Saturday, May 24, 2014
An open letter to the state of North Carolina and all the short-sighted men who run it…
To Whom it Concerns (and you know who you are):
Search “North Carolina teachers” in your favorite search engine, and you’ll find all the information on becoming a teacher in North Carolina, which is how it should be. But you’ll also find a plethora of information on things like the attempt to end teacher tenure (which has been overturned, thanks to a lawmaker with some sense), and the elimination of higher pay for an advanced degree. This information shows how the state treats its teachers, which may eliminate the need for the initial information, because no one will want to become a teacher in a state that doesn’t value them. Potential educators think “North Carolina? No thanks. Let’s move on to South Carolina or Virginia.”
As important as this information is, however, it’s not what gets passed around on social media. What grabs our attention, and therefore gets shared, are the letters. Open letters to our lawmakers and deal breakers from teachers who are leaving the state and/or the profession. These are young people who were hoping that with their choice of career, they could make a difference. They are being gracious enough to let everyone know why they are moving on, because they still feel that they owe something to the folks they were determined to serve. Despite what the powers in Raleigh believe, they still care about the kids. (You can read one here, another here, and still another here. Oh wait….someone from another state is also chiming in on the state of NC education here.)
But my letter is a little different. I’m not young anymore. I’m not rearing children or saving for a down payment or having to take trips to the doctor for the usual childhood ailments or injuries—though I am starting to have those “old folks’ visits.” In other words, my expenses are not those of the young…all I really need to take care of are daily living expenses and planning for retirement, which I thought I would be taking in six years. Six years, despite the fact that you wanted to give me a four-year contract, at which point I would be terminated in favor of a less-expensive, less-experienced teacher. (And then there was that reference to getting rid of ALL teachers after 20 years in order to unleash a bunch of middle-aged folks into the workforce, where they would promptly find themselves jobless, as well as feeling aimless, hopeless and pointless without a classroom.)
While I cannot blame one single person for leaving the profession or the state, I am here to tell you to take heart, NC lawmakers! I bring you good news!
I’m not leaving.
No matter how much you discourage and denigrate me--no matter how difficult you make my job--no matter how little you pay me; you can find me in room 316. You can add to your standardized test arsenal--you can continue to use pointless teacher evaluations--you can give me a dozen more meetings to attend; I am in room 316.
While everyone else deserts this sinking ship we call public education, I’ll still be here. You’ll recognize me by the “Hell No! I Won’t Go!” tee shirt and my ugly old lady shoes.
In fact, you’d better hope that I meet my maker in the summer, lest you should have to drag my cold, lifeless body out of room 316. Because I refuse to leave.
Just remember this: if you discourage North Carolina’s young folks from teaching through your thoughtlessness, who will replace me in room 316? You might be able to ensnare a bright, enthusiastic college graduate who will start his or her career with great ideas and great energy, but after awhile he or she will become just another overworked, underpaid zombie. Then you’ll get another open letter.
When you do, feel free to go back and read this one. The one where I say I’m not quitting. The one where I say you can’t force me out with ridiculous bargains. The one where I say that I’m like Hawkeye Pierce in the final episode of M*A*S*H; I may be crazy, but I’m still here.
You can find me in room 316.
E. Kirby Carespodi, M.A.T.
Walkertown High School