first job

my first teaching job was everything that weymuth warned people in his class NOT to take. i followed a person who had been there forever and was loved by the students and community. i was to be the “scapegoat” according to everything we’d discussed in class. this was a k-12 position in one district that traveled to three schools in two different counties. my morning was high school chorus (and often early rehearsals with people for all-district, contest, musical, etc). then i drove 20 miles and was at the elementary the rest of the morning where i taught 3 classes which rotated every other day. then back 10 miles to the middle school where i ate lunch and taught all afternoon. after school might be other rehearsals or musical practice depending on the time of year.

my first year was stellar. there were several of us who were new and we all bonded. the principal at the high school loved me. the previous teacher had done a good job, but, really wasn’t versed in choral music. her love was the musical, and small ensembles and soloists. i loved everything. i grew the chorus from 35 to around 60 (extra rehearsals with kids who had class conflicts) and, by second semester, recruiting athletes that i had gone to every football, basketball game, etc (another weymuth technique). i was totally immersed in teaching. i would leave maryville around 6:30 am, get to school at 7 and often return home around 9 or 10 pm. my “mentor” was the art teacher. after the first week she told me i should be mentoring her. i told her she was awesome and that both my parents had been teachers and i had had great role models and thus not a lot of questions for her.

my high school kids went from singing 2 and 3 part to 4 part. my middle school kids were singing 3 part. the elementary concerts went from each class singing 2 songs to each class singing 6-7 songs. the middle school/high school concerts which previously had been with the band, were now split as our performances were long enough the administration wanted to separate them. i had more students making all-district. i had more involved in contest and a higher percentage of I ratings (which i don’t care about). i had a girls double quartet and a mixed double that would sing 4 part national anthem at the ballgames. i taught life skills, ran the clock at the middle school basketball games, and was one of the 8th grade sponsors.

the first year i also had a great group of senior leadership. they made things even easier (i still keep in contact with many of these students). the school musical was great, but was one of those piddly written for school that can’t do a real musical musicals….and i argued and won that if we had the talent we should be able to do a full fledged musical every year (previously it was ever 4 years–which meant for 3 years anyone who wasn’t a senior during the real musical year didn’t get to do much). i cast according to talent, so the second year we knew we had the talent for “annie”. the girl we had pegged for the title role gave a great audition, and she was a junior. her sister, a freshman, gave a better audition and got the role. everyone questioned, and then when the show rolled around, they became believers.

my third year, i lost a ton of leadership but still had a lot of talent. we did “little shop”. the girl who was audrey was hated by most of her class. i did have one parent who came in and questioned her getting the part over another girl who “looked more the part and was a sophomore”. even though it wasn’t her business, i explained that they could both handle the part, but, the senior who was audrey couldn’t handle the high trio part as the sophomore could, nor could the other two seniors who were the rest of the trio get along with her. again, show was a success.

all of the teachers had trouble with mickey prettyman. she had two sons in school. the older was ok. didn’t really like school, but didn’t cause problems. he actually loved chorus class and had a good voice. the younger was a smart-mouthed, smart kid who knew he could get his mom on a roll. he was constantly in trouble with all teachers. most of the time when she came to conferences she didn’t want to know about her sons though, she wanted to know the justifications for everything she had heard from her friends about classes her kids weren’t even in. i did put her in her place once at conferences. she questioned a long term assignment and the way it was graded. i told her even though i didn’t think it was ANY of her business since her sons weren’t in the class i knew people talked, and showed her the rubric and how the students basicly would self-grade…so there was NO WAY they didn’t know how it was graded. first time i ever saw her walk away speechless. i got kudos from other teachers.

every year i got evaluated by 3 principals. every year my evaluations were stellar. at the end of the year, one of the principals would do the “summative” evaluation that went to the superintendent. my third year it was done by the middle school principal and she marked me exemplary in all areas and wrote great comments. two weeks after i had this meeting with her to get my evaluation and the week before taking the largest number of kids to state solo/ensemble contest the school had seen, i was called in and told i was being non-renewed.

so unexpected. it was explained to me that i could resign, or call msta. the superintendent also said that all 3 principals and he himself had recommended me for renewal, but the board had voted not to. i called msta. basicly, msta is the biggest joke for non-tenured teachers. my representative was nice. she explained that in missouri, you basicly have no rights, that i could ask for a reason from the board, but that they would not have to prove it, only provide one. it couldn’t be taken to court, but that i could ask for a meeting with the board and present my side and ask for a re-vote. she recommended though that i resign. i asked for the reason. they cited classroom management, which was totally the opposite of what all my reviews had said for 3 years. i met with them and pointed out all i had done for the students and community. the long hours, the increase in numbers, tutoring kids to get their gpa up so they would be eligible for contest and sports…and they revoted, and i lost by one vote (apparently the first time i lost by 2, so at least i turned one person).

let me tell you what a blow this is….let me tell you how when your whole life you are told that if you do your best at something everything will work out…well in this case it was bullshit. nothing worked out. i had to finish the year and act like nothing had happened. my self esteem was blown. i had no faith in anyone or anything. a lot of faculty sympathized, but couldn’t do anything to help. and, i had no idea why this was going on. in fact, one dear parent approached me after my last concert and said how great it was and how they knew i was being dealt a low hand and to keep my chin up as there were better things in store. but i couldn’t believe it then. all i knew is that there must have been something i did wrong. even when i was out interviewing and learned the real story (the person i had replaced couldn’t find a job they liked better that paid as well, still lived in the community, and wanted her job back and had good friends on the board–apparently my superintendent let that slip every time he was called for a recommendation on me and two of the people i interviewed with told me) i still couldn’t believe it wasn’t my fault.

honestly, i didn’t want to teach anymore. to pour your heart and soul into something and then just have it vanish. and it jaded me. i was so depressed for so long. i lost all faith in my abilities and in people. and i had to find another job soon.

probably the worst part is living in the community where you attended school. to know that all everyone knows is that you have been let go…and to think that they also think you did something wrong. one of the few times in my life i have totally retreated long term, and only was social when forced to be. and i became a not so nice person. my witty sarcasm was very biting during this time, and i apologize to those who might have felt its sting.

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