Warning! Heavy sarcasm ahead…proceed with caution.
Today I slid my vehicle into the parking lot of the Wenatchee School District. It’s snowing here and there don’t seem to be any plows. So, since no parking lines were visible, I parked my car parallel to the other cars in the parking lot and walked through the seemingly endless snow to the front desk. I was there to deliver my paperwork to be a substitute teacher in this district.
A brief word about being a substitute teacher…it’s not my favorite. Perhaps a bit of clarification is in order. I really like to deliver academic content to classrooms full of students of any age. However, I don’t like putting in a movie while a teacher is out. Any human can do that…a babysitter, perhaps.
I’m a teacher. I love to…teach.
I spent the first part of the current school year catching my breath and helping my kids adjust to their new community. I thought it might be time to contribute to my new community in a meaningful way. My plan is to focus on subbing in science and math classrooms because, if I were a teacher in this community who needed to be away from her class, I would want someone who is certified and highly qualified to stand in my place.
So, into the district office I went today with a pile of papers.
“Wait here, she will be right out once she’s off the phone”, the nice lady at the front desk said.
So, I unzipped my parka coat (remembering that last year’s principal where I subbed once laughed at my coat and said it looked like a swim parka…now I just call it my parka coat because I researched MANY COATS to find the perfect combination of warmth, water resistance, and versatility when I picked it out…and I was eternally grateful when my mother-in-law bought it for my Christmas gift).
After a few minutes, a lady we’ll call Pam entered the room. We made introductions and shook hands. I explained that I had substitute paperwork to drop off.
“Are you certificated?” she asked.
“Yes”, I said. She took my papers. But before she looked at them she said “Well, just so you know, we are having budget cuts and there aren’t any more trainings for teachers to attend so finding substitute jobs will be VERY DIFFICULT for you. We have several subs who aren’t working. In fact, I closed the job opening for subs yesterday.”
“Oh. OK.”, I said, resisting the urge to snatch back my papers and walk right back out into the snow.
Just so you know, Pam, the road to this office has been long. And arduous. And worth every single step. What have I done to earn the opportunity to sit here in this office and have you tell me this? And what is this, really? Conditions? Full-on discrimination? Or, Pam, are you just having a bad day?
In any case, let’s recap, shall we?
- Worked as a divorced waitress at Walt Disney World while raising a human…ironically earning more at the time than I would earn as a first-year teacher in Montana with a Master’s Degree.
- Earned an Associate Degree in Science while waiting tables and raising humans. Calculus while 8 months pregnant is a real party!
- Transferred to the University of South Florida and earned Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Policy with a minor in Public Health while raising four humans.
- Planned to attend law school but instead opened my own business tutoring and enriching students Pre-K through 12th grade in Math and Science. Also, foreign language, creative writing, and fine art. I fell very much in love with seeing children grow into their gifts!
- Grew that business to gross profits of $50,000 annually within three years.
- Accepted a job teaching 5th and 6th grade science at a charter school. Also served as science fair chairwoman, charter review committee member, and school advancement committee member.
- Moved with my family to Missoula, Montana…enrolled in Master’s in Education program.
- Over three years, took every single undergraduate and graduate class prescribed and then some. Endured Cellular and Molecular Biology and Physics and Calculus II (plus many others) where study groups consisted of 18.2 year old people who, like, partied so hard last weekend. Good times!
- Participated in pre-service teacher field work with a cooperating teacher who chose to throw furniture…with students still in it. What did I learn from him that I can apply in my own classroom??? Not a damned thing.
- Earned a Master’s Degree in Education with specialty in secondary broad field science. Need a biology teacher? I can do that. Need a physics teacher? Yep, I can do that too. Need an International Baccalaureate certified teacher to help with a diploma programme (international spelling is intentional here…it’s a global program)? I can do that as well.
- Interviewed for several jobs around Missoula and got turned down in favor of “teachers who have been subbing for three years already”.
- Spent the summer in a deep
ragereflection wondering if I had wasted my time. Reminded myself often of my dad’s words that no one can ever take my Master’s Degree away from me.
- Discovered that subbing was the yellow brick road into a
riggedsystem in Missoula…so I applied to sub. For a whopping $11.46 per hour. Let’s not drive by that too fast. I was employed at that paltry rate as an individual who gave up waiting tables so that I could become educated. I went to college, and then graduate school to make a better life for myself and my family. For context, coffee shop baristas earn more and don’t endure gun shots being fired on campus.
- Presented a unit of study that I created at the annual Montana Educators Conference in 2017.
- Co-authored both an article and conference presentation with one of my grad school professors detailing the International Baccalaureate Certification Program. The conference proposal was accepted in Bath, UK in June 2018. The article was accepted in The Journal of International Education and will be published in 2019.
- Moved again with my family to the state of Washington…spent several months helping my kids settle in.
- Applied for a Washington Resident Teacher License. I included all my transcripts, diplomas, certificates, and Montana teaching license with my application.
- Went down for another set of fingerprints for another FBI background check. That’s the fourth set in three years…and another $75.
- Waited six weeks.
- Received an email that a license could not be granted because a “basic skills test score” was needed.
- Called to ask what a “basic skills test” was. The nice lady on the phone told me I needed an ACT or SAT score to demonstrate “college readiness” skills. Asked if the transcripts and diplomas could be used to demonstrate that I was “ready” for college…no. Right. I can’t make this sh!t up.
- Called my high school to obtain an ACT score…E-mailed it to the proper place.
- Waited three more weeks.
- Received an email that, because my ACT did not include a writing section, I would need to take the WEST-B basic writing skills test. In Ellensburg (1.5 hours away). For $85.
- Registered and paid for the WEST-B writing skills test.
- Drove to Ellensburg to sit for the three-hour exam.
- Waited four more weeks to receive confirmation that I passed.
- Submitted all my paperwork to the Wenatchee school district to be a substitute.
- Received a list of additional paperwork that was needed including a form stating that I did not behave in a sexually inappropriate way in any previous districts…because, what in the hell is the FBI background check for?!?!
- Faxed those forms to Missoula and Florida.
- Went down to my doctor’s office to obtain my vaccination records. Realized that I needed a tetanus shot so got that done while I was there. Two birds. One stone.
- Piled everything up to prepare it for delivery today because the papers are only accepted on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
So, given my path thus far, I should not be surprised to be sitting knee-to-knee with Pam who is so carelessly dismissive.
Once she gathered all of my papers..and after trying unsuccessfully to correct me three different times about not having the correct items…Pam said she would see me tomorrow for the mandatory orientation.
“It should take an hour and a half to two hours but we will pay you for a half day”, she said.
Right. It’s no wonder there’s a budget problem. But let’s not go adding logic and reason to this conversation.