Oh my goodness, when was that snow day? Two months ago? It sure feels like it.
I like my job. Occasionally I complain about it enough to make people wonder if I really do, but the stuff I complain about is not the teaching part. It's rarely the kid part. It's often the administrative part. I really like teaching private lessons, because there is no administrative part of that beyond paying my monthly studio fee. It's really autonomous. No one is looking over my shoulder, wanting report card grades, any of that stuff. I just get to teach.
Now, that being said, supporting myself completely on private lessons alone could be a trick, since I teach beginning piano and band instruments. I have thirteen students, which is pretty good, and I could have more if I wanted to work after school all five days a week, or at least a Saturday. I don't think I'd mind that...if I wasn't also working full-time. So it's a quandry. I need the full-time job for the steady paycheck and the health insurance, and I need the private lessons for my own sanity. It was hard to balance them this week.
Add to that the news that our school district would appear to be coming up $6.5 million short. That's huge. That's gutting-programs huge. That's the worst layoffs in 20 years huge. That's the very real possibility of art, music, and library disappearing from elementary schools huge. Almost the worst part is that we really don't know what will happen.
There are requirements for music at the middle and high school levels. There is a requirement for music at the elementary level, but it does not have to be taught by a certified music teacher (music ed certification is not the same as general classroom certification...I happen to hold both). Come to think of it, I don't know if the middle and high school courses have to be taught by a music specialist either. (Ughhhh...I hadn't thought of that until just now...I kind of wish I hadn't....) If it remains bad enough that the elementary program is gutted, I have enough seniority in the department to retain some sort of job. It would be very different than what I do now, but it would be a job, indeed. (With a side order of survivor's guilt, I imagine.)
This isn't a case of the dunderheads at State Ed trying to make a change for the sake of making a change. This isn't the local taxpayers' group staging their annual "Those Damn Teachers And Their Outrageous Salaries" campaign. (That's a story for another day.) This time, the money just isn't there. Our area's largest employer, a Fortune 500 company whose products probably grace your kitchen cupboards, just laid off 640 people locally. If even half of them have one child in the system, and they have to leave the area to find a job, that closes one of our elementary schools. It's unbelievably unstable, and very scary.
So. At the end of the day (which for me, was Advanced Band rehearsal where we all laughed more than we played today...I love these kids), my colleagues and I in the related arts sector kind of shook ourselves off, squared our shoulders and wished each other a quiet and restful weekend. I came home, changed shoes (feeling a little like Mr. Rogers, to be honest), and did the only thing that made sense: I took a walk in the rare February sunshine, down to the local yarn store. I didn't buy anything, just chatted for a minute, planned to come back possibly tomorrow to sit and knit, and then kept walking. Tonight I will do some actual knitting and take a bubble bath. There are so many things we just can not think about right now...that way would lie madness. Better to put my mind to the production of beautiful things with my own hands and pray that the focus of the creative will bring the solutions we so desperately need now.