For those unfamiliar with the bureaucratic behemoth that is the New York City Department of Education, the term “excessed” is somewhat strange. Most spell check software (including this one) doesn’t even recognize it as a word. But, indeed it is. I know because I looked it up two weeks ago, just for kicks.
There it is, at the bottom. Number seven. It’s a verb (used with object) that means:
|7.||to dismiss, demote, transfer, or furlough (an employee), esp. as part of a mass layoff.|
And no, I didn’t look it up just for fun. I guess semi-morbid curiosity would be more accurate.
It was just over two weeks ago when I was in the classroom and an announcement was made calling three teachers and myself to the principal’s office for a brief meeting after school. Now, I was no ne’er-do-well in school, but everyone knows in the case of the principal’s office no news is good news. Sure enough, as soon as we’d sat down our principal told us in a statement that was short and sweet that the budget had just come “down the pipeline” and due to cuts, the four of us should start looking for jobs. Stunned silence.
It wasn’t really the way I’d anticipating ending a day that started with an awesome field trip to the Hayden Planetarium. Nor was it the way I’d hoped to end my second year as a teacher, the first year in which I really grasped the complexities of teaching, and felt real success. But, in this economy, working in one of the hardest hit cities outside of Detroit, budget cuts happen. No hard feelings, I guess.
Like most schools, news travels fast where I work. The next day it seemed like everyone had heard, and everyone had something to say. Reactions varied from, “It’s no big deal, I got excessed six times when I started teaching,” (Gee, thanks) to, “Have you talked to the UFT? There’s no way they can do this!” Not always the most helpful (or accurate) words I was looking for, but generally there was an outpouring of support and advice for what to do next.
Since then it’s been one big, cliched rollercoaster of emotions. Sometimes I feel completely zen about moving on, and other times there’s panic. Moving on from anywhere you’ve grown comfortable is never easy, especially a public school in New York City. There’s a lot to learn — curriculum, surrounding community, school culture, school politics — and even after two years I’m still learning to navigate those aspects of the school I’m at. And that’s the toughest part, I guess. My school became much more to me than a place of work, it became a community. Leaving that behind may turn out to be exciting or rewarding, but it definitely won’t be easy.
Ruben just finished his second year teaching in the Bronx. He will be writing about his experiences looking for a new position. He also blogs at Is Our Children Learning?