Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Pink Slip Experience

Artists Name: Bhavna G.

School: Detroit Country Day
Spring time is the season of flowers blooming and chicks hatching; unfortunately, it can also be a time where the pink slips are arriving for hundreds of educators. I came across a couple of teachers this past week who were both pink slipped and it prompted me to think about my own experience and offer some advice to those of you who have found yourself in this situation.

I have had the privilege of being pink slipped three times in the course of a year. My first reaction was of course disappointment at the situation, but I was also kind of surprised that the form is not pink nor is it really a slip. Instead, each was a neatly typed letter using technical language to tell me that I was no longer going to be employed and that if the situation changed, I would be called back (which thankfully I was, each time).

It was a dark time, but also a time where I gained a lot of strength and insight about who I was as a teacher and person. It is often said that true character is revealed in times of trial, and the stress of being pink slipped without knowing if you are going to be able to do what you love where you have established a home and career can be a very stressing moment in a person's life.

With that said, here is my advice to anyone who is facing a pink slip:

1. Chances are you will be called back. I know it is not comforting to hear, especially from someone who has not been pink slipped, but with the technical details of No Child Left Behind, the switch to full-day Kindergarten, graduation requirements for students, and the fact that other content teachers need their prep-time, an Art teacher is a needed thing for schools and they will have to find someone to fill the requirements (chances are that is you). You may have been pink slipped simply due to the nature of the seniority list, which was the case in my situation.

2. If you have multiple endorsements, make sure to make yourself open to teaching them. I am certified in both Visual Arts and English. My first teaching job was actually more English than it was Art. Visual Arts is my first love and I am incredibly thankful that I get to do it full time, but I am also thankful that I have an option. If you do not have a second endorsement, consider getting one as a part of your continuing education that is required per MDE certification renewal. You might even be able to use credits from your undergraduate degree to go towards this. Here is a list of what classes can be taught with each certification.

3. Update your Resume, Portfolio and website, and put yourself out there. Although you would like to think that the school you have taught at will call you back because there is no way they could go on without you, sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. Now that you have experience under your belt, you will be able to use that to help get your next job. In each case of being pink slipped, my principal and other administrators readily wrote great letters of recommendation. Make sure to ask for those letters, and who knows, they might also be able to give you a lead based on their connections with other districts in your county. This website helped me keep up to date on what was available when I was looking for a job in Michigan.

4. Realize that it is not about you as a teacher or person, it is about a budget. You cannot control this; you can not take it personal. It is not your fault and you can only move forward. Chances are you became a teacher because you have a passion for the subject you are teaching and a caring heart for kids. I never hear any teacher say they do it for the money; you would not be able to go in each day and do what is required of a teacher if the only motivation was that. What charges me up and motivates me are those moments when a student reflects on a work they have created as "The best thing they have ever made..." or the moment when they hoot and holler over an artist they are excited to study. If that kind of stuff gets you going then know that you are a good teacher and being pink slipped is not the end of things for you.

I know that this can be a tough time, but realize you are not alone. If you have advice or a success story to share from your own pink slip experience, please post it below - all advice and success stories are welcome!

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