Friday, May 15, 2009

What you did? What you said?

I've had early morning duty at school this week and today's title is just one of the snippets of interesting things you hear when teenagers are gathered in large numbers waiting for something that early in the morning. I'm not really sure of the context, but that little couplet of questions fascinated me and kept replaying in my head as I stood in the hall preventing riots with my quiet presence.

Of course, I grew up with kids just like these. I grew up in the same town as these kids, attended the same schools, although I had more in common with the ones who walk around speaking in complete sentences in standard American English than I do with the type of kids who uttered the above or the backwoods rednecks who seem to be gnawing on their words when they speak. Growing up in that environment, however, gave me the ability to translate pretty much any utterance in this school, except that rattling of Spanish I hear in the halls. I know just enough to freak out my Hispanic kids when they curse in Spanish by calling them out. These kids aren't from Spain and you don't learn their Spanish in college. This is one of the areas where you see honor students hanging out with future dropouts and gang members. In fact, one of my best students over these past three years was the daughter of a janitor whose brother is big into one of the Hispanic gangs. She hangs out with the smart kids and will go to college. He picks fights, gets arrested, and gives teachers something to complain about.

Another quirk of teaching in the school you attended as a teen is the connections you have to students. I've had students whose siblings graduated with me. I can sympathize when my students complain about a teacher I had when I was their age, although I can't say so to them. I have a student this semester whose brother was in high school with me, a year younger. Luckily for my student, I didn't hold his family against him. Luckily for me, I didn't hold his family against him. He's been one of my better students. Actually, he serves as a bit of a symbol for my entire semester. I've had good classes this year. This is the first year that didn't leave me desperate to find a new job by this point of the school year. In the past, I've actually been brought to tears at the realization that I'd have to teach again the next fall, but this year the fact that I couldn't find a school librarian job isn't overwhelming. I'm a little annoyed that a position within the system opened this spring but was filled by a transfer within the system so they could cut a teaching position without firing someone, but that's a side effect of the economy. Public schools are hurting right now and we're just lucky our system has managed their money well enough in the past that they're not having to worry about making payroll right now like some of our neighboring counties. They're just not replacing those who quit or retire when they can to make sure they can ride out the recession if it continues.

Of course, just because I'm not having panic attacks at the thought of teaching again next year doesn't mean that I've resigned myself to a life in the classroom. I've applied for a position in a college PR department, much like last year, although this time not at my alma mater. I have no idea if I'll even get an interview out of it, and even if I do get an interview and I am offered the job, whether or not I'd tak that job really depends on the salary. If it's not at least a little more than what I make now, the difference in cost of living will make it a dumb move. I would love to work in collegiate setting though, even if I weren't a professor.

I'm also still working on my masters so I can move from the classroom into the library. That's perhaps my best bet. I've put five years now into my state pension plan, and if I leave public education in this state, I kind of give up that nice bit of post-retirement support. I'd also give up my summers off, something that has made this job worth keeping so far. I really like the idea of getting paid to write for a college, but I've only spent three or four years of my entire life when I didn't have the entirety of June and July without any work obligations.

But those are all concerns for some future version of me. As for now I just have to finish out the last week of school, coast through post planning, prepare for my big June road trip, and sleep until I have to go back to work at the end of July. For once, I'm okay with that.


Courtney said...

Sounds like you're creating some options for yourself, and that's a good thing. I encourage you to not think only of the cost of living when you look for new jobs/places to live, though. Getting out of a job you hate is worth something too. I know it's more complicated since you have a wife and kid, but I'm sure they'd want you to be happy even if you have to pay a little more to live somewhere else.

I'm also hoping to work in post-secondary education even though I won't be a professor. Universities are good work environments, and when I worked at UT I had more vacation time than I knew what to do with.

Last thing: Have you guys decided on when you're coming to WY? We can't wait -- it'll be fun!

Julie said...

I'm glad to hear that you aren't miserable. It can make a big difference.

I can feel your pain when it comes to finding a teaching position. I tried last year and feel pretty confident that I would have gotten the job if the person vacating the position hadn't changed her mind. I looked again this year but the only school system hiring is a dumb one that would include a sucky commute and would not even be my preferred subject.

I'm glad to hear you're still doing the work on your masters, though. You hadn't mentioned it lately.

A Free Man said...

Man, I say this with all sincerity - I have the utmost respect for anyone who teaches secondary school. I love teaching, and considered getting my certification for secondary ed because at some point the university teaching is going to dry up for me. But I just can't imagine teaching in high school - what I like about teaching is the teaching, not the disciplinary crap that goes along with high school teaching.

Good luck with the career alternatives and just hang in there if things don't open up this time around.

What's your alma mater, out of curiosity?

Jacob said...

I went to Berry College. I loved it. I missed out on a lot of the cooler stuff about a big school like UGA or Georgia Tech like football in the fall (we didn't even have a football team) and bars that didn't suck, but the campus is absolutely gorgeous, and supposedly the largest (by acreage) in the world.