Intangible Rewards

Teaching is not a lucrative profession.  I leave home at 5:30 AM and arrive home between 5:30 to 6:00 in the evening so it’s certainly a full-time job but even so the pay is so low that my kids are still eligible for free lunches at school.  This is something of an embarrassment, especially now that I see firsthand how the “free and reduced” population is spoken of by staff at school.  Whenever a conversation comes up about low scores or failing students you can be sure the “free and reduced” group will be held up as the culprit or excuse.  As in “Well, we have over 50% free and reduced, so what do you expect?”  The “free and reduced” kids are widely thought to come from “broken” homes with unemployed or under employed parents, many of whom haven’t “bettered” themselves.  I always feel uncomfortable during these conversations, especially as my colleagues don’t know that I could fit into some of their pigeonholes albeit as a square peg forced into a round hole.

We remain solidly in poverty despite my fulltime job.  Once taxes and benefits are deducted from my earnings I have just enough to pay for phone, utilities, car insurance, food and gas (this expense has increased with my daily commute to about $300 a month).  There’s little left to put aside in savings for the propane delivery, anticipated car repairs or other expenses.  I sometimes rethink my decision to take the teaching job instead of the consulting job but then I remind myself of the list of pros and cons I made (for instance having to repay my scholarship) and apply myself to frugal budgeting and just (still) hanging in there.  I’m unsure whether the part-time consulting job I was offered back in July (which was to start in October) is still going to go forward but it will be very helpful if it does!

In the meantime, as others in the profession do as well, I concentrate on the intangible rewards – those incandescent moments when a student ‘gets it’ and lights up in excitement.  Some days those moments are paltry and infrequent and the frustrations loom large and I leave school tired and depressed.  Today was a bit like that hence this less than cheery post!  Nevertheless as my readers know I am quite good a persevering through less than optimum conditions and even though I’m very new to the profession I’ve already learned how variable the days can be.  There will be more good ones ahead to keep me going.

Posted in back to school, depresssed, frugal living, teaching | 9 Comments

Waiting to Exhale

classroomWe are studying the atmosphere in 8th grade science class and the students just learned that Earth’s atmosphere is pressing against them with a force of 14.7 pounds per square inch. Lately I’ve been feeling it.  I am enormously busy!

I started the school year behind, having been hired only days before it began – and in fact working the first day without even having filled out employment papers!  My classroom is a social studies room transformed into a science room with the addition of a sink and when I arrived it was a sterile blank slate. I had no supply budget so splurged at the dollar store and Goodwill and put a bunch of things on my Amazon.com wishlist.  Thanks to supporters for making the room look a lot more inviting with science posters and useful supplies!

I was behind in other ways as well. The school for which I work uses a pre-packaged science curriculum and the science kits didn’t arrive until school had been in session for 10 days. This wasn’t much of a problem for the other teachers who had used the kits in past years and had copied lesson plans and activity sheets but it was a bit more of a stumbling block for me.  Luckily the other science teachers (in particular the department head) were very generous and helped me out with copies of their activities.  I teach both 8th and 7th grade and I try to stay on track with the other science teachers so we cover the same material. Unfortunately my schedule alternates my 8th and 7th grade classes so in the 4 minutes between classes I have to scramble to erase boards, put away books, and lab materials and get out things for the other class (and then do it all again after the next period).  It makes it hard to keep my desk and room in order!  In addition I had new administrative software and policies to learn so no matter how much I accomplished in a day I went home feeling farther behind in the evening!

And of course school didn’t just start for me! My kids are in 5th, 6th, 9th and 12th grade this year and as well as school they are involved in extracurricular activities like 4-H, Cub Scouts, spell bowl, choir, drama and volleyball!  And my oldest daughter works 24 hours a week as a hostess at a local hotel. With one (old and unreliable) car and one driver it has meant a lot of running around and a lot of gas expense!

At home the garden continues to overflow with cucumbers that grow to monster size before we discover them hiding underneath the spiny leaves, and broccoli and tomatoes that feed a variety of bugs before we get around to picking them.  Didn’t school used to start AFTER the harvest was in?  Our baby chicks are about ready to leave the shelter of the bathroom (thank goodness) and move into their coop so we really need to finish transforming the old shipping container that we purchased from Habitat ReStore for $8 into a habitable coop!

We have a lot of other things we need to attend to at home – things that should be a bit easier once we have money coming in. Although I’ve been working since August 1st, because of the pay schedule, I won’t see my first paycheck until the 29th.  That one will be quite small as I’m only being paid substitute teacher pay for the first two weeks (I wasn’t hired as a ‘real’ teacher till August 18 as my hiring had to be approved by the school board and that was the first meeting).  So it’s been a tight month – lots of additional expenses and no income yet – but I’m looking ahead to September and October when I will be able to do things like fill up the empty propane tank so we have fuel to heat and cook with!

Despite finding it difficult to get caught up on everything (including sleep – my day starts at 5 AM and ends around midnight) and feeling not quite up to speed on all the administrative duties, I find teaching to be easy and enjoyable.  One of my university advisors called me a natural teacher and I have to admit that the classroom part of things feels like second nature to me.

The kids have no idea that I’m a new teacher – I introduced myself as new to their school but said nothing about being new to teaching and they seem to find the classes engaging and interesting for the most part. I have always read widely in the science field and I frequently bring in news items and real world experiences to augment the somewhat canned kit curriculum. For my 7th grade class that included digging up dirt in the backyard at 5 AM in the rain one morning so we would have local soil samples to examine along with the sand and potting soil provided by the kits.  To the delight of the kids I told them we would add a worm farm as our first class pet since we are studying soil. One of my 7th grade students even asked if I could make sure he has me for science in 8th grade as well!

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Posted in 2nd Career, back to school, school, teaching, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

School Starts on Monday

For the entire family!  That’s right – I finally (yesterday) landed a teaching job as a science teacher in a middle school about half an hour from home.  I have orientation and teacher work day on Friday and  then we are off and running on Monday!  I’m not exactly ready, especially as my new laptop has stopped working and all my electronic science files, lesson plans and worksheets from my student teaching are on it!!  10345542_833634709980518_6284059354064378791_n

This is my new classroom. Kind of a clean slate, isn’t it?  It was a social studies room and they added a sink so it’s not quite a traditional science room.  I’ve only met one teacher (head of the science department) and the principal and they are both very nice and seem like they will be supportive.

I was a little taken aback at the salary – lower than a beginning teacher in our local district  by $5,000.  I hadn’t realized how much variation there is.  We will still be pinching pennies and are eligible for free lunch but we will have a regular source of income and benefits.  And I will have the satisfaction of being part of a community and team again (I missed that a lot while unemployed).

I want to thank all our friends and supporters who have helped us out in so many ways, not the least of which is just reading and commenting on the blog!  We couldn’t have made it without you.  Stay tuned for our adventures along this new path!

Posted in 2nd Career, back to school, school, teaching | 23 Comments