Do you remember the video from Michael Jackson’s song, “Black or White?” I was always intrigued, awed even by the part when the faces morphed from one person to the next. More than just a cool video trick, it has been sort of a metaphor for my professional life. It’s like my face is changing and the change represents a different vocation or career. Sometimes I feel like my transitions are not complete so instead of morphing into a completely new face, I keep part of the previous face. The final product is a fragmented ambiguous blob. I am like a wikipedia entry that needs disambiguation. The working life in America has changed over the last two decades. One doesn’t finish school, obtain a job, and then stay there until retirement. Most folks change jobs every couple of years out of necessity.
I resigned from my last job to explore other careers. I finally decided to return to school to obtain a graduate degree in teaching. After two years of pursuing that degree while substitute teaching and finally full time teaching for a year, I am at a crossroads. Three days out from the first day teachers report to school in my county, and I do not have anywhere to report. I don’t have a contract. I don’t have a job. Rewind to last year this time and I was exactly where I am now, but I was a recent graduate having just earned my education degree. I did begin school as a teacher on the first day, albeit as a long term substitute teacher. By a stroke of good fortune, I transitioned to a full time teacher in October, just over a month after school started. Like last year, I am actively looking for teaching jobs, but have not been successful.
I am among many teachers out of work because of major cuts to education. In my county there is a hierarchy of vulnerability to cuts and I am at the very top. When I was hired last October, I was elated, but it put me in a pool of “part year hires” and at the top of the vulnerability hierarchy. A part year hire is a person who is hired after the school year has begun. Just below me are the teachers with low seniority, teaching 3-5 years in the county. They are usually displaced first and put on a list that principals consider first when they need to fill positions. Then you have those with low seniority in a particular school. The part year hires are on the chopping block first and are automatically terminated at the end of the school year. We have to reapply and are considered external candidates. The fact that I worked full time as a teacher and subbed previously for two years in the county does not garner me any favor unfortunately. My principal has been indifferent. Teachers who had been in my shoes assured me I would be hired back. The assurances were not theirs to dole out because they weren’t in the position to offer me anything. They were basing it on their experience. I don’t have any people in high places to call on. The teachers I know look at me sadly and say, “Something will come up soon.” I have been applying to other schools and to jobs outside education, but nothing has been promising. I am credentialed to the hilt, but that doesn’t get me far unfortunately. I am saddled with school loans. If only I was too big to fail, then Washington could have forgiven my loans and bailed me out. Oh well… enough with the snark.
So here I am trying to morph into someone else professionally. I don’t have confidence that I will hear from the countless jobs I have applied to online: administrative assistant, program coordinator, library associate, secretary, customer service associate… Applying online is not the way to find a job, I know. I have a passion for teaching and education, but don’t want to substitute teach as a way back into a school. Really that is not a guaranteed route. Even if I did get hired after a year or two of subbing, I would again be the first on the chopping block. After subbing extensively and then teaching in my own class, I don’t look forward to subbing again. Based on the continued cuts to education, the times will continue to be really tough for new teachers like me. I guess I won’t be able to really call myself a teacher if I am not teaching.
I am actively working on a business my husband and I have launched. I hope this transition sticks. I will make it stick as I really don’t have a choice.