Just like that, my ten year teaching career is over.
Well, not exactly. I still have to be handed the papers. I still have to receive the pink slip. After seven school years, I’ve been told by the head principal to expect a RIF letter (Reduction in Force) tomorrow. I do not have enough seniority to keep my job past this school year. When I’m ready to explain how the strong arm of the union caused this, I’ll write another story. That’s for a different day.
Of course, if someone decides to quit or retire last minute, I could be called back; which would really put a damper on any efforts to gain new employment. Also, the very same political tactics that created the mess in which school boards must lay off teachers is the one that influences other school boards to hire– or not. When I graduated college in 1998, good schools wanted experienced teachers to fill their ranks. Now, anyone with more than three years is considered too expensive, so veteran teachers remain stagnant while recent college graduates are advanced with no real world experience whatsoever. That seems to be the Ohio practice at least.
If anything else is an indicator, experience is a thing of the past. I mean, even the current U.S. President has no official executive experience prior to his gaining office. But that’s an unfair point since everything is going so well in this country right now.
The past year of my life has been a festering canker sore of existence. I was nearly laid off a year ago when my school system downsized. But I replaced someone with less seniority than I, and now that the RIF will continue, there’s practically no one else below me. The choir teacher is the only other one, and she’s being RIF’ed without the possibility of a callback. I’m better off than her, yet she works just as hard and in many respects is a much better music teacher than I am. But in government-owned public schools, quality of a teacher matters not. Only the date of their hire matters, and whether or not they qualify for a continuing contract. Never mind the fact that I had always taught elementary school general music and now teach high school band. Do you think that the ability and willingness to adapt might be considered an asset? Would you not believe that flexibility is generally viewed as positive? They matter not. Punctuality, a good attitude, a strong work ethic and a respect for the students are worth nothing. The school board, by contract, cannot consider such things in terms of a RIF. The union designed to protect me is in fact eliminating me. But I digress toward the other stoy I mentioned earlier.
I’m not worried about losing my salary, but what about my insurance? Last fall my wife gave birth to a baby boy with Down Syndrome. So far, insurance has been covering everything, but what company would allow me to pay them to take on the risk associated with such a pre-existing condition. That’s different when you gain new official employment, but what if I have to go out on my own? What if I have to provide the insurance myself? Since the average person might be freaking out at this, I’m choosing not to follow suit. I’ll remain calm, and plan now to save some money for the day when the benefits stop.
Unlike many people laid off in this age, I have several months worth of pay coming to me. I’ll be employed for the duration of my contract which expires on June 30. Since I opt for year round pay, I’ll technically earn my salary all the way up to September 1st.
This might look like a crisis to some. Not here. I am currently breathing. I’ll sleep in a nice bed tonight. I’ll get to have a nice breakfast in the morning and I’ll drive a car that’s paid off to work. I’ll hug and kiss my family goodbye as I leave for what could be the final chapter of my current career. My boys will welcome me home later. Much can happen between these words and tomorrow morning, but the point is that I have been given a good life.
I could be offered a second chance by a school district willing to take a chance on a veteran or be called back by my current employer. There’s no point in being bitter because it gains nothing.
I’ve been reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, by Donald Miller lately and this morning about 20 minutes before I got the RIF warning, I tweeted a line I paraphrased from his book. Sometimes we allow our lives to be stolen from us by our evasion of conflict. He worded it to say something like “our stories are often stolen by the easy life.”
Well, this is me protecting my life from theft. I will not evade. I will not hide. I will not allow the easy life to creep in and steal what is entrusted to me.
Conflict? I’m not looking forward to fighting, but in the words of many others? BRING IT.