Thursday, December 19, 2002

Today ended a long-term sub job I had, at a small country school where I sub semi-regularly for the reading specialist. It's nice to have the continuity with the kids -- something a substitute teacher rarely gets. It's nice to have the chance to really *teach* instead of just getting through the day. It's not quite babysitting -- a good sub day has some teaching moments, but it's hard to always be doing someone else's program, with kids you don't know and probably won't see again, in an unfamiliar classroom. But this is what I'm going to be doing for the foreseeable future. This spring I get to go through the whole dreary round of futile applications again. It's not uncommon to run into people who've been subbing for three or four years, or to find people who got their credential five or six years ago in part-time and temporary work. And the state of California is still actively recruiting teachers, touting a desperate shortage of qualified teachers. Well, yeah, if you're 25, single, footloose, and willing to work in the toughest schools in the state, you can probably get a job fairly easy. Not if you're in your 40s, and have husband who has 25 years invested in his job, can't relocate, and live in a rural area with stagnant or declining enrollment.

It really is a bad thing they do to people -- anyone who has to support themselves or a family is investing in something pretty hopeless. I can't imagine another profession where you are expected to wait for years in order to get a full-time job. If you go and do something not education-related in order to pay the bills, then you've thrown in the towel -- might has well forget it, because if you aren't doing *something* in the schools, either subbing or working as a teacher's aide, then you won't become known. Besides, you have to do at least a semester's worth of teaching just to keep your credential, along with 150 hours of training that you have to pay for, out of a small and irregular income. There's talk that classroom reduction is going to be reversed, and that will make the job market even tighter, because it would mean experienced teachers being laid off. There are persistent rumors that a bunch of teachers are scheduled to retire in Redneck Heaven, but there hasn't been much evidence of anything opening up so far. I'm seeing about a dozen jobs a year opening up, with around 200 would-be teachers vying for those jobs. And nobody seems to find this out until *after* they've spent the time in school; I didn't have a clue until I was subbing. One guy, who just moved into town, went to the county Dept. of Education, and asked if there were jobs here -- and he was assured that there were. They basically lied to him.

I'm finding that the situation is getting easier emotionally as I go along. At first, it was a real shock. You put in all this work, and expect to get the payoff at last, only to find that the future is very uncertain, and there is a very real chance that you might not get a job at all. It's a contest of endurance -- surely a lot of would-be teachers must just drop out of the running. How many years can most people do this? I can, because we are adjusted to living on one income. Nobody should try to become a teacher in California unless they have some other source of income; otherwise, it's a waste of time. You can't make a living on what you'll make as a substitute. The best I can say is that I'm working more than I was last year.

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