Opportunity

“Really?  I leaned in closer to Carol, a friend of my colleague Christine’s.  She too was a teacher in our large, urban school system and had taken to recently joining our small group for drinks on Friday afternoons.  It was that time of year in Michigan when you wore short sleeves one day and went digging for the winter coat that you thought you were done with the next.

Carol taught at a magnet school downtown, a small school of only about 200 students.  She’d been there for two years including this one, and while it wasn’t exactly heaven on Earth, it did enjoy a group of active parents as well as adequate funding due to its magnet status.  The students were chosen by lottery from all over the city, which is why the school was located centrally, right downtown, near where I’d attended university.

“Do you think I’d have a shot at it?”  Carol had just informed me that the school was adding a grade level next year, and was looking for a K-8 certified teacher who could be flexible enough to teach social studies, English or possibly even math.

“Sure, you’d have a shot.  Since you’ve already taught in the system, they’ll know you can handle teaching in the city, which will give you an edge.  I mean, it’s no picnic; these are older kids.”

I nibbled on some of the nacho chips from the basket in front of us.  “What’s your highest class size?”

Carol smiled at me, knowing I’d like the answer.  “Thirty two,” she answered.  “But they’re supposed to cap us at 30.”

Thirty students in a class.  It sounded like a dream.  “I wonder if it is worth making the switch.  The commute is so much longer.”

Christine and Becky looked at me like I was nuts.  “Are you kidding?  I’d trade a longer commute for an easier job any day of the week,” Christine answered.  She wasn’t ready to move out of our school because they were planning on starting a family soon.

“Well, Becky leaving makes the idea of leaving a lot more appealing,” I answered.  Becky had informed our little group this evening that her husband had just landed a job with a company out of state.  She would finish out our school year, and then spend the summer hunting for a house out East.

“I can’t really imagine being at FR without you, so I could completely see why you’d consider moving elsewhere with me not being there,” she agreed.

“And of course there’s the Paul thing…” Michele echoed from across the table.  A collective groan erupted from the assembled women.

“Agreed,” I laughed.  “Finding another place where my ex whatever he is isn’t glowing about his new baby with the woman he cheated on me with doesn’t exactly sound terrible.”

Carol held up her hand in caution.  “Before it all sounds like paradise and roses, let me tell you the downsides. ”

All heads turned towards her, listening to anything that would make them feel better about their current employment.

“First of all, the principal is not exactly strong.  She will side with parents over the teachers any day of the week.”

Michelle laughed.  “Parents actually show up?  I haven’t even met two thirds of mine yet, and we only have a month and a half left of school.”

Carol nodded, her face all seriousness.  “They do.  These are parents who chose this school, and they think that because of that, the teachers should be able to wave a magic wand and have all of their students be perfect.  Often, without the parents or the students having to expend any effort whatsoever.”

I looked at her, confused.  I couldn’t imagine such a scenario in an urban setting.  “OK, overinvolved parents.  Still not as bad as thirty eight kids in my room.  What else do you have?”

“OK, they don’t hire substitutes at my school.  At least not often.  So you might come in one day and expect to have your prep period to run copies and plan lessons, but instead, you have to cover someone else’s class for an hour.”

Becky asked, “Wait, did you say that you can actually run copies at your school?  Do you have to bring your own paper?”  She was referring jokingly to our own brand new copy machine that was purchased this school year, but that we had to purchase our own paper for.  It worked.  Sometimes.

Carol smiled.  “Yes, we have a copy machine that has paper in it that we don’t have to buy.”

I shook my head.  “You’re not doing a great job of deterring me.”

“I don’t want to deter you.  I’d love to have you working in my building.  There are only seven teachers, so we all work very closely.  It would be fantastic to have you there.  I just don’t want you to get there next fall and find that you hate it, and hate me for not giving you all of the facts.”

Michelle laughed.  “I think we’re all about to apply for that position, Carol.  It sounds about as good as you could get teaching in the city.”

I nodded, draining the rest of my margarita.  “I’ll apply.  That’s the first hurdle, anyway.  If I don’t get the job, then that answers the question.  If I do get it, then I can always choose one way or the other.  But all of it is moot if I don’t even try.”

“Fair enough,” Carol replied.

“Another round!” Christine shouted to our waitress.  “We need something to toast our futures with.”

“Amen to that,” I answered.  Onward and upward.

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