At least with all the hot air...literal and figurative...smothering us this week we are getting early dismissals to deal with the pressure cooker that has become the School District of Philadelphia.
I personally did not have the dreaded one-on-one layoff meeting with my principal, but many of my fellow teaching friends were not so lucky. I say lucky, because there was no measure of skill involved in these layoff decisions, simply seniority and hiring dates. Some of these teachers are being optimistic, and say they will use the time to go back to school for a Masters Degree. A few I've spoken to say they may interview at Charter and Catholic schools, which they wouldn't normally want to do. Others say they will just put their information online at PA-REAP or PA-Educator online hiring sites, and hope for the best, though they have admitted that with other districts in the same budget binds, that they aren't expecting much. The biggest concern I've heard is not about loss of salary, as most seem somewhat confident they will make out okay with unemployment, but loss of benefits.
Once again this year, I find myself in this unique position of being able to observe so much due to my travels between 5 high schools. Never before have I had the opportunity to talk with so many different people in a school district. My previous 6 years of teaching, I had a small circle of friends that I sought out at lunch or prep. This year, without a classroom of my own at any of the 5 schools, I am much more visible, and have a chance to meet with not only teachers, but counselors, school psychologists, secretaries, school support staff, school police, etc. It has been almost surreal at times to have access to so many different perspectives on the individual schools and the district.
Though I was not given a lay-off notice, I have yet to be assigned a position for next year. Hopefully this will happen sooner than later, but in the meantime, I will digest all that I've been exposed to this year. By mid-year, I was feeling refreshed, thinking that this year was just what I needed to give me some perspective on the SDP. I had become frustrated with many things at my previous school, but this year helped me to see that I would find many of those issues at any school. I was able to come to a place of understanding where I would take things less personally. However, as the year is now winding down...these last few months I've felt that understanding turn into frustration and lack of hope for this district. As much as I try to be an optimist, and a pragmatist, I'm not seeing the place for either of those things. This city's school system is just a HOT MESS!
I'm sure all of this has be exacerbated by recent developments, and I'm feeding off of the high stress levels of everyone else around me. It also doesn't help that my school-issued teacher laptop was stolen out of my office last week at Overbrook High...and nothing has happened to the 2 students who were obviously involved....sigh.
Alas, I hope that I can use the summer to re-charge, and use this new district-wide perspective that I've been privy to this year in whatever position I land for next September.
Making my day today, and something I'll try to focus on, was saying goodbye to one of fabulous 11th grade ESOL students from Germantown. She was truly sad that I wouldn't be her teacher again next year, and said, "No other ESOL teacher will be as nice as you." She also remembered that I loved a bird that she painted earlier in the year...and gave me a smaller version that she recently made. I guess I've gotta just really treasure these little moments, and forget all the $4!+ that won't change anytime soon....