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A Day In The Life Of A Teacher (Who Might Be Laid Off)

On Monday, my colleague and mentor Steve Lazar wrote a letter to Mayor Bloomberg about the city’s release of a list of possible teacher layoffs by school. In his letter, Steve discussed the impact that the announcement had on the young teachers at our school, including me, “the third-year history teacher who is on the border.” After reading his post, I decided to give a little insight into what my day was like on Monday. Here’s what I wrote.

My friend the mayor released a list of potential teacher layoffs in New York City this morning. After I woke up, trying to will myself out of bed after a week off, I heard the news report and was suddenly even less excited to start my day.

Then I went to work …

… and taught 60 ninth-graders in my civics classes how to contact their representative concerning proposed gun control legislation in the House of Representatives.

Then, I took a look at the city’s school-by-school list of possible layoffs and saw that my school has five teachers that could be laid off if the mayor doesn’t get his way. Best part? It was just a number so maybe it’s me but then again maybe it’s not. I spent a small part of the remainder of the day wondering if I was one of the unlucky ones. I didn’t necessarily appreciate the suspense of it all.

Then I taught English to 30 ninth-graders. Well, kind of, anyway. Midway through the day, all of the outlets in my room blew, rendering useless the PowerPoint that I was going to project onto my board to teach my mini-lesson. Can’t win ’em all … or apparently any of ’em.

Then I came home, had dinner with my wife, and watched our friend the mayor on the news. I’m not too sure if the mayor thought about me and my fellow teachers today — maybe he did; after all, he made up a nice list! — but I know he didn’t think about my wife, and the grief that his list caused her today.

This is my third year teaching in New York City and my third year of hearing that I might lose my job. It’s kind of like an anniversary. Should I get a gift? What is the third year? Leather? Throughout these sagas, I have always taken the position that what will be will be. Whatever happens, I’ll be prepared.

But the mayor’s list puts me in a bad position as both a young teacher and union member, wanting what is best for me while also wanting what is best for my fellow teachers, both new and veteran. My own self-preservation dictates that “last in, first out” is an unjust system that punishes me strictly based on when I decided to become a teacher. Although I considered the profession since high school, I took a more circuitous route to the classroom by working in the admission office of a top university before returning to school full-time, where I worked as a student teacher while completing my master’s in teaching. I truly believe that my previous professional experience gave me the work and life experience that is needed in order to be a successful teacher and gave me skills that I know I didn’t have when I was 22. Now I feel that this decision is hurting me.

Conversely, I see the movement against seniority rights as a divisive move by our mayor that not only pits teacher against teacher, but also threatens the welfare and education of our students. Additionally, I have learned a tremendous amount from the veteran teachers who have worked with me and given me guidance and direction throughout my first three years in the classroom. I don’t want to see them lose their jobs any more than they want to see me lose mine.

So what’s a young teacher to do?

I suppose that pushing forward and working with my students to the best of my ability is the only thing I can do. I love teaching, even on the first day back from vacation, when I’m told my job is in jeopardy and the power doesn’t work so I can’t teach my lessons.

Actually, today kind of just sucked but I am ready for tomorrow and the challenges that await with my classes.

I just hope I get the same chance next year.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.