“Thank you for your service to this District and good luck in your future endeavors.”

21 May

On June 10, I will wrap up my tenth year of teaching. After June 30, I’ll be eligible to apply for unemployment.

Hello, my name is Kara, and I’m a budget cut.

Hey remember two years ago when getting laid off was all the rage? I’m a little behind the trends, but here I am, job searching and resume updating. And possibly career-switching.

How did this happen?

After establishing a comfortable seven years of seniority in my previous county, and nine in Virginia, I have earned only one year in my Florida county. I was hired with a one-year contract after class size amendment magic funding arrived. I was one of 700 teachers hired to reduce the booming class sizes (up to 40 kids in core classes). Electives still operated at a burgeoning 60 kids and up.  Think about teaching studio art to 60 teenagers, or theater to 100.

My county elected not to renew all 700 of the 1-year contracts, and then lay off an additional 700 on top of that. Of the remaining teachers, they are asking them to contribute up to 3% to their retirement, and trying to convince assistant principals to agree to furlough days. Only teachers with at least three years in the county are promised a job next year, although that job could be at any school in the county. Some may not find out until shortly before school starts in August.

How do you feel about all this?

A few months ago this post would have been more of a tirade against the educational politics of the state of Florida. I might have railed against the lip service politicians give to what is “best for the kids,” while doing the exact opposite. Politicians who give speeches about how we need to keep our best teachers in the classroom by instituting merit pay, which just means giving the students more standardized tests.  Instead of paying to keep good teachers in the classroom, we pay testing companies to create tests for every single subject, even art. And that  becomes the measure of what a successful teacher is: whether or not they can train their students to fill in bubbles like drones. Or write to a formula to be evaluated by people with little to no educational experience, trained to evaluate writing like a paint-by-numbers project. No critical thinking required.

My students’ writing scores were, on paper, excellent. In real life, they have far to go. My most adept critical thinkers and creative writers scored lower than I expected. My students who least demonstrate critical thought scored higher than I expected. There lies the truth of standardized testing: it measures how well you follow rules, not how well you think. My thinkers all passed of course, but I know best who’s ready to set the world on fire, not the 1-6 score on that test.

New insight is welcome in my classroom: even if you challenge me, I hear you. Every year a student comes up with an insight I’d never considered before. That’s why I love teaching: it’s an avenue to new ways of thinking. Sometimes the kids who don’t follow the rules are the ones who think the most.

I’m not the best rule follower which makes me think I might just be okay in the second decade of my professional life.

More on how to celebrate getting laid off in my next post.


10 Responses to ““Thank you for your service to this District and good luck in your future endeavors.””

  1. Eleanor May 21, 2011 at 10:55 pm #

    This is so politically correct Ms. Kara….you have made me so so very proud!!! If they don’t give you a position they are crazzzzyyyyyyyyyy!!!!! lv u

  2. Jaime Clemmer May 22, 2011 at 1:18 am #

    Lame! Down with the system!! Can’t wait to hear what part 2 of your prof career will entail. Wish you were over here. Jack just hired 4 new teachers and would have loved to have a teacher as dedicated as you on his team!

  3. Catherine May 22, 2011 at 3:06 am #

    I know this had absolutely nothing to do with you, but still I’m shocked. My stomach did a little flop when I read the title.

    Shitty as it is, I’m glad you’ll have more time for exciting new projects. Let’s talk soon!

  4. Emily May 22, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    I’m so sorry about your layoff Kara, they are NUTS to let you go. You almost make me want to be in high school again so I can have you as a teacher. (then I remember the acne and awkwardness and am glad to know you now.)

  5. Alexsis Rodgers May 23, 2011 at 7:08 am #

    America is losing an excellent nation builder.

  6. Dana May 23, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

    Florida’s loss will be your gain. You have a great attitude about it all. You are one of the best teachers I know, and I can’t wait to find out what you are doing next!

  7. Kara May 23, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    Truly humbled by the kind words, everyone. Especially from respected educators and one of my most impressive former students. The rest of my students are too busy celebrating my departure (they think I invented MLA style as a cruel torture device).

    Em, I still love knowing you took a Shakespeare class in high school. I wasn’t cool enough to do that at the same age.

    @Jaime, tell Jack I will only go back to teaching if he’s my principal. That would be too much fun to miss!


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