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The Pink Slip

It was the early 1980’s and I was a wide eyed fresh out of school teacher with a passion for teaching science.  I was anxiously planning the next unit then my administrator came to my door and sadly told me that I was going to get a pink slip. I thought my world had caved in.

All over the United States teachers are going through a rough time. Budgets are cut to the bones and teachers are getting laid off in high numbers. We have been there before. In the 1970’s and again in the 1980’s there were some massive layoffs in my districts. We lost some exceptional talent and some fresh new innovative teachers in the process. Most, but not all, of the pink slipped teachers were hired back within a year or so. That may not be the case this time. So, what do you do if this is you?

In many cases if you are a science or a math teacher you are in better shape than your peers in social studies or PE. Rural schools have a really difficult time finding folks certified in Physics, chemistry, or  earth science. Check out the want ads from the main newspapers in each state. In Des Moines you would check out the Des Moines Register.  If you are willing to relocate to another region of the country the rural schools provide an exceptional opportunity with a lower cost of living (imagine a very nice home for under 70 thousand dollars) and a slower pace of life. These are great places to raise your kids.

If you cannot relocate because of family or some other tie think informal science or online as your ticket to survive the pink slip year. I speak of it as a year because it is true that the science teaching population of the US is gray. The average age is well into the 50’s and we are thinking retirement. As those retirements take place you are first up, generally, to get a shot at that job. But, how do you pay the bills in the meantime?

Here there is some good news. You can pay the bills and work on a new set of skills at the same time. Any job you take will have you thinking of ways to incorporate this into the classroom when you are rehired. Try to look for a job with a local tech or science related company. Even entry level positions offer rich opportunities to connect science to real life. Do not ignore informal science jobs. Local museums and zoos are often looking for part time help with teaching skills. Lastly, submit your resume to an online company. Florida Virtual Schools and Kaplan are always looking for talented teachers.

Teachers often discount their training. You are certified in one specific grade span but your abilities cross all grade levels. Companies do quite a bit of staff training. You may want to craft your resume towards that. The corporate training world is rich with exceptional examples of how to teach well and some really awful ones. Check out a few good staff development sites to get a feel for what it looks like when done well.
http://www.hrmreport.com/article/Top-trends-in-e-learning-and-corporate-training/
http://www.learningforward.org/index.cfm

Good teachers will always be in short supply and a host of folks will always be looking for folks with the talents and abilities developed by classroom experiences. In your resume you have to highlight those. What can a good science teacher do that is valuable?
* Develop complex thinking skills
* Expand the creative thinking of groups
* Develop the skills of collaboration
* Help others to focus on the big picture
* Develop goal setting and time management skills
* Develop organization skills
* Help others learn new skills and concepts
* Write curriculum
* Set and meet goals

OK, this is a short list of those skills. Perhaps you can add a few to this to spark the conversations. The key is that by the nature of our education teachers are very diversely talented individuals. We all have areas of strength and weakness. When you are pink slipped it is time to focus on your strengths. You will have plenty of time in the next year to bolster any areas where you need growth. For now you need to think about what you do well.
Heather Wolpert-Gawron in her exceptional blog “Tween teacher”
http://tweenteacher.com/
gives ten commandments for those receiving pink slips.

“The Ten Commandments of a Pink Slipped Teacher
#1 Thou Shalt Not Panic
#2 Thou Shalt Not Take Our Misfortune Out on the Kids, Doing the Best Job we Can Until The Final Day in June
#3 Thou Shalt Not Close Any Doors
#4 Thou Shalt Make All Deadlines of Legal Paperwork to Potentially Keep Yourself in the Game, Even Though It’s Daunting and Depressing
#5 Thou Shalt Not Dwell on How The System is Broken to the Point of Avoiding Your Own Reality
#6 Thou Shalt Not Blame “Them,” Those Who Had Nothing To Do With Your Number on a List
#7 Thou Shalt Be Proactive, Figure Out a Game Plan, and Invest in Yourself
#8 Thou Shalt Find A Job That Appreciates Your Skills
#9 Thou Shalt Remember The Needs of Education When You Are Making the Big Bucks Elsewhere
#10 Thou Shalt Not Forget Those Whose Lives You’ve Changed”

All of those are important but the last one is critical. As teachers we change lives. Dwell on that as you decide where to go with your exceptional talents and abilities. Lots of folks can disseminate information. It takes a special set of skills to teach. Good luck.

 

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