8.04.2014

Trapped in a box.

i do not want this.

I know I've hinted on the blog before about being dissatisfied with my job. The honest truth is that I've been burnt out for way longer than that even. For those of you not in the education world, you've probably heard of "teacher burnout." Well, I've got it. I've had it for probably about five years now.

I've tried applying to different school districts. It's cheaper for a district to just hire a brand-new teacher though. I've been around too long, and have too much education to justify paying an "art teacher" my salary. Not that it's a ton, but a brand new teacher costs about half of what I would. And I don't even have the option to say, "Oh that's ok, just pay me less" so that I can go elsewhere. I'm stuck.

I've tried LOTS of things to find the spark, to find the love again. I apply for grants to get new gadgets and technology to use with kids in the classroom. I create school-community service programs to raise money for the food pantry and make connections with local businesses. I even threw myself face-first into the "Art Teacher of the Year" awards process not once, but TWICE to try to make myself feel like what I was doing had meaning... but I always ended up right back where I began.

I am burnt out.

This year, I had the opportunity of a lifetime. A "hail mary" play to get out of the art room and into a new career path. My district opened up three (not one, but THREE) new technology coach positions at the middle schools. I was so excited. I felt motivated and excited about going to work again. I was a no-brainer pick for the position. I know all the buildings (from my work with the teacher's union), I've been a part of countless committees and pilot programs for technology, and I've even earned my Google Certified Educator certificate this summer, in preparation for a Chromebook adoption across the middle schools this upcoming fall.

Every week, I would religiously check the job openings in my district to see if the tech coach applications had opened. I was so excited. I decided to be confident about the whole process (something I'm not really used to doing, "tooting my own horn," that is), and told my principal, assistant principal, other teachers, and even the head of tech that I was interested and planned on applying. Everyone was very encouraging, and said that I'd be great! I didn't want anything to go wrong. When applications finally opened months later, I was on it. My application was completed within 24 hours. I packed up my classroom at the end of the year very differently this time around. I brought home half of my "stuff" in anticipation that I wouldn't be returning to the same basement-corner room I'd inhabited for the last 12 years.

The job description was PERFECT for me. They wanted someone with their Master's and/or their National Board Certification. Check, and check. I've got both! They wanted someone with experience in a technology-rich classroom setting. Check! I've got it all! This can't get any better.

My district has a nice policy where internal candidates are guaranteed an interview for open positions, so I was notified about interviews via email (coincidentally, right in the middle of my Las Vegas trip), and I picked a time the following week. Then I agonized over what to wear. I commiserated with several other colleagues applying for similar jobs and we compared notes. One of my colleagues, who I thought was a sure-thing at her school, actually left for another district, so that meant my chances were even better than before! Yes!

On the day of the interview, I was beyond nervous. Sweaty, mind racing, totally nervous. I showed up like 20 minutes early and sat there. The interview before me ran late. Ughhhhh. I almost couldn't handle it, except the person before me was a colleague and friend who came into the room before I went in, and told me that I was going to do just fine. We gave each other motivational high-fives. We were fairly certain we'd be working together this fall as a tech coach department. Awesome.

The lead interviewer, who I know very well from working together, taking classes, and providing assistance to over the years, came down to get me. We walked up and had surface-y minor chit-chat. I walked into the room, and there was a big round table of like 15 people. Intimidating. We started with introductions, and I was comforted to find that out of all of the people sitting there, only one person (a brand new admin hire) didn't know me, and I didn't know them.

The questions were hard, and had multiple parts to them. Since this was a new position, I was required to tell them what I would do in this position, which was awkward because doesn't the employer tell YOU what to do, and then you fulfill those needs? Anyway, I did my best and felt REALLY REALLY good about my answers. I left feeling super confident. I had knocked it out of the park! I went home and told Todd how good it went. I even went so far as to re-enact some of the questions and answers to illustrate how awesomely I had reacted in the interview. Feeling good.

Two days later. The phone rings. I'm so excited. It's the district, telling me that I've got the job...

...or not.

"I'm really sorry to tell you that we have decided NOT to go with you for this position." To which I gave the freaking best academy-award-winning performance of my life -- "No, no, it's okay, really, I totally understand... and if you need any additional help with tech stuff, I'm totally down..."

I hung up the phone and CRIED. Not like a few tears. Not like a sniffle, and an "oh well." Full on ugly, snotty, the-world-has-ended-and-my-dog-has-died CRYING. It was awful. How could I have been so misled? How could I have misread everything up to this point? I still don't know.

A few days later, I talked to one of my building administrators, who was in on the interviews, but it didn't help give me the closure I had sought. In fact, it only made things worse. Not only was I turned down for the job, but the job was STILL OPEN. Basically, they'd rather have no one than to have me. My heart sank. He said that I didn't "sell" myself enough, and that it's difficult to interview as an internal candidate because you assume that people know you and you don't always say all of the things that they're looking for because you assume that they already know.

(So wait, working in a district for 12 years, it's wrong for me to think that people KNOW me? Um, this doesn't seem like a problem with me, exactly. Seems like your admin isn't really doing THEIR job of knowing their employees. I mean, even if you've only been teaching for ONE year, teachers are sure expected to know their students - in fact, it's part of our evaluation!)

He then went on to tell me how GOOD of an art teacher I was, and how much the kids really like my class. All moot points right now, as I have already mentally transitioned out of the art teacher role. I don't want it anymore. I'm not an art teacher. I'm finished. And the thought of being sent back to my basement corner room where I'll continue to be the lowest of the low on the totem pole of professional respect makes me want to ugly cry all over again. I do not want this. And I have nowhere to go.

Out of the three positions, two were given to outside candidates, and my building was eventually filled by a different internal candidate with less seniority who had just completed their Master's in Ed Tech (something that wasn't even available when I earned my Master's in 2005).

One of my colleagues who was also turned down for the job has now left for another district. I did apply for another district, but, as usual to the beginning of my story... no response.

And now I'm stuck.

I have to find a way to drag myself through at least one more year of this, but even then I don't know what I'll do after. I've begun the process of applying for yet another round of grad school classes to earn my Technology Specialist endorsement on my teaching license, since that's the one thing that might hook me a position in another district. But it's not fast, and it's not cheap. Because that's fair. But it's going to take me at least two years. I don't know how I'll be able to handle it.

Yes, I'm angry. Yes, I'm bitter. Yes, I'm sad. Yes, I feel tricked by the encouragement of my administrators. Yes, I feel embarrassed to walk in the door on the first day of school this month. Yes, I am depressed. Yes, I am jealous of those who somehow got picked when I did not.

I'm going to be doing a lot less this year. I'm going to be doing a lot of soul-searching. I have to get my priorities set, and teaching is NOT a part of it. What do you do when you're put into a box that you no longer want to be in?

...to be continued...

Rock On,
Jen @ Hell Razor
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