Don’t say my title didn’t warn you. I promise to go back to my normal fibery postings soon, but I just had to get this off of my chest.
I recently saw an ad on TV for a new show, called “Teach.” In this show, Tony Danza tries his luck at being an English teacher; here’s an article all about it. As the Church Lady would’ve said, “Well isn’t that special?!?”
Apparently, with this show, the producers hoped to expose what it’s really like to be a teacher in a semi-difficult school. They wanted to promote the idea that teachers can make a real difference and to inspire other Baby Boomers, like Danza, to respond to President Obama’s call for teachers. Oh, yes, that’s just special all right.
Here’s the thing: I don’t hate Tony Danza, and I think it’s great when people come to the realization that teaching is, like, a really hard job. And I think it’s great when people want to help a bunch of attitudinal teenagers because those buttheads are going to be running the joint in a few years and I’d like them to be well-informed, law-abiding citizens while they’re doing it, personally. What really gets under my skin about this show is the total unfairness of it all. Unfair to whom, you might ask? To me, silly!
Tony Danza doesn’t have a teaching certificate, though once upon a time he got a degree in education. But he gets to teach high school English, the job I wish I could have again more than just about anything. I have a teaching certificate; in fact, I am fully certified AND highly qualified to teach English AND Spanish in three states. But I can’t teach high school English any more, ever again. Believe me, I’ve tried. And I’ve been told, in no uncertain terms, that my application for any “good” school district is going to be at the very bottom of the barrel and they will scrape it out only if they get completely desperate and there’s literally no one else for the job. Well, isn’t THAT special?
I didn’t kill anyone. I didn’t do drugs and sell them to my students. I didn’t have an inappropriate relationship with anyone or spray paint graffiti on the side of a school. I didn’t drive drunk and I didn’t rob a bank. I moved to Florida for a year and I taught there, in a school I hated, working in a horrible and negative environment. I stuck it out for the whole year instead of quitting (like I desperately wanted to do every single day). I suffered through the torture of working in a horrible school all the while dealing with my own and my husband’s health issues, raising two kids and becoming pregnant with a third, and the death of my grandfather. I stuck it out, and as my reward my principal chose not to renew my contract for a second year. At the time I felt relieved, because I didn’t want to go back for another year at that place. But now? Now my career is over.
Every time you apply for a teaching job, you see, you have to answer a few basic questions. Have you ever committed a felony? Have you ever been arrested? Have you ever been fired? Have you ever had a contract NOT renewed? If you answer YES to any of those questions, you’re done for. If you ask me, having one place not want to hire you back shouldn’t be the kiss of death on an entire career, but nobody asked me.
So here I sit, with two graduate degrees in education and a pile of exemplary performance reviews from five years of teaching (even the great reviews I got from the crappy school that didn’t want me back; they never said one bad thing about my teaching) and a load of self-pity. I may never get to teach again, but at least I can watch Tony Danza do it on TV! And hey, maybe he’ll even inspire other completely unqualified people to enter the teaching profession. Sure, let’s drag people in off the street to teach our kids, but don’t you dare let that Jessica Cook back into a classroom again, her contract wasn’t renewed.
Okay, I’m sorry. I know this line of thinking won’t do me any good at all, but I’m in mourning right now. I’m mourning the loss of a career I have wanted since I was a little girl; I seriously used to line up my stuffed animals in front of a small chalk board and make them listen to hours of my instruction. I am mourning the loss of a career where I got to be creative, where I got to connect with students and find reasons to have hope for the future of this world. Where kids inspired me to do a better job and to be a better person so I could be an example for them. A career that let me be with my own children when they needed me and gave me 100 extra adopted children every semester. I’m sure I wasn’t the best teacher the world has ever known, but I certainly wasn’t the worst, either. I like to think I had the potential to be a really great one, but I guess now we’ll never know.
Good luck, Tony. I hope it works out better for you than it did for me.