Maybe the flawed school board meeting was the fault of the blood moon, the second in a tetra of blood moons. Few things inspire superstition like the red orb, and if the moon could have made a difference that evening, it did. In school that day, my students and I had discussed the impending phenomena, but none of us were sure it would be worth getting out of bed at 4:30 the next morning just to see a lunar eclipse.
The teacher had school board meeting that night.
As I headed down the hill to school, my mind wrestled with the school board. They seemed to want nothing but absolute authority. With me as a personal slave. How long, I wondered, had those board members actually taught a classroom? This was my fourth year. How could the inexperienced advise the experienced? Wouldn’t it be better for the school board to step a side and give me more room to shine? An eclipse becomes bloody.
We sat down at a table together.
In the previous board meeting the school board had set my salary for the current year. Now, at the start of this meeting, I happened to see an array of numbers on one of the board member’s papers. The numbers were obviously suggestions for a monthly salary, and sure enough $2000 was circled. That was it, $2000 a month. My mind went backward a winter to a discussion on wages in Outback Steakhouse.
“How much do you make a month?” Bruce asked.
“How much should I make?” I countered, chewing on the end of a sparerib.
My friend looked thoughtful, “Don’t know, but a guy your age should probably be making three grand a month.”
I dropped the bone. “Eighteen hundred.”
We groaned together. Teachers make next to nothing. Back then, I wished I wouldn’t have committed to teach another year.
But here I am again. It’s another year, and another meeting taking advice from folks with less experience than I, who pay me subsistence wages.
Within a few minutes, a board member across the table flipped his paper over. It wasn’t really for me to see, but running up the upside-down page was list of numbers. I can read upside down. Across from 2000 was 4 years. Above that was 2200 and 5 years. Next came 2400 and 6 years. The list continued on at the same sickening rate, increasing 200 dollars a year. My stomach knotted. I would make $3000 a month during my ninth year of teaching. I had to teach another five years to make what my peers had made last year.
Outside, the moon may have already been darkening. Yet I doubt it. At least not the bloody part.
In previous months I had fought a battle about finances. I had fought it in my soul, and finally decided money didn’t matter as long as I could teach. As long as I could teach with authority, using whatever method necessary.
Pulling my mind back to the meeting I proposed a work incentive plan I wanted to implement to help lazy students feel like trying. I wished to not assign the even problems on the student’s math reviews if they could score above 95% on their previous lesson. I also followed up with a plan for increased pain, should the students score lower that 85%. I thought I presented it well: my situation, my reasoning, and my cure. “The student’s work is thankless,” I commented, “they need a bit of payback.”
The school board shot it down. I could very well list all their faulty reasoning here, but I won’t. Their reasoning included questioning whether it’s healthy to reward honest work. They weren’t sure why a good student should receive a lightened workload. They wondered why a warm feeling about a good job isn’t enough for students. In short, they made my idea sound ludicrous.
Yet somehow, finally, after much arguing and persuading and rehearsing facts and giving supporting evidence and answering elementary questions; I knocked the school boards novice reasoning from under them and prevailed, of sorts. One board member finally looked around at the rest and said, “We can let him go ahead with this?” He shrugged his shoulders. I then knew I shouldn’t have even wasted their time with such a trivial item.
But I was burnt. I hoped I would remember this in December when they try to get me to teach again. I can’t carry on in a school that won’t help me. I can’t carry on being a pawn and a pauper. I’ll work for someone who actually likes what I do. In fact, I likely could glorify God in other occupations as well.
But worst of all, I was too burnt out to be even a good school teacher.
My heart felt cold, how could I wake in the early morning of the next day to see a lunar eclipse firsthand?
I smugly set my alarm for 5:45, and crawled into bed, too tired and too put out to feel like trying. The eclipse would likely be concealed by clouds. If they want to ruin their school, they can.
But as I lay quiet, something deeper stirred inside. Something strong. Something that can’t be tampered with. Something that will not die.
I thought of the pupils.
I crawled out of bed. I reset the alarm to 4:30 and woke when it rang. Stumbling outside, I gazed at a sliver of moon shining through the haze. I went back into the warm house and set the alarm for 5:45. I crawled back into bed.
And I had a horrific dream that I was arguing, actually arguing in a heated and unholy way with an obstinate school board. I felt pain in the pit of my stomach. I awoke, took a shower, read my Bible, asked forgiveness of God, went to school, put a smile on my face, and asked those students if they had been able to see the blood moon too.
“The greatest frustrations in teaching often have little to do with the students and more to do with school politics.” – Rafe Esquith