When I consider…

Disclaimer: This post is not writing-oriented.

I have been sick with fits of night-coughing this month (Yes, almost all month), which leads to waking up in the dark hours of the morning. Sometimes I can get back to sleep, others I cannot. This morning, it was about 3:30, and I could not get back to sleep.

Yesterday, I saw a headline that a local county, Gwinnett, is going to be hiring 800 new teaching positions for next school year. My current job is a temporary position, with high potential of becoming permanent, or a permanent position in a different department. Insurance aside, I make as much – possibly more – than I did while teaching. I enjoy my job immensely, because it is low-stress and I have a significant amount of downtime for writing.

That being said, I feel a bit guilty for not applying, or even considering going back to teaching. I have never felt this way before. I have wanted to teach since I was in the eighth grade, and when I wasn’t teaching, I was itching for it: writing lesson plans, revising my resume, reading pedagogical material. This feeling of being DONE is new territory for me, and it makes me feel a bit like John Milton:

When I consider how my light is spent,
   Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
   And that one Talent which is death to hide
   Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
   My true account, lest he returning chide;
   “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
   I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
   Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
   Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
   And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
   They also serve who only stand and wait.”
Only I’m not standing and waiting for a teaching position to come along, as I did many times before. I am standing and waiting for the feeling to return, the yearning I once had for the lesson plans and the classrooms. It may never happen, and that bothers me.
Why am I DONE, you ask? Well, you might already know, if you’ve ever been a teacher. If not, it’s a thankless job (and yes, I say that taking a lot for granted). I am friends (at least on Facebook) with many of my former students, mostly because I worry about them. I received a lot of positive feedback from them, and a bit from parents. I thought I did very well with what I had and what I was given. However, except for my first position (which I left as a result of the domestic violence), I have never been hired at the beginning of the school year, and therefore never had a contract, and I have never been invited back the following year. Despite excellent reviews from my administrators, and evidence of improvement in student achievement and test scores, in one case, they did not have an open position, and in the other, I was never given an explanation.
Let me tell you about CMS:
I was the third teacher in that classroom. I arrived around the end of September (school starts in early August down here). The original teacher did not clear out her stuff when she left, and the second teacher retired inexplicably – she literally walked out – and also left all of her things behind. My first job was to clear out the classroom in the three days that I had to prepare, clean it up, and decorate it to dissociate the room from the previous teachers (I rocked decorating, by the way). I had to arrange the classroom to accommodate a maximum class size of 44. Yes, 44 students. The current class cap in Cobb County right now is 41. My class of 44 was a special ed class, and I had a co-teacher (who also rocked), but I cannot conceive for the life of me how policy-makers think one teacher can instruct 40+ students. Research states that the ideal class size is ~25. But I digress…
These classes were hellish. My smallest class was 38 until I learned (after Christmas break) that I can request certain students get moved to other class periods. After that, all but my largest class, which dipped to 41 until we received some new students, had 36 students. (In Florida, I had 7 classes and ~125 students. In Georgia, I had four classes and ~150 students.)
Size aside, two of my classes were impossible. I say that in hindsight. I re-arranged students, I changed the seating chart, I had my class procedures down, but two of the classes would. not. shut. up. Would not work. Would not sit down at the beginning of the class. It’s stressing me out just thinking about it. I worked with those kids from September to May, and I don’t think they could tell me the difference between end rhyme and internal rhyme. I feel better about my special ed students than I do about the majority of the students in those two classes.
A note on my class of 44: I had a lot of jokers in there, but it was hardly ever at our expense. They made me laugh. We had fun. If seventh period went well, then I went home feeling good about my day. They could help me shake off any stress caused by my fifth and sixth period students. That did not always happen.
Many days I went home feeling useless, or worse, helpless. I called about fifteen parents per day to get support from home. I asked the administrators to read them the riot act, which they did. It may have helped for a day or two, but everything reverted to its usual state after that.
I arrived at the school an hour or so earlier than I had to be, and I stayed late in the evenings. This is not unusual – I have always done this, but it was not the same because of the stress level.
At the end, when all was said and done, I was called into the office in April and told that I should start seeking positions elsewhere for the next school year. I was not given an explanation, and I did not explicitly ask for one. I sought other positions, and interviewed, and was told that I was given positive recommendations, but I did not land another position. I got this job at the beginning of July thanks for my high school art teacher.
I always had the best teachers. I always wanted to be one of them. But not anymore.
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