On my future

Higher_learning

This is going to be my twelfth year of teaching, and my fourteenth year of thinking of myself as a teacher.

It’s time– it may be well past time, honestly– to start seriously figuring out what the next step in my career is going to be.  This is the weird thing about my job; unlike basically every other career out there, there isn’t really any way to get promoted as a teacher.  While I’ve spent my career in middle schools and I’ve often sort of thought of the eighth grade math teacher as the apex predators in the building, I don’t actually think that for any real reason.  The person who had my job last year was a second-year teacher; it’s not like you have to prove yourself to get into that end of the building any more than you do anywhere else.

I can change jobs as much as I like, but short of flipping school districts somehow (and I suspect the other districts around here actually pay less than mine does) there’s no way to actually increase my salary that way.  I can increase my marketability for other districts in various ways and I can shift my own focus on my teaching in some ways, but precious few of them will lead to a whole lot of change.  Let’s run through the possibilities, shall we?

  • Go back to school and get my doctorate.  This will not actually increase my salary so long as I live in Indiana, whose wise Republican government decided a couple of years ago that there’s no point rewarding teachers for getting education.  It will also cost me money unless I can manage to get someone else to pay for it, and while I haven’t actually looked too deeply into this I don’t really think that there’s a whole lot of money for funding out there.  I cannot acquire more student loans.  I currently owe nearly ninety thousand dollars for student loans as is.  That number will not be increasing under any circumstances.  Further issue:  there is no college offering an Ed.D or a Ph.D in education within non-pain-in-the-ass distance of my home.  Online degrees are a bloody joke and there are any number of obvious issues with, say, trying to commute to Ball State (nearly three hours away) for classes.  This takes something that already had major issues and nudges it thaaaat much closer to impossible.  That said?  I want a doctorate.  I know lots of people with advanced degrees and goddammit I want one too.  I know it’s irrational; shut up.
  • Administrative certification.  This would require classes, but not necessarily another degree.  That’s kind of weasel-talk, though, since most of the time admin prep programs are meant as Master’s Degree programs anyway, and I already have two of the damn things (that’s where 89 grand in student loans came from) and don’t want a third.  Becoming an administrator would, beyond a shadow of a doubt, increase my salary.  I would also probably hate the job, as principal jobs– and, especially, the Assistant Principal job I’d certainly have to spend a few years in before becoming a principal– basically mean you spend all of your time doing precisely the parts of this job that I hate and seek to minimize at all costs.  I posted “Do I want to be a principal?” as a Facebook status the other day; damn near every single person said I did not.
  • I can always get certified in additional subject areas, which widens what I can teach and ensures that I can continue job-hopping every few years for the rest of my life.  This does have its attractions, mind you, but I’m already one of the more heavily certified teachers in a district that employs thousands of them and it ain’t like it’s putting money in my pocket.  You do reach a point where you hit overkill, y’know?
  • National Board certification.  This provides flexibility in that it instantly certifies me in most of the states across the country, meaning that I can move somewhere where having your National Boards actually matters.  Most states provide financial incentives– some of them quite sizeable– for teachers who attain National Board certification.  Indiana, naturally, is not one of them.  Board certification is difficult and moderately expensive, but cheaper than an entire degree and, frankly, it would probably be more helpful.  Effect on my day-to-day life as it exists right now: zero.

Noticing a pattern?  I’m kinda stuck, and I don’t like it one bit.  The best answer appears to be “move to a state where people actually give a shit about education,” and that would be great if, oh, I lived by myself.  It gets rather more complicated with a wife and a baby in the picture, particularly when moving means taking both sets of grandparents’ only grandchild away from them.

Seriously?  The only thing I can think of that might be workable is to start writing books.  I can’t make myself write fiction to save my life; my struggles with that have been amply detailed in any number of blog posts since forever, but I can sure as shit talk ad nauseam about teaching.  The weird thing is, while I can’t actually make myself write fiction, I have tons of ideas for stories, and I can actually get myself to sit down and knock out a thousand words of nonfiction at the drop of a hat but I have absolutely no idea what a book about teaching from me might actually look like.  Like, none.  I’ve fiddled with the idea from time to time and gotten nowhere with it.

Although I WILL SLAP RAFE ESQUITH IN HIS STUPID LYING FACE would be a great name for a book, wouldn’t it?  And its sequel, MAYBE YOUR HAIR IS ON FIRE BECAUSE YOUR PANTS MADE THEM THAT WAY, YOU ASSHOLE, due a year or so later.

Bah.

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Luther M. Siler

The author of SKYLIGHTS, THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES and several other books.

One thought on “On my future

  1. However bad it is in Indiana, rest assured that it’s worse in Ohio or Michigan. It’s always worse for teachers in Ohio and Michigan. And you know firsthand what it’s like in Chicago.

    That being said . . . there’s more to Illinois than Chicago. There’s also Champaign-Urbana and Bloomington-Normal, which certainly are not bad places to live if you’re used to South Bend, and not so far from the GPs. Couldn’t hurt to look.

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