Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Teacher Job Searches: Nice Work If You Can Get It?

This week, I'm spending some time with a teacher friend who doesn't teach in New York. She's been a long-term substitute for the past two years in a small district where it is commonly accepted that full-time teaching positions are filled via nepotism and cronyism. She's been on obviously faux interviews that are conducted to achieve the appearance of a job search for any interested parties; she's been passed over for jobs that are filled by folks younger, less experienced, and less educated than herself because the folks in questions are someone's nieces or cousins. She's saddened, but hardly surprised; this kind of thing has been going on there for generations.

Meanwhile, many New York City teachers are facing internal work searches as well because of excessing that is already widespread and may become more so by the time we get to the beginning of the 2011-12 school year. Even teachers who once thought that their subject areas would guarantee them some security, like ESL, are finding themselves on the chopping block. We need, as a group of professionals, to continue to speak with one united voice that these are not the so-called "bad" teachers; these are teachers who, through no fault of their own, are looking for work now. This while enrollment in the city schools continues to rise, year after year, and schools become ever more crowded with expansion and construction plans that are anemic at best.

As we try to enjoy our summers, many teachers, as well as millions of Americans in other professions, continue to look for work that just doesn't seem to be out there. The education job market may seem more dysfunctional than others, whether via budgeting or via insider hiring policies, because of our intense familiarity with it, but probably other markets are just as asinine. This goes on while Congressional leaders continue to drag their heels on budget issues and while our President appears more impotent on the matter every day, while economists say with a straight face that we could be hovering around ten percent unemployment for the next decade. The discouraged unemployed may mean that the unemployment numbers are much worse than they actually look.

You may have known much of that already, but I guess I'm still surprised that teaching in urban schools, a profession that once looked to me as a young teacher as one that would simply expand exponentially forever, is inexplicably contracting even as the need continues to grow. I'm surprised that people would base hiring decisions on friendship or kinship so blatantly in this day and age.

I suppose I'm thankful that I'm not looking for a job right now.
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