RSS Feed

Tag Archives: changes

The Vagabond Teacher

Posted on

The teaching profession has changed. I remember when I first started teaching in 1992. There was a teacher shortage. At least that’s what I remember hearing. I had just finished my student teaching and moved up to Los Angeles, with a job teaching kindergarten at a Catholic school. I taught there for 4 years, until I quit for personal and professional reasons- the biggest of which was that I needed to go back to school to Clear my Credential. In those 4 years, I never worried that I’d lose my job.

After taking a year off and working at Universal Studios while finishing school, I  was fortunate enough to get a job working at a school that focused on the Arts. I was there for 4 years (seems to have been my magic number), until I had my first child. During that 4 years, again, I never worried about losing my job.

Almost 3 years ago, I got hired as a 5th grade teacher in our local district. During that year, I had 3 principals and 2 teaching partners (1 during the first semester, 1 during the second). I taught there for 2 years and then was “involuntarily transferred” to another school in the district. The enrollment was down, so they needed to get rid of a teacher. I was the lowest in seniority, so I left.

This year, our district laid off 111 teachers. There was a trial, a group of “provisional” lay-offs were rescinded, and then for 2.5 months 89 of us waited and worried and rewrote our resumes while we didn’t know if we were going to get called back by our district or not.

vagabondteacher

If only all my school supplies fit in a bindle…

Thankfully, I was “called back” and was reassigned to another school in the district. Third school in 3 years. And thankfully my wonderful principal from my last school is allowing me to keep my boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff in the back room until I move again. However, I can’t help but wonder where I will be next year at this time…

Will I get to stay in one place? Will I be laid off again? Will I be relocated by way of involuntary transfer again? I have no idea. I can only hope that I’m ready for whichever it may be, and I can only hope that SOMETHING turns around in the near future that will keep teachers IN the classroom and not having to move around year after year.

**Edited to add: I don’t know if this is a phenomenon to Pasadena, to Los Angeles, to California, or if it’s all around the country. I’d like to hear from people in other parts of the US and hear if this seems to be the norm with public schools everywhere, or just in certain places.

~Genevieve

Advertisements

Pink Slips Aren’t Just For Cars

Posted on

This year, I experienced the joy (sarcasm) of getting a pink slip. And that doesn’t mean the title to a cool car. (And by the way, it wasn’t actually PINK, which was disappointing.)

For anyone who doesn’t know, it means I was given a letter letting me know that the school district is not going to be needing my services next year.

fullsizeoutput_18ce9.jpeg

Now, some people whom I’ve told have said, “school districts do this all the time. I’m sure you’ll be hired back.” I’ve also been told, “I’m sure you’ll be back” by people at my school. Though not by my actual principal, so I’m guessing she knows the drill and the reality that IF my job is somehow saved, the likelihood of me keeping the actual job I have now is slim to none.

Not having been through this before EVER, it’s all new to me.

The first step is the letter itself. The second step was the meeting with the Union President and the lawyer who represents us in the hearing. (I’m still not 100% clear on what the hearing will or won’t accomplish and how it will or won’t help me keep my job.) Step 3 is another letter. Step 4 is the hearing. Step 5 is finding out if any teachers accepted the early retirement package, and Step 6 is getting a third letter which tells me a) Hey! We can keep you as a teacher for next year after all – here’s your assignment or b) Sorry, Charlie (see letters 1 and 2).  *There is a chance that if I get Option b, I could still get a call in August or September offering me a position, but I hope that if that’s the case, I’m already employed.

IMG_4307

At my school, most of the other teachers haven’t said anything to me about it, though a few have asked me what the latest is, and I appreciate that. Now that we’re at the end of the year, though, staff meetings are growing increasingly more uncomfortable for me. The teachers are making their choices for what grade they’d like to teach next year. Committees are being put together for next year. Retirement planners are coming to talk to teachers about their futures. We all need to complete hours of training so we can get shiny new touchscreen chrome books (which I won’t need if I’m not here).

Honestly? It’s downright depressing. Part of me wants to excuse myself when the conversation turns to things that don’t apply to me anymore, but I feel compelled to stay in my seat and just be bummed out. I try to smile when people ask me if there’s any news, but honestly? It’s not easy.

I know this seems to be fairly “normal” in some school districts, but I’ve worked for 3 and this is the first time I’ve been through this. There has GOT to be a better way to handle this. Teachers have to keep teaching the remaining 2.5 months of the school year, giving their all, doing their best, smiling at co-workers, students, and parents while inside they’re stressed and worried and sad. They have to keep working as if nothing’s wrong, and smiling on the outside when their students tell them, “I wish you could still be our teacher next year!”

I imagine this is what it must be like for actors when they find out their character on a TV show is being killed off and they can’t tell anyone, because they’re under contract not to spoil anything.

Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 10.51.45 PM

I know I should just be going with the flow, but it’s not easy. I’m trying. We just had Open House and I smiled for 2 hours while chatting with parents and talking about their children and watching a slideshow of pictures I took throughout the year.

Next year, whether I’m at my current school district or a new one, I will have been at 3 schools in 3 years. I will have moved furniture and boxes out of my garage, into my classroom, into my living room, into my new classroom, into some place in my house (won’t be my living room this time, so I can actually have guests over) and hopefully back into another classroom.

Or, maybe I sell it all on eBay and change the trajectory of my career and my future completely. Honestly? It’s all up in the air right now. And I know I’m not the only one.  For any teacher out there who’s being “RIF”d or “Pink Slip”d this year, I’m sorry. That absolutely sucks.

~Genevieve

Another School Year Over

Posted on
Another School Year Over

This past year brought a lot of events in our family. There were changes for some of us, challenges for some of us, and growth for all of us. Now that there are 3 of us who attend (well, okay, one of us teaches, but you get it) school daily, we measure things in years of 10 months at a time. Summer somehow seems like an entirely different entity.

IMG_8989

The 4 of us on our first day – August 2016

I came back to 5th grade this year. I got a new partner, and a new principal. We went on several field trips this year – more than last year.

IMG_1212

Soaking up local culture and Art

IMG_0014

Re-enacting the American Revolution at Riley’s Farm

This year had its challenges for me, but being in the classroom for the second year, teaching (mostly) the same content was much easier than last year. I had a much clearer picture and understanding of my expectations.

We raised money for another 3-day field trip to the Pali Institute this time. It was a great experience!

IMG_2905

Checking out wildlife in the pond at Pali

My son, the 16-year-old, was finally able to get his Comedy Troupe started. It was a struggle sometimes, and it took a LOT of strength for me to stay out and let him find his own wings and his own voice, but he did. He managed the team and ran the practices and at the end of the year was able to perform to a full house!

IMG_0002

the teams warming up before the show

IMG_0006

My son, with his winning “Karate Kid” move

He also managed to get himself into the “Top 10 of 2019” at his school, something he aimed for last year but JUST missed.

Our youngest daughter started middle school this year. Thought it seems like *just yesterday* that she started pre-school, now she is ready to take on 7th grade. She had a year of adjustments, but rose to the challenges that faced her. Last year, she was very involved in things like Math Field Day and her dance elective. This year, as she was adjusting to middle school, she decided to scale things back. Next year she’s hoping to be part of the performing arts elective. She did, however, attend all the dances.

IMG_3063

The youngest (right) ready for Mardi Gras

Our middle child had a full, busy year. She performed several times with her performing arts elective, and was in the Spring Musical. She also trained to be a Junior Docent for a historical building in town.  She auditioned for a new Arts high school and was accepted! And finally, she graduated 8th grade and is moving on to high school in the Fall.

IMG_2956

Heading into the audition

IMG_6087

My girl and I on her promotion day.

 

While I am glad to be back in the classroom, the worst part is that I don’t get to volunteer in the kids’ classrooms or go on field trips like I used to. (Though, admittedly, now that they’re older there are less opportunities to do this.) Luckily I was able to take a few personal days and chaperone the 8th grade field trip to Catalina. I did it for my son, and now my daughter. (Hopefully in 2 years I’ll get to go with my youngest.

IMG_3525

My daughter, ready to try snorkeling at Catalina

Somewhere in there, we also managed to go on a trip during Spring Break. (Now that one child will be on a different schedule next year, this may be our last Spring vacation in awhile…)

IMG_4457

Salt Creek in Death Valley

Next year will bring even more changes for us. Not only is my daughter starting high school in another district, I’m changing schools (and grades! I’m going from 5th to 1st grade). We’re back to having 3 kids at 3 schools for a few years. Luckily my husband’s schedule is flexible enough that we can tag-team with all the kids!

For now, we’re on Summer vacation. We began our summer by saying good-bye to my Granny. She was a fabulous, loving woman with a great laugh. She is missed.

IMG_6302

Granny and I, 2 years ago

Two kids are taking summer school classes, both Mom AND Dad are taking classes this summer, and everyone will be busy. In there somewhere, we’ll be headed on a trip, and attend Comic-Con. I worry this summer will go by in the blink of an eye, but we will make the very most of it.

Happy Summer, everyone!!

~Genevieve

The Uncertainty of Life

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

                                       Courage to change the things I can,

                                      And wisdom to know the difference.

My husband often tells me that worrying about things I have no control of isn’t going to help anything. He may have a point, but honestly? That’s precisely why I’m worried… because I HAVE NO CONTROL!!

Life is uncertain right now. I know I’m not the only one for whom it’s uncertain, but it’s no fun, and it’s weighing over me no matter how much I’m not “supposed” to worry about it.

We have a new administration that seems unpredictable. We have a new Education Secretary that has me really worried for the future of public education. People I love are dealing with medical issues that worry me. And last, but not least, I have no idea where I’ll be working next year.

What can I do about any of these things?

Well, for the first, I can join friends and family in activism. I can be more informed on issues and contact my representatives.

For the second thing? I can do my best at my job and fight back against crazy changes that might be coming up the pike. Those are things that might help me feel INVOLVED, although when push comes to shove, I just don’t know how much we can do.

For the third? Pray, I suppose. I don’t know that there’s much else I can do in that department.

And lastly? I honestly have no idea. Get my name “out there”? Cross my fingers that I land somewhere? I’ve been told that we currently have 10 teachers at my school, but we will only have room for 8 next year, unless our enrollment drastically changes. I find out my fate – at least whether or not I’ll get laid off or transferred – by March 15th. Supposedly. It seems an awfully long ways away from here.

Re-reading these things makes me feel a bit petty. I have a roof over my head. My children, husband, and I are healthy. We are well-fed. We are doing well. So many more things could be worrying us, that it makes my worries seem small. But still, they are my worries, and no matter what, it’s how I’m wired.

I think I need to take up Yoga.

 

The Evolution of Weight Watchers Points

The first time I joined Weight Watchers was after my daughter was born in 2003. I write a little about my times at WW HERE.

Recently, we moved homes, and I’ve been slowly working my way through boxes and bags of stuff. Yesterday I cam across this little gem.

img_1363

Just for kicks, I decided to compare a few items to see how different the points values would be between this sliding scale and the calculator on the Weight Watchers Site. (This slider is dated 9/04 on the back.)

My breakfast today was Multigrain Cheerios.

By the slider, it was 2 points. The milk was 1 point. The fruit was 0.

By today’s Weight Watchers calculator, the cereal was 4 points. The milk was 2. The fruit was 0.

So, my meal was 3 points by 2004’s scale and 6 points by 2016’s scale. That’s twice as many points!!

I started to get a little down and lament the fact that all the points are higher now, until I did some more research. Right now, I get 30 points per day (plus any I can earn during exercise or “extra points” given during the week). Then, I dug deeper. I seem to remember not having that many points available. I’m pretty sure 22 points is what I had (plus exercise and “weekly points”) back then.

I’m inclined to believe that the current Smartpoints program is more comprehensive. It takes into account calories, fiber, fat, carbs, protein and sugar. The old program was calories, fiber, and fat only.

The one thing you need in ANY weight loss program is accountability. Lately, I’ve had zero. Between eating my feelings about work and the election and Halloween candy and birthday cake for me and for my daughter, I’ve been pretty lazy. And I’ve gained FIVE pounds in a month. Five. It may not sound like much, but when it makes all your pants feel too tight, then it’s more than enough.

And of course, two days before Thanksgiving isn’t the BEST time to try to eat better. However, it’s better than never starting.

So here I go. Again. Wish me luck.

Week In Pictures

Posted on

It’s been a LONG time since I’ve done a “Week in Pictures,” but it was an interesting week, so I thought I’d revisit the tradition.

IMG_2937

The week started off cold and rainy.

IMG_2941

We had a quick overview of a “new literacy” program.

IMG_2942

My favorite tree.

IMG_2946

Trying to explain Quidditch to my students.

IMG_2947

I had to run by the high school to drop something off for my son, and got to see one of the geese.

IMG_2956

Upon clearing out the kids’ things for moving day, we discovered my son saved every fortune he ever got.

IMG_2955

Box City

IMG_2957

Witches the girls made in 3rd grade. We took photos and said goodbye.

 

IMG_2959

IMG_2969

Furniture gone

IMG_2976

My daughter’s team played in the championship – and won! By 2 points. It was tense. She didn’t get to play, but I was okay with it, since it was an extremely aggressive game.

IMG_2977

Some of my own students were at the game, waiting to play their own championship.

IMG_2978

They’re all crowded around the cup.

IMG_2994

My son and husband trying to get our new mattress out of its box.

IMG_3013

An Astrophysicist came to talk to our 5th graders.

IMG_3020

I ordered a few more yoga balls, and this was one of my student’s solution to fitting them all in the closet.

IMG_3027

Walking on the wall in our new backyard.

IMG_3028

Relaxation.

IMG_3040

My favorite tree during a downpour.

IMG_3042

Every now and then I find a note, hidden in the room.

IMG_3044

Good-bye, Classroom! See you after Spring Break!!

   
Today we took off for a short spring break trip to Yosemite. On the way, we stopped in McFarland. We saw the movie “McFarland, USA” a few months ago, with Kevin Costner. It was a  good movie about real life kids from the town. 
  We stopped at the mini mart.  

  
And pretended we were on the cross country team, when a school bus pulled up. We were a little embarrassed, but the teacher got off the bus and asked if we saw the movie and wanted to meet the hero of the movie, Danny Diaz.

    It was very inspiring and he was lovely. Kind of crazy how we happened to be there at that specific time…    

  We arrived in Yosemite in the evening and there was snow on the ground. We’re hoping we can actually see it snow while we’re here, but just being here is wonderful. Happy spring break indeed!
   

Back to School for All of Us

This week was back to school for my three kids. It was also back to teaching for me. For my husband, it is a new role of picking up the kids and making lunches and breakfasts every day, since I need to be out of the house before everyone else.

This summer I applied for a job at our district, after subbing for two years. For weeks I was in contact with the district about how procedures work. I was to turn in my resume, my letters of recommendation, my intro letter, my transcripts, and proof that I’m a teacher, basically, all online. Then I was to leave it up to the hiring gods for a principal to see my information and hopefully call me.

I was told over and over that it wasn’t protocol to contact the principals, so I didn’t. Until the very end, when I contacted one that had the most openings. I still didn’t hear anything.

With one week left till school starts, I came to the realization that I was not going to be hired. It was simply too late in the scheme of things for me to get a job. So I changed my mindset. I would sign up to sub at as many places as possible and hope to get known enough in the district that I would be able to get hired for NEXT year.

IMG_4348

On our last Friday before school started on Tuesday, I took the kids to lunch, swimming, and yogurt. At about 3pm on that day, as I was pulling up to the Menchie’s in Burbank, I got a call from a principal to come for an interview.

I came home, showered, and headed to my interview.

The next day, I realized I had a lot of shopping to do. I needed to get supplies from the teacher store, and buy some new clothes for my new job. I was both excited and terrified of what was in store for me.

On Monday, that was my one day to get into the classroom and set up.

IMG_4406

The classroom when I walked in.

I had a blank slate. And even after I’d bought several things to put up, it was still really bare.

IMG_4420

I was starting to feel good about my classroom and how it was shaping up until I walked into the 14-year-veteran teacher’s class that was FILLED with bookshelves and books and color and life. It will take me a LONG time for my classroom to look like that.

On Tuesday morning, we all got ready to go. My kids were up and ready early so we could all spend some time together before rushing out the door.

3 kids, 3 schools - high school, middle school, and elementary school

3 kids, 3 schools – high school, middle school, and elementary school

Then Dad let me in on it, too.

All 4 of us ready for the first day.

All 4 of us ready for the first day. (I like that you can see Dad in the window.)

After school that first day I had an appointment for the youngest and a class for the middle. One thing that helped us that day (and helped us get off our feet the first week) was my amazing parents coming up and having meals for us all for the entire week! (And they helped clean up and do some laundry, too!)

It’s been a real shift in our family for me to be back at work full-time. My school is on the same schedule as my youngest, but I stay a bit later to get things done, so my husband leaves work to pick them up and then heads back when I get home. I get to take the big guy to high school on my way, which is nice – just the two of us. We’re all getting used to the changes and after the first week, I think we’re all settling in.

IMG_4482

We ended the week with ice cream, delicious chili made by my own Mom, and Star Trek. (Mommy may or may not have fallen asleep during the show and may or may not have gone to bed RIGHT after the kids.)

This year has many changes and challenges and adventures ahead. I hope we have more happy than sad and more highs than lows, and I wish the same to all of you.

Cheers!

~Genevieve