Being unemployed has allowed me the opportunity to reconnect with friends I haven’t heard from in months or even years. The non- or former teachers have more time to talk, so we’ve met for lunch or dinner or coffee. Those who are still teaching are a lot busier, so it’s been a lot of text messages or Facebook Messenger.
So late one night a few weeks ago I sent a quick message to a teacher friend, not expecting a reply until after school the next day. To my surprise she was still awake, online, and ready to talk.
Given how we met, our talk quickly turned to schools and teaching. And to my surprise, now that I’m coming out of the fog of the first year of grief, I found out that my friend had a bad year last year too.
She told me about her inept principal.
She told me about the false accusations her principal made against her and another teacher.
She told me about the low evaluation scores she–an experienced teacher–received.
Which was even more egregious since the evaluator left during the lesson but scored it as if he/she was there the entire time.
She told me about how her principal was a bully and she had to get out of there.
So she did.
She transferred to a new school.
Here’s the thing. Not only is she an experienced teacher, she’s taught in this school district for over a decade. She has tenure.
I don’t. (Didn’t.)
There are those who say that tenure is a job for life. They’re wrong. In the K-12 world, tenure means that if they want to fire you, they’ve got to have the documentation to justify it. Tenure gives you (a little) job protection as a teacher.
My friends with tenure say that it’s not much, and that its power diminishes every year as new reforms are enacted.
But it’s more than I had.
My friend and I did not teach the same grade or the same subject. We taught on opposite ends of town in the same district.
She has tenure.
Which meant that after about twenty-five minutes of chatting online, she said she had to go to bed because she had school in the morning.
And after she signed off, I stayed online. Email and Facebook and Twitter and down the rabbit hole of websites.
What did it matter? I had nowhere to be in the morning.