Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I can't sleep. I'm not in pain, though I did have a migraine earlier today (but it was the first in a week, so that's good for me!).  No, it's not my body, it's my brain. It won't shut off.

It all started yesterday. My fiance sent me a text message saying that the superintendent of the school district he teaches in came to talk to the faculty and announced yet another pay cut to the teachers.  Since he began working in this state, he's suffered a 30% reduction in pay - no part of which was due to poor evaluations, but all consequences of the state legislature brutally slashing primary and secondary education funding. So this wasn't exactly unexpected, but it is disheartening.  They're trying to pretend like it's not a pay cut by saying their salaries are remaining the same, but the district is refusing to pay part of the retirement contributions, and the state is essentially stealing its 3% contribution to use to cover the enormous debt the legislature is in.  [The state promises it'll pay the teachers back what they owe them, but I'm not going to hold my breath on that one.]  This all essentially means that my fiance will be losing an extra $4500 for the year. It doesn't sound like much, but when they've already reduced his salary down below $30,000, that's a huge cut.

So we had a hard conversation about our finances. We worked out what our monthly required bills are - mortgage, water, electric, gas, HOA fee, car insurance, medical insurance, home owners' insurance, etc. We figured out that his reduced salary - assuming they don't cut even more before August - will maybe just barely cover those mandatory bills. It won't be enough to put anything in savings, and it might not even be enough to cover weekly gas and food bills. It certainly wouldn't be possible to start a family with just his salary - something we both are hoping we can do fairly soon, since we're both starting on our 30s.

All this means that I have to work. Unless something dramatic changes for his position, we cannot live on his salary alone. And that leads to what is keeping me awake and unable to shut down the brain. I've worked in education for 8 years now.  Longer, if you count all the tutoring and grading I did as an undergrad for the Spanish and History departments. I've taught close to 1,000 students at three state universities. I love teaching, and I love my students. I have my MA, I attained ABD status in my PhD program.  I've been in Spain three times doing dissertation research.

And I might walk away from academia altogether. I wrote out a non-academic resume and posted it on an employment site in the hopes it would help me get started on looking for a job for after our wedding. But searching there, along with a few things my fiance said, have pushed me down a totally different path.

I might be considering a radical change in my career - one that would require me to go back to school at the lower level, perhaps for an academic year, to obtain the requisite training.  I even went so far as to research programs and request information from a few of them that are close to my fiance's house. It's crazy, right? I was a student from age 5 to age 29 non-stop, with the exception of the months I was taking care of Mom that first winter that she was fighting cancer. Do I really want to go back to school, at this point?

The cons are:
1. the money it would require - not a ton (at least not compared with being a grad student with no funding),
2. the time - from what I've seen, I'd probably have to be in training/class for about 9 months, so I'd have to figure out a plan to earn money and go to school without going nuts, and
3. the uncertainty about whether this is really the best option for me, and whether I'd be happy doing it.

There are a number of "pros" to consider, as well. 
1. job availability - it's in a field that is growing by leaps and bounds, and, at least compared to teaching history, offers a far greater possibility that I could be earning decent money within the next year,

2. flexibility - because of the field and the need, I would be far more likely to have a job no matter where we lived; if this state continues to treat the secondary teachers so badly, we might not have a choice but to move in a few years. It would be awfully nice if I had a career that was easily movable.  While I always thought teaching was that, the market for history profs (especially ones without PhD in hand) is shrinking every year, and there's no guarantee that I can even find a job here, say nothing of somewhere else.

3. the pay - it wouldn't actually be a lot, at least not compared to many fields, but as long as my fiance's salary could cover our major expenses, anything that I earn could be used for daily living (i.e., car fuel, food, occasional expenses) and the rest could be put into savings. Both of us have had to live paycheck to paycheck - me for the last 8 years, him for the last 2.  It would be so incredibly nice to have money saved away - for kids, for retirement, for medical bills, etc.

4. I also realized that this potential career change wouldn't necessarily prevent me from teaching in the future, if a job was available. I applied again for the adjunct pool at the community college system, and it is possible that I could teach a class in the future even if I change my primary focus. I also realized that, if I really loved it, I could potentially teach the new skills later on down the line.

This is crazy, right?

The problem is... maybe it isn't. Maybe it really is the best move for me, for my career potential, and for our family life.  I can't imagine how much less stress my fiance would live with if we knew we could provide for ourselves and any little ones that come along. I'm praying about it. I can't stop thinking about it. Last night I was up until 2 a.m. researching it. It's after 12:30 tonight and I still can't get my brain to shut off. My parents were actually highly amenable to the idea, which shocked me a bit. I need to pray. I need to ponder. I need to really talk with someone who could tell me what I could expect. But this feels like a really serious, potentially great possibility.

And I'm just a little scared.

No comments: