Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Watch out, world -- I have given up chocolate for Lent.

One day down....

45 more to go.


The Nicest Guy in the World said, "I may have to force-feed you chocolate if things become too difficult." ;) But then he decided he would also give up chocolate in solidarity with me! Isn't that amazing?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My new part-time teaching job

Yesterday was my first day doing the part-time high school resource room teaching job. I'm not quite sure what to make of it. The Spanish teacher is in there as the regular teacher -- don't know how they get away with that, as she's not special ed certified, but I guess that's why they want me there. There's also a teacher's aide, and then today yet another teacher's aide showed up. For four to five kids per period. !!! And these kids are bright -- they just need extra time on tests, or a little extra help with homework, etc. -- they really don't seem to need an almost one-to-one adult/student ratio. But the Spanish teacher is very nice, and she suggested I just observe this week, so that's what I've been doing. Needless to say, it has not been very stressful. I spend more time commuting to the school (an hour and 20 minutes each way) than actually being AT the school (an hour and a half). Kind of funny.

The kids are pretty funny, too. Mostly boys, as is par for the course in special ed. Yesterday one of them was telling a story about how he got mugged on a street corner two years ago when a couple of guys demanded his money, and he said no.

"So what happened?" the teacher asked.

"They cut me with a knife," he said.

The teacher's jaw dropped. "And then what happened?"

"They ran away," he said, "and I went to the hospital and got 25 stitches."

One of the other boys started laughing and asked the teacher, "What did you think he would say? 'I pulled out my sword and we commenced to duel'?"

Then they started talking about a certain teacher they all like. "I have a crush on her," one of the boys admitted dreamily. "I heard she's 37. If I were 37, I would totally ask her out on a date."

"I know where she lives," another boy said.

The first boy rolled his eyes. "Dude, I'm not gonna stalk her!"

Oh, and guess what? I have an interview next week for a full-time-with-benefits special ed teaching job at a high school in Brooklyn! It's a new school that started this schoolyear with only ninth graders. I like the principal already. We only spoke a few minutes on the phone, but he just seemed so nice, so enthusiastic, so normal (three important qualities in a principal). He said, "I can't wait for you to come in and meet the staff -- we have such great people working here." So I'm going in next Tuesday morning to observe a couple of classes, and then he and I will "talk" (I assume that's his informal way of saying "interview"). Should be interesting.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Early Intervention training; Sunday on Thursday church service

A weird random "news in brief" item I saw in the Metro New York newspaper yesterday:

"AUSTRALIA: Fourth-graders in Australia will no longer participate in an assignment asking children which ethnic groups they'd save, if required to choose, in the case of emergency. The education minister ordered the cancellation following parent complaints, reports CBC News."

Um -- huh? Is the sun baking their brains in the Land Down Under?? Bizarre.

I had all-day training on Thursday and Friday for a part-time Early Intervention job doing ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) one-on-one with 2-year-olds. It was excellent training, but the job itself scares me a little. Two-year-olds can be cute, but they can also hit, kick, bite, scratch, etc. -- especially if they're "on the autism spectrum," as many children in Early Intervention are. Also, ABA is a great program, but it requires the teacher to be so organized and track the child's progress by collecting data clearly and consistently -- and I can't quite figure out how you do that while simultaneously doing the actual teaching. But, if I can keep both my tutoring job and my part-time resource room teaching job through June, and get the unemployment extension, I can survive financially without a third job. It's good to have a back-up plan, though.

Since I didn't have tutoring Thursday night and I was in Manhattan anyway for the training, I went to St. Bart's "Sunday on Thursday" church service at 6:00 PM. It was really nice -- I barely fidgeted! (It helped that the service was only 40 minutes long.) The priest was female, which reminded me how refreshing it is to go to a church that doesn't insist that all of its priests be unmarried men. The Gospel readng was Mark 8:27-33, where Jesus explains to the disciples that he is going to have to endure great suffering, get killed, and then rise from the dead. When Peter took Jesus aside and tried to rebuke him, Jesus said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things, but on human things."

So during her sermon, the priest told a funny story about a man whose wife had one bad habit of buying dresses they couldn't afford. No matter what he said to her, she couldn't stop herself from buying expensive dresses. Finally he told her, "The next time you go shopping and want to buy a pricey dress, say to yourself, 'Get behind me, Satan!' and that will help you resist the temptation." The wife agreed to try this. One week went by -- no dresses. Two weeks went by -- no dresses. The husband was so happy, thinking what he had said to her had worked -- until one day, she came home with the most expensive dress she had ever bought! Aghast, he asked, "What happened!? Why didn't you say, 'Get behind me, Satan'?"

"Oh, I did," his wife said. "And Satan said, 'Wow! It looks even better from the back!'"


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Spirituality, religion, church

Lately I've been experiencing sort of a spiritual drought. Well, "drought" is a strong word -- it's more like spiritual dehydration. I still go to church every week, but I kind of have to force myself, and then, even though it's only an hour, it seems to go on forever, like it's in slow motion. Which is weird for me, because for at least the past ten years, I've been really into church. Sure, there have always been times when I felt more like going than others, but once I was there, I genuinely enjoyed it. But now, even though I'm there, saying the creed, praying the prayers, etc., I feel like I'm watching it on a movie screen or something. I feel very distant.

I was raised Episcopalian. My mom was, too. It was important to her, maybe partly because she was a child of parents who argued over religion (my maternal grandmother was Catholic and my grandfather was Episcopalian, back when that was a much bigger deal). When I was a kid, we would go through years of going to church regularly, then stop for a few years when a scandal broke out (in two different churches we went to, the priests ended up getting dismissed or asked to leave for alleged sexual misconduct), then start over again at a different church. But in high school I started getting uncomfortable saying the creed -- how did I know that Jesus was God's only son? How could I know ANYthing for sure? So in college I started going to the Unitarian church, where there's no set creed and you just have to affirm a set of moral principles. I liked it. But at home for Christmas and Easter, I went to the Episcopal church, and I also sometimes went to Catholic mass with friends, especially since it was so similar to the Episcopalian service.

We talk about having five senses: the sense of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. But after my mom died in 1998, I lost my sense of God. Even when I wasn't sure about creeds and orthodoxies, I had never before doubted that there was a God, or a heaven for the dead. I took it for granted, like I too often take for granted that I can see beautiful colors and taste delicious food. But I had never expected my mom to feel so GONE. After some people lose a loved one, they feel like they spot them out of the corner of their eye, or even see their ghost, or feel their presence in some way. For me, it was exactly the opposite. The sense of GONEness took my breath away. Life seemed coldly logical: my mother had smoked for 40 years; she got lung cancer; she died. I couldn't sense any divinity in that. It's not that I was angry at God. It was that I couldn't sense anything called "God" that I could even be angry at.

My sense of God did return, though slowly at first. I still went to Catholic mass with a friend; I went to Episcopal and Unitarian services sometimes, too; and for half a year or so, while in grad school in Boston, I regularly went to a church called The Journey. I'm a die-hard liberal and it was a pretty conservative church, but I got something out of the pastor's sermon every week, and found myself becoming a regular.

When I moved to New York in 2000, I started searching for a church home in earnest -- an Episcopal church home. I wasn't sure why I didn't feel called to the Unitarian church anymore. I just felt like it was missing something. Looking back, I think I was missing Jesus. I still don't know if I believe everything in the Creed (the virgin birth? not even mentioned in all four Gospels), but I finally realized you don't have to agree with everything and everyone in the church in order to go, and feel close to God.

Three days after September 11, 2001, I found my new church home. It was my 29th birthday, and I had never felt less like celebrating. Still in shock and sad and scared, I wandered into St. Bart's Episcopal Church in Manhattan for a prayer service. When the priest came out, he opened with, "It is times like these we cannot understand; we can only withstand." It was exactly what I needed. I joined the church and became very involved, stopping only when I moved to Camden, NJ in 2005 to join the Jesuit Volunteer Corps for a year of service. I purposely chose a program with a spiritual component. I felt called -- not that I literally heard the voice of God or anything, but I felt a strong sense it was what I was meant to do at that time.

Then last year I did the RCIA program to officially become Catholic. Since my maternal grandmother was Catholic, in some ways I felt I was going back to my spiritual roots. And even though I had moved back to NYC from Camden, it's now a longer commute to get to St. Bart's, and I just couldn't seem to get up early enough Sunday mornings to get there. I was going to the Catholic church a few blocks from my apartment so often, I thought it would be nice to make it official.

But it's that same Catholic church I can now barely sit in for 55 minutes per week! So here I am, in Spirtual Drought Land.

My plan: to explore other churches, and go to St. Bart's more regularly, too. It sometimes helps to be shaken out of my comfort zone (or discomfort zone, as the case may be).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A happy heart day

I've rarely had a boyfriend during Valentine's Day, but I finally did this year. I must say, it sure made the day much better! The Nicest Guy in the World came over in the afternoon with the DVD of the classic movie "It Happened One Night." It was really good! Then he took me out for a "surprise" dinner (I knew we were going to eat but didn't know where) at my favorite Ethiopian restaurant, where we had only eaten together once back in 2007, when we were just friends. Luckily he never deletes any e-mails, so he still had the e-mail from two years ago with the restaurant name and directions. It was sooooooo delicious! Afterwards we came back to my place and he gave me a great card, Dove milk chocolate hearts, not one but TWO Dove chocolate roses, 24 boxes of Spearmint Tic-Tacs, a box of Sweet-Tarts, and best of all, a mix CD he had made himself of all these great love songs -- and on the cover he'd printed a photo of the two of us! Here are three of my favorite songs on it so far: "If Not For You" by George Harrison (originally by Bob Dylan); "If I Should Fall Behind" by Bruce Springsteen; and "Someone Like You" by Van Morrison.

The funny thing is, one of my gifts to HIM was a mix CD of love songs, and I'd put a few of the same songs on his CD as he'd put on mine! Unfortunately, I have no idea how to burn CDs, so what I actually gave him was the list of songs, the lyrics to each song, and $15 to buy the songs from iTunes. (Nothing like a do-it-yourself Valentine's Day gift.)

His mom even sent along a present for me: a heart-shaped box of Whitman's chocolates -- so sweet! Growing up, I always received a box of Whitman's for Valentine's Day (it was my little tradition to save the chocolate with the little man on it to eat last).

Anyway, it was such a wonderful day, not to mention infinitely better than looking at endless profiles on or eHarmony of men who would never respond, or who'd e-mail me back and then flake out on me, or meet me for one date and turn out to be weirdos -- which is probably what I otherwise would've been doing on Valentine's Day. ;O

Though I shouldn't say anything too negative about That's how the Nicest Guy in the World and I met. :)

Hope you all had a very happy Valentine's Day!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Healthy -- and hopefully covered again soon!

The antibiotic is working -- I feel so much better! Turns out that when your pinkeye is disgustingly goopy and crusty, that means it is bacterial, not viral, and only an antibiotic will fix it.

But guess what? After all of my health insurance angst since losing my job in October, I'll soon be able to go back on my old health insurance plan -- for only $142 a month! Included in the stimulus bill is a provision for a 65% subsidy of one's COBRA premium. That's a lot cheaper than Healthy New York, which was going to cost me $233 without even any drug coverage. Apparently if you lost your job last September or later, you qualify. If you already turned down COBRA, once the bill passes you can call your old employer and tell them you want to do COBRA after all. We'll see how confusing that process will be. Hopefully it won't be too bad, because that would be the best deal by far. And if I have to see my doctor again, the man will actually get paid!

Also, people won't have to pay any federal income tax on the first $2,400 they receive in unemployment benefits in 2009. Woo-hoo!

Below is the article from the New York Times detailing how the stimulus bill could affect you.

February 12, 2009
Your Money: Stimulus Bill's Tax Breaks and Benefits

All the talk the last couple of days about the stimulus bill was about compromise and slimming down. What is left, though, is a huge spending bill, with well over $100 billion in tax breaks and handouts for individuals.
And most of us will be able to use at least one of them, though it will be difficult to get much money immediately, unlike the stimulus checks that went out last year.
What follows is a list of some of the biggest provisions in the bill that will hit you directly in the wallet. Keep in mind that the language in the measure isn’t quite final and the Senate and House still have to vote to approve it.
INCOME TAX In 2009 and 2010, there is a tax credit of up to $400 for individuals and $800 for married couples filing their taxes jointly. You calculate your credit, subtracted from other federal taxes you owe, by taking 6.2 percent of your earned income.
Your eligibility for this credit begins to phase out if you’re an individual with an adjusted gross income over $75,000 or a couple with income higher than $150,000.
Employers may end up adjusting tax withholdings on paychecks so that this credit trickles into your bank account over the course of the year. People who are self-employed can adjust their quarterly tax filings to account for the credit.
This credit is refundable, according to a summary of the stimulus bill that the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees released Thursday. That means that even if you have no federal income tax liability, you will still get the money.
UNEMPLOYMENT Normally, you pay federal income taxes on federal unemployment benefits. In 2009, however, you won’t have to pay taxes on the first $2,400 in benefits you receive.
HEALTH INSURANCE If you get fired, your company is required, thanks to a law known as Cobra, to allow you to pay to keep your health insurance, generally for up to 18 months.
The problem is, it can cost you $1,000 a month or more to keep the coverage.
Now, the federal government will subsidize 65 percent of the premium for up to nine months. To be eligible, you need to have been forced out of your job between Sept. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009. Also, your income in the year you receive the subsidy cannot be more than $125,000 for individuals or $250,000 for married couples filing their taxes jointly.
If you lost your job after Sept. 1, 2008, and declined Cobra coverage, you’ll now get another chance. Call your former company in the next two months to find out how this will work.
You need not keep an eye on the mail for a subsidy check from the government, according Kathryn Bakich, senior vice president in Washington of the Segal Company, a benefits consulting firm. Instead, your former employer will collect the money from the government.
SOCIAL SECURITY In 2009 a number of retirees and disabled people, including Social Security recipients, will receive a $250 refundable tax credit. The money would arrive within 120 days of the bill’s signing.
CAR BUYER TAX DEDUCTION For the rest of 2009, you’ll be able to deduct the state and local sales and excise taxes you pay on the purchase of a new (not used) car, light truck, recreational vehicle or motorcycle.
This will be an “above-the-line deduction,” according to Clint Stretch, the managing principal of tax policy at Deloitte L.L.C. in Washington. That means that you can take it regardless of whether you itemize other deductions on your tax return.
Mark Luscombe, principal tax analyst for CCH, a tax information service, notes that state sales taxes alone can run 6 to 7 percent, before any county or local tax kicks in. That said, if you trade in a vehicle, your taxable purchase price may be lower.
Eligibility for this tax break begins to phase out for single people with adjusted gross income over $125,000 or $250,000 for married couples filing jointly. And the deduction does not apply on spending above $49,500.
PELL GRANT According to a summary from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the maximum Pell Grant will increase by $500, to $5,350 in 2009 and $5,550 in 2010. The grants are generally for low-income students.
HIGHER EDUCATION TAX CREDIT This credit covers up to $2,500 of the cost of college tuition and other related expenses in 2009 and 2010. You’ll need to spend at least $4,000 in a single year to get the full credit. The credit begins to phase out for individual taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes over $80,000 or $160,000 for married couples filing jointly.
Forty percent of the credit is refundable, which benefits low-income students paying their way through school (who may owe no federal income taxes).
529 PLAN EXPANSION When you withdraw money from a 529 college savings plan, you can use it for tuition, room, board, books and other college expenses. In 2009 and 2010, families can also use the money for computers and computer technology, which could include educational software and Internet service for students living at home.
FIRST-TIME HOME BUYER CREDIT First-time home buyers are eligible for a refundable tax credit equal to 10 percent of the purchase price of their home, up to $8,000, if they made the purchase after Jan. 1, 2009, but before Dec. 1, 2009.
Unlike a similar credit that Congress provided last year, you don’t have to pay this one back over 15 years. The new credit, however, does phase out for individuals with incomes over $75,000 or married couples with incomes over $150,000 who file their taxes jointly. Also, you forfeit the credit if you sell the house within three years.
TRANSIT ACCOUNTS If you commute to work via public transportation, your employer may allow you to set aside pretax money from your paycheck to pay for the bus, train or parking. Currently, you can put aside only $120 a month for mass transit while those who drive and park can save $230. This year and next, those who take mass transit will also be able to put aside $230 each month.
A.M.T. PATCH Each year, Congress creates a temporary fix to keep millions of people from paying the alternative minimum tax. This year, the patch is part of the stimulus bill. “If you didn’t pay the A.M.T. last year, you probably won’t this year,” said Mr. Stretch of Deloitte. “For most people, this is a nonevent. They didn’t even realize they were in danger of being shot in the head by the A.M.T."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why I love my doctor; unemployment benefits extension!

My doctor is SO NICE. I went to see him today and explained my symptoms, and he said he's been seeing a lot of the pinkeye/cough/sore throat/congestion combination. "The bacteria that causes it can lead to pneumonia," he said (!). Good thing I dragged myself in to see him. He also told me conjunctivitis is one of the leading causes of blindness in developing countries -- isn't that sad? :( My lungs sound clear, but he wrote me a prescription for Azithromycin, an antibiotic. He said that should clear up the pinkeye, too, but also gave me a prescription for eyedrops just in case, and said to get that filled if my eyes aren't clear by Friday.

After all that, guess what he charged me? 20 bucks. Yes. That's IT. That was my co-pay when I had insurance, so he made no money on me even though he spent 40 minutes with me -- I love that man. If you need a general physician in Manhattan you should totally go to him! His name is Dr. Stephen Shaw, and his web site is

It cost $48.69 to get the Azithromycin prescription filled. Not bad, considering that certain medications I've gotten have cost me $60 just for the co-pay.

More good news: the Senate passed the stimulus package today, and it looks like unemployment benefits will be extended -- not just for 13 weeks, but for THE REST OF 2009! O happy day! :-D Benefits may also get raised by $25 per week, though that'll depend on each individual state, I'm sure. I'm so relieved. The unemployment/tutoring combination is allowing me to survive financially until I can hopefully (*fingers crossed*) find a full-time teaching job this fall.

Here are a couple of articles about the stimulus package:

"A Comparison of Economic Stimulus Plans" by the Associated Press:

A nicely detailed article that compares and contrasts the House version of the plan vs. the Senate's version.

"Stimulus would boost, extend unemployment checks" by Deb Riechmann, The Associated Press

This one has specific details about unemployment.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Still sick (*cough*)

But, I still managed to do my taxes! I wasn't sure if I'd be able to figure it out, since for 2008 I had two W2s and two 1099s from three jobs and unemployment, plus I had to fill out two self-employment forms for the tutoring. But I did it! Weirdly, I actually kind of enjoyed it. I like how taxes are a sort of puzzle you have to figure out. I don't really like puzzles, actually, but I didn't mind doing my taxes. It was just time-consuming. The possibility of getting a refund is powerful motivation, however! I ended up figuring out I owe the IRS thousands of dollars -- but I'd put aside what I thought I would owe in a special ING Direct savings account(, which I labeled "taxes." Fortunately, I oversaved, so now I have an extra $554.62 which I can keep for myself. Sweet!

...unless, of couse, I spend it all on my doctor's appointment tomorrow. :( I have to go, though -- the coughing and pinkeye are maybe a little better, but still there. He didn't have any openings today, so I'm going tomorrow at 3:00 PM. I explained I don't have health insurance right now, and he said he'd give me a discount. He's such a nice doctor.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Details on Resource Room teaching job

When I talked to the woman at the tutoring agency today about the part-time Resource Room teaching job, she said, "The principal really liked you and was so impressed with you -- she even asked if you could work there next schoolyear, which I've never had happen before the tutor has started!" Which is pretty funny, because the principal did not interview me. She has never met me. In fact, she wasn't even in the building when I arrived (she was off at some meeting), so I interviewed with an underling whose name I never quite caught. I assume she was the vice-principal, but I don't know for sure. So I thought that was amusing.

But I don't think I would be able to work there next year even if I wanted to, because the vice-principal (or whoever she was) said the part-time Resource Room was pretty much the extent of their special education program there, and I need a full-time job! At least it's nice to know I'm going in on a high note, although it's also a little nerve-wracking. If they like me this much before I've even done anything, it can only go downhill from here, right? Now I know how President Obama feels. ;)

The woman at the tutoring agency may have another part-time job for me, working with two or three kids at another school just a few blocks away in the late afternoons, which could work out nicely. But I don't even have a start date yet for the Resource Room job -- apparently they have to get all of the students' parents to sign permission forms first. Since that will take several days, at least, and since February break is from 2/16 - 2/20, I'm guessing I won't start until 2/23.

Which is fine, because I need to recover -- I am sick. I started getting a terrible sore throat and a fever on Sunday night. The fever went away after a couple of days of taking Tylenol, fortunately, but the sore throat had to be the worst one I've had in 10 years -- every time I swallowed, I was in utter agony -- but that finally started going away on Thursday, thank God. Now I just have to get rid of the cough/cold/pinkeye. The pinkeye is pretty disgusting-looking (I'll spare you the gory details), but I hope it goes away on its own. Healthy New York delayed my health insurance application because I didn't include four weeks' pay stubs from my college teaching job (because I only get paid once a month, as I patiently explained to them on the phone), so I don't have health insurance until March 1st. Sigh!

I couldn't tutor my 7th grade student yesterday, unfortunately (I miss paid sick days!), but I dragged myself there on Wednesday. At the end of our session he read me a list of funny pick-up lines he found on the Internet. Here were my two favorites:

1) "Let's make like a fabric softener and Snuggle."

2) "Are you a parking ticket?"
"No, why?"
"Because you've got FINE written all over you!"

What can I say? They made me laugh. (Have I mentioned that I'm sick??)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I got the gig!

The tutoring agency called me today and said I got the part-time Resource Room teacher job! Yay! I'm not sure yet when I'll start, but probably sometime next week. :)

Also, I was accepted to attend two days of (free) training in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) with an Early Intervention agency in a couple of weeks. Early Intervention is one-on-one teaching for kids ages 0 - 3 who are experiencing some sort of delay. After the two full days of training, I'll do ten hours of observation/practice, and if I do well with that, they will assign me some Early Intervention cases where I'll work one-on-one with kids in Brooklyn in their homes. I'm a little nervous about teaching such young kids -- babies, really -- but so many children receive Early Intervention services these days, it will be really valuable experience.

So if I can keep tutoring the seventh grade student I currently tutor through one agency six hours a week, and if I can do the part-time Resource Room teacher job through the other agency, and if I can keep my unemployment, I should be able to survive financially until I (HOPEFULLY) land a full-time-with-benefits teaching job this fall -- IF Congress passes legislation to extend unemployment benefits again. To qualify for the current extension, you have to exhaust your current benefits by March 31st, and mine won't run out until two weeks later (d'oh! missed it by *that much*!).

I really, really, really hope the extension passes. If it doesn't, hopefully the Early Intervention gig will work out and make up the financial difference. *fingers crossed*

I was pleased to see that Obama signed that bill extending health care coverage to more low-income children today (, and I'm very curious to see what happens with his proposal to make people who are on unemployment automatically qualify for Medicaid. That would really be a godsend. Let's put it this way: I receive $405 per week in unemployment benefits, which is the most you can get in NY State. But you have to pay taxes on it, so I let the feds take out 10% every week, which brings it down to $364.50 per week (I'm sure I'll actually owe about 25% on it in total when I file my taxes, but they won't take out more than 10% when they give it to you). That's $1,458 per month -- too much to qualify for Medicaid or food stamps. But the rent on my one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn is $993 per month, and the cheapest plan available under Healthy New York, the public program for those too "rich" to qualify for Medicaid (i.e., single adults without children who earn more than $600-something per month) is like $185 per month. That leaves $280 for the month -- $280 for food, electricity, phone, transportation, laundry, etc.

If I didn't have these part-time jobs, I'd never make it.

That's why this economic meltdown is so frightening. I am incredibly lucky to have an education, a teaching certificate, work experience, to be living in a big city with a variety of industries, and to not have anyone else to support besides myself. What about people, especially people with children to feed, who never went past high school and have always worked at jobs that never required more than that -- jobs that are now disappearing? What are they going to do?? :(

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Success! hopefully (at least part-time)

My second interview today for a part-time teaching job seemed to go well! If I get it, I would be a Resource Room teacher for two periods a day in the afternoon at a public high school here in NYC. It's a neat school because it's focused on the performing arts -- music, drama, and film -- and all the kids who want to go there have to audition. But I would be working through a tutoring agency, not an employee of the school itself.

The cons: It's not full-time with benefits; it pays $40 an hour instead of $60, which is the going rate for a special ed tutor in NYC; and it's a one-hour-and-fifteen-minute commute each way.

The pros: I would be paid through the tutoring agency as an independent contractor, which counts as self-employment, so it wouldn't jeopardize my unemployment benefits; being a Resource Room teacher basically means helping the kids with their work from their other classes, so I wouldn't have to come up with lesson plans or grade papers; it would give me experience with high school kids (the one school-age group I haven't worked with) in probably the least stressful way possible; there are only eight students in each class; and there's another teacher in the room, too, plus a teacher's aide.

So, I hope they liked me!

In other news, I sent the following e-mail to the principal of the charter school in Brooklyn that offered me the long-term substitute teaching position:

Dear Ms. XXXX,
Ms. So-and-So called me today about the substitute teaching position that starts on Thursday. Unfortunately, since the position does not provide benefits, I have to decline it. Although I am fortunate not to have any chronic health issues or anything, I would still be too nervous to forego health insurance (right now I qualify for Healthy New York, but if I were substituting full-time I would no longer qualify).
If a permanent teaching job does become available, I hope you will keep me in mind.
Thank you very much,

Artichoke Heart

She responded:

Dear Artichoke Heart,
Thank you for your reply. We will keep you in mind for the September position.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Job Search

I got laid off from my fundraising job at a health organization back in October. I wasn't too broken up about it because my boss was rarely in the office and I hardly had anything to do. What I miss are the paychecks (ironically, it was the highest-paying job I've ever had) and the health insurance!

I've been looking into becoming certified as a Learning Disabilities Teacher/Consultant, but since you need three years of classroom teaching experience to do that, and I only have two, I need to get a teaching job. I got my master's in special education ten years ago and have a permanent NY State teaching certificate, and since special ed is a shortage area, I didn't think it would be too hard.

A few weeks ago I had an interview at a charter school in Brooklyn. It was a panel interview, which are always a little intimidating -- the principal, special education coordinator, and two teachers all grilled me. I was actually lucky there were only four people, because, as the principal said, "Usually our ENTIRE hiring committee would be here, but they're off doing emergency teaching assignments because we have three vacancies."

Three teaching positions open in the middle of the year -- I figured I had a shot. Sure enough, 24 hours after that first interview, the special education coordinator contacted me, saying the committee had liked what I had to say. Could I come in the following Thursday and teach a demonstration lesson to one of the eighth grade classes? Why, of course I could.

I sweated and slaved over this lesson, then went into the school on January 15th and taught it, with the hiring committee watching. It was a challenge because I didn't know the kids, and I ran out of time at the end so I had to cut short the group activity I had planned. But the kids were pretty good, and seemed fairly engaged. They certainly didn't make me want to run out of the school screaming or anything. But by the time the period ended, the entire hiring committee had already left, except for the special ed coordinator who just said, "We'll be in touch in the next day or two."

But they weren't in touch in the next day or two. They didn't contact me at all -- until today (more than two weeks after I taught my demo lesson), when the school secretary called me. "The principal wanted me to call and ask you if you would be interested in a substitute teaching position starting this Thursday," she said.

Substituting? Huh?? "For what subject?" I asked.

"What subject were you interviewed for?" she said.

"Special ed."

"Then it must be a special ed substitute position."

It "must be"? Shouldn't you know for sure what the job is before you offer it to somebody? "How long would it last?" I asked.

"Well, it's open-ended. We've had temps in the classroom since there isn't a permanent teacher in that class right now. It could lead to a permanent position," she said.

I asked what the rate was, and she said $154 per hour, but I'm sure she meant $154 per day -- if it were $154 per hour, that would be over $150,000 per year! "And no benefits," she added helpfully.

Great. I asked if I could think about it, and she said yes. But what I really wanted to say was, "So let me get this straight. You asked me to come in for an interview for one of three vacant teaching jobs, and I did. You liked what I said and asked me to teach a sample lesson, which I did. After observing that, you think I would be good enough to teach -- but only as a subsititute??" Seriously, what are they thinking? I interviewed for a permanent job; I'm ready, willing and able to take a permanent job; but instead they want to hire me as a sub and continue this parade of temporary teachers in that classroom? How can that possibly be good for the kids? And, it's already February -- it's not like they'd be making some big commitment to me if they just hired me to teach from February through June. Once the schoolyear ends, couldn't they just not renew my contract if they didn't like me?

I guess they really don't want to pay benefits. I'm very fortunate that I don't have any health issues (knock on wood), but I don't want to go without health insurance. If I were substituting I would earn too much to qualify for Healthy New York, the public insurance program I will soon be on (for $235 per month out of pocket, of course). And if I'm teaching full-time, planning lessons and grading papers and managing a classroom just the same as a permanent teacher, I really shouldn't have to forego the benefits. What cheapskates.