Pink-Slip to Private School

Or, Why I Decided to “Sell Out”

There’s been a lot of discussion over on Dan Meyer’s blog about one blogger’s decision to leave the classroom and head off to grad school. The repartee is everything you’ve seen before on other edu-blogs: Congratulations. Best wishes. People bemoaning the fact great teachers are leaving the classroom.

I, too, have made a change in my job situation. One that is just as open to judgments as Dan’s decision. Though, as I commented on Dan’s site, I think such judgments are a wee bit silly.

As the title says, I have accepted a job for next year at a private school. That’s right. I’m going to be teaching the privileged, the rich, the kids who, if they need to, can afford to get private tutors and college application advisors and whatever other crazy things people are doing these days to get into Hahvahd.

I am thrilled.

I can’t wait until my old (public) school district calls me in mid July to offer me my old job back. To rescind my layoff. I look forward to telling them just where they can shove my pink-slip. Not that I really would do that, tempting though it may be.

Public education—especially (?) in CA—is in the crapper right now. I am only one of the many, many new teachers who had to be sacrificial lambs for the good of the district budget, and the state budget. Let me tell you, it’s no fun. It wasn’t any fun the first time, when I was transferred mid year to another site, nor the second time, when I was laid off at the end of last year, nor was it fun this time around.

Well, as they say, third time’s a charm. For me, that meant getting the hell out of a district that was not supporting me as a professional and that was treating me as though I was expendable. Such is the fate of many, if not most, first and second year teachers in California right now. I was lucky enough to land myself a job in a school that was exactly what I was looking for.

They have:
– A supportive staff that believes collaboration is essential
– A commitment to exploratory learning in the math classroom
– A vision for the school that is based in building strong community
– Lots of opportunities for staff and students to participate in a variety of ways (poetry slam, anyone?)
– A small school, with small class-sizes (someone complained that sections had been getting unwieldy at 18; I laughed)
– Teacher-leaders who carry out administrative duties while remaining in the classroom

Are you jealous yet?

For the first time in my career, I feel that I am being asked to do a reasonable task and that I will be given the support to do it well. Instead of trying (and for the most part failing) to teach ~150 students adequately, I will be expected to teach ~54 students well. I know I can do that. I’m not so sure about the former. I know some people can and do. I just know I’m not yet capable of it and I’m not sure I ever will be. And feeling unsuccessful is not really doing it for me and my desire to remain a teacher. It was time to make a change.

The public school I taught at for the last three semesters was not the right place for me. I couldn’t be the type of teacher I wanted to be in that environment. I believe that my new private school will be a much better fit for me. A friend of mine and fellow educator once said to a group of math-teachers-to-be, “It doesn’t matter where you go and teach, just go and teach. The profession needs good math teachers. If your first placement isn’t right, find another. Just don’t leave the profession.”

So on behalf of Dan, Avery, myself, and every other teacher who is going to grad school or changing schools, we are making the right choice. We aren’t abandoning kids. We aren’t turning our backs on schools. We are finding a way to shape our careers in a different direction. One that, hopefully, will keep us in the profession for even longer than we might have stayed otherwise.

2 thoughts on “Pink-Slip to Private School

  1. I teach math in a private school, and while I have my moments of guilt, I must say, it is a pleasure to get up and teach math every day. That is my job. I teach. I have the resources to do what I need, the support of administration, parents, and if I may presume, students. I’ve always thought to myself: what would our country look like if every kids’ education looked like the kids I teach. . .

    • Thanks for your comment, Mary. It’s nice to hear that the pleasure wins out over the niggling guilt. I imagine that it will be the same for me once I get started. Even just doing my demo lesson I could see the difference, which was dramatic. I wish every classroom looked like that. A lot of changes need to happen in the field of education before that could be a possibility…

      Right now, I’m feeling no guilt about my decison, which isn’t to say I don’t feel sad about the state of the school and the district I’m leaving behind. In order to be excited about continuing teaching I need a place that shares my vision about collaboration and groupwork and “exploratory” learning (as opposed to nothing but EDI, which my former district was salivating over). I need a place where I can have the time to think about what I’m doing, instead of being so buried under mounds of paper and busy-work, unrelated to teaching/learning, that I constantly felt overwhelmed by what I needed to get done. I feel that it’s a win-win for me to make the move to a place where I can teach happily than to stay in a place where maybe they “need” good teachers more, but where I was far too quickly becoming bitter.

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