Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Next Step

In very happy news, today I signed the paperwork for my first full-time job since I was laid off from Stockton Unified in 2010. It has been a long haul for music education and this music educator in particular.

I spent the summer of 2010 frantically applying for every music job, getting a few interviews, but quickly realizing that I was one of many out-of-work music teachers in a state where music education was being cut right and left. This led to two years of complete unemployment, a brief foray into the idea of selling insurance for a duck (not something that worked for me). I was thrilled beyond belief in 2012 to be hired to teach a summer program, where I used music to help a large group of exchange students from China improve their English.

Being hired somewhere led to getting hired elsewhere, and soon I was teaching one day a week at a tiny private school in Sacramento. This was great fun--adorable kids, lovely colleagues--but also not enough hours to live on (and the owners were a little shady). But fortunately, Granite Bay came along, and, of course, I've spent the last two years there. The first year I was on a 33% (of full time) contract; the second year, 50%. I did okay, because I'm living with Mom and Dad, but it wasn't enough to truly make a living. Still, I would have stayed and tried to grow it, but the choice, alas, was removed from me.

So here I am. I have been applying for jobs since March and interviewing since mid-May. The job-hunting process is not for the thin-skinned, and by Monday of this week, after a lot of "it was nice to meet you but we hired someone else," I was ready to book an appointment to get the word REJECT tattooed across my forehead.

Except that I knew one school--which I interviewed for last week--was in the process of checking my references, which is always a great sign. When I left the interview, I felt I'd come across as an asshole, actually, but I guess they liked something in me. The school is a K-8 charter school with an enrollment of 446 (according to last year's stats on the Department of Education web site). It has about 83% of kids on free or reduced lunch, and about 66% of the population is classified as English-Language Learners. The overwhelming majority of the ELL students have Russian as their home language. According to the data, last year there were three suspensions total, and no expulsions. I like those odds--it means that the school has high behavior standards in place, which are met.

Then again, my part in this will be easier. I've never met a classroom full of kindergartners that didn't want to come to music class.

I have already fielded one "congratulations even though I think charter schools are awful" comment on Facebook. Well, thank you for that...and believe me, I don't think this particular school is guilty of many of the bad sides to the charter school phenomenon (i.e. weeding out "non-desirable" learners). This school is publicly funded and held accountable for student learning, like any other school. It just so happens it has a little more freedom in how it teaches.

Most importantly, it has never had an arts program, but they really want one! The principal let me know they are eager to have one, and in a few months, a few portable classrooms will be arriving, and I will have use of one. It will be a room-to-room deal until then but I've done that before and I'm adaptable. Especially knowing I will have a room of my own to decorate and lots of space without student desks, so we can move around the room. I will also have full charge of building the curriculum, which is exciting to me. The position is VAPA (visual and performing arts), and I need to sit down with the principal to get the full scope of whether she wants me to incorporate some art projects into the music end of things. I will happily do so, as well as incorporating movement and dance, which goes hand-in-hand with music, and I wouldn't mind putting on a musical at some point, and, of course, a winter program and a spring program.

I'm excited for the possibilities. Teaching music means creative lesson planning, active lessons (my FitBit will love this!) and I know that working with the K-8 set is something I love.

Even better, I'll be back on a full-time salary, with the full-time benefits that go with that. I've already done the math and realized I will only pay $35 a month out-of-pocket for my health, vision and dental. I get to stay with Kaiser (pretty standard, most schools seem to offer Kaiser as an option). For now, I'm going to stay on at Mom and Dad's, for a few reasons. For one thing, I'm comfortable here and they don't mind having me, which takes away from the stress of finding a place to live and then moving into it in the two months before I start the new job. For another, I can continue to focus on socking money into my savings, which I've been doing on a part-time salary, and can do more of on a full salary. I'm also looking at the possibility of getting a new car. I love my RoPro, but she's 12 years old, nearing 160,000 miles, and I'm reluctant to take longer trips in here, which limits my adventures.

Besides, all that savings means that by the time I do move out, I can really look at buying a condo, instead of renting an apartment, and wouldn't that be ideal?

Possibilities. :)

All I have to do is take another step forward.

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