Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Last Summer and This One: A Venn Diagram

I remember writing in a near delirium in June of '11 when the last day of school finally arrived and the teachers in my building were holding back tears of gratitude which a few of the kids mistook for sadness. Suckers. The year had been so terribly taxing that many of us were presented with a Sophie's Choice moment where we had to decide between dropping to our knees, ripping off our shirts and twirling them over our heads the way Brandi Chastain did that time the American women won the World Cup in soccer....or simply driving blindly to the closest bar (easy to find when you work in the 'hood) and lying face up underneath a tap of whatever they had plenty of with instructions NOT to turn it off under pain of death. Theirs...not ours.

This year was so different. And by different I mean worse. So. Much. Worse.  Our building is down to half of a vice principal, half a nurse, a librarian with no aide, no building monitor --We have a violent population of students--and the literacy and math coaches were all pink-slipped. Teachers haven't had a raise in three years, but the insurance is going up, so we're making less now than we were before. Awesome! Three teachers retired outright and one just quit in the middle of the year. Just said, "I'm done", gave her notice and left in January.  Several of us looked for jobs in other parts of the district, but due to budget cuts, principals weren't allowed to hire anyone who wasn't on the district's crap list slush pile  assortment of surplused employees cut from other buildings for all manner of reasons--be they reasonable or idiotic. One had to leave the district completely in order to have any choice in where to work and only one of us had the guts to go ahead and do that. I'm looking at you, Rebecca. Vaya Con Dios and all that. You might be across town, but you know you'll still be able to hear me scream from there.


Anyway. So when that last bell rang about 8 days ago there was a half-hearted attempt to celebrate, but we were a broken group of people. Bro-ken, I tell you. Two days later I was in a yoga class and someone asked me if I was glad to be released on my own recognizance enjoying summer (which was more like a rhetorical question borne of politeness than one that really begged an answer) and I realized that---yes--I was relieved, maybe? Exhausted, certainly. Truly, friends, I searched for a word that would describe how I was feeling. I guess I was a bit in shock that my phone could ring and I was allowed to answer it. Or that I could need to use the bathroom and have the freedom to leave without fear that one 4th grader would gift a fellow classmate with a blowjob (true story) in my absence. But mostly...I was unable to feel as though I was capable of celebration. 1) Because I, like so many of my teaching compadres, felt we had pretty much crawled to the finish line this year, and 2) It was not over by a long shot and August would be here before we knew it. I bought a new calendar today, but I've taped together the pages for August and will not be looking at them any time soon. And no one can make me.

I found myself at the mall this afternoon, which is a lot like Wal-Mart or the DMV these days, as far as sheer visual entertainment goes. I had to get my glasses adjusted because I'm going to Aspen, Colorado next week and I'd like to be able to see the mountains. I rewarded myself with some jeans from Old Navy, and because most of their blouses look like they'd be snug on a toddler,  I opted out. The mall proves to be the polar opposite of Old Navy because the clothing displayed would seem to suggest that only three kinds of people shop there: 1)Tupac Shakur (I know...he's dead...and yet...) 2) Mrs. Roper from "Three's Company" and 3) Betty White.  Don't get me wrong. I love Betty, but I'm not quite ready to make velveteen jogging suits a substantial any part of my wardrobe.  I finished off by going to the bookstore--which WASN'T in the mall-- but they were playing country music and I had to leave before I began displaying symptoms of stigmata.  It could happen. Stress does funny things to a person.

It's good to be back.


  1. Sigh. I remember. Time to make some Big Decisions because it's not going to get any better anytime soon in public ed. Anywhere.

    Sorry, but you and I both know it.

    In the meantime, enjoy your trip.

  2. I think our district's kiddos mistook the teachers' happiness for sadness as well. (Though that's probably not too surprising given the narcissistic nature of kids). And our district's doing pretty well as far as resources go. Teaching (1st graders) (2nd graders) (any graders) is damn tiring.

    Happy f*ing summer! ;)

  3. My daughter would totally think the teachers are sorry to see them go. She's 16, so I guess that's kids.

    I feel for you. I can't imagine being that miserable in my job, and yet have it be such an important job at the same time. Ugh. I'm sure there are (I hope there are) moments that give some satisfaction, but the Sisyphean struggle has got to be exhausting. My daughter is starting to try to figure out what she wants to do for a living, or at least, choose a major, and she's thinking perhaps teacher. My sister and my brother-in-law (not married to each other) are both private school elementary school teachers, and I suspect they make less than public school union employees, but that their days are much easier than yours, and that they're more fully supported. It's very sad that one has to choose between being compensated and being supported. And as you said, not *well* compensated.

    I got a 1.5% raise this year, the highest percentage given in my high tech world job. It's my 3rd raise in 11 years with the company. I can go to the bathroom without anyone getting a blowjob, but we out here in the private sector aren't getting rich quick either. I say this not to minimize your pain, but to commiserate and say, "I feel your pain", in as much as someone who is not an inner city school teacher can.

  4. Thanks, J. I hope to write about other things than teaching. I promise to try.


Be nice. It's not as hard as it sounds.