Have you ever seen the George Clooney movie, Up in the Air? The movie takes its title from the main character, Ryan Bingam's quest for frequent flier miles as he zig zags across the country firing people. Bingam loves his job and is very efficient at it because he is detached from the people in his life. He is single, no children and has two sisters that he keeps in touch with via phone from time to time. I watched the movie thinking his job sucks never imagining that I would soon meet the likes of Ryan Bingam.
After sixteen years in the classroom, I decided to expand my career opportunities by becoming a mentor teacher. So, I left the comfort and security of the classroom to go from school to school helping beginning teachers become better teachers. Even though my work was challenging and sometimes disheartening, I took joy in the fact that I had an active role in shaping the minds of our children. All that changed on Wednesday, June 16, 2010.
I reported for a mandatory meeting at 8:30 a.m. and before 9:00 am, my career flight was canceled. After 18 years of service to the children in the Chicago Public School system I began my rapid descent to the bottom with no safety net--no pay out for my 10 weeks worth of sick days, no insurance after June 30, no regard for my tenured status or my commitment to the students in CPS. I stayed after being urged to get out of CPS students be damned.
Just as in the movie, two professionally dressed people (in my case, women) read from the prepared script and handed us our lives in brown envelopes addressed to each one of us individually. In there were our letters of "honorable termination", explanations of how we were further being screwed because of a loophole in our union contract, a sheet of FAQs, information on unemployment and health insurance which cost nearly as much as the maximum unemployment benefits.
Everything that was up in the air came crashing down in that surreal moment. Do you know what it feels like to fall and not know where you're going to land? Do you know how scary it is because you don't know what you'll slam into on the way down? Do you know what it feels like to not know if you're going to land on your feet, fall to your knees, or be flat on your back?
Me and 54 of my colleagues crash landed and now we have to sort through the debris that's left so we can get ready for the next leg of this journey. Bingam prided himself on not carrying excess baggage which made it easier for him to disconnect. Maybe we should take a lesson from Bingam and pack lightly but what's the point of traveling if you're not going to enjoy the trip?