When I decided to leave New York City, I felt a completely unjustified sense of confidence that I would find a teaching job somewhere else (or maybe I was just too stressed out to think straight). Now that it's mid-July and I haven't been so much as contacted by any of the districts I've applied to, I'm starting to think I better consider alternative options for the coming year, which is too bad, because I was really hoping to do National Boards this year - also, I REALLY LOVE TEACHING!
Today Miss Eyre over at NYC Educator published a post on the same topic. She tells the story of a friend who's been trying to get a longterm teaching position in a small district for a few years and has been passed over time after time. Add that to the knowledge that gaining tenure is getting more and more difficult, which makes it easier and easier to create a system that takes in teachers, chews them up, and spits them out, and it makes for a pretty bleak picture. It's a picture in which real teachers who care about real learning and the importance of real education to a real democracy are substituted for data drones and number magicians. (Read the excellent piece by FairTest about Atlanta's cheating scandal here.)
So what should I do now?
I left New York because I was manifesting concerning physical symptoms of stress and I felt I needed to get out. I also came to understand that despite my desire to work with the kinds of families I had the pleasure of working with in the Bronx, my quality of life was severely suffering because I couldn't live in the neighborhood the school was in, and I HATE commuting. I refuse to live on anything but a human scale.
I want a school community I can be a part of, a neighborhood in which there are healthy options for food and safe places for children to play. I want an opportunity to grow professionally, work with a team of talented and committed educators to write a comprehensive school-wide curriculum and take advantage of leadership opportunities. I want to work in a community that works together to raise its youth and isn't content to simply play the blame game when things don't seem to be working. I want the opportunity to think about hard problems with my colleagues and come to acceptable consensus for how to move forward. I want to be respected for what I do. Ah yes - now that's what a teacher wants.
But it seems obvious I can forget about finding the ideal situation when merely finding a situation is looking near impossible.
I occasionally consider working at a private school (whoops, I mean independent school) and then rapidly bring myself back to reality - that is not what I want to do. Then I go back to NYC's open market, even if I can't really figure out how to use it. I ask friends across the country if they know of any openings. "Sorry - Good luck!" So what's left? As best I can tell: I can go abroad, try a different job, or devote myself to volunteer work for a year.
But what if...
What if I could find a school that's lost teachers, has expanding class sizes, has competent administrators in a neighborhood I wouldn't have to commute an hour into every day, and volunteer to teach there for a year? I wonder if anyone has done this already. The situation could be used to bring media attention to the plight of so many schools in this recession. If it got enough media attention, I bet one could find enough anonymous donors to pay a salary. I wonder, if the government is refusing to fund education, if concerned Americans with a little extra cash in hard times might be willing to.
Is it doable?