It was a running joke in my house ……… my husband would say “When you’re 55, you will retire and we can get on with the next part of our lives.” My answer would always be “I’m not retiring, they will have to drag me out kicking and screaming or push me out on a gurney feet first.” I never intended to be the teacher who counted the days until I COULD retire. I pictured my teaching career lasting until I was either unable to physically get to school, or until I died with a marker in my hand. Of course, I know that’s not how it goes – everyone does retire at some point – but for me it wasn’t going to be at 55. I love teaching. I never dreamed of going back to school to be an administrator because I knew I would miss my “kids” too much.
What has happened in NY State now has me thinking that it’s not a joke, that my husband is right, and as soon as I can, I’m going to retire. I don’t want it to be this way. I don’t want to be 55 wondering how on earth I’m going to live on a pension that I may or may not have anyway.
So, now as I rapidly approach the magic 30 years/age 55 mark, I am scrambling. I am scrambling to figure out how on earth I will continue to make a living – but more importantly – how I will continue to make a difference.
Yesterday brought me all sorts of words of support from former students, from parents of former students, from family and from people I’ve only “met” on Facebook. It was heart-warming, it was kind, it was encouraging. The best comment I got was from a parent of a former student who had not refused tests before and is now planning to refuse the tests. I got career advice from a friend, and even my silly teenager posed the question: “Is this just a big April Fool’s joke?” No, son, sorry – it’s not a joke. Your mom and all your teachers have been sold down the river for a yacht. We’ve been placed directly in the cross-hairs of every politician who thinks they know how to evaluate a teacher just because, you know, they’ve gone to school.
Some of them publicly said they “held their noses” while voting yes. Is that supposed to make me feel any better? Is that supposed to change the fact that now 50% of my evaluation will be based on the growth of students who are unique individuals and not machines? Is that supposed to change the fact that an “independent” observer who knows NOTHING about me, my classroom, or my students can determine if I’m “effective”? Is that supposed to change the fact that I have to scramble to find 100 hours of Professional Development – most likely that only NYSED or the Board of Regents approve and demand payment? You see, I DID NOT hold my nose when I walked into the voting booth in November – I refused to choose the “lesser of two evils”. I stood for what I believed and voted in a way that reflected what I believe. And, I will do the same this November. I won’t hold my nose and apologize later that things didn’t quite go the way I wanted.
The NYS Budget – with its “Education Reform Package” – is no joke. If we as teachers weren’t stressed enough – we just got another stab in the back from the majority of our elected officials. And when teaching becomes a revolving door “job”, when there are no veteran teachers left, then what? Students will lose.