16 June 2011
Life is nothing if not a series of endings and beginnings. Many transitions are seamless, and we hardly even notice them, others create a vivid moment in one's memory that even time can not completely erase.
My first day as a teacher I remember waiting eagerly for the bell to ring and the room to fill. I had vague expectations based on some of my past classroom experiences, but when the bell rang and one student was sitting there staring at me I was at a loss. Since that awkward morning that student and I have had some good laughs about it, reminiscing about how we stared at one another, one thought hanging in the air between us, "oh shit, what now?"
In February, I got a phone call. A woman calling to set up an appointment for me to "speak with the director of Human Resources regarding my continued employment with the school district." I knew immediately what was happening, although that knowledge didn't help. I was angry, shaking, on the verge of tears, and expecting a room full of students in less than 40 minutes... what does one do in this situation? If you are me, you run directly to the school psychologist to have a good cry (of course, it doesn't hurt that she has become someone I consider to be one of my best friends).
A week later, sitting in the office of the human resources guy (union president sitting next to me - I'm not entirely stupid, it was the next call I made), I was informed that my contract with the district was not going to be renewed. Because I was still considered a "temporary employee" they don't have to give me a reason or any other information. They even refused to answer the question, "did I do something wrong?" My choice: get sacked or resign. Obviously, I opted for resignation.
To hazard a guess as to why... I am finishing my credential program this month, will have finished my master's degree by September, and would have been up for tenure very soon after that. Who wants to pay a well educated teacher more money when they can hire an intern for practically nothing? I've seen it happen to other teachers in the past and I believe the only way they are getting away with it is because they aren't "firing" all these teachers, they just happen to "resign" ... all of them... right about the time they get their Master's and come up for tenure... um... yeah.
So, I get forced to resign, then get up and go to work the next morning. For four months. My heart aching every single day. As a special education teacher you become involved in your student's lives in much more than an academic way. You speak with their parents on the phone, you have meetings, you know about their disabilities and their backgrounds, you know about each one on a deeply personal level. Some of my students have been in my classes for three years, I have been cultivating relationships with not only the kids, but their parents, siblings, and in some cases extended family, how is it right that I am asked to walk away from these relationships and not look back... or forward. Every day of my life is spent looking at their future, helping them to become the person they and their families hope and dream that they will be. We smile and laugh together, we cry together, we get frustrated together, and now we simply part ways with little more than a goodbye.
Today was the last time I will see most of them. I wished them well, thanked them for being a part of my life, and was lovingly treated to the typical teenage monosyllabic "meh" as they ran out the door to enjoy summer vacation. I have learned to translate that "meh" into "thank you." I can only hope that I made a difference to a couple as I look forward to the next classroom, the next school, and the next wild adventure.
I never wanted to be a teacher. I fought it tooth and nail. Yet, these kids have taught me that really, all I want to do ever, for the rest of my life, is teach. I am a teacher. And proud of it.