Heather Wolpert-Gawron

The Ten Commandments of a Pink Slipped Teacher

By on March 13, 2011

I recently wrote an article for The Huffington Post that highlighted the history, pros and cons of education’s seniority list. However, little did I know that as I submitted my piece, my own pink slip was in the mail.

The deep budget cuts that are bleeding our schools have unavoidably led to my own RIF notice. A copy of the letter arrived yesterday describing my imminent employment doom. To add salt to the wound, the certificated original arrived today, meaning I now have two copies, presumably in case I should lose one. So despite almost 10 years in the district, my first book coming out this March, and being an award-winning teacher, I will still need to pack up my classroom library at the end of this school year.

It’s rather complicated really. I mean, there’s your hire date, of course. Then there’s some arbitrary points system to break ties between teachers hired on the same date. But when it all boils down, it ends up being about people bumping people bumping people and causing a ripple of realignments that can be felt all along a district’s K-12 spine leaving many of us with no position at all.

After all, our system is set up for teachers to be plug-ins, widgets that are interchangeable. Will the person who bumped me from my classroom be a high school teacher who has never taught middle schoolers because he sees them as just too crazy to be reasoned with, or a 1st grade teacher who has never taught a child with an age warranting anything close to double digits?

Regardless, however, I must admit, that when all is said and done, it isn’t MY classroom. I have shown it love. I have designed it to lure in tweens to the love of learning. But next year someone else will most likely be putting their posters on the walls and mug on the desk. And while I could dwell on this prospect, and get saddened by it, for today at least, I chose to write about it. Because while it’s hard not to look ahead at those who will remain behind in a school I’ve grown to love, the fact is that it’s not productive.

So this post is advice for my readers but also for myself.

The Ten Commandments of a Pink Slipped Teacher

#1 Thou Shalt Not Panic

#2 Thou Shalt Not Take Our Misfortune Out on the Kids, Doing the Best Job we Can Until The Final Day in June

#3 Thou Shalt Not Close Any Doors

#4 Thou Shalt Make All Deadlines of Legal Paperwork to Potentially Keep Yourself in the Game, Even Though It’s Daunting and Depressing

#5 Thou Shalt Not Dwell on How The System is Broken to the Point of Avoiding Your Own Reality

#6 Thou Shalt Not Blame “Them,” Those Who Had Nothing To Do With Your Number on a List

#7 Thou Shalt Be Proactive, Figure Out a Game Plan, and Invest in Yourself

#8 Thou Shalt Find A Job That Appreciates Your Skills

#9 Thou Shalt Remember The Needs of Education When You Are Making the Big Bucks Elsewhere

#10 Thou Shalt Not Forget Those Whose Lives You’ve Changed

Remember to try not to hit a wall of helplessness or anger, because if you were to personify this system, then it would surely win. Instead, toss the wall aside before you slam into it. Better yet, when you see a wall, climb it.

Good luck to you all, and know that there are those out there cheering for you.

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Posted in: Educational Policy