Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The One in Which Everyone Gets Schooled

With August well under way, school is quickly becoming the focus of my family’s lives. Each of us, in our own way, is concerned with school: Where will we be going? When will we be going? Will we be going?  The answers vary from one person to the next.

Let’s start with the kiddos. As of today, Edison and Peter are officially enrolled for school. This will be Peter’s first foray into a brick-and-mortar school after doing virtual school in Florida. It will also be both Eddie’s and Peter’s first time attending school in Utah. It’s exciting, but also a tiny bit overwhelming. The structure will be good, but it requires all of us to be more disciplined. Plus, Eddie loved his school in Tallahassee, and I’m not sure his Utah school can compare. I also secretly worry about the impact Utah culture will have on my boys. You can confront a lot of closed-mindedness in Utah, and sometimes kids are among the worst perpetrators of such things (though the attitudes expressed almost certainly fall back on what they are learning from their parents). It will be an interesting experience for us, I believe.

Next up: Melanie. As of today, Melanie is employed as a Kindergarten teaching assistant. Yes, an assistant. We have mixed feelings about this. Our main goal, of course, was for Melanie to get a full-time teaching job. We were quite confident that this would happen. But Melanie hasn’t been teaching for eight years, and her license is officially considered expired. It can be renewed, and schools can hire her while she works on renewing the license. But it turns out many schools have been leery of that, or so we assume. I think because she’s been out of the loop for a while and doesn’t have a currently active license, she’s getting passed up by most people. Only a couple of schools have interviewed her. The good thing is, when they do interview Melanie, they love her. Sadly, one of the schools that interviewed her is a “Title I” school, and they have certain requirements imposed on them concerning whom they can hire. Melanie doesn’t fit those requirements, precisely because of the lapsed license. The principal at this particular school seemed disappointed that he couldn’t hire her, and he’s even offered to keep Melanie somewhat involved in his school’s events (including professional development opportunities that will help Melanie renew her license). He’s really being generous about helping her, and it suggests that he might want to keep her around so he can hire her next year when her license is again active. Alas, the only job offer that presented itself to Melanie was to be a part-time teaching assistant. Obviously, this sucks because it is a lot less money. However, it will be enough for us while we’re living with Melanie’s parents. It guarantees we’ll be living under their roof until at least June, but we’ll be fine. The assistantship position will also work toward Melanie’s relicensing requirements, which is a huge perk. On top of that, the school is incredibly convenient to us. I think that will end up being even more appreciated than we may now realize. And finally, it’s admittedly kind of nice for Melanie to have a part-time job to ease back into this sort of thing. It won’t feel like such an abrupt change, and she’ll be able to remain quite involved in the kids’ lives and schooling and whatnot. Yes, we’re choosing to look at the bright side here, but there is plenty on that bright side to admire.

And then there’s me. (I guess it should be, “And then there’s I.” But how snooty would that sound?) I’m facing a bit of a dilemma. I will be having carpal tunnel surgery within the next couple of months, but no sooner than five weeks from now. My insurance requires me to go through a bunch of other treatments first, so it doesn’t matter that doctors feel surgery is inevitable. What that means is, shortly into the fall semester, my right hand will be put completely out of commission. It will remain so for about a month, at which point my other hand is likely to receive surgery and be unusable for a month. I am highly unlikely to produce much on my dissertation during that time—but that’s most of the semester. This has thrown a bit of wrench into things, because my main goal upon moving to Utah was to wrap up my dissertation during the fall semester. Now, there’s little chance of doing so before the spring. And really, that’s not such a big deal. The problem is that, my school does not allow you to remain un-enrolled for two subsequent semesters. I was not enrolled for the summer, and so if I don’t enroll for the fall, I will be breaking their rules. What that means is, I will then have to reapply for admission to the school. Almost as if I were a brand new student. “So, just sign up for a couple of dissertation hours and don’t worry about putting them to use!” Perhaps that is what you’re thinking. Well, yeah, that’s one very expensive way to handle this. But that gets to the heart of the bigger problem—money. How can I afford tuition, especially tuition that won’t really help me because I won’t really be getting much work done, when we don’t have much of an income? As I said above, we’ll have enough for our basic needs and bills. But my plan to remain enrolled in graduate school was based on my assumption that Melanie would be working full time. “And why can’t you work, too, Benjamin?” Maybe that’s your follow-up question. Well, I’ve considered that. Originally, that was not the plan because the whole point of me being here and not continuing as a TA in Florida was that I could focus 100% on the dissertation. My dissertation chair has advised me not to try to work while I wrap up my dissertation, and I think that is very good advice. But there’s also the issue of the carpal tunnel! That’s likely to hinder me from doing any temporary job I might consider getting. So, anyway … it’s all a bit crazy. And right now, I’m not entirely sure what to expect. I may just skip the fall semester and reapply for the spring. I’m under the impression that I’ll pretty much be guaranteed to get back in without a problem, but there are some questions I need to have answered before I feel totally secure going this route. Stay tuned.

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