shhh... it's a secret

Friday, June 18, 2010

The one where I bitch about being a teacher without a classroom.

(a.k.a. The hissy fit post that got postponed so I could throw a hissy fit yesterday.)

I graduated undergrad in 2002 and received my NYS certification in 2003 so technically I've been an art teacher for about 7 years now. I've done my fair share of hard time as a teacher. I started subbing in 1999 during college breaks. At 19 I was only permitted to sub in the elementary classrooms, which was fine by me (until the day a student locked himself inside a locker, but that's a story for another day).

In 2003 I became a long-term substitute teacher in a K-12 school as the art teacher for a little over a year. I was the only art teacher. Which meant I was responsible for teaching all K-12 art classes. In this position I dealt with the biggest political nightmare you could imagine involving the school board, the school administration, the teachers' union, and the art teacher I was filling in for because she was on sick leave because she was mentally deranged. I dealt with students and parents who didn't understand the situation and took it out on the sub, a.k.a., me. (Remember this letter?) I was sexually harassed by a student, I had over half of the high school art students drop my class, I was called a Nazi, I had a 7th grade student come inches from punching me in the head, I had students refuse to listen to me because I wasn't a real teacher, I had an assistant (in her 50s) who picked fights with the students on a daily basis, I had students dealing drugs in my classroom, I was dragged into a situation where I had to give my account of an incident where a teachers aide in a special needs classroom was being investigated for abuse because she roughly grabbed the arm of a student in my classroom. I was 23/24.

After that I was asked to become a long-term sub in a Home and Careers classroom which involved teaching middle school students and high school kids too dumb to take physics. I quit during the first week. The Superintendent and the Principal took me out to lunch and proceeded to sweet talk me into coming back. I lasted two more months. I was now 25. 

I spent the next year and a half working as an office manager because I had had it with teaching.

In 2006 I became a substitute teacher again and worked in no less than seven different school districts. I still had to work a part-time job as a waitress, meaning my weekdays tended to start at 6:00 am and ended at midnight or later. And I worked weekends too. I had students swear at me. I had students walk out of my classroom. I had students skip class. I had students sexually harass me. I had students tell me I wasn't a real teacher. After all, it's not like I could do anything about it. They were right. I had no authority. I did this for a year. I was 26/27.

In 2007 I took a .40 Elementary Art Teacher job. This meant that I was only 40% of a teacher. Meaning, I only got paid 40% of a starting teacher's pay (roughly $29,000, you do the math) and since I wasn't a .50 teacher, I couldn't get benefits or be a part of the teacher's union. I was also a .60 building sub. Which meant that whenever I wasn't teaching a class, I was a sub and they could do whatever they wanted with me. It also meant that I only got paid 60% of a substitute teachers pay ($75/day, you do the math). In reality, my art classes took up 60% of my time and I only subbed 40% of the time, but no one cared. I taught more classes than the music teacher, and she was a full-time teacher. For a very insightful look at what that job was like, click here, then here, and finally, here (Seriously, read it, and then tell me teachers get paid too much. I dare you). I did this for two years. I was 27/28/29.

In 2009 I moved to another part of NY State where I put my name in for subbing at five different school districts. I have subbed a total of 2 days the entire school year because apparently there is a plethora of unemployed teacher out there who are trying to get by by subbing. I was 29 and now 30.


I know teachers who haven't subbed a day in their lives. They have classrooms.  WTF?

(I was going to go on and on about my recent adventures with applying for jobs, which includes a tale about spending two hours completing an online application to work in a metro area only to have my internet cut out for an hour just as I was about to submit the thing, and which also includes a tale about a conversation I had today with another unemployed art teacher about schools not hiring you because you have work experience outside of teaching on your resume which obviously means you aren't completely committed to being a teacher even though you had to take a job elsewhere so you could pay the goddamn bills and maybe get some health insurance because being a sub sucks-ass, pays shit and doesn't give you any benefits, and finally, would have also included a tale about places that won't hire you because you're a teacher which means that as soon as a teaching job does open up, you'd cut and run*, but I'm tired, so maybe some other day.)

p.s. Don't let my bitching deceive you, I love teaching, and I really am damn good at it, but, dammit, I just want my own classroom again! And I want to get paid real money for once in my life. 

* And if you were paying attention to any of that, it basically means you're fucked if you do and fucked if you don't.


Anonymous said...

I COMPLETELY understand this! I have several friends who have been doing this same thing. And they keep asking me to try to get them in to my district. WE just let people go.....

I tell everyone I know NOT to go into teaching right now. NOT a good time to do it!

One Blonde Girl said...

I keep telling people the same thing. I had a housemate who switched her major because of me (but she's so much happier now). I told all my undergrad art ed students to double major or minor in technology or graphic design as well. Of course, that means they're all more hire-able than I am now. Dammit.

Ally said...

my parents are retired teachers. even though times were diff back in the 80s and 90s. unless you're in a very urban area (i think) it's rough out there for teachers(from what i hear) ...

i thought about going alternate route then realized there are "real teachers" unable to get perm jobs. they also told me the need isn't for elementary ed or english (the only thing i could see myself doing) ... they needed math, science (my two worst subjects) computer, language arts and special ed.

also, with teaching, i always thought it was who you knew, like with every job. the whole, "my kid just graduated, she's looking for a hs math teacher job." like my dad got my aunt a school nursing job which sounds so difficult to nail. i mean like with art and music, how many of those do you need per school. and now with all of the annoying budget cuts (so wrong!)...

i don't blame you for venting. that's what we're here for, to listen and try to help bloggers sort things out or just cry with them or virtually hug 'em and wish along with them for betterment - be it employment, love, health, success, etc.


One Blonde Girl said...

@ Ally- Yeah, I'm thinking about going back to become dually certified in either science or technology. Thankfully, I'm good at both. And here I thought I'd be done with school once I got my Masters. Boy was I wrong.

I heard a story recently about a teacher with a couple years experience subbing getting turned down for a job because she "didn't have enough experience". She later found out the son of a teacher at the school got the job. The son was fresh out of undergrad. It's aggravating.

Thanks for the hugs! :)

Didactic Pirate said...

I feel ya. As a teacher, I've had a love/hate thing with my job for the last decade. Luckily, the love part usually wins. (Granted, I teach college, which is infinitely easier than what you have to deal with). Teaching has its ups and downs, but it's definitely true that even though the money tends to suck, the payback comes in other ways. In theory.

Writing Womb said...

wow that is brutal! you sure have a lot of stamina and perseverance to continue with it and still love it...good for you, i don't think i could of keep it up! so much bullshit since such a young age you must have some thick skin my dear!

One Blonde Girl said...

@ Didactic P- Thanks. I worked as a G.A. for two semesters, and I supervised undergrads. I honestly felt like I was working with fifth graders again, so I'm not entirely sure there is much of a difference.

@ Writing W- You know what? I do! I've been dealing with bullshit my whole life as the result of a wacko childhood (ahem, divorce), so at this point in time I pretty much believe that I can handle anything that comes my way (but that doesn't mean I'm immune to the occasional breakdown from time to time).

Hope said...

Oi! I hope you find something! FTR, I've never thought that teachers get paid too much. ;)

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