place within approximately 15 minutes. By the end of the phone call I could tell that mentally I was not in a good spot. More importantly, in front of 20+ students, I was not in a good position. I asked the teacher next door to watch my class, and for the first time ever, I left my classroom in the middle of the day and walked straight into our administration offices. You see, this was hours after being informed by our administration that they looked forward to me being back next year to building curriculum and to continue to grow as a teacher. My administration in the building had no control over this decision; it came straight from our central office. They were only informed minutes before I was told of my fate. I cannot express enough that in no way do I hold any frustration towards the people that brought me in, trained me, and put their faith in me inside our building. 

I. Am. Upset.

The hallways now are lined with kind teachers, with good hearts, asking me how I am doing (news travels fast). An instructor even stopped at my wife’s work (Starbucks next door) to check on how I was doing after the news was broken. My debate students, who have won tournaments this year, are concerned about the future of the program. The high school coaches are concerned about my well being. I am concerned about what I am supposed to do.

Do I wait patiently? Hoping that a social studies position opens up, but also knowing that I could be placed somewhere that doesn’t necessarily 100% involve my certification? Do I look in another district for job opportunities? I would likely take a substantial pay cut in that process. Should I be angry? Am I allowed to be sad? The guarantee of the contract is nice, don’t get me wrong, but it also is not the reason why I decided to teach. My wife told me to find a job that finally made me happy, regardless of the pay.

Question: Why was I one of the ‘chosen ones’ within the building to be moved/relocated/evicted?

Answer: I called human resources back the day after I was informed about the news of my upcoming change. I had a few questions; politely of course. I had questions about the fact that I am one of three people in the district currently writing the new curriculum for 8th grade social studies. I had questions about finding ways to maintaining my involvement with debate. I had questions, similar to how ask God, “Why me?” I have only been in the district for three years as a certified teacher. Inside of our building that puts me very low on the hierarchy of time as an instructor. I am going to no longer be a 7th grade social studies teacher inside that building at the moment because I have not taught long enough inside the district compared to my peers. I asked for clarification, just to make sure I understood, and sure enough, almost all of the decision was based on the fact that I had only been teaching inside the district for three years. The time as an instructional aid in special education within the building did not count. Obviously my time as a substitute within the district did not count (not saying that should have). Just time in the classroom, and I came up short.

I. AM. HEARTBROKEN.

That is the honest truth. My heart hurts. I am at my best trying not to be angry, spiteful, hateful, or any other ‘ful’ towards the people around me. I have monitored my tongue, along with other people around me inside our building doing the same, to ensure that I don’t say the wrong thing, irritate the wrong person, or make a mistake that would result in my being terminated, contract being canceled, or other options resulting from poor choices.

It is hard to teach. I am struggling in my classroom since that phone call. I want to see these students grow, and come back and ask questions next year. I desire to use my classroom and area of expertise to build knowledge and inspiration for students to march, to question, to protest, to debate, to ponder, to work, to laugh, to love…to smile. It is hard to access that joy at the moment knowing that before my own light comes, I first have to travel through the darkness.

I 100% understand that this currently reads of doom and gloom. Things can change instantaneously within our district. People resign, retire, get fired, etc…and that may open something up. Things can change very quickly in the world of education. Who knows? Maybe I’ll wind up in the high school that I initially wanted from the beginning? That is reckless optimism, but it beats wandering around in the dark.

The worse part about all of this action is the constant fear and reaffirming that takes place within my own mind. I do not know about other teachers, but personally, even before the phone call, I see myself as one of the worst teachers in our building. Several days I see myself as a mistake that administration made years ago. Understand, there is no evidence of this what-so-ever; it is purely in my mind. However, the mind is a scary place at times. Having that fear already built in solely due to social interactions, peer interactions, and other interactions over time; a phone call like that just further builds the overwhelming fear that in the end…I am just expendable.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to be an amazing teacher. I want to say all the right things, record all the perfect data, inspire all the children, lead all the professional development. Yes, deep down, I want to be that teacher. However, what I want to be versus what I am are very contrasting concepts between imagination and reality.

My biggest struggle is fighting the temptation of accepting that I am a failure as an educator. The biggest struggle is not listening to my mind that is saying that this is a conspiracy to resolve mistakes made years ago when I was hired. The biggest hurdle is trying to sleep at night, tell myself is going to be alright, and maybe, possibly try to lie to myself to believe that I can actually teach.


Perhaps one of the silver linings out of all of this is knowing that of all random people, entities, deities to be frustrated with/at; God is not on that list. Truth is, whether you like Him or not, personally I cannot live without Him. At the moment He is the only one that 100% understands the condition of my heart, my fear, and my stubbornness. Thank goodness He is patient and loving, because I am rather certain I am testing those limits with Him.

D.

 

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