Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Deep End

I love my job. I love my students. I love my hours. And I could pin June, July and August down and kiss them full on the lips. But as a teacher in the great state of Arkansas, my salary leaves a bit to be desired. With each passing year of service, the dollar signs inch ever so gradually away from the poverty line. But without my master's, by the time I retire my salary will still be in the same tax bracket as your average paperboy. Of course, we won't have newspapers anymore by then, so a teacher's salary may be in a class by itself.

Surprisingly, we're doing fine. Our ends are always neatly dovetailed. Jesus thought he was all that with his loaves and fishes trick? He should see what I can do with a bag of pasta and a can of beans. We don't need more money. Still, I've decided to go back and get my master's. Honestly, it probably has more to do with my ego than my wallet. It rubs me wrong that other people in my building are making more money than I am for doing the same job.

And so, last week, school began—both the one where I am the teacher and the one where I am the student. Immediately, a strange inverse relationship became evident between my confidence levels in each role. As a teacher, I'm kicking ass. Already, I have my new group well in hand and foresee a very smooth year. As a student, however, the tables are most assuredly turned. Other than mandatory "professional development" sessions, I haven't been on the receiving end of a lesson plan in a solid decade. It's daunting. I feel like I've just jumped into the deep end of the pool without my floaties. Meanwhile, all around me, everyone is kicked back on a chaise, slathered in Hawaiian Tropic, margarita in hand. In each class, I sit smack dab in the front row, biting my fingernails and trying to remember to breathe, while my classmates all look more like customers in the waiting room at Jiffy Lube than grad students. Maybe I'm mistaking apathy for confidence, but I really wish just one of them would do me a favor and quit acting so damn comfortable.

Here's a tidy example of the disparity between me and the rest of my classmates. Just last night, one of our professors expressed her concern that she had packed our syllabus a bit too full. A concern, I am not ashamed to admit, that I shared. So she offered to lighten the load by dividing the reading list among us. One group would read this stack and the rest of us would read that one. Before I could even get the sigh of relief out of my mouth, a twenty-two-year old named Jennifer chirped, "But I think we'd get a richer experience if we all read ALL the books, don't you?" Thanks for your input, Jennifer!

So I'll keep treading water, keeping my head above the surface until the doggy paddle comes back to me. I may never become Michael Phelps, or Jennifer, but I'm not going under either. Wish me luck.
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Dana said...

Hey Susan,

It is pretty sad when you can get your masters degree and probably still qualify for free or reduced lunch for your child. Michael Phelps will never know that feeling.

casserole said...

Okay, that girl was just being a kiss-ass. I bet she didn't lobby too hard to get to read all the books. She just wanted the teacher to THINK she wanted to read all the books, without actually having to follow through.

Anonymous said...

Look on the bright side: at least you have your students to kick around the day after dealing with the Jennifers in your class.....that's a blessing.
Susie Q