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Read teacher/author Tom Rademacher's poignant essay about getting laid off

Teacher and memoir author Tom Rademacher says he's received numerous job offers since learning he'd lose his current one.

Teacher and memoir author Tom Rademacher says he's received numerous job offers since learning he'd lose his current one. Lucy Hawthorne

 Last month, City Pages published a cover story by Twin Cities public school teacher Tom Rademacher.

Last week, Rademacher found out he's losing his job.

The timing of those two things aren't related. (He checked.) Instead, Rademacher's getting laid off from his job as a seventh-grade English teacher in Crystal for budgetary reasons. 

Rademacher expected he might be on the chopping block: He'd taught there for his first six years as an educator before leaving for other schools, other districts, then finally returning to Crystal last fall. 

In 2014, Rademacher was named Teacher of the Year in the state of Minnesota. In his City Pages essay -- and in the forthcoming It Won't Be Easy: An Exceedingly Honest (and Slightly Unprofessional) Love Letter to Teaching, from which it was adapted -- Rademacher reveals himself as a big-hearted and tireless teacher, one who lives and dies a little each day at work, takes it hard when he can't reach a student, blames himself; tries learning from it.

If that teacher gets fired, doesn't it say something's broken with the teacher tenure system?

Not to Rademacher, who explained his situation in a new blog post on his Tumblr feed. He'd appreciate not to be made a "poster boy" for problems with the last-in, first-out (commonly called "LIFO") seniority system, which leaves new teachers vulnerable to budget cuts, and insures jobs of more-tenured teachers.

LIFO is a near-constant bogeyman of education advocates who say it's all about union loyalty, not educating, and keeps bad teachers in the classroom. This legislative session, Republicans in the Minnesota House of Representatives have included language in the education budget to eliminate the use of seniority in teacher layoff decisions. 

That fight will go on, Rademacher knows. He'd just rather his name be kept out of it.

 

I got cut because of seniority, yes, but I can’t point you to the teachers in my building who should have been cut instead. We all deserve to be here. One of the best things we could do for our students, for all of our students, would be to retain every damn teacher who wants to be exactly where they are. People who know the students, know the culture of their building, know their families, who have built trust among coworkers and kids and bosses. Not just me. I’m not special. Each one of the teachers cut from my building, from every building, for budget reasons, is a problem. In other words: The order that we cut teachers is way less of an issue to me than the fact we are cutting so many teachers.

 

Though he's "not without bitterness" about money he's seen misspent by schools, he'd rather see questions asked of "unimaginative" administrators than of the front-line teachers. "

"We won’t do better with less money," Rademacher writes, "and we need a lot more than a little bit. Schools can do what we want them to do, but we need to fund them like we believe in them. So I’m not interested in anyone calling for an end to LIFO who isn’t also calling for an end to teacher cuts."

As for Rademacher himself, he seems sanguine, confident he'll land on his feet. Since going public with the news his school wouldn't have him back, he's "had about ten openings" for teaching gigs brought to his attention.

He'll weigh those options later, he writes, after some time spent focusing on the release of his book, which comes out April 25. Though he's sad to leave another school, Rademacher looks forward to the chance to win over a new group of students -- and parents, and teachers --  next fall, and will have to "hope, again" that he survives any budget cuts that come that school's way.

If you missed it, go back and read Rademacher's cover story from the March 24 issue of City Pages.