As my wife Leaves on the Current continues on her journey of recovery from her blood cancer, i have been able to begin exploring going back to work. In the process of exploring various job opportunities, both within and without the walls of a school classroom, I have been trying to sort out what matters to me, how I want to use what productive time and energy I may have left to me as I approach my 67th birthday. Knowing that within less than two months I will attend the 40th reunion of my final class at Haverford and the 50th reunion of my high school graduation in Mamaroneck NY also lead to my placing consideration of future opportunities within the context of what has gone before, both in my personal history and in the broader history of the 2/3 of a century through which I have lived.
My thoughts are far from concluded in any of this.
Because having a pension and Social Security provide sufficient income that we could if necessary downsize some and obviate my earning a fixed income, I do not need to consider income as a primary motivation for going back to work. Time and what I do with it are of far greater importance.
Thus I understand that this thinking "aloud" may not speak as clearly to others as perhaps my writing directly on the nature of teaching or of education.
This community is a major part of my "extended family," I am used to sharing my thoughts and listening to what others may offer in return.
So I invite you if so inclined to continue reading, and will not be upset if the traffic on this is minimal. I benefit from the simple process of getting it out of my mind and in to a format where I can read it and reflect both upon what I have written and what others might choose to share with me.
A lot has happened in the past week. I have had two phone interviews and one in-person interview for schools. I am already scheduled to teach a sample lesson in one school, a public charter that is truly of its community, and have been told I am likely to be invited to teach sample lessons at both of the others, which are independent schools with specific missions that are of interest.
At the suggestion of a friend who works in the system, I have sent letters directly to a number of principals in Fairfax County Public Schools, where i had already completed the online application to be eligible for employment. Because this next week is their "Trans Fairs" where current teachers can apply to move within the system, no one can interview me as of yet, but I received several very encouraging responses, including a request to check back about ten days from now.
Yesterday I had a preliminary discussion for an opportunity outside of the classroom. It would not pay much - an hourly wage in what is primarily a retail setting. It is for an organization that is very progressive in its orientation, it would in some ways be involved with educating a larger community. A friend who is close to the owner had suggested they talk to me. They may well present me with a proposal on Monday, to which I would have to respond within 24-48 hours, before I taught a single sample lesson.
The combination of not working, Leaves needing less of my time, and DK 4.0 allowing multiple diaries in one day has led to my writing quite a bit more. Some days I have done as many as four posts, and I think once 5. i have been able to offer thoughts on specific issues, make people aware of materials about which they might not have known, reminded people of important events (such as Pete Seeger's 94th birthday yesterday). I largely control my own time - when I get up, what I do when, where I spend my time - although Leaves still wants my assistance at certain times during the day.
Any employment will change that freedom.
Further, while the "retail" position would be limited to 40 hours, some of that inevitably would be evenings and weekends. It would leave me free to write about other topics as I want. It is an easy drive from my home.
Any full-time teaching position would take far more of my time and energy. Of the current three possibilities, the shortest commute would be 15 minutes, the other two closer to half an hour. One might be part-time or full-time, not yet decided. A full-time teaching job usually means being at the school site for at least 8 hours daily, and usually several more doing school-related work at home, and some additional time on weekends. When I taught at Eleanor Roosevelt, my commuting time was around 1:20 or more round-trip. I would be at school usually from 7 until at least 4, and have another 15 hours minimum of work to do at home between reviewing student work, planning, writing letters of recommendation, attending union meetings, etc. That did not include the time serving as a coach, a club advisor, doing the choral prep for musical theater. Were I again a teacher, I would be likely to be involved in some student activities, because it is important to have connection with students outside the classroom. Any fulltime teaching job will mean I will write much less, participate in politics at a lesser level.
Now let me add some more material to the mix.
i am regularly asked to review books, and not just on education. I have a backlog of four books I have read and not yet reviewed.
I am also apparently on a number of lists of political bloggers that mean I receive all kinds of communications and invitations. I am for example on the press list for the Embassy of Venezuela, so that for example i have an invitation for an event today. It seems that Democrats from across the country running for various offices think I will be interested in their campaigns. In some cases all they want is my money, which since I don't have much to offer I can merely delete. In other cases I am being offered opportunities to interview them.
And not just candidates. People have publicists seeking to get attention for their clients, and somehow think I will be interested in what their clients have to say.
But then it gets interesting. Because at least one of those lists of "prominent" political bloggers does not indicate party or ideology, I have been on the email lists for several Tea Party groups, and recently for some reason also a number of gun rights groups.
i mention this not because it makes me unique or even special, but because it reminds me of how many issues I have chosen to address in my writing (although often from a different point of view than those reaching out to me). I attempt to weigh the value of the writing/commentary I do as a result of my varied passions and interests, sometimes by going back and rereading earlier pieces. Some are dated, but some still seem to carry weight. A few actually amaze me - did I actually write that cogently?
Until someone offers me a position, I have not had to decide whether or not I really should accept it. I am fortunate in having some financial reserves that do not require immediate downsizing absent a job. I earned enough since retiring and had planned well enough that we easily go another year without any additional income on my part. Sometimes things fall from the sky: we had a $500 deductible that we will have to eat for last week's auto accident. Over the weekend I was invited to be the guest speaker at a faculty retreat for a freshman seminar program at a nearby college. Want to guess the honorarium they are offering me? Yes, it is $500.
I may not be offered the "retail" position. I also may not be invited to do sample lessons at the other two schools. I may well not do well enough at the sample lesson that is scheduled to get an offer. Nothing is guaranteed.
The process of exploration has enabled me to realize some things that perhaps were not clear to me before.
My brief time in the high needs inner city middle school rekindled my passion for teaching. My wife described it as seeing again the fire in my eyes.
If I am to teach, it must meet several criteria.
- i have to have enough flexibility to meet the perceived needs of my students
- On a personal level I have to feel that i am bringing something they would not otherwise receive
I do not need or even want to teach just to be in a classroom. I don't want to be driven primarily by test scores.
If I were offered and accepted the "retail" position I would immediately withdraw from consideration for teaching positions, including even the scheduled sample lesson. It is a matter of integrity for me. I do not like to jerk people around.
Some friends have encouraged me to take steps that might enable me to earn sufficient money from my writing that I would not need to do anything else. There is a certain amount of appeal to that. I have explored some of the writing jobs around town and they are not good fits and usually would mean giving up my independent voice, here and elsewhere. Even making $20,000/year as a free-lance writer is difficult, and requires spending a lot of time making proposals, shopping for opportunities, marketing oneself, all things that do not appeal to me.
So I find myself in a bit of a quandary. The "retail" position would provide sufficient income not to worry, give me the ability to continue to write on a variety of topics, but would be far less remunerative even than teaching in a small non-profit school. I would be involved in progressive activities and building something in a way I have not previously done. There are things about it that would be very appealing. If it is offered.
One of three schools with which I have talked I would accept in a heartbeat.
At least one of the Fairfax schools that has encourage me is also a circumstance I would accept in a heartbeat.
Does that mean my heart is more towards returning to the classroom?
If so, should I withdraw from anything else and roll the dice?
I honestly don't know,
I had not expected to go back into the classroom in November. That experience changed me.
I wonder if returning to the classroom is too safe a path to follow. I am comfortable there, even in situations that are very different. Will I grow as much by returning to the role of classroom teacher as I might doing something else.
Even those friends who encourage me to write more acknowledge that I remain very much a teacher. My wife says i did not find myself until I became a teacher. She was, after all, the one who encouraged me to leave my secure and comfortable position as a local government civil servant dealing with computers to become a teacher.
There are a number of possibilities at various stages of development.
None may come to fruition.
All potentially could, although if I accept an offer for something I immediately withdraw from anything else pending.
Many years ago when I was relatively young (early 30s), was still living in the Philadelphia area and working with computers, I had a day like i will never again experience. In one day I received 7 job offers, including from two Fortune 100 companies. I had the luxury of weighing the positives and negatives of each and choosing what was the best fit.
Occasions like that are exceedingly rare.
I will if offered have to weigh opportunities on their merits.
If I am offered any opportunities.
In the meantime, employed or not, I will continue to explore how I can use whatever gifts I have, whatever time may be left to me, to try to make a difference.
Thanks for reading.
I will read with attention any comments you may choose to offer.