I have a bumper sticker (designed by myself) on the back of my car that reads “Woman on the Verge!” It’s meant different things at different times over the years, most of them rather pessimistic. However it currently has a more positive meaning as I hope I’m on the verge of finding a job in my new field and gradually returning our lives to something resembling normal.
My teaching license was finally issued on Friday the 13th (although the date of issue is May 17, the day I applied) and as befitting something issued on that day it has an error on it that will need to be fixed. Nevertheless I am now essentially a licensed educator. Or rather licensed to be an educator – what remains is finding a job. I seem to be a little slow out of the starting gate job-wise as several of my Transition to Teaching (T2T) cohort are already employed for the next school year. I put that down, at least in part, to the scarcity of jobs within a one-hour drive radius. After all the work we (and our relatives) have done to settle us in here I’m not willing to uproot the family again anytime soon – at least not until all local options are exhausted.
I have applied for the existing jobs – two high school positions and four middle/junior high positions. I’ve had one interview and apparently was the runner up (but close only counts in horseshoes and grenades as we used to say when I was a kid). Several of the other jobs haven’t closed yet so I’m hoping I can improve my performance in the next interview although I worry that my age is against me. I ended the T2T program feeling ambivalent at best about my new profession, thanks in part to the eye-opening and depressing “Current Issues and Problems in Education” seminar. Horror stories I’d heard from teachers during my time student teaching gave credence to the content of the class. I vacillate between the unlikely hope that things will improve (soon) for teachers and the more realistic thought that I will just have to maintain the gritty determination that has brought me this far.
This week, however, I have a nice little bonus – a sort of graduation gift if you will – the chance to travel (most expenses paid) to Washington D.C. to attend the National Science Foundation Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program Conference. Each university that participates in the program gets to invite one scholarship recipient and I was thrilled to be selected. It’s a two and a half day conference of STEM educators presenting lectures and workshops. An opportunity to learn from science educators currently in the classroom and to network for the future. There are some optional museum tours as well. I will be going to the botanic gardens and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. And for me it’s a rare opportunity to have a little time and space to myself (although no doubt I will ruin it by worrying about the kids the entire time).
My conference trip is only one of several scholarship opportunities we have this summer – my son has a week of free day camp at WonderLab (the local children’s science museum) and my oldest daughter received a scholarship to attend IU’s four-day Informatics and Computing Camp. I’m grateful that they have these opportunities as we are back to extremely frugal living now that the small amount of money I was earning doing substitute teaching has ended (the downside to school being out for the summer!). Bills are piling up so once I’m back from the conference, I will continue to look for some temporary summer work (there is a lot of seasonal work locally as we are a tourist community however most employers require you to commit to working through the fall when the season is at its height). And I’ll be back to crafting (even though it is too hot for anyone to want to buy knitwear). I’ve picked up some vintage suitcases at Goodwill and yard sales and I’m going to try my hand at making those suitcase dog beds. And of course I will continue to apply for teaching jobs!
I must at some level feel hopeful (even though it’s my nature now to try and think realistically rather than hopefully) that I will find that job because I keep daydreaming about having a regular paycheck and insurance coverage. I want to get back to a normal life – to be able to save money and not live hand to mouth, to not live in fear of the next car repair or medical issue, to go to the grocery store and buy whatever I want not just the bare necessities and then only if they are on sale or we have coupons, to be able to say ‘yes’ to the kids’ requests instead of no! It’s been such a burden for so long. So many false starts and set backs. Let us be on the verge of something good.
It’s time to renew the web hosting for my blog for another year – I’m wondering, are we done? Is it time to say goodbye to Boxcarkids now that we are (almost/kind of) out of the box? Or would you like to tag along as we continue to try to find our way?
We’ve reached the end of the chapter titled “Going back to school.” A year ago Transition to Teaching classes were just about to start in a hectic, packed summer session. We started the program with thirty-some students of various ages and backgrounds. There were young kids going through the program while getting their Master’s degree, middle-aged folks moving from a career that had failed them in some way or another, empty nester moms returning to school and there was me. We lost a few people on the way – the first left after the first week of classes, the last just before the program was complete. They left because they had better options or had decided teaching wasn’t for them. Some of us who stuck it out would have liked to have had better options but didn’t.
We endured intense seminars with heavy reading and writing loads on topics like the psychology of education, literacy, diversity, learning styles, assessment, methods for teaching our content area. There was 12 weeks of classroom observation and another 10 of student teaching. And then our last class – Issues and Problems in Education. This class was fascinating in the way a car wreck is mesmerizing. If it were all just a research subject it would have been my favorite class by far. Knowing that these problems and issues are going to be things I will have to address in my own life made it quite sobering (and not a little bit scary). If this class were offered in the first semester I suspect the program would lose half its participants! But it was a little too late for most of us to quit by the time we took it.
The program finished with little fanfare or ceremony. The last class ended with the teacher reminding us to get our policy papers in by the deadline during finals week and a “So long and good luck.” I suppose Interview Day was the closest thing to a rite of passage – the recognition that you had completed the learning and were ready to go out and use it. Passing the pedagogy test (which was a surprise requirement added when we were well into the program) was another hurdle of a sort, albeit a private one. Your educator’s license doesn’t come in a folder lined with red satin – it’s a pdf file that you can download and print. No cap and gown, no walk across the stage, no celebratory dinner, no acclaim or recognition of an accomplishment – just the turning of a page. And the next chapter?
Yeah, alright not really. More like babysitting – or the more apt “child-minding” as the British call it. Also known as substitute “teaching”. I got my substitute teacher’s license on April 24th (although I applied right after finishing student teaching it took several weeks longer than I’d expected) and was called in for my first job the very next morning! They needed someone immediately! I rushed in to the high school and signed in and asked the secretary what class I would be covering. She mumbled something and hurried me down the hall. I juggled folders and my purse and lunch box and tried to catch up with her, “I’m sorry,” I said, “I didn’t get that. What class is it again?” She paused next to the classroom door and said, “Biology.” She opened the door and ushered me inside, blocking the doorway with her body. “And they’re dissecting fetal pigs.” I grinned.
She clutched the edge of the door and eyed my expression in befuddlement. “Oh good,” I re plied, “I was afraid I’d be teaching calculus! No problem – I’m a science teacher!” And substitute teaching was off to a good start. Mind you since then I have had to teach math – but it was in the 6th grade classroom and after a quick refresher I managed to cover the lesson on multiplying and dividing mixed numbers without any issues.
I’ve now substituted at the elementary, intermediate, junior high and high school. For a full day I’m paid $61 before taxes, for a half-day $41. I’ve been averaging 2 days a week since I begun. It’s not good pay, even for a babysitter, and it’s frequently boring work (as the teachers prepare worksheets for the kids to do or just have subs show videos). But it’s getting my foot in the door and I do get plenty of opportunity to work on classroom management skills as most students seem to feel the substitutes are fair game for any sort of misbehavior. I don’t think students will be saying I’m “too nice” for much longer! The other down side is that by the end of a day substituting I really don’t want to see or talk to children and I really don’t want to help with homework! If I land a real teaching job next fall I’ll have to figure out how to address this so my own kids don’t suffer.
Landing a teaching job is a little bit closer now – I’ve completed the Transition to Teaching program and am only a few steps away from obtaining my regular license as a 5th-12th grade science instructor. There’s no graduation ceremony or even certificate, just submission of the last class assignment, so it feels a little anticlimactic at best.
Next week I’ll take the required pedagogy test and if I pass I will apply for my license and pay the fee as soon as my substitute teaching paycheck comes in. Of course there’s still job hunting (yes, I’ve been applying but haven’t had ANY response – a lot of the jobs ask for “Highly Effective” teachers which is not a first year, not yet evaluated, teacher) but I’m one (big) step closer.