09 November 2005

Difficult Positions

After school today, I attended a groundbreaking New Teacher Reception sponsored by the district. I call it groundbreaking because I've heard of such things as new teacher receptions in more affluent districts, but never in this one. My principal was pretty surprised by it, too. She offered to go with me as a sign of support, so I agreed. As I told her, "I'm too curious to pass it up." I found it interesting, however, that the invitation listed only the name of the plaza downtown but did not include directions. In fact, I could not find any mention of the plaza online and if my principal had not gone with me, I never would have found it. As she said, "They picked a pretty obscure location." My response was, "Welcome to our City, now good luck surviving your time here and even finding your way!" I expected to find only a few dishes of cheese and crackers and was surprised to find trays and trays of catered finger foods. Of course, I wasn't surprised that none of the food was warm (I had a quesadilla with cheese that had never even been melted), but the wine offset this a little bit.

Without much delay the state-imposed administrator welcomed us and went on at length. He thanked us for teaching in the district and encouraged us to stay. He promised us we'd be the best district in the State and eventually the nation, which is a ridiculous thing to say when we are just barely surviving. He asked to talk, to tell him what changes we thought needed to happen, that he was there to listen. Except then he went on to introduce other big wigs in the district and on the school board all of whom he introduced incorrectly in some way. He got everyone's name right, but sometimes not their position and often not how long they'd been in the district. It was a little embarrassing, I thought, and since I'm new to the district myself it's hard to tell exactly what the climate is and how much support he has as the "boss."

When he finally stopped talking and was "ready" to listen, only a few people spoke up. I had much to say but no idea how to say it and where exactly to direct it, so I listened. One teacher spoke up and asked, "When can we expect our signing bonuses?" He responded, "We'll make good on our promises, hopefully on November 30th for all of the teachers in difficult positions." It was silent when he said this. The signing bonus is a thorn in my side already and before I knew it I blurted out, "We all have difficult positions." He didn't respond but the boss of all the high school principals who was standing behind me said, "He meant to say all teachers who are in difficult-to-fill positions like math and special education." Still, my principal knew how much that kind of disregard hurts me. As an English teacher, I'm a "dime a dozen," yet math teachers get $10,000 as a signing bonus and I get a probationary contract. The message is that I am dispensable. They are valuable. I almost started crying. So much for the district's attempt to honor ALL of its teachers.


  1. Dallas9:59 PM

    You're doing great things with this blog, MB. It's shaping up to be a real, heartfelt expose of One T (bad Scott Turow reference). Many non-teachers, me included, like to speculate about life in the classroom, but you're laying bare the realities of the profession in a way that only a poet-turned-teacher could manage. I expect that these blog entries will wind up in hardcover someday.

  2. Anonymous6:35 AM

    Congratulations on squelching the urge to further heckle. Picking the field of engagement is an important step toward winning a battle.