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Dear Mr. Guillotine…

March 31, 2011

When the guillotine was invented, I’m pretty sure he had no idea it would be used in a public school context.  No, not literally of course, but certainly figuratively.

It’s almost April, and if you know anything about the public school world, you know that it’s budget season, a season that makes those without tenure question every move they have made in the past two years.  With the economy being what it is, schools around the U.S. are scrambling to find ways of cutting hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars from their budgets.  Almost no one is safe from the falling value of the dollar.

I’m certainly not.  Even though I teach six different classes, around 80 different students, coach middle school field hockey, and coach the drama program, I’m completely expendable.  I am currently on a two-year contract, or a probationary contract, one where the school is basically “test driving” you to make sure you are the type of teacher they would like to extend tenure to.  This is my second year on it, my last.  One more year with my current school district and I would have a five year contract, a.k.a. tenure.  Being a probational 2 teacher means having to be observed four times a year by administration, being picked more often to have “pop in” visits, and having to attend “new teacher” meetings (when there really is only one new teacher in our cohort.  I’ve been practically teaching for four years, and my friend has been teaching for at least six), but I don’t mind it at all.  If people want to make sure I’m doing a good job, come on in (but please check in with the front office first)!  I like being able to showcase what my students are learning from me.

If you have ever watched the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” you know that teachers don’t typically get observed after they have received tenure.  It’s one of the big gripes from policy makers.  I get it.  A lot of teachers do a great job and take their jobs seriously, but there are lemons who take advantage of their extended contracts and slack.  Seriously slack.  When someone could have their job and teach students what they desperately need to know, these lemons sit back and tell students, “Do whatever you want.”  Nothing gets me angrier than that.  Thankfully, I haven’t come across many of these people (there was a principal who fell into this category when I taught in another state, once) and I hope I don’t.

But sometimes budget shortfalls can’t be avoid.  Sure, you can cut programs and get creative with bus routes, but sometimes… it just isn’t enough.  Let’s hope that I don’t meet the guillotine that is our school’s budget.  I really love my job.  I would love to keep it.  Please?

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