From RIF’d to Recall…. Pitfalls and Silver Platters
What a tumultuous week…. a week ago I was relatively calmly teaching the last couple of days of school, hanging in there with the 8th graders who had just experienced their first formal dance and were impatiently waiting to move on to high school. Then the last day of school, I was presented with a piece of paper by a man in a suit from Human Resources, who calmly stated that my position was being cut, and that after July 1st I could collect unemployment, and my benefits would end at the end of August. The principal got me coverage for the afternoon classes, and I headed home to research my options.
Those options included retiring since I am 62, and have enough years in the district to collect a pension. However, there are some steep pitfalls to retirement as I’ve found out. First off, it’s scary letting go of the person you’ve been for many years. Teachers tend to say “I’m a teacher” like that defines their role in life, even though they are a parent, sibling, child, spouse, etc., their job seems to define them more. So letting go of who you are and trying to define a new you without what has consumed your life for decades is scary. I found myself putting in job apps for more teaching jobs, or trying to figure out how to volunteer in schools, or develop my own business around what I’ve created over the years.
The second pitfall was the “benefits” which were not an option of my contract. This option was removed for several reasons, the first being that I was in a district that has been whittling away at our contracts with each negotiation. Because I came back a month and a half into the new contract, and because I took a leave of absence to pursue my own professional growth which brought me back to the district only 6 years ago, benefits would not be offered to me. Therefore, I began the journey through tons of medical companies trying to sell me their “cheap” policies. Of course they were cheap — one of them only paid $10 for each doctor visit… what normally is considered your co-pay! And because my husband and I, being the ages we are, have “pre-existing conditions” some of the more reasonable companies could reject us. The “silver lining” was that come January 1st when Obama care kicks in, they could no longer reject us. However, one doubts that politicians ever create silver linings for us middle class folks, so it sounds suspicious.
The third pitfall was the limitations the pension and Social Security would put on my earnings at this time. With the pension, I could only make a certain amount of money working in public schools or the university system in the state. I could work at private schools, or on my own, but then Social Security would limit that as well. Social security would at least add any money I made above my small pittance back into the pot for when I turned 66. So I would have to juggle my finances carefully and live simply. That part didn’t bother me, particularly if I was able to do something I loved.
So with all these pitfalls, when I received a phone call from HR that I was being “recalled” only a week later, I had very mixed feelings. I had already worked through all the paperwork for retirement, and was working on what that might look like. If they had asked me to take a position in another field, I would have gone on with the retirement. However, since I was already looking at jobs elsewhere in my field (the one that I spent so many years getting and recently achieving a doctorate in), and they offered my old position back to me, I had some real thinking to do.
As I thought through my decisions and the path of the last week, I realized that I was still looking for jobs in my field. In other words my “heart” was still in the classroom teaching technology. So if I had that chance, and the chance to return to a place where I was needed and used to, then I should do it. It also makes my pitfalls lessen with each year that I can continue. So even though when the riff first happened I felt that I was handed the chance to retire and should grab it, it was’t given to me on a silver platter. It was given on a broken platter, and at least returning to the classroom will get me a complete platter, but it will never be a silver one —- because I’m a “teacher”.