The first half of summer has been comprised of an anxious waiting game, as I waited to hear back about a job opportunity at Tottenville High School. This week, to my relief, I was offered a position at the school as an English teacher, beginning in September.
However, as welcome as this job offer is, the move is bittersweet. For the past nine years--the entire duration of my teaching career--I have worked at Washington Irving High School, in Gramercy Park, which is also where I did my student teaching for my undergraduate degree. Of course, with such a long amount of time there, I have developed many collegial relationships that I am sad to lose, as well as earning the respect and trust of my students. My coworkers and I have invested so much of ourselves during our tenure at the school, to keep the school alive and to ensure the success of our students. Many of us began teaching at Irving with the full expectation of remaining there for the duration of our careers, of retiring there when our tenure was complete.
But the current mayor of New York City does not seem interested in such dedicated teachers, who make teaching their vocation; instead, he excesses such individuals, while continuing to hire hundreds of teaching fellows, whose average tenure spans a mere five years, each year. He placed teachers' salaries into individual school budgets, so that, as a result of slashing these budgets by millions of dollars over a period of nearly ten years, experienced teachers are being pressured to retire; at the same time, principals are forced to hire newer teachers over experienced teachers, in order to keep class sizes at the contractually-mandated limit. And last but not least, students are being "warehoused" in specific large schools in order to bring academic performance levels down, so that Mayor Bloomberg and his Panel for Educational Policy have an excuse to close them down in an attempt to subvert the UFT contract, opening several smaller schools in their place. Irving ended up at the end of his hatchet this year, and it will not be the last school to be caught in this position. Thousands of teachers are struggling to compete for hundreds of jobs, with the rest floating around as ATR's, working as glorified substitutes. And the hundreds of thousands of students who remain in these "turnaround" and "phasing-out" schools lose not only their teachers, but also the funding for classroom supplies, technology, and extracurricular activities. The mayor and the PEP have yet to satisfactorily explain how this helps the students.
As such, it was somewhat sad to see the 2011-2012 school year come to a close, to see teachers move on while students are left behind. But from now on, I can no longer look back. I must only look forward: to my new school, my new colleagues, my new students. My path may not be what I originally envisioned upon graduating from college, but that makes it no less significant, or hopeful. And although I will always have a warm place in my heart for Washington Irving and the memories forged there, I have no doubt that my tenure at Tottenville will, in time, become just as meaningful to me.
This is no longer an end, but a beginning.