So, those who know me personally or follow me on Instagram have had an inkling that this announcement was likely to be coming, but last week, I officially resigned from my teaching position. Overall, everyone I’ve told so far has been nothing but supportive. I’m lucky to have family and friends who are primarily concerned with my happiness and well-being over any presumed matters of financial stability, and co-workers at Sunset who are amazingly helpful and invested in my success. But for those pragmatic naysayers, Negative Nancies or straight up haters who aren’t so sure it’s a good idea to leave a (moderately) stable career with benefits and put myself at the mercy of a commission-based position, here are the top ten things I won’t miss about teaching.
10. Filthy hands and fingernails. Okay, I know this is a petty one, which is why it’s low down on the list, but I’m really looking forward to keeping a manicure looking fresh for more than just the weekend, and not having fingernails that are constantly stained, chipped and otherwise damaged from the day-to-day activity of a busy art room.
9. Aches and pains, sniffles and sneezes. I’ve become fairly proficient at catching and treating early cold symptoms and avoiding kid germs altogether, but the nature of my jam-packed schedule inevitably leads to low immunity and many of my sick days being spent actually SICK instead of hung over or just playing hooky like the rest of the working world. And the regular pain in my head and back as a result of being on my feet, picking up pencils and crap from the floor, and talking over a crowd of teenagers all day – I’ll pass on that from now on.
8. Early morning hustle. Most school day mornings include at least two hits of the snooze button, some cussing at the cats and whoever else asks me to do something before coffee is made, and a whirlwind of packing up supplies, equipment, meals and changes of clothes, before rolling out for a 45 minute rush hour drive, halfway through which I remember at least two things I forgot to bring or do before leaving.
7. Another 5 years of waiting to be guaranteed any kind of retirement benefit. Only two of my four years as a teacher in the state of Florida were “full-time” (one year was a 53% position, last year was 86%), and the state requires an employee to be employed for seven years before being vested in the pension system. When I think of what advances I can make in my career in 5 years, saving for retirement just doesn’t hold priority.
6. Grading papers. I hate it! Everyone does! But in art, it’s the worst. Here, let me assess what you’ve absorbed – what valuable experiences you’ve attained and how your sense of self-worth has grown despite the constant distraction of your asshole peers, our severe lack of supplies and my own inability to give you enough individualized attention - with this crappy, one-size-fits-all rubric, because I DON’T HAVE TIME TO PROVIDE A MORE MEANINGFUL FORM OF ASSESSMENT TO 300 OF YOU.
5. “OMG, you look like one of the students!” A little bit funny when I was still in college, working as a substitute, and even tolerable during my first year teaching. But I’m old enough to be some of their parents now. Getting carded for alcohol? Understandable. But being mistaken by a middle schooler by one of my peers is just their way of underhandedly commenting on my perceived inexperience.
4. Managing dual personalities. I’m tired of being the art teacher by day and “real” artist by night. I’m tired of sensible shoes. I’m tired of having to answer students’ (and other teachers’, for that matter) questions about whether tattoos hurt and what their brother has on his back and which of their friends got a belly button piercing. I’ve had my mind and heart in too many places for too long, it’s time to focus my energy.
3. The $188 raise. As I mentioned above, I’m only considered to have worked two years in the public education system. The two other years just don’t count – towards my pension, or towards any potential raise. I worked four years on first year teacher pay, and would have to work two more before seeing the next “step” on the salary scale. At that point, insult is added to injury – the raise is about $188. A year. Thanks for dedicating 5+ years of your life to our nation’s future, here’s an extra dollar a day for your time!
2. 50+ students per class. Class size amendment does not apply to non-core classes. The sign indicating the maximum capacity for my classroom last year was mysteriously missing from the room. The safety inspectors sure noticed that my eye wash station wasn’t operational, but somehow weren’t concerned about the veritable stampede that would have occurred in the event of an emergency. Go figure.
1. Blatant disrespect. Concerns about money and raises will rarely top the list of (good) teachers complaints. We uniformly did not get into this for the paycheck. At the least, it’s a stable career with good benefits and time off. At the most, it’s satisfying and enriching, different every day, hilarious and fun. But being laid off every year, spending each summer hoping to be hired back and not get sick or injured in the interim, bounced around the county from one dirty and disorganized art room to another, being given overflowing class rosters and underfunded supply closets just gets impossible to stand when coupled with things like watching kids intentionally break crayons to throw at each other, and then complaining that their parents don’t have money to buy them pencils for class.
So those are the reasons I decided to pink slip the county this year instead of waiting to see what new horrors were in store for me. If you’ve followed my blog for any period of time or know me in real life, you know that although education was always my “thing to do until I figure out how else to make my art degree otherwise profitable” I love teaching, and am going to miss many, many aspects of the job. But for now, it’s time to move on. I’m doing well at my new shop, and I think it’s time for me to make this leap, take off the training wheels and be OK with just being an artist.