Monday morning I awoke with purpose. I got ready for the day, made some coffee, and was out the door. I drove to work excitedly, knowing that I was going to see the smiling faces of students I haven’t seen since mid-June and that I was finally back in the game of substitute teaching. I pulled into a parking spot in the lot and suddenly became nervous. I wasn’t nervous because of my ability as a teacher, about what subject I would be teaching, or even what kind of trouble/drama the day would bring (there is always some of this when working with high-school kids). I was nervous about the politics. I’ve never had much of a political mind. To be quite honest, I hate politics—all kinds, even the important ones televised nightly. Politics are the only part of teaching I don’t have much experience with, not on the inside of a school at least. I am used to the politics one can experience from the outside; not getting calls, interviews, and positions, etc. Of course I was used to that.
I couldn’t dwell on this, however. I was finally back-in-action and I should have been content. So, I grabbed my purse, notebook, and coffee and got out of the car. When I walked in, the hallways were empty. I didn’t see a soul. When I looked at the clock on the wall I realized I was 24 minutes early. Perhaps I was a little over-zealous. I decided to go into the office and clock-in anyway. If anyone wanted to look at my record of attendance they would only see proof of an over-prepared early bird. What could it hurt? The secretary who calls in substitutes was there to greet me. It felt like old times and my nerves were settled a little more. She seemed genuinely happy to see me. Maybe today wouldn’t be so bad, but then why couldn’t I shake my unease? She gladly handed me my assignment for the day. I was a little unhappy to see that I was to substitute for a freshman algebra course. Not only was I disappointed because the subject of math and I don’t see eye to eye, but the freshman part was a little discouraging. I wouldn’t be spending the day with students I knew. No big deal, though. I was ready and willing to become these new students’ favorite sub ever, too.
As the halls started to fill with students and teachers, my unease became stronger than ever. I still couldn’t tell why I was feeling this tension, but it was there nonetheless. While I was happy to be welcomed back with open arms by many students, I had not planned on receiving the news that students had thought I abandoned them. I was confused at first; not understanding their reasoning, but soon it became clear that another sub had been in their classrooms. Not just once, but many times— yet I had not received one call to come in. Naturally, I was puzzled. I had been assured that I was the first-call sub. I was last school year’s Cadre (permanent, every-day sub) and was ensured at the end of the year that nothing had changed. So, why was another sub getting called in when my first day was today?
I decided that I shouldn’t worry yet. I couldn’t let this bother me when I had a job to do. My classes went well and for that I was pleased. I was even able to stop at home for lunch which enabled me to stay strictly Paleo for the entire day. My unease that kept resurfacing was nearly gone by the end of the day. That is, until I walked into the office again to punch-out for the day, when everything suddenly made perfect sense. The unease, the nerves, the students thinking I abandoned them, the fact they had already had another sub—everything fit together. The secretary informed me that she was doing her best to get me in to sub, but unfortunately I was no longer first call. I had lost my spot. How could this be, you ask? Why would this happen? The answer is simple. One word: nepotism. My first call/Cadre position had been given to the Principal’s family friend.
It’s all about who you know, right? Friends in high places….
My face must have been priceless upon hearing this news. I knew my heart stopped. There was no question. I had just been trampled upon, after all. I spent a year putting in my time as an underling, working my butt off only for my position to be handed to someone who has yet to show her character, potential, and ability. After all the hard work and dedication I had shown over the past year this is how I am repaid? Why did I bother sponsoring after-school activities? Why did I bother helping other teachers with grading? Why did I bother to become so connected to my students? Why did I waste my time proving how great an addition I would make to the faculty? It was all for nothing, in the end.
I drove home with my mind racing. What was I going to do now? With my tail between my legs, I could dejectedly take the “second call” spot and hope that I work at least once or twice a week. Could I live off of that income? I could call in to sub-center every day, wait every morning for a call, and take the chance of being sent to unpleasant schools and even more unpleasant situations. I could do that, I supposed, but it was a less than ideal thought. I thought about going back to my old job at an after-school enrichment program (daycare for school-aged children, with a bit more focus on reading and school-like activities). It would be a pay-cut and another step further from teaching high school, but I could do that. What else could I do? I have applied to every single English teacher position within an 80 mile radius and haven’t heard anything. I have applied to be a substitute in just about as many places. I have tried reaching out to others working in schools to see if they could offer help, suggestions, or to put in a few good words for me. I’ve done everything I could think of. What else is there to do?
As I sit here shaking my head, the answers still evade me. I don’t know what else to do anymore. It is completely disheartening and demoralizing. What is wrong with me? Is it my resume? Is it riddled with errors that I have over-looked time and time again? What is it that makes me undesirable to hire? These questions float through my brain almost constantly whenever my mind is allowed to roam freely. I try to force myself to stop thinking in this damaging way, but it is almost impossible. I try to remind myself that many teachers are in the same position as I am. The economy and job market at the present are making things difficult for many people, not just me. I am not unique in this. The problem is not me. I am putting forth a great deal of effort, I am doing exactly what I should be doing in my current situation, and I am not giving up hope just yet. At least, this is what I try to tell myself. It doesn’t always work in giving me comfort.
While I’m out of ideas for moving my teaching career ahead, I still have some options…. Maybe.
1) I could remain here, hopeful, and continue on-call subbing.
2) I could remain here, miserable, and continue on-call subbing.
3) I could quit with this crap altogether and try to find a job outside of education. Where do unemployed English teachers go to work if they can’t work in a school?
4) I could move to a state where they hire teachers left and right. Where would that be? I haven’t a clue.
5) I could go back to school and get certified in another subject or receive a second endorsement. This would require a great deal of money I don’t have, so financial aid would be a must in this situation.
What to do? Honestly, at this point, I just don’t know anymore.
It has taken me days to prepare writing this. I didn’t want to write an offensive post filled with expletives. I’m much calmer now than I was Monday evening and I don’t feel as hurt as I did then. It wasn’t personal. If I had a family friend with the power to hand me a position in my field, I would surely try to take advantage. Don’t get me wrong. I still see red when I dwell on the situation for too long. It seems as though my chosen career path is going to be a long, winding, and bumpy road. Maybe even scary. For now, I’m doing my best to see the way ahead of me, regardless of how clouded and blurry it seems.