Monday, February 16, 2009

Portrait: Southeast Minnesota

I am a 2nd grade teacher in a good size school district in SE Minnesota. We have known for many years that in preparing for the 2009-2010 school year the district will have to cut somewhere between 8 and 14 million dollars. The less that is cut for next year will be added to the amount that is necessary to cut for the 2010-2011 school year. The greatest cost for any school district is the teachers' salaries. In our district, teachers are cut according to their seniority. Since I have only officially taught for the district for 2 years, it is possible, if not probable that I will receive a pink slip in my box in the next month. This has unleashed many questions for me, because I would almost prefer a pink slip so I could pursue other jobs that would be more enjoyable for me.

There are things that I love about teaching. However, on a daily basis I do not look forward to going to work, and am drained, unhappy, and grumpy when I leave. In my mother's generation, when you obtained a good paying job that would support your family, you kept it. Wasn't your favorite? Didn't look forward to going to work? Were so tired when you got home that you didn't have energy for your family? It was never a thought that you should start looking for a job that you were happier and more fulfilled at.

Our generation is completely different. If we do not enjoy our job, we want to start looking for a better one. Which brings up the question, is there a perfect job out there for everyone? I believe it's unrealistic to think that you can obtain a job where you love everything about work. Although I would embrace the opportunity to look for a career path that is more enjoyable for me, I also know that my husband and I made a choice to buy a house and have a baby and as the major bread winner in our family, I know that I need to take care of these responsibilities that I chose. Obviously the best option would be that I would be able to find a career path that I enjoyed and was fulfilled by and was able to continue supporting my family on.

I also feel guilty when I see other teachers who are great teachers, who love their jobs and look forward to coming to work each day. By keeping my job, I may be forcing some of those teachers out of the job that they enjoy and excel at. On the other hand (hopefully without sounding too conceited) if you look at my data, my kids make great academic strides in my class. Is it fair to those kids that I give up teaching?

One of the greatest deciding factors will be my son. When I come home from teaching I have given all of my energy, attention, and patience to my kids that so desperately need it during the day. I come home as a mom that I do not want to be. A mom that does not have energy to play with, bathe, and read to her son. A mom that will yell at him when he makes a mistake. In a list of importance, first is obviously providing for my family but second is being the mom that I want to be to my son.

If I don't get laid off and decide to teach next year, it's also not going to be a very happy place to teach. We will miss a lot of teachers, custodians, cooks, administration, and clerical staff that were not so lucky to keep their job. These people have become my friends and I will miss them and also worry about them because they have lost their livelihood. Teachers will be asked to make greater strides towards the standards that each student is asked to meet with less money for supplies and tools to get there (like, you may make one copy each month, choose wisely!).

I think of my grandma and grandpa who were just thankful to have a job and worked their careers not even thinking of their enjoyment of their work. They worked to provide for their families and that is all they thought about. To them, leaving a well paid job to pursue one that is not, for enjoyment reasons, would be unimaginable.

During this difficult time, I turn to my faith and my deep rooted belief that everything will turn out the way it was meant to be. I have employed this belief for about six years and since then, that faith has not let me down. Does that mean that my life always makes sense to me, certainly not! That I have had an easy ride, not if you ask me! But I also consider myself lucky and am happy with who I am, who I choose to walk through life with, and even though some challenges in my life don't make sense at the time, I always learn from them and eventually see why it was important for me to go through that challenge. I look forward to seeing what it was that I was meant to learn from this struggle.

SE Minnesota