Transitioning

We’re (at least) halfway through the summer, so it’s time for me to get off my sit-upon and make the transition from being a teacher at one school to being a librarian at another. That means a lot of boxing things up and sorting things out (one of those jobs that seems easy enough until you walk in the room and discover how Sisyphean it truly is) in a room that is devoid of air conditioning. Bittersweet sort of thing.

It also means meeting with the erstwhile librarian to learn the ropes (or as much as I can learn without actually doing). I’m excited and a little overwhelmed — there is a lot to learn, and a lot I want to do that may constitute biting off more than I can chew. I have to ease into this whole thing and prioritize what I learn to do!

It’s a beautiful space. I’ve been in a couple of times with R and have been trying to settle into the idea that these are my new digs:

I need to get back up to speed on middle-level literature after several years in a high school. Fortunately, I have a great big room full of books written for middle school kids at my fingertips.

WatchedI started off by reading Wonder, a very good book recommended to me by the principal, a counselor, and the outgoing librarian. Really a beautiful book; I’m going to try to get R to read it, if he’ll find some time away from his computer-reading. I’d like to write about it here if I find the time and energy.

CrossedNow I’m reading Crossed (book 2 in the Matched trilogy, which I started with my book club). It’s suffering a bit from SITS (Second Installment in the Trilogy Syndrome) but I still want to finish the trilogy. I’ve got the third book on standby but may read something else in between, depending on how Crossed ends.

After that, I’m either going to read Palace of Stone (the sequel to Princess Academy, which I read on audio book a couple of years ago) or The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. And then I probably need to pick a good old-fashioned Book for Boys Who Don’t Necessarily Always Love Reading. Any recommendations from my teacher/reader/librarian pals?

I took a look at the fiction stacks and found that there are about 160 shelves (actually around 165, but some are very short and are made up entirely of very specialized series). I think I’d like to challenge myself to read one book from each of the shelves in the next year, which seems like an enormous undertaking except that middle-level books are pretty fast reads for me. If I really put my mind to it I could clear one a day, but I’m not going to hold myself to that since I know I’m going to have all kinds of responsibilities, duties, etc. with this job on top of being a mama.

Of course, I might occasionally want to read a grown-up book, too… I’ve got Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare: The World as Stage on hand, and in the process of weeding my home library I came across several books that I’d purchased ages ago and never got around to reading. Plus, as soon as I can get an affordable copy, I’ve got to read The Ocean at the End of the Lane. (Plus there’s book club — and I’m giving a little bit of thought to joining a second book club — so I have at least one outside book a month to read.) So I’m not going to formally throw down the “160 middle-level books before June” gauntlet or anything… but I’m going to sort of generally aim myself in that direction and see what happens. At the very least, arbitrarily pointing myself at different shelves will expose me to books I might not necessarily choose otherwise.

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“More Like a Paid Vacation”: A Reaction

One of the several factors impacting my decision to leave my district was the news that we would be taking fourteen furlough days the following year. Contrary to popular belief, teachers aren’t paid for 365 days of work; we’re paid for 180ish days of work, spread out over twelve months so that we can pay the bills in the summer. As a result, 14 furlough days represents a not insignificant reduction to pay — equivalent to being unemployed for three weeks.

Our local newspaper is currently drawing attention to the fact that those employees at the bottom of the pay scale wouldn’t be financially impacted, because it’s against the law for a teacher’s salary to drop below a certain point in Idaho. So while these teachers (myself included, due to the multi-year freeze in advancement based on experience and education) would have fourteen days during the school year when they wouldn’t be at work, their pay wouldn’t be impacted. In an apparent effort to fuel resentment between teachers and in the community, the newspaper article characterizes this in the worst possible terms:

“For nearly half the teachers in the Nampa School District, a planned 14-day furlough aimed at balancing the budget will be more like a paid vacation. They’ll get the days off and won’t lose a dime in wages.”

In fact, this is a gross misrepresentation of what will actually be happening. The fourteen furlough days include one collaboration day, six teacher work days (including the two immediately before the start of the school year), two professional development half-days, one parent-teacher conference day, and the compensation day immediately following parent-teacher conferences. There are only four regular school days amongst the 14 slated for furlough, and three of those are the last three days of the school year, when there are finals to grade and classrooms to clean or pack up. The fourth is the first day back from winter break; every teacher I’ve ever known has spent the end of their winter break prepping for the next half of the school year.

If you’re not a teacher, you may not catch the implications of the above list. The thing is, a furlough day is supposed to mean that you don’t go to work and you don’t get paid. Or, if you’re one of us “lucky ones” who don’t earn a living wage, you get to stay home and get paid. BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN. Just because we’re not being paid for a work day doesn’t mean that we don’t have to do it. If we don’t come in those days before the school year starts, we won’t be able to teach on the first day of school. If we don’t use the work days at the ends of quarters to grade finals and end-of-term projects, if we don’t collaborate with our departments and teams, our students suffer. And if there is one thing I know about teachers, or at least the many teachers I’ve worked with who deserve the title, it’s that they care too much about their students to let the district (or the legislature, etc. etc.) screw the students over. And so on those furlough days, the schools are going to be filled with teachers, doing what they always do: whatever they have to do in the best interest of their kids. For free.

I have been teaching for five years and have earned a 4.0 in the seventy-five graduate credits I’ve taken. (A masters degree is typically around thirty credits.) I’ve written grants that bring in thousands of dollars to my school, have volunteered countless hours to extracurriculars and professional development opportunities, and have never had less than a stellar performance evaluation. And in a field where the only paths toward a pay raise are years of experience and credits on your transcript, I’ve been frozen in at the same pay scale as a first year teacher with no post-graduate education.

So sure. I’m lucky that my pay — which, if I’m looking at this chart correctly, does not qualify as a living wage for an adult with a child — isn’t going to be whittled down any further. I’m lucky that, when I work for fourteen hours on one of those “furlough days” trying to provide each of the children in my tragically overloaded classes with constructive, timely feedback, I’m not actually doing it for free.

No, wait. The reason I’m lucky is that I don’t have to be in that situation: a situation where my colleagues, my friends, end up resenting me because an unhealthy and laughable schedule of “furlough” days drove a wedge between teachers on different places on the salary schedule. Thank goodness I got out… I only wish that all of my friends there could be as lucky.

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

One of my former students shared this image with me when I asked Facebook for a map back to my comfort zone after my third of three interviews.

One of my former students shared this image with me when I asked Facebook for a map back to my comfort zone after my third of three interviews.

Today I accidentally left my comfort zone in a big way… teach me to open my big mouth on Facebook! 🙂

It all started this morning when, in response to this story, I posted the following on Facebook:

I am one of the 150. While I have multiple reasons for leaving, the BIG one is fear that my district has not only become a sinking ship but that no lifeboats have been provided for its students and teachers — none of whom contributed to the crash. For too long we’ve tried to do more and more with less and less, with only the promise of more hardship in the future. As hard as NSD teachers and admins are working to try to provide a good education to children, at a certain point it fails to be possible. Eventually, there is no more milk to squeeze from the stone. I LOVED working at Columbia, but how long can I go on working 50-80 hour weeks on an insultingly low salary without enough photocopies to make two assignments for every one of my students? How many more “oops, another missing million” announcements should I weather, knowing that in the end the ones who will suffer for these “oops” moments will be those in the classroom?

And the idea that, in this day and age, a TEACHER in AMERICA should be denied six measly weeks of 2/3-pay maternity leave… it is criminal. Six weeks of paid maternity leave is laughably stingy on a global basis, and has mothers returning to work at a crucial stage in infant development — but at least it was a nice token. If NSD takes away short term disability from its employees, the message is pretty clear: it no longer thinks of its employees as human beings, and is no longer a suitable place for teachers — and is increasingly no longer a suitable place for students.

Teachers aren’t asking for anything more than the basics they need to take care of their children — those in their classrooms and in their own homes. Anyone who thinks that robbing teachers of basic human dignity won’t affect the students is ignorant at best.

I guess that was the equivalent of calling a press conference, because my friend at Channel 6 and then my friend at Channel 7 both contacted me, wondering if I would go on camera and talk about why I was leaving. As I’d already planned to be packing up my classroom that afternoon, they were pretty excited to catch a teacher actually in the act of leaving.

(I felt weird talking to two different channels! Not only did it feel like a press conference, but I worried a bit about whether exclusivity was an issue. To be fair, I didn’t know I’d be contacted by Channel 7 when I talked to Channel 6, and I warned Channel 7 that Channel 6 got to me first.)

You know, I’m not the least bit intimidated by public speaking. Give me a microphone and an auditorium full of people and I’m just fine. But put me in front of a video camera, even when it is manned by someone I’ve known for over a decade, and I turn into a hot mess! I was so sweaty, felt like a moron, and had an upset stomach after it was all over. And then I spent most of the evening worrying that someone was going to be angry at me. I am definitely not cut out to be a politician….

Anyway, I’m on Channel 6 here: http://www.kivitv.com/news/local/214994641.html

And I’m on Channel 7 — with Henry and Ryan for a moment! — here: http://www.ktvb.com/news/More-teachers-leaving-Nampa-School-District-than-years-past-214996611.html

Ch-ch-ch-changes, or, How I Unexpectedly Became More Like Noah Wyle

Noah Wyle is The Librarian

As I approached the beginning of my maternity leave at Columbia, I negotiated with my administrators to take a 2/3-time contract the following year. This would allow me to come to work every other day (we’re on block schedule) teaching four classes instead of six; I could then stay home every other day with my baby, saving on child care costs (but more importantly, being with my baby).

(Because, you see, as it turns out, I wish I could just stay home with him entirely… I’m a wee bit addicted…)

Everything was all good to go. Then, the creeping blackness that is my district’s financial situation reared its ugly head, and the new new superintendent (three in one year! ah ah ah) put the kibosh on all 2/3-time contracts. This left me between a rock and a hard place: take a half-time contract, which would constitute a significant cut to my pay (because, on top of fewer salary hours, my benefits wouldn’t be subsidized as much), or take a full-time contract and make alternate arrangements for child care. I couldn’t really afford the former, and the latter — especially when I faced the specter of teaching five different high school classes, all but two of which would be entirely new content (and new lesson planning) — made me despair.

Then, in a beautiful Hollywood sort of plot twist, another window opened. Ryan’s school — LSMS, the first school I’d taught at full time — was going to need a librarian the following year, and they’d thought of me. It was a long shot; I lacked the necessary endorsement, so I’d have to weather in-district transfers, then officially-qualified applicants, and — if they still hadn’t found someone better — get approved by the district and apply for alternate authorization. I was hopeful, but didn’t dare set my heart on it.

To shorten a longer story: a couple of weeks later, LSMS called and asked me to interview. It was a good interview, and a couple of days later, I was offered the job.

So it turns out that I’m going to be a librarian.

awesome!

This is pretty awesome in a lot of different ways. On the practical end of things, I will enjoy a pay raise and employment in a more stable district, not to mention one where the newly elected school board is pro-teacher and the community is pro-education. I won’t be lesson planning or grading essays, which means that instead of staying at work until 5 and then coming home and being consumed with my job instead of my home life, I can be done at the end of the day and go home to be a mom and wife. Additionally, I’ll be carpooling with my husband now, which means that we’ll save a ton of money on fuel/wear and tear, and that we can put off buying a second baby-friendly car for a while.

On the less practical side, I get to BE A LIBRARIAN. Now, I know there is a lot more to librarianship than the romanticized notion any bookworm nurtures, but at the end of the day, I’m going to be paid to play with books. I’ll get to pursue my passion of connecting kids with something that will capture their imagination and open up their worlds. I’ll get to build bridges between students and information that, hopefully, will support them through the rest of their education lives.

I’ll also be in charge of the school yearbook (awesome) which comes with a stipend (double awesome). I’ll have a staff of two wonderful women who will help me figure out what the heck I’m doing. I’ll have to (get to) take some classes over the course of the next couple of years. Another lovely thing is that I already know a great many of the teachers and staff at LSMS, so while I’ll still be transitioning to a new job, I won’t be completely at square one socially.

It isn’t all awesome, of course. It is really extremely hard for me to walk away from Columbia. I have been happier there than in any other job I’ve ever held; I will miss my friends there terribly. I mean, I know that I’m not moving to another state or anything, but it’s different when you don’t see each other on a daily basis. Friendships don’t stay the same. I will also miss my students; they’re only in my life for a short time, four years at the most, but I do love my high school kids and will miss working with them. I especially regret leaving behind my ITE students; it’s been a rare gift to work with that crew of nerdy, brilliant kids. And it kind of sucks to have gone to all that work to develop courses like my Science Fiction class, only to walk away and leave it in the hands of someone who doesn’t really enjoy the genre. (The teacher they hired to replace me is — word of the day — awesome and I couldn’t be happier that they brought him in. It’s just hard to hand off your baby to someone else.) And there’s a small part of me that worries that I am in some way turning my back on something I’m “supposed” to do — that I’m giving up on the (hopefully good) work I was doing with teenagers.

At the end of the day, though, this was the right thing to do and I’m so happy (and slightly amazed) that it came to pass. It makes my future less clear; twenty years from now, will I be a librarian? an English teacher? a _____? But right now, I’m pretty darn okay with that ambiguity because the most important thing I’ll be is a mom, and this career shift is the best thing for me in that role.

Of course, now I have to pack up my classroom — no small task — and store my things, begin to learn how to be a librarian, and try to get the contents of my brain handed over to my replacement at CHS… yikes! I’ve been Pinning ideas and resources, and probably need to make a dedicated Pinterest account that I can organize better for library resources. I also need to start thinking about updating/rebuilding the library’s website with a dedicated URL and a platform that works on mobile devices.

I also need to get a big ole print of this photo made for my office (yep, I have an office):

Henry with Shakespeare

(He’s about two weeks old in this picture… amazing how much more he is at two months!)