I am usually pretty inspired by my job. I get ideas for worksheets to make and lessons to plan, and most of the time my school day yields very uplifting and motivating side effects. Recently, though, the days have gotten more and more stressful, and what little motivation I have had has been channeled into writing my congressman.
As I wrote earlier, I came to my new district pretty late in the year. People at my old job urged me to make sure that my new teaching home is secure and stable, so that I wouldn’t get into any “unfortunate circumstances” down the line. Being the absolute last hire, I naively relied on the comfort of being in special education as a form of job security. I had never gotten a pink slip before; my old district was somehow able to protect me from the back and forth between the union, teachers, and the district, basically shielding me from the anguish that some of my friends were going through. I attended a couple of union meetings and, while I felt compassion for my co-workers, I never really understood what was going on there because I wasn’t “in it.”
This year has been the exact opposite experience. Needless to say, the pink slip arrived, and my warm welcome into educational politics was extended. I just feel SO unprepared for this. There are so many rules about what can be said, who can know what, who can ask questions and when, and so on. I haven’t been able to find any written rules for this whole thing, so I’m learning as I go.
The battle always appeared so simple from the outside looking in. I thought it was an easy matter of the union doing their best to help preserve jobs and represent teachers and the district working to meet them halfway within the bounds of the budget to find solutions. I didn’t expect I’d need to convince our union reps to fight for us. I didn’t expect to need to ask so many questions, just to find out what is going on. I didn’t expect this to be so political.
So a second battle begins every time I pull my car into the school parking lot. Behind the challenges and triumphs of every school day sits the lingering question of whether or not I will get the chance to do it all again next year. The best way to work through something like this, I have found, is to get a support group, and I have spoken with some teachers with stories of going through this process year after year. One teacher endured six years of pink slips before he finally had a year without one.
I think the more obstacles you face in a profession, the more you either want to run from it or want to fight to make it better. Fortunately, going through this has made me want to get more involved. Education is the backbone of society and, while other fields may also be vital to this country, none of them would exist or flourish without the education behind them.
If I could go back in time, I would have become much more involved over the past two years, would have spoken louder and stood longer by my co-workers who were getting their own pink slips. This process knocks a lot of good teachers out of the field, but I hope it doesn’t knock me out. Someday, I hope my pink slip stories will help me provide a little comfort and support to another young teacher.