I’m about to be dwindled…

Consider this: If you work hard and do your best you will succeed. WRONG!

I’ve never worked harder in all my life and I’m doing it for half the earnings of my previous job. Whatever happened to success?

I’ve had many jobs in my life, all of them accidental, until now. I have always been rewarded for working hard with better pay and promotions, until now. Now, I’m a teacher. Now I’m at the whim of budget shortfalls, voter attention and contractual obligations. The prognosticators are telling me my outlook isn’t very good. Dwindling revenues, dwindling enrollment and dwindling commitment are all contriving to add my name to the dwindling rolls of the employed.

Funny.

When I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, I took whatever job fell my way. I’ve had some great ones. I’ve had some crap ones. I’ve done well by almost every employer (Yeah – There was that time when I got a little too cocky with a district manager who didn’t know me well enough to know I was jus’ kiddin’- I was young). I have always earned my paycheck. I landed in the “private sector” after I fell out of college and stuck with every job but that first one with the humorless D.M. for at least seven years. I’m a good employee. I’m loyal.

But what I really wanted to do (besides travel the world with an unlimited budget) was teach. Sometimes it was Math, sometimes Science and sometimes even English. My folks said, “NO, DON”T DO IT!” And they were that emphatic – Dad was a college professor, but also the head of the our local school committee, my mom taught in a different school system and they both became a Greek chorus of “NO” when the subject of my going into education came up. “IT”S CHANGED! DON”T DO IT!” they’d chant. I followed their advice this one time (plus that falling out of college thing made limited my options) and made my way through the businesses of rock ‘n roll, audio, musical instruments, appliances, and A/V. I sold. I bought. I managed. I trained. I decided to finally do what I wanted to do after my last employer moved almost all its operations to Asia and offered me an excellent severance.

Maybe this was the moment that I had been waiting for, like the hero in the movies who experiences terrible trials before he can pursue his dreams. There were no plane crashes or burning buildings to escape, but I did hack through the jungles of the Office of Workforce Improvement (the Unemployment Employment office to those not from Massachusetts).

I went back to school and finished college with a degree in History (!) and a teaching certificate ready to take on educating the children of America. I was confident my magna cum laude ass would be snatched up into the world of academia right away. A year and a half of substituting later I lucked into a position. At the end of that first year of full time work I was let go because of a funding impasse. In August, the word was out that the stimulus money filtered down far enough to cover my old position, so just as I finished doing battle again with folks at Workforce Improvement, I became employed.

Perfect! Just like it was supposed to work. The hero had the job of his dreams fulfilled in the knowledge that he would create a safe haven for kids to learn that the world was a challenging place and everywhere people struggled. The goal was to persevere because you would attain your goal. I would be their the example.

Now confident in my new full time position, I gave it my all. I had my dream job! I volunteered for everything. I stayed late. I baked. I chaperoned. I took more classes; diversity training, geography workshops, developing on-line curriculum. I wanted to give my kids the best 7th grade Geography class they would ever have.

Now, as Year Two is over the hump, the word comes down that the chances of  Year Three are slim and none. The stimulus money is gone and probably so am I. State funding is down and the towns are strapped, so I’ll have to start my search for gainful employment all over again and I will finish this year giving this group a great class. I have just entered their third term grades and I’m still trying to figure out how to get some kids over the hump, so they can finish strong and feel some success, some confidence in themselves that they can learn and that others struggle just as they do. At the end of the year my students will know that there are people in the world who live differently than they do, but still have fun, get sad and all the rest just like they do. Come the end of June I’ll cry (I’m sad now just thinking about it) because I will miss them, but that is every June to a teacher. I’ll have the extra sadness of beginning to miss the great people I have worked with.

When I find my next position (and I will, because I must be the example!) I vow to still work hard giving my new kids the best class they will have because about the only thing that hasn’t dwindled is my enthusiasm for teaching. So consider this: If you work hard and do your best you will succeed. (at least in the eyes of your students).

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2 Responses to “I’m about to be dwindled…”

  1. JA HARVEY Says:

    Ironically people who long ago lost their enthusiasm for teaching will remain in the classroom while you scrape for the chance to teach. It’s rocky terrain you traverse, GeoMan.

  2. Tom Degan Says:

    This piece puts perfectly so much that has gone wrong with America. As I was reading it, I kept saying aloud, “Yes. Yes. Yes.”

    Good luck to you.

    Tom Degan

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