I realize that before I start talking about my time being unemployed I have to talk about what I was doing before I was laid off.
Back in August, I was hired to teach elementary at a charter school. It was my first job as a teacher and I was hired less than two weeks before school began. It was not an ideal start, and it was made even less so by the fact that my new job was a couple of hours outside of Cleveland. This meant that I eleven days in which I not only had to prepare for a new school year but also to find a new apartment and move to a completely new city. On top of that, I had meetings for the first three days and then open house for two days before school began. The free time that I might have had to plan for my school year I spent finding an apartment, packing my belongings, and moving.
My time was also made even more difficult by other circumstances. My classroom was not ready for students. My white board was sitting on the ground instead of on the wall. Another elementary teacher interceded for me the day before school began and the custodial staff put my whiteboard on the wall. (It was a pleasant surprise. I went to class on the first day completely prepared to have my whiteboard sitting on the ground. )
I also did not have copies of the teacher’s book and my students had to share textbooks and workbooks. I know people bemoan teachers who teach out of the teacher’s workbook, but I would also like to point out that the teacher’s workbook does have a purpose, especially for young teachers. Young teachers, neophytes, often feel that all they have to do is plan fun activities for their students. (I was very much a neophyte.) A teacher’s workbook can ground young teachers and remind them that there is far more to teaching than that. (It’s also invaluable for substitute teachers.)
The lack of math workbooks was especially difficult. I still had to give the students worksheets to do (obviously) but I had to copy all of the worksheets to give to them. This was frustrating because I had to spend time making copies, time that I could have spent planning lessons. I also did not have my own code to use the printer. I had a dummy code that worked on one of the two printers. (I should also point out that our school was K-12, so there were two printers for the elementary, middle school, and high school. I frequently went to Office Max and paid to make copies.)
I also began to sense that the school would not back up teachers if students misbehaved. One of the kindergarten teachers had a student who tried to choke another student. I believe this happened more than once, but I know he did try to strangle his classmate. The dean of students was reluctant to punish the student. The dean was worried about the low enrollment at the school and feared that parents would withdraw their students if they were punished.
I don’t want to blame the school for my own difficulties and failings. I had plenty of those, believe me. I was a first year teacher and I had only been teaching for a few weeks. If I could do it over again, I would do things completely differently. (Of course.) I am sure that all teachers would say that about their first year of teaching. Great teachers are made, not born. I struggled completely with classroom management. At the beginning of the year, I had minimal classroom management skills. (Minimal might be overstating it.) I really wish I had the opportunity to find my footing before the year started.
I could go into specifics, but to be honest, I am still unable to do so at this time. It is still too painful. (I will likely come back to those stories over the next few months.) Even writing what I just wrote was very difficult.
This is the prologue to my layoff. Next, I will talk about the day I received the news.