Strange life events

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Strange life events
Tue Jan 22, 2013 12:55 am
  • Everything went sort of haywire in the last week. I've been off of work for exactly six months now due to being unable to eat or keep any food down, surgeries, etc. I think my employer has given up on me, but they won't fire me. They will fire me the day I come back in, but they won't fire me while I'm away. They want me to quit so I can't qualify for unemployment.

    Strange stuff. As I've been laying here essentially dying I've been thinking I'd like a last crack at teaching. I was a good teacher. It was the one thing I did really well in my life I think. But I don't see a chance forthcoming for a lot of reasons.

    Randomly and interestingly, this lady who teaches in the toughest area in the state and in the lowest performing school in the state (area has many homeless shelters and gang issues and so on, and has almost 75% turnover on teachers per year). She randomly calls and says that she has heard of me before and that I was somebody that is known for working with really hard to deal with kids and have had lots of success, specifically on end of year testing, and advancement and placement for future school years. It was semi-random.

    She asks if I'm still teaching, as she had heard from a mutual acquaintance at BYU that I might have quit (which I did do 2 years ago last week). She then just randomly says.... "Well, I was wondering if you'd come teach my class for a month. I am due to have a baby any day and these students need a long-term substitute, but it has to be somebody who's nationally highly qualified for the No Child Left Behind Act, has to hold a current Level 2 professional license, has to be ESL endorsed, has to speak conversational Spanish, etc. etc." It was quite a list, but I was like, "Yes, I meet all of those criteria, but I have a job and am sick and on short term disability. I don't think it would be worth it to go teach for a month for $90 a day and no benefits as that is a MASSSSSSIVE cut in pay and it's a long drive back and forth.

    She asks if I'll come up and meet her and volunteer an hour of my time to just talk to her and her teaching mates and see the school and stuff. So I begrudgingly agree and head up on Friday afternoon, even though I'm really sick still. But I tough it out and get there in a snowstorm and the temp was 5 degrees out. Brutal.

    We start talking and she explains the class and then says, "Here's the thing.... I am not coming back next year. I will come back in the 2nd week of April and teach until July (they are on year round) and then I will leave. The principal said that whoever comes in long term would have a really strong foothold on the position for next year, and we need male teachers here desperately, and we need good teachers here desperately."

    I start thinking about it. She is in a brand new building, right in the middle of a slum. She has every technological gizmo I fought for 10 years to get and got 1 (1 computer) in my old "rich school". There are iPads for every kid. Macbooks for every kid. A projector and a soundsystem, along with a smart board, and a teaching document camera that goes through the projector and onto the smart board. I am just blown away. Then she shows me a room full of hundreds of leveled books and so on. Just tons of equipment for science experiments, and tells me that she has two other people come in daily to help her teach reading. That her class size is capped at 23 (my last class was 38).

    I'm seriously considering it. It's a very risky move. Just to take a month long sub job in hopes that it pays off into a full-time position next year, would be kind of crazy. But is it worth it? I felt like those kids needed me. I felt like I needed those kids. It's a pain of a drive. It's going into what everybody here considers a "scary" place. I'd be taking a massive paycut. I'd lose out on a lot of benefits, including my yearly bonuses, which were close to what I made in a year in teaching. But something has been gnawing at me all weekend.

    I've been really sick and it just keeps beating me down to where I figure it's all going to end soon. But I wonder if teaching can save me somehow. I don't know how to explain it. I keep having that Shawshank line running through my head, where Red says, "Get busy livin'or get busy dyin', you're damn right." I just feel like maybe a window is creaking open offering me a chance to wrap things up where I'd want to be... in a classroom, helping some kids who really struggle, and hopefully making their lives better.

    Now the question is... how unethical is it of me to have been sick (and still be sick) for six months, and maybe I'm ready and healthy enough to return to work in about 2 weeks, and I just decide to go work elsewhere as a temp. Is that corny? Will I get nailed for having to pay them back money if I do that since they paid me disability (in sporadic chunks if they felt like it) while I've been down? I don't feel I can get up to 40 hours a week of working, but this teaching gig would be 32 hours a week (of course it adds up to more, but technically my contract time would be shorter and easier on my body).

    I just am having a real crisis of conscience here. I want to do what is right by everybody, and there is really no way to do so. I want to make sure my employer doesn't attack me for tons of cash. I wish they'd just send me a letter and terminate me for being sick for too long so I can just have no choice and will have to take a short term teaching job to make ends meet. I don't want Liberty Mutual coming after me after having paid me to try to get better, but then I don't return to the company I was on leave from. So many confusing points. The best thing that could happen is that the company I work for just releases me tomorrow (terminates me), Liberty Mutual then denies my claim again and says they are giving me no more money, and then I don't have to pay them or my employer back anything. I just need to mail in my security badges and decoder dongles and such that let me into the system and walk away. Or.... I need the principal to call and say "We won't hire you at the end" and then try to hurry and snap back into my current company and be a pretend employee who "loves my job!" for a few more years or until my body shuts down.

    Tough times. No easy answers, and no answers forthcoming. I feel stuck on a tiny island with a rock and a palm tree and that's about it. Then today my Mom falls and hits her head and is told that her organs are going bad, she got a massive cut on her forehead, and so on, and we're staying with her while we build a house. Now I'm wondering if I should sell her house and insist she moves in with us so we can watch her, or cancel our house building and just stay here so we can take care of her since she likes this home. Or if I should just get no job and watch her 24/7 to make sure she's fed, taken care of, etc. It's a difficult week, but it seems like possibilities of a different life are coming around. They are just confusing.
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Re: Strange life events
Tue Jan 22, 2013 1:15 am
  • Shark, do what you feel is right. Deep down, do you think that you should move to this school and help these kids? Will it improve your view on your life, and improve your feeling of self-worth?

    Honestly, from reading your post I think the decision is pretty much already made. I think that you badly want to work in this school and rediscover what made you like to teach in the first place. Think of your family first, and then think about what will make you happy and healthy (not just physically, but mentally as well). Then think about what effect your health and happiness will have on your family. If you are happy with what you are doing, even if your family has to struggle a bit to support you, I think it would be the proper decision. But of course you should discuss it with your family.

    With your mother I think it is a very difficult issue that I used to think about with my dad for quite a while. My dad had some severe injuries that we both thought were going to be permanent, but luckily he has made a rather miraculous recovery. I always just thought that I would let him make the decision, and as long as I felt like he was coherent and responsible enough to choose for himself, I would listen to him. My dad never really liked his old place though, so I'm not sure exactly what you should do with your mom.

    I get a feel from your posts that your a good person who is looking for a bit of hope, and I sincerely hope you find it Shark. Good luck to you bud.
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Re: Strange life events
Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:05 am
  • What an awesome post! Thank you. I saw you were from Auburn, and it all made sense. Having been born at Auburn Hospital and spent a good chunk of my life in Auburn/Federal Way unincorporated I met more wonderful and caring people than any other place in the world, and I've been everywhere. People care in general, and I am always happy to hear from those in my "hometown" because they have the real solid world view, and tend to see things for what is best for all folks. You mentioned my family. Key point.

    I think here's what would happen.... financially we would drop down and struggle a bit. My wife has a doctorate equivalent, teaches extended day (equivalent to teaching year round, because her contract is for 9 hours a day, instead of the standard 7). So she does ok, and we have gotten by on just her salary. Financially we do better than we should when I'm not sick and working full time in software. But I get no time off. No breaks. No vacations, no energy to spend time with my kids.

    I think I'd have a much better chance of living a longer and more healthy and happier life, which would do miracles for my kids if I were happier. I can function in pain if my mental state is good and I see positive. I think going and helping struggling kids with ADD/ADHD/Autism/Poverty/Inability to read/No male role models, etc. would fill my "happiness bowl" up each day and I'd have more to spread around. I think you're right about the decision being made. I guess I'm hoping my current employer makes the decision they feel I'd hate and fire me. Then they can't come after me for anything (financially). They will have decided to let me go and in a sense will be "eating it". I just need them to can me. Then I can call Liberty Mutual and say "I"m out of luck, they canned me anyway. Have a nice life!"

    As for my mom, you're right. I'm ready to jump just because today at the hospital was scary. She's only 71. She has lots of good years left. She just needs to get better nutrition, make sure she's getting vitamins, and she needs it to be her choice. I'll offer her a place to stay. Then she can take it or leave it. But I want her to know I'm here and will do whatever she asks.

    We'll see if my prayers are answered and I get released from my positin tomorrow and change my fortunes a bit for a better and happier (if even a lot poorer me).
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Re: Strange life events
Tue Jan 22, 2013 8:48 am
  • Do it my friend. The kids need you. You need those kids. It's in your Life Plan for pete's sakes. You're welcome. ;)
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Re: Strange life events
Tue Jan 22, 2013 9:03 am
  • I really envy you have teaching as a profession, hermano. Like REALLY jealous of that. Alot of us are unable to work somewhere that nourishes our humanity.

    Do it, dummy.
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Re: Strange life events
Tue Jan 22, 2013 9:13 am
  • I say do the teaching job as well. Going to a job that is both challenging and rewarding is really an ideal scenario. As for your old job, is there any way you could schedule a face to face and just be honest with them? Tell them that your health has deteriorated and that you no longer feel physically able to come back to the position they have been kindly holding for you, give them your thanks and offer them an apology for not being able to return. Then book it those kids in need and renew a career you enjoy. Best of luck, Shark!
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Re: Strange life events
Tue Jan 22, 2013 11:37 am
  • Life is opening a door for you, walk through it.
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Re: Strange life events
Tue Jan 22, 2013 11:42 am
  • You should talk to my wife who is a substitute teacher and also a licensed marriage and family therapist.

    She may be able to give some decent insight.
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Re: Strange life events
Tue Jan 22, 2013 8:51 pm
  • Work didn't fire to me. They are doing the showdown on main street and seeing who will blink first. I'm just going to tell them that I have no desire to collect unemployment and won't apply for it, but it is actually better for me if they terminate me (the reason why? In case my spine gives out and I have to go on social security, my chances go up significantly if I was terminated from my last job due to absence).

    I told them that before and they were like, "We want to help you through it" but then in the next sentence said, "When you come back, if you miss even one day we'll terminate you." So I asked them to terminate me then, and they said, "You can go ahead and resign, then we have to figure out how much you owe us for taking time off in excess of paid days." I said, "but I'm not getting paid." they said, "but you ARE getting short term disability." I just don't get them. I asked the lady at Liberty Mutual (my case manager) what would happen if I withdrew my claim... she said I'd stop getting paid and would be expected back at work the next day, and they might want me to pay them back for "overpayments".

    It is like they have me locked in to having to go back so they can humiliate me and make me do the walk of shame with a box of stuff. I didn't keep anything personal at work except for my footrest. They can throw the thing in the garbage for all I care. I just don't want to walk in and get fired. I know they love doing it though, so I guess I'll be the one who blinks and let them enjoy terminating me. What a fun place.

    They've treated me well, and I feel like I owe them a lot. But on the flipside, I don't want to work for an employer who will fire me if I ever get sick again. Literally I was told that if I had to take a day off (even though I have an allotment of 25 personal paid days banked right now as my illness isn't being paid for with those), they say I can't even use them. If I took a "personal day" or took any of that time off to take my family on vacation they'd terminate me. Classic. Seems like there is some legal precedent that would prevent them form terminating me as long as I have a month worth of paid personal/sick leave saved up that I haven't used for the calendar year 2013. Hmmm... what to do, what to do. I'm running out of time. The teacher emailed me today and said her due date is February 9th, but she saw the OB/GYN today and he said the date is moving up faster than he can tally and she'll likely be out by the end of this week... meaning I'd have to step into a classroom on Monday morning ready to teach until the second week of March, then go off track, and come back and teach the majority of April in the same class.

    I could sub in other schools during the off-track in March time, maybe even at the school where I'd be hooking on for the short term. This may be my only chance to return to teaching as I'm getting older and more expensive, and the fact that it is a "scary" school with only one other male teacher would probably increase my chances, especially since I have my "first responder" certifications through Red Cross and Local Law Enforcement, and also have multiple years of experience as an administrator, so I am familiar with all education law and protocol. It would be a good risk to take, and I think I'd never forgive myself if I didn't at least try.

    There are always computer jobs waiting for me out there and I have a good network of friends that would hire me in a heartbeat if teaching didn't work out. I just hate to let my company down as I genuinely like them and feel that the guys who work there are good people who care and have been very supportive... HR? Not so much, but the guys I work with depended on me and treated me like a brother. Hopefully they understand that I feel like I'm answering a calling from a higher power and not bagging out for more money or anything. In fact, I'll be making about 33% of what I was making and losing my incredible benefits (full benefits, lots of free stock that is trading at over $50 a share) and great people as well. Teaching is in my blood.
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Re: Strange life events
Tue Jan 22, 2013 8:55 pm
  • pehawk wrote:I really envy you have teaching as a profession, hermano. Like REALLY jealous of that. Alot of us are unable to work somewhere that nourishes our humanity.

    Do it, dummy.


    You don't mince words. I like your style sport. You're hired!

    If I got this job full time then there is a track system where teachers get 3 months off throughout the year, but no summer break. That would be pretty sweet because I'd get all of September and all of December off completely. Free and clear. My kids and wife would be in school, which means I'd be free to travel to a game in either September or December and not have to worry about getting back in a hurry, which means I could even drive up. That would be pretty fun. Maybe the pieces are falling into place.

    Then for a road game.... if it's close enough... whoever wants to go flies into SLC on Southwest since it's cheap and we roadtrip it to wherever in my big ol' SUV with dvd players and leather seats needs to take us. It would be fun man. Phoenix isn't a great football place, but it isn't a bad drive and we'd swing through Vegas. You know you want to go. SF is a day drive from here and there's a lot of nothing to see on the way out there, but I've made that drive probably 15 times and it isn't a big deal. Kind of fun actually. Especially stopping in places like Winnemucca and mocking the locals. ;)
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Re: Strange life events
Tue Jan 22, 2013 9:48 pm
  • Sharkhark, you don't owe your employer shit. Treat them with the same amount of loyalty that they treat you, which is minimal.
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Re: Strange life events
Wed Jan 23, 2013 2:11 am
  • I don't owe them figuratively, or literally? Since I've been off by doctor's order since July 20th (that was my last worked day) and we've just crossed the six month threshold then I am required to apply for long term disability with Liberty Mutual. So, if that were to be awarded, I assume my company goes and terminates me, and I live off of 40% of my salary or whatever it was, and sit around sick for the rest of my life. I mean.... I guess that's fine. It's more than I'd make as a teacher, and I'd be a good Mr. Mom.

    I just am afraid I'll call tomorrow and say "I quit" and they can come back and say "OK, since you never returned to work, then we continued your health insurance for 6 months at a cost of $1000 a month to us, and you need to reimburse us for that. We also need to pull any contributions we put in your 401k, all stock we gave you from July 20th and on, and we will give an awful reference if you ever try to get another job, because you're too ill to do any work. Niener niener.

    I guess I fear the financial ramifications more than anything. Now if they sent me a letter and said "Hey, will you pay us $500 for overpayment on benefits for the last several months and we'll keep you on as if you are an employee through January" then I'd say, "Sure, and thank you for approaching this so professionally." I don' t think it will happen as the head of hr is super vindictive, but such is life. I sort of feel like they have me under total control. I'm in a 'right to work' state, which really just means employers can do whatever they want, but I feel like I don't have a right to switch jobs as I heal up. I am required to go back to them. I wasn't sick because of them, and I feel I would be able to return to work within the next couple of weeks as I rebuild strength and get some nutrients (which I can't keep down now). But I want the option to return to the work that I'd prefer at this point. This illness has shown me some real real lows, and I realize what matters to me. My current job doesn't appeal to me, no matter the financial ramifications going forward. I just don't have the money to reimburse them for being sick. That money is gone and paid for groceries and rent the last six months (and I was still way short at that).

    I guess I just need to call them and ask straight up what would happen if I never returned. I've asked my immediate supervisor multiple times and he says, "Let's not do anything drastic. Just get better and get back." It is like the question nobody dares to ask or something.
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