Tuesday, February 7, 2017

That Didn't Last Long

Retired English Teacher is fully retired again.

On January 24, 2017, I began my new job teaching English language learners for a local school district.   The day dawned earlier than most of my days have dawned for a long time.  After going to bed early, I was still a bit stunned when the alarm on my phone signaled to me that it was not only time to get up, but time to shower, dress, eat breakfast, gather my things and head out the door.  The amazing thing is:  I was able to find my way to my school via Google maps and arrive on time.  

Since I would be working at three elementary schools, and one middle school, I walked in the school where I was first assigned to be and was taken to the room (small, cramped, but at least a room that was completely designated for use by the ELL teacher and her aide) and met the delightful young woman whom would be my aide at this school.  We didn’t have much time together because I was scheduled to visit a principal at another school where I would be working, but we did establish a quick working relationship which I thought would be very productive and full-filling. 

We discussed the needs of the school, the students in the program, the schedule, and the materials available.  I felt quite uplifted about the initial contact I had made in a school where I would work for half days two days a week.

That afternoon, I drove over to the middle school where I would have a planning period and be assigned to teach a class every afternoon.  Already a bit familiar with the school, I was greatly looking forward to teaching there. 

The principal introduced me to the assistant principal whom would be my evaluator and contact person for any needs or concerns that I might have.  I was then given a tour of the building and shown three possible sites that I could choose as my “home” while I was in the building during my planning period: 
·      a narrow storage room between two technology classrooms that was full of a lot of stuff and hadn’t been used as an office in years. “But it can be cleaned out if you want to use this space originally designated as the itinerant teacher office”
·      an office off the library shared by another itinerant teacher which I could not use on Wednesdays,
·      a workspace used by all the aides to the sixth grade teachers that was located in the sixth grade workroom.  The former teacher had used the latter space as her “office.”

I was also briefly shown the room where I would teach during seventh period.  The room was dark, and I couldn’t really see it because a group of teachers were in there watching Trump’s Inauguration during their planning period, lunch, or whatever. 

I met the aide that would assist me for the briefest of moments because she had to leave to test students. 

At 4:00 p.m., I left the building at the end of my day.  It was cold.  The wind had been blowing all day, and I asked myself what I had gotten myself into.


On January 25, 2017, I repeated the part about getting up early and getting out the door.  This time, I went to a different elementary school.  It was the one where I would also spend half a day three days a week. 

The ELL teacher’s aid is a delightful person whom has the luxury of actually having a classroom designated entirely for use for serving the ELL population of the school.  The room was very pleasantly decorated and set up to serve the students. 

I spent much of the morning in mainstream classrooms with two students just learning English.  I was very excited about the possibility of working with these students and their teachers.  I was able to spend some time with a teacher helping her with strategies for best teaching the student she had that was just learning English. “I’m back in the saddle, and it feels so good and so right,” I said to myself as I left the classroom to meet with the district level leadership for the ELL Department.

That encounter left me again wondering what I had gotten myself into.

And so the week went.  I got up early.  I went to the assigned school for the day.  I tried to remember where my classroom was, and tried to rehearse in my mind the schedules that did not really align with the task that been assigned to me. I gave it all my very best brain power, organizational skills, and knowledge of how best to teach the students and was trying to come up with a reasonable plan that would serve the population I was there to teach.

On Saturday, January 28, 2017, I awoke with a terrible ear ache.  I am not one to get viruses such as colds or flu.  It is rare for me to be sick.  I may have my multiple health problems, but I am rarely sick with a virus.  Since the ear ache was quite painful, and since I needed to be back at work on Monday, I went to the doctor.

Indeed, my ears were bulging.  I was given a prescription for an antibiotic, and for a decongestant and sent on my way.  I spent the weekend resting, taking my medicine, and drinking fluids. 


On Monday, January 30, I was back at the job.  This time, I spent the morning in the third school to which I had been assigned.  I was to spend half a day one day a week at this school. 

The school is a wonderful elementary school.  I was thrilled to be there.  The ELL aide was quite competent and delightful.  The classroom space dedicated to the program was not large, but it was more than adequate, and it was welcoming and stocked with great teaching materials.  We had a productive time together. 

When it was time for me to go the middle school, I was worn down and overwhelmed with the task that had been assigned to me with this job.  Mostly, though, I was just sick.  I felt terrible.


On Tuesday, January 31, 2017, I called off sick.  I felt worse than I had when I went to the doctor on Saturday.  The meds did not seem to be working.  I went to the doctor again.  This time, she gave me a penicillin shot and a prescription for prednisone.  We discussed my problems with steroids, but I agreed to try taking the
prednisone anyway.


On Wednesday, February 1, 2017, I called off sick again.  I then took the prednisone in an attempt to try and get well.  By three o’clock that afternoon, my husband had me back in the doctor’s office because I had a negative reaction to prednisone, could not breathe, and had chest pain.  I told her I was allergic to it.  Now she believes me.  No more prednisone for me!

Discouraged, and being fully aware of the fact that I was as sick, or sicker than I had been on Saturday, I fretted all day about what to do about the job.  In my heart of hearts, I knew that it just was not the right job for me at this time in my life.  It was not a good fit.  It involved way too many moving parts, too much travel, too many schedules, and little real opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the students most needing instruction. 


On Wednesday, February 1, 2017, after much discussion with my wise husband, and after shedding many tears, I called the human resources department and asked how I would go about resigning from my position.  I then called the principal of the school which was my home school to tell him that I was still sick, and felt it was only right that I resign from my teaching position.  I then sent a letter of resignation, effective for that day’s date.  Relief flooded my heart and mind once I had actually made my decision and acted upon it.

Life Lessons

My latest chapter, and my last chapter, in my experience as a classroom teacher was very, very short.  I spent five complete days in the classroom.  Then, I spent two days on sick leave.  On the seventh day of this short teaching gig, I resigned. 

While I was trying to decide what to do about the job, I realized that the known aspects of the position were aspects that would stretch me to the limits physically, mentally, and emotionally.  The stress evidently had been too much for the two teachers before me. 

The unknown aspects of the job were the students.  I had not had a chance to interact with them much.  I was just learning the ropes and trying to develop a reasonable schedule that would serve those needing my services best.  In the meantime, I picked up all those germs floating around the schools where I was working because my immune system no longer has the ability to fight off all those new germs like it once did when I was in the classroom every day. 

Looking back on this latest venture of mine, I am reminded of a line from Mission Impossible.
Your mission should you agree to accept it…

Oh how I wish I would have thought of this line during the interview for the job.  The first question asked of me was, “Why do you want to be hired for this job that requires you to go to four school.”  I laughed and said, “Well, I didn’t know that the job required me to go to four schools.”  Right then and there, I should have interviewed the committee myself.  I should have said, “May I please visit these schools, speak with the teacher aides, and look at the requirements of the job and determine just how the school district expects me to fulfill these duties and requirements before I accept the job?”

I learned this life lesson about jobs a long time ago. 

A little over twenty-five years ago, before my husband and I were to be married, I applied for a job as an accounting assistant for a school district.  I had a B.S. in Business Administration, and I was working as an accounting assistant in a non-profit in Denver.  Since I had much experience in school district bookkeeping, and since I was moving to the town where the job was located in a very short time because of my impending marriage, I thought the job would be perfect.  The salary was low, too low for me to accept, so I negotiated for a higher salary.  My husband-to-be (now my husband) said I’d never get it.  He said they would never pay me what I was asking.  They did.  They gave the salary.

 The others in the department were not happy when I started the job because word had gotten around about my salary.  Never mind that I had a degree which they did not, and I had a great deal of experience. 

In just a few days, the joke was on me.  What I should have done was ask to see the books before I took the job.  None of the accounts had been balanced in over three months.  Some accounts had not been balanced in nearly a year.  The report to the state was due in just a few short months and all the books had to be balanced before work on the report could even begin.  All of this while learning how the system associated with district worked.

I caught up the balancing of the books and completed the report for the audit.  In the meantime, after spending five or six hours a day on the ten-key calculator or doing data entry on a ten key computer pad, my hands no longer could even tell if I dropped something until I heard the item hit the floor.  I couldn’t remove a paper clip from paper.  I had a very serious case of carpal tunnel.  That job ended my career as a bookkeeper/accounting technician. 

After surgery for carpel tunnel syndrome, during the recovery time, I was not allowed to work.  In fact, my doctor told me he would never release me to do that type of work again. 

That is when I went back to school and earned a BA in English and a certificate to teach Secondary Language Arts. 


All of the lessons of life are applicable in other areas.  When I was interviewed for this most recent teaching job, I just didn’t remember to ask that important question:
“May I see the books before I start the job?”

In this case, I really should have visited the schools and seen the entire scope of the job.  If I had, the famous line from Mission Impossible would have given me a true picture of mission which I found impossible for me to do.  The job was not a good fit for me.  I do hope that some way, somehow, the needs of the students with limited proficiency in using English in the academic setting will get the services they deserve and are guaranteed for them under the laws which we currently have in place. 


Today, February 7, 2017, a full week after I resigned, my husband said to me this morning.  “If you were working, you still would not be well enough to go back to work.”  He is right.  The virus has now settled in my chest.  I am more sick than I was a week ago.  Hopefully, this stubborn virus doesn’t hang on much longer.  At least I am home, fully retired, and able to do what I need to do to get well.