Somehow I thought this year would be different. It's not.
Every year for the six years since I entered education, I've been laid off. It is the same cycle. Tales of budget problems start in January. Preliminary layoff notices go out in March. Final notices are given out May 15. And until last year, every year I've gotten hired back to the same school in June or July.
I realize it is not just me. It is not just Santa Clara County; it is not just California. Across the country, this has become the norm. As states and local school districts try to make sense of their budget crises, tens of thousands of our newest teachers are given layoff notices, sometimes being hired back as late as August, sometimes never.
Last year, I did not get called back. Because I cannot imagine not teaching, I accepted a one-year contract to teach in a new district. Hiring teachers as temps helps districts manage their head count and budget by not bringing on permanent employees who may be more difficult to lay off. However, I was permanent, or tenured, at my last district, and I was laid off just the same. I am not sure tenure helps secure anything, or should.
So I started this year with my eyes wide open. Since I knew my last day was going to be June 7, I only moved about half of my teacher stuff and class library, bought with my own money, out of my storage unit and into my new classroom. I was friendly but tried not to make friends. I even tried to keep my students at an emotional distance. I had been so hurt last year, I didn't want to become connected to my new school. This year would be different.
But a funny thing happened on the way to being laid off again. Of course I made connections. I made friends. Even though they knew I was a temp, my new district invested in me with many hours of professional development and, most recently, accepted me into a 1:1 iPad trial. In April, each of my students received an iPad for school use! Since my first career was in high tech, being able to meld technology and education is a passion for me. They found my sweet spot.
Try as I might, this year is no different. I developed a love for every one of my students. I started talking about what my colleagues and I would collaborate on next year. And so I cried on March 15 and, once again, despite my best intentions, it will hurt deeply when I get laid off for real.
Yet for the next eight weeks, I will teach my students with enthusiasm and commitment. I will stand up at Open House and greet prospective fourth-graders with excitement when they tell me how much they hope they can be in my class next year. And when my darlings are promoted and say they'll come back to see me next year, I'll tell them I can't wait to see them. And that's true.
But I still expect to get my final layoff notice on May 15. On June 8, I'll be packing back up my books, my posters and other teacher tools and putting them back in storage. Maybe I'll get a call in August; maybe I won't.
Either way, I sure hope next year will be different.
Sandy McConnell of Santa Clara teaches at Bagby Elementary School in Cambrian School District. She wrote this for this newspaper.