I work hard. I do not have a cushy job like so many of you believe. I do not have weekends and summers “off”, I do not get to work only 9-5. I am good at what I do. I work hard for every penny that I make, and of those pennies I pay back my loans for my bachelors degree, I pay back my loans for my masters degree, I buy pens and paper and books for those that cannot afford it, I buy colored pencils and notebooks so that they can express themselves, I buy lunches for those that forgot, I spend money to further educate myself, I hand pennies over in support of extra curricular activities… I stay up late working and I get up earlier than I have to so that I can be to work early for them. I create, I engage, I write, I plan, I learn…I teach.
I honestly thought it would be pink. It’s not, in fact, a pink slip at all. It’s a plain, white, piece of paper with the same letterhead that only a few months ago boasted a huge, bold faced “Congratulations!” at the top. The same letterhead that told me at the end of the last marking period that more of my students were passing than the marking period before and that I was indeed doing a great job. I don’t even get the original. Just a photocopy, signed by the guy in charge, but delivered by my principal. I realize that he is probably having just as bad a day as I am, but that doesn’t make me any less bitter. At least I have been laid-off and not fired; it’s like an honorable discharge and not a “hey- you-suck-at-what-you-do-ge
t-the-hell-out” notice. But it bites just the same.
I’m trying not to be a pessimist. I’m trying not to hate everything about my life. I’m not seriously considering launching myself out my second story window. (besides that would only hurt a whole hell of a lot and not end the whole game) I’m trying to remember the reasons why I do this in the first place, but it’s hard to do in a society that seems to be falling down around me. I have expectations in my classroom that my students treat each other with respect. I insist that they make choices and stick to the consequences that come from those choices. I instill upon them the value that they act like people that care about the well being of others. I’m sad that I am teaching them the rules and guidelines for life in a society that clearly does not exist. There was such a lack of respect in that little office as they told me that my position was being cut, it left me wondering how I can hope to teach my students respect when there are no clear examples from their superiors.
When it gets to a point like this it’s easy to fall back, to fall down, to just fall… and to question everything. Mostly though I find myself asking “why bother?” over and over. Why do I keep trying? Why don’t I use all my sick time, and pop in a video for my students? It’s then I remember the 110 faces awaiting me tomorrow, and I know that apathy won’t cut it. If I don’t care then they don’t care, and we’ve worked all year to boost their responsibility for their own education.
There is something that many people don’t think about. There is a face behind these layoffs. That face is me. I am not a number, I am not a price tag, and I am not a budget cut. I am a teacher and I make a difference in the life of a child. What really gets my goat is that my school district is running an initiative that puts priority on literacy. On what planet does fewer teachers (especially English) and more kids in a classroom equal a positive learning opportunity?
So tomorrow Mr. Bossman, when you’re busy looking in the mirror for 122 minutes and 32 seconds, I’ll be reorganizing my lessons for the day, considering closing activities for my students, stressing about the student who told me she was experimenting with drugs, and thinking of ways to help the kid who just bombed my exam. When you stand there adjusting your tie and looking in the mirror, I’ll be busy adjusting my resume, making copies, and talking to the teenager who just broke up with her boyfriend... And please make sure you can look yourself in the eye and reflect, because I know when I see you in the hall you won’t be making eye contact with me.
Besides, I don’t do this for you anyway. I don’t do it for the pay check, or the experience, or because I needed something on my resume. I do it for them, and I’ll continue to do it until June. Even if you think you don’t need me, and the school doesn’t need me, and the community doesn’t need me…. They need me and that’s why I do what I do.