Monday, 1 June 2015

#Microblog Mondays: Getting the pieces together



There was a single letter in my mailbox today: the response to my leave application for next school year.

I was in the kitchen simultaneously fixing some lunch, tidying up (because a messy kitchen makes me edgy) and feeding AJ in her high chair. (She didn't want avocado and banana mush but devoured sweet potato / lima bean puree and a good portion of applesauce with quinoa.)

As I ripped open the letter, I was mostly hopeful that the leave had been approved. At the same time I realized that I was also curious about what my placement for next year might be, and that I would be a little disappointed not to find out.

The leave was denied.

Not going to lie, this is quite crushing. I'd made some effort to remember that the leave might not be approved, but mostly I'd allowed myself to assume it would be. It seemed to me with cutbacks to education spending, and reduced job opportunities all around, nobody in my school board would much object to a teacher who wanted an extra year off (one less person to place in a job, one less salary to pay!). But that wasn't the case, obviously. The only reason given in the letter was that I was not allowed to have any more leave extensions. In other words, no more than 10 months leave allowed. Which also makes sense, when I think about it. If teachers were typically allowed to take two years of leave back to back, an awful lot of moms would likely choose to do that! and it could cause problems with staffing. So in hindsight I was indulging in have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too-ism. (Although what a ridiculous expression that is: "You can't have your cake and eat it too!" What is the point of having cake if you can't eat it?)

Another piece in the puzzle: Since receiving news about the cutbacks to my program, our province's newly elected government has fully restored education spending. So in theory my job could be restored. Although I am doubtful this will actually happen. And anyway now that I've allowed myself to consider other possibilities, they are almost more appealing than returning to my old job. Although I don't know exactly what those possibilities are and if they actually exist.

The letter also mentioned that if I wanted to resign in order to "pursue my plans," that I had to give 30 days notice, which means sending the resignation letter.....today! Conversely, I have to send in my intention to return to work today. Because the end of the school year is June 30th. ***

***Update: I think that I may have misinterpreted that part of the letter (hazard of emotional reading). It shouldn't be such a tight timeline. In any case, I have reviewed my union agreement and I can't find anything that says I need to give more that 30 days notice to return to work or resign. When the school year ends is (should be) irrelevant. That makes a huge difference as it at least means I will have more information to make a decision (like knowing what job I'm supposed to return to in September!)

When the initial wave of disappointment washed over me, I was quite tempted to go write that resignation letter now!  I could barely bear to look at AJ sitting in her high chair with orange mush smeared all over her mouth. I don't cry easily but I almost cried. At the same time I understand that I'm having an emotional reaction and it doesn't tell the whole story. For example, I am still curious about my placement for next year, and I don't have completely negative feelings about it. I'm quite sure that I'm not ready to resign. It took a lot of effort, several years and some luck to achieve my contract status. It is not something I resign lightly.

There are also advantages to going back to work:

  • more cash flow and chance to save
  • if a second child is in the cards, I can take employment insurance in the next leave
  • I "stay in the game" professionally, and presumably expand my experience and skill set with a different position
  • I learn how to be a working mother, instead of being afraid of it. Although I'll still have fears and doubts; that goes with the territory. Look, the deep end! JUMP. I've done it before.
  • Less pressure on Mr. Turtle to be sole provider. He says he is fine with being the sole income source, and I'm sure he is (we've mostly survived on one income since October). But the truth is he is working full time, studying full time, being a dad and husband, and living with a chronic condition.  Even if all the balls are in the air, there's got to be some pressure just wondering if one is going to fall. Everybody likes to feel someone's got their back.
And finally, I have the chance to make a difference to.....some students, somewhere. That part is hard for me to imagine this because I don't know who, where. I've been teaching for 10 years. When I started it was by no means a given that I would be in the career this long! (Teachers have about a 50% attrition rate within 5 years.) Because I have had some humbling experiences, I don't tend to wax poetic to myself or others about how I shape young minds and blah blah blah. I consider what I do a privilege and I know I am flawed and that I work in a system that's flawed in many ways (although still comparatively very good). Still. There are many reasons I'm still at it, and at least one of them is that I know I do have a positive, quantifiable impact.

One of my colleagues sent me this sweet email when I was discussing my situation with her.

I hear that you are worried about going into a new role, but I have total faith in you. I know that you will be amazing where ever you go. You have too much passion not to be. With any new teaching role, you make it as you go. You research and build lesson plans and curriculums as you need them. Look what you built in seven years at [school] in the [.....] class and the impact you had on your students. I also understand the uncertainty of leaving your first baby and putting that child in child care. Just know that it all works out. ...... Enjoy your summer.

We all have our wishes and 'druthers but sometimes the best thing is to hear that people believe in us. There's so much good to focus on.

PS. If you were nice enough to read this much, thanks. There's also a 3am sequel.   

12 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry your request for more leave was denied. It's hard, especially since you had planned for it. But you're outlook is a good one. And the lessons you've learned from parenting most certainly will be useful in the classroom. Fingers crossed you get the assignment you want.

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    1. Thanks! I'm sure there are transferable skills - I think it works the other way, anyway. :-) My outlook changes from moment to moment!

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  2. As someone who has worked with students, felt like I made a difference, had to leave, and then returned to the fray, I can say: it *will* work out. And your heart will find the path there. Keeping you in my thoughts ...

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    1. Thanks! that's good to read. I am sure things will work out somehow...I just don't have a crystal ball to see how! and I can picture so many possibilities (some that I like, some that I don't) that it is hard to understand it all.

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  3. I'm really sorry you're so suddenly pressured into making a decision. That really is horrible.

    I guess at least this way, if it works out then that's great, and if it isn't so great, then you will know that and can positively choose a new path. Wishing you lots of luck.

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    1. Well, I'm sure I can give myself a day or two's flexibility (dammit, I am anyway!) But to be honest I don't like agonizing over decisions for a long time so I would like to decide either way.(I find it doesn't help much anyway...I think there's an optimum amount to time to make a decision and then the rest is not useful.) The hard part is making a decision with so many unknowns....and a great deal of sadness and and anxiety at leaving baby. You are right; I would only need to commit to this job for a year: still it could be a very long year.

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  4. Well I'm sure it feels good to have an answer about your leave. I am feeling a lot of similar emotions. (I guess I should write about that). No matter how much we feel like going back to work is the best option, it doesn't make it any easier to leave our children in the care of others.

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    1. I know. What I'm struggling with is whether the emotions are emotions I can live with if I go back to work, or if it's a deal-breaker for me....It's hard to know!

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  5. I'm so sorry that your leave was denied. And such insult to injury that you have such a tiny window of time to make your decision. They should have given YOU more notice for their decision. It is such a delicate balance, butt I'm sure you're going Rubio find your footing no matter which way you decide. It is SO hard to reach a point of somewhat stability in teaching, and if your district is anything like mine, resigning has a sense of finality--you can apply again later but your momentum is lost. It's encouraging that spending is up though. I wish that women didn't have to make the choice of either/or, that leaves were flexible and environments more friendly to parenting tiny people and keeping your position. A new position sounds like a great new challenge, though. I loved your friend's email--how wonderful to have such supportive and encouraging friends in such a difficult career. I wish you the best in this difficult decision!

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    1. Hi Jess, thanks for posting. Well, I think I MIGHT have misinterpreted the letter say I had to make a decision in a few days (a hazard of emotional reading...lol). In any case I have looked at my contract and union agreement and I don't see anything that would support such a tight window for notification of resignation. I'm going to clarify. It's not an easy decision to make in any case but it certainly would help to know what job I'm potentially accepting/turning down! You're right, it would feel like a loss of momentum to resign. Many teachers do and return as subs or temps, but that is a lot less stability and it can take years (if ever) to regain a contract. I have very talented friends who just go from temp contract to temp contract.

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  6. I'm so sorry that the leave was denied and that so much of it is now up in the air. It's a hard decision to make. Sending peace of heart as you decide what to do.

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