I have been thinking about how and when to write this blog post for awhile…. I was hoping that this year it wouldn’t be relevant and that I could save this for another time but unfortunately it is relevant now.
I feel like the biggest disservice that colleges and educational prep programs don’t tell you about as a student interested in entering the education field is that your job will be in jeopardy every year and you will have zero control of it.
If you know me well, you will know that every spring I start to panic. Nightmares, sweaty palms, the works. Why might you ask? Because every spring the Board of Education of whatever town I teach in makes a request to the town/city for the budget for the next year. Every year the town/city must decide how much of that request they will grant to the Board of Education. And every year (at least for the towns I have worked for) that request is drastically cut. What does this mean for the teachers in that town/city? Potentially losing our jobs.
At my first time, full time, teaching gig I was blissfully unaware of this. I have no idea what a “pink-slip” was. The first year the BOE didn’t request any additional funds from the town/city and my first year closed without any budget drama.
I was not so lucky in my second year. That year the teacher’s contract was up and they negotiated a step increase after 4 years of step freeze. (For those of you who don’t know what this means, the teachers had not received a single pay raise for four years and the new contract meant that everyone would be getting a small raise- for me it would have been roughly a $900 increase). Because of this new contract and the step increase the BOE had to request a larger budget to cover it. When it was brought before the town/city, the increase was denied. In addition to the denial of any additional funds, the town decided to close two of the schools in the district. With this news, over 50 teachers-myself included- would receive “pink-slips”.
When teachers are “pink-slipped” it is never by how good or bad of teacher you are. It is solely based on how long you have been there…down to the minute you signed your contract even. You can be an outstanding teacher, teacher of the year worthy, but you have only been teaching for three years in that district and bam, you get pink slipped. It is sad.
What did all of this mean for me? Well I was “bumped”. I lost my job. I cried. A lot. and the worst part of it? This happened in March. Why was this the worst of it? Because teaching is the only profession where you get a pink slip, know that you don’t have a job next year and are still expected to teach your students until the end of the school year. Let that sink in for a second. Keep working to the level that you have been even though you have essentially been let go from your position. And if you even think that you will slack off a little bit? Well you still need the principal to write you an awesome recommendation so you can hopefully get another job.
I finished out the school year and applied and applied and applied. I had a couple of bites but nothing worked out for me for the next year. I was laid off from teaching for an entire year. During that time I collected unemployment and I volunteered at a couple of schools to keep my head in the game and learn from other teachers while I wasn’t working.
Flash forward a few years- I have a job that I love and am a tenured teacher now. Every year I still get the nightmares and the sweaty palms come spring time. And it seems that this year my current town/city is about to go through a very similar situation. We have a step increase this coming year and the town/city has not allocated enough new funds to cover the step increase for next year. Every non-tenured teacher has received a pink-slip. I was told by a union rep that 16 teachers will be let go and that programs will be scaled back. While I didn’t receive a pink-slip because I am tenured, if my program is scaled back it will be me who loses a job. It is simply unbelievable and heartbreaking to think that no matter how good of a teacher I am, it doesn’t matter. I am the lowest man on the totem pole for my department and if they cut my department I will have no recourse.
I feel that anyone who wants to enter teaching should know this information. Your career is not necessarily in your control when teaching. If you are truly passionate about teaching, teach. If you aren’t sure, please run in the other direction.
Only time will tell how the chips will fall this year. One thing is for sure, my district is about to lose some great, young and enthusiastic teachers and the students are going to suffer because of it.