Monday, May 30, 2011


Now that I've had almost two weeks to reflect on it, I would like to share the story of how I learned I would be changing jobs next year.

POLITICAL BACKGROUND (YOU CAN SKIP IF YOU LIVE IN TEXAS OR JUST DON'T CARE) This has been a tense year for schools in Texas.  Our impeccably coiffed governor, Rick Perry, who supplements his income by working as a Squint Model, has brought tons of new businesses to Texas.  You might have heard pundits such as Rush Limbaugh (who subscribes to Squinter's Monthly) and various bland Fox News analysts talking about how Texas Has Done Everything Right and Rick Perry Should Be Our Next President Because He Understands HOW TO GET THE JOB DONE.

Teachers from Texas hear this and shake their head bitterly as they clean the kindergarten urine from their carpets with a solution of baking soda and tears.  The reason for their bitterness is thus: the new businesses were lured to Texas with the promise that they would not have to pay high taxes like they do in other states.  In addition to promising new businesses huge tax breaks, Governor Perry has also held fast to his promise to hold property taxes down.  Texas, of course, has no state income tax, so our state runs on property taxes, sales taxes, tolls, and the lottery.

Texas also has the distinction of having no full-time legislature.  Our state representatives meet for six months every two years.  If something doesn't get fixed now, we have to wait two years to fix it.  That's what happened two years ago with funding for public education: they didn't fix it.  Now they're trying, and it looks like thousands, if not tens of thousands of teachers will lose their jobs and in some cases entire schools are closing.  It's a tough time to be a fine arts educator; it's no secret that those are the jobs most often on the chopping block.

(HERE'S WHERE MY DRAMA STARTS) So it was Tuesday, May 17, and I was in a panic.  My fourth graders were set to perform their musical that night and my second-biggest speaking part quit.  "I can't handle the pressure," he said.  I performed a masterful (in my opinion) dressing-down that stayed even and level yet conveyed the mess he had left me in, then got to work.

My principal came into my room during kindergarten.  Of course I was showing a movie.  That's the law.  When your principal just drops by to see you, you will be showing a video and typing frantically on your computer as the kids chant "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" with such authority that anyone could tell they have seen that particular video many, many times.  I hop to my feet and start babbling about the program and trying to fix some last-minute details, and my principal (whom I adore) waves it away and says these words:

"They want you in the administration building.  I have someone to cover your class.  You need to go now."

Fortunately, I had just visited the ladies' room.  I'm sure that I resembled a slack-jawed idiot for several seconds, but I gathered myself together and went across the highway to the administration building, where the formidable head of personnel was expecting me.

"She's on the phone," said the receptionist.  "Have a seat and I'll walk you back as soon as I can."  The receptionist, as it turned out, was a former music teacher in the district whom I had known slightly (she was one of my younger brother's teachers).  We began to chat about people we knew in common and she found out I was teaching elementary school.

"Oh, I love elementary," she sighed.  "Give me those sweet little ones over those junior high kids any day."

"I love junior high," I defended quickly.  "Elementary is okay, but I miss my big kids.  I miss the concert cycle, and the thrill of performing with them...  I would love to go back to junior high or high school when my kids are older."

I was taken to personnel and told that I was being reassigned from elementary school music to junior high choir.  I had a choice, they told me.  I could say no.  However, they wanted an answer right then.  At that moment.  The more I thought and listened, the more I realized that they really didn't intend for me to say no.  I said yes.

I was terrified.  Was it the right choice?  The safe thing to do would be stay with my sweet little ones and remain there until my kids are much older, but I've never been one for safety.  I shook hands with the director of personnel and left.

As soon as I walked out of her office, I felt complete and utter peace descend on me.  I was no longer worried about the program I had a few hours later.  I looked at myself in the mirror of my car and saw a huge smile.  I got back and told my principal that I had accepted the reassignment, and she gave me a big hug and told me she knew it was for the best.  (I love her.)  I walked back into my second group of kindergarteners and the happiness and peace continued.

I know this is the right thing for me.  Everything has fallen into place as though it was supposed to be.  I have kept that peaceful feeling in the two weeks since learning of my new position.  I'm not worried.  I'm sad to leave my little Wildcats, and I'm excited to meet my new big kids, but above all is the strong sense that I am doing what I should be doing.

Feels great.