Pink slip, again? I feel like Sisyphus struggling to push the boulder up the hill. Left exhausted and worn down, only to have the boulder fall back down the hill again. How much longer can I continue in this educator’s purgatory?
The California Association for Health Physical Education, Recreation and Dance gave me a Rookie Physical Education Teacher of the Year award for all of San Diego County, and yet the award feels bittersweet because it’s for a job I will no longer have as of June 15th.
As teachers, we work tirelessly, without the perks of commission our friends in sales receive when they reach a certain performance goal. We fail to receive a bonus for our achievements.
Instead, we are told that despite all our efforts, merit, overtime hours and accomplishments, that our services are no longer needed and that we must face unemployment.
We lose our jobs without a severance package, healthcare, monetary compensation for the sick days we have acquired or any other offering to soften the devastating blow.
Our profession is scoffed at. Teachers are harangued for the sins of a few rather than considered for the countless sacrifices of the dedicated life-changers.
Many people assume that we are greedy, overpaid professionals, with easy hours and excessive vacation time, but I challenge any individual that believes this to walk in my shoes for a week. We may be “off the clock,” but we’re often still working. Please don’t tell us how insignificant our jobs are when we make a connection with students and help them achieve.
My mom is a teacher and she still works excessive unpaid hours because of her commitment to her students. We are devoted to this profession, our students, our schools, and our community, whom we faithfully serve.
I’m left to reconcile an existential dilemma, questioning all the values with which I was raised, such as the importance of education, hard work, integrity and perseverance. Did I choose the wrong path? Was I completely loca for not going to law school or not taking a job offer for a high paying pharmaceutical sales rep position, because I wanted to “pay it forward” as a teacher?
I graduated with honors from UC San Diego, studied at Oxford University, earned a teaching credential in different subjects, graduated with my masters, studied Spanish in Costa Rica, earned certifications in group fitness, personal training and yoga, work five jobs, including my job at San Diego High, School of the Arts, teaching P.E., dance, and Avid, serve as the César Chávez Community Service Club advisor, work more hours than many of my friends who are lawyers, and I sincerely care about my students.
I’m not the only person wrestling with this intense internal conflict. An overwhelming number of pink-slipped teachers are also worried about finding another teaching job in this catastrophic climate for educators in California. My friends who are not in the trenches of education cannot even fathom that even after receiving a Rookie PE teacher of the year award that I’m still losing my job.
As I face another summer of unemployment and uncertainty, I rely on the adage that my friend, Nanci, shared with me when I began this arduous path to become a teacher. They are the words Winston Churchill used in WWII when faced with daunting perils: “Never, never, never give up!” In the meantime, is anyone in San Diego hiring?
Ashley Franz is a teacher for San Diego High School, School of the Arts. She lives in San Diego.