Part 3 in the article series.
The 12-year veteran teacher, being paid like a sixth-year teacher, dug in to pull as many of her students as possible into passing her classes.
First of all, she had to counsel her advisory students about passing all of their classes. They were the graduating senior class, distinguished from a larger group of seniors-in-age only. Her class included mothers, students struggling for work-school balance and even a student celebrating his 21st birthday. These… young adults knew what was at stake. Yet they held old, ingrained bad habits that would prevent them from achieving success. Now, she knew, now was the time to push, pester, cajole and watch to ensure this group didn’t fall through the cracks.
Then there were her four literature classes. Standard Language Arts, it had been pitched to her as a freshman-level class. Maybe 10 percent of her students were freshman age. These students were not reading on grade level. Most were non-native English speakers. Some had recently immigrated, true. But so many simply weren’t reading on grade level. She had experienced this at her last school – student who didn’t speak English at home. Yet the disastrous fact for their education was that they had no love of reading, were not encouraged to read, and so struggled even at this advanced age. She had self-studied on several literacy strategies. She had seen them work at her former school – she was eager to bring these strategies to her new students.
Then there was her creative writing class. It was introduced to her almost as an afterthought, just two days before school started. A seeming throwaway class. Never mind that. She had majored in writing. She had written five novels. She had recently begun a burgeoning career as a freelance writer. She had a wealth of knowledge – and opportunities – to afford these kids.
Unmarried and with no kids, the veteran teacher could do as she pleased on her off-time. At first she focused on her freelance writing career. Increasingly, though, she spent more and more time developing lesson plans for her students. Founding a website to collect her work and articles that would benefit them. Focusing her writing talents on writing how-tos to address their needs. Grading incessantly so she could assess and target her instruction on their individual needs. 120 individual needs, granted, but she had the time, resources and experience for the endeavor.
Then, on a Monday after she’d spent the entire weekend lesson planning, she got the news.
“Funding for students is not what we expected. Your position is being eliminated.”
Cold water in the face. Slamming into a brick wall. Stepping off a cliff – none of the clichés quite captured the sense of shock she felt upon receiving this news. She walked back to her classroom a zombie. Students awaited her attention, asking about writing assignments, reading assignments, her car… She kept her voice and demeanor as upbeat as possible. Yet over and over in her head rang the truth: You have given all of your considerable talents and skills. Yet due to money concerns we no longer want you. The students need you, but we no longer want you.
She escaped from the one place she would feel comfortable in the ensuing weeks: the classroom. Her heart hurt. It was broken.