Friday, November 19, 2004

So, did you miss me?

Well, it's been a while since I was actually able to post anything here, so I thought I'd get everyone caught up with what's been going on with my teaching career. It's not been pretty, but it has been instructional.

First off, because my certificate expired at the end of June, and school went on into July, I ended up not finishing the whole school year. Yup, I missed the last three weeks or so, since I legally couldn't teach. To be honest, however, that was fine with me. I was not doing well anyway, the stress was getting to me, and I just felt it would be better for everyone involved if I just left. (I did end up having to go back for a couple of days to take care of some administrative stuff, but that was all right, I didn't mind.) And my other employer, the local Sylvan Learning Center, said, "Sure, no problem, we can use you this summer," so I was able to get some work in there to make up for the money I suddently wouldn't be getting from Marysville.

My goal was to finish up my classes over the summer and apply for my new continuing certificate. I didn't think I'd be able to get a full time job again so close to the start of the school year, but districts do hire in late September and into October, and I could always go back to subbing. (After the debacle of Marysville, subbing suddenly didn't look so bad at all!) But one thing I learned this summer was that I don't do well taking a class at home. There are too many distractions, like the TV and the internet, and even if I did get going on something, part of me would be thinking about things that needed to get done around the house, and I'd end up dealing with dirty dishes or something. This, coupled with working at Sylvan and my annual trip to the Winkie Convention in California and all of the Olympics I watched, meant I didn't get terribly far on my classes. In hindsight, I think taking two correspondence classes with the intent of finishing them both within a pretty short timeframe was a mistake -- especially during a school year when I had almost no breaks and was also working Saturdays.

So once I realized that I wasn't going to make it, I applied for a substitute certificate. I figured I'd be able to get some hours subbing in while I finished the classes and worked at Sylvan in the evenings. I applied at the start of September, thinking to take a little badly needed time off before getting to work. Well, it hasn't worked out quite that smoothly. Last spring, I had an ugly episode involving a student who wouldn't take off his hood in class. So I went over and pulled it off for him. Bad move, I know, and I regretted it the moment I did it. But in doing so, I accidentally pulled a littler harder than I intended, and choked him a little. No, I was not having a good day. So the district, quite rightly, suspended me with pay while they investigated. Then they forgot about it for a week, and didn't actually do any investigating until I called to find out what was going on! At least I got some time off... Once they looked into things, they basically gave me a slap on the wrist, and asked that I attend an anger management class and talk to a counselor. I was glad to do so, and actually got a lot out of both.

Now, fast forward to my application for my substitute certificate. It asked me if I'd ever been part of any investigation, disciplinary action, etc. Being the honest soul that I am, I said yes. Some may be thinking I should have lied, but I know that if I had, it would have come back to haunt me later. Besides, I had no way of knowing what was to come. Anyway, a few weeks after I applied, I got a note from the state asking for more details about the incident, and so I filled out the form they sent, thinking it would be the end of it. So I waited for my new certificate to arrive. And I waited. And waited. And waited...

Finally, I did what anyone else would do: I checked into what was going on. It took me some time to actually get a person down in Olympia and not a voice mail box (and I don't think anybody ever ready any of the e-mails I also sent, since I never got a reply to any of them), but after a few weeks I was told that the Office of Professional Practices was holding it up. So I attempted to call OPP, left a few more voice mails that were never answered, and tried to e-mail their address listed on the OSPI website, which it turns out is invalid, as it was bounced back to me. After a couple of weeks, I finally managed to get a real person, and was told that all they needed was some proof that I went through the anger management and counseling. Is that all? I thought, while also wondering to myself why didn't you get this stuff from the Marysville School District, and when were you ever planning on actually telling me this?

Back on the phones and e-mails again... I contacted some of the folks at the MSD central office who were involved in my disciplinary action, and finally got a response a week and a half later, and was told sure, they'd be glad to send me that information. But all I got back was a letter stating that I'd taken the anger management class. Good thing I had taken it, because it was all coming in very handy now! So I got back to them and asked about the counseling, and they gave me the number of the company that referred me. So I contacted them, and they sent me a release form so I could get my records -- only to find that they don't have my records (and, for that matter, the person I had just talked to two days earlier and had sent me the form didn't remember a thing about me -- but that, at least, I can understand, as I'm sure those poor folks must talk to dozens of people a day). At least they were able to give me the contact info for my counselor, and right now I'm just waiting for a call from him (he called last night while I was at Sylvan) to tell the whole story yet again so I can get what I hope will be the last piece of paperwork so I can finally get my substitute certificate.

The irony of all this is, once I realized it was going to take a while still, I jumped in and worked my hardest on my second class -- and I went down to my parents' place to actually get the work done, avoiding most of the distractions at home. So by the time I actually get my substitute certificate, I may just be turning around and goiong back to apply for my continuing certificate.

But the good news is thanks to the job last year, Laura and I were able to refinance our house and give ourselves a little cushion for just such an emergency, so despite my only working part time right now we're doing all right financially, although it's going to be yet another lean Christmas. And I've not only gotten most of my classes done, I've done some badly needed updates to my Wizard of Oz website and cleaned up bits of the house that badly needed it. And after fourteen straight years of teaching, I probably need the break anyway.

So what does the future hold? Hard to say, of course. I thought I'd gotten my dream job last year, but it turned out to be a nightmare. But I realize that last year was also a fluke of bad fortune, and my next job will probably be a lot better. So once I get my substitute certificate, I will jump back into the subbing pool. The Northshore district has already said they'd like to have me back. I'm also trying to finish this last class, and will apply for my continuing certificate the moment I get my transcript. Then I'm going to take a little time off from classes, just because I had to deal with so many this year -- but starting in 2006, I'll be taking them again on a more regular basis, even if I think I can't afford to, so I don't get stuck in this jam again. And once I finish my current class, it will be time to polish up my résumé and start applying for jobs. I hope I can get something full time again, but this time it will be on my terms. One of the questions I plan to ask in interviews from now on is, "Is there currently a contract between the district and the union?" If there isn't, and I'm offered a job, I may do some serious research before accepting.

Anyway, wish me luck. I can't guarantee that I'll be much of a blogger, but I hope I can at least pop in from time to time with information. So I hope you'll keep taking a look at how things shape up here.

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