October 05, 2013

Diminishing Returns?

Maybe it’s just that time of year. The sprint from the first day of school in August to the weeklong break at Thanksgiving in November is brutal. Add to that the five weeks I spent teaching summer school, then subtract the short 21 days off in between, and I am simply exhausted. Yea, I know, that’s way more time off than most other professionals get. But teaching isn’t most other professions; and the mental, emotional, and physical toll it takes on educators is best met with a balance of rest and relaxation. A break that right now I desperately need.

It is clear to me that after 20 years in the classroom, I have definitely found my niche. I have a dream assignment at an established and prestigious campus proud of its 800+ API. It’s hard for me to imagine doing anything else; but that time may have come. I started writing here, way back when, in an attempt to convince myself to stay in the teaching profession. It worked. Last year I was nominated for Teacher of the Year in my school district. Things are working very well, and I feel satisfied in my efforts, but not their returns.

It’s mostly my own fault. I have a large family, by choice. My wife works part time at home for a non-profit so that she can be a stay-at-home-mom and homeschool one of our daughters. We live in Southern California, also by choice, and up until now have figured out a way to make our lives work within our budget, happily making personal sacrifices for the benefit of our family. But it seems that is no longer enough. We are now so strapped financially that we may have to seriously consider leaving the state, or my leaving the classroom setting.

Previously, I supplemented our income working as an adjunct instructor for a local university. Unfortunately, it’s now been a year since my last assignment there. A change in policy means less work for the “working practitioners,” and more for the full-time professors. Instead, and at the challenge of good friend, I spent the year writing two film scripts. You can check out the loglines here: http://screenwriterbibo.blogspot.com. I am a good enough writer to recognize that my fiction, much like my reflection, is good enough to read, but not necessarily good enough to sell. So I am sprucing up my CV.

It’s recommendation letter writing season. The kids write me a very complimentary letter requesting that I write them a letter of recommendation for their portfolios and college applications. I always oblige them. Their request letters are packed full of very nice comments about their time in my classroom. Good for them. Call it my Walter White moment, but between the rising cost of health insurance, the pay-cut California teachers just received from Governor Brown’s raising of the minimum wage, or just my feeling completely empty, there’s got to be something more that I can do for my family and myself.