Monday, March 1, 2010

NY, NY- part 1

Over the weekend I saw my parents, who brought me a stack of my mail that had managed to find it's way their house although I haven't lived there in years. In it were multiple letters from the New York Teacher's Retirement Fund. One of these letters announced that it was canceling my membership, as it had recently learned I had not reported for work. Another letter, dated after the one rightly accusing me of not teaching in New York, was a check.

I do not teach in New York.

I have never taught in New York.

So yes, they are right, I never showed up for work there. This is true.
I am a little nervous about getting an official letter that states, very officially, that I didn't do something. But seeing that I was never expected to show up to work in New York, I feel a little better. It's kind of like being told that you never showed up to play the cello with the National Symphony when you once, 8 years ago, mentioned to a friend that it would be a cool thing to do, if you ever learned how to play the cello.

So, while I can kind of make sense of getting a letter stating that I never worked in New York, I'm still a bit confused on why they are giving me money. Why would a school district that needs all the money it can get give money to someone, who, according to their records, never worked there.

If someone wants to ask what is wrong with public schools today, perhaps they can find the answer not in what is happening inside the schools, but instead in the fact they are paying people for not going to work.

These letters however, lead me back to 8 years ago, when I was finishing my last year in college. I'm not sure I can sum up the saga all in one post, but I will attempt to at least begin paint the picture of the chaos.

** ** ** **
My friends and I attended a job fair in January or February at a nearby college, hoping to get a head-start on job applications. While waiting for my interview time slot for one school district I ended up chatting with the pleasant people at the New York City Schools booth. They seemed nice and offered to interview me right then and there while I was waiting for my next interview.
And low and behold, after chatting for a bit they whipped out a contract and offered me a job. I was perfect, they told me, especially with my background in working with children in poverty. (How rural poverty was the same as urban poverty was not a question any of us brought up.) And the beautiful thing was, they explained, if I signed this contract it meant they would have a position for me, no question, but if I found another job I could back out at any time, no problem.
Why wouldn't I sign it? In 20 minutes I would go from being a nervous college senior to being a college senior with a guaranteed future. I would cross the line and become one of "them"- those who knew where they would be in 6 months.
It sounded perfect, so I signed, and spent the next few months on the high of knowing what I'd be doing the following year.

Grant it, all I'd signed was a piece of paper. I had no contact information for anyone in the department of education, no promise of what sort of position I would have, no salary designation, and no promise of when they'd call me to explain when they'd want me in New York. All I knew was I'd been hired to teach in what they called "The Chancellor's District", which they explained to me was a collection of the city's most struggling schools.

Yes, 8 years later I realize how dumb I was. But back then I was thrilled. I would be teaching, and not just teaching- I'd be in New York City. I'd be living the dream- taking the challenge. Really living.

I finished my senior year, secured a roommate to live with in whatever one bedroom apartment we could find in New York, and left school, excited for what was to come. What college senior doesn't want to move to New York City? It was the height of Sex in the City- We all knew that New York was where we were meant to go.

At some point during the summer I received a group email to the other out-of-state candidates who had been offered an early contract for the Chancellor's District. The email did not make much sense, and did not offer any of our questions other than giving us the security in knowing we were not alone- there were others out there who also did not know the answers. So, if there was a group of us, all guaranteed jobs with NYCPS, someone would remember to tell us where to go, right?

The email did let us know when there would be job fairs, but it also stated that since it knew we were all traveling from far away it would be alright if we did not make it to a job fair, we would still be guaranteed a job.

I, however, was so excited to get to NY that I was determined to make the job fairs. I started contacting anyone connected with the Board of Education whose information was on the email. They needed to know I was ready- they could put me in the game- the sooner the better. Looking back I imagine myself like a sad little puppy, desperate to get out and play, but once out only knows how to run in circles.

Because that's what happened- I started my long summer of running in circles...


To be continued...

1 comment:

JJ said...

Next you're going to tell us you woke up and it was a nightmare, right? I hope that no real school district operates so willy nilly. jan

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