Another Gray Hair
When I got home from work on January 23, there was an open letter on the table near the door. From NBPTS and dated January 9, it said I hadn’t submitted the required forms to confirm my eligibility. If I didn’t do so by January 31, I was out of luck. As in, not a candidate this year.
My first response, of course, was to yell toward the kitchen, in the general direction of my wife: “Didn’t you SEE this? This is serious! (yadda, yadda, yadda).” She calmly explained that she’d only opened it earlier that day, and she knew I’d see it when I got home (yadda, yadda, yadda). Meanwhile, my 6-year old was mocking me from the living room, quoting the catchphrase of the lisping duckling in Wonder Pets, our 2-year old’s current favorite show: “Thith ith THEE-rious.”
I gathered my wits about me and resolved to deal with the situation in a level-headed way. I ran downstairs to my office, logged onto the NBPTS website, and searched for the forms. What forms? Where were the flipping forms on this website? I would have to do this tomorrow. It was time to go teach night school. (Did I mention that I have picked up a freshman comp class at NOVA two nights a week? Now that the GMU course is over, the hardest working teacher in the education business moves on. You know me: It’s All About the Money.)
The next morning I had a free period first block. I called NBPTS, but their help lines were busy. At 9 am, EST? There must be a million teachers out there trying to file this paperwork, I think.
Next I call Gail, the FCPS NBTPS guru. Always accessible, knows the answer or can find it. She doesn’t pick up. I leave a message, my tone one of thinly veiled desperation: I can’t find the forms. I start composing an email to Gail to explain that I can’t find the forms. Multitasking, I log onto the NBPTS website. I find the forms.
I print the 15 page pdf and begin reading desperately. It’s tough to skim legalese. Also, they aren’t numbered and all the instruction pages get mixed up. They look more or less the same, but I’m sure I’m missing crucial differences in prepositions.
The crux of the problem rapidly becomes clear: I’ve been too peripatetic. I’ve taught at TJ in FCPS for 2 yrs; before that, at an independent school for 2 yrs; before that, at another high school in Fairfax County for 10 years. Because I haven’t stayed for the last three years in one school district, I need to fill out various forms to prove that I’ve been teaching at licensed schools. Do I have to get them signed at ACDS? Do I need to go through FCPS HR? Or, worse yet, George Mason’s registrar, to prove I have a diploma? I am sunk.
I take a deep breath. It’s not the end of the world. What do I have to lose if I am declared ineligible? There’s the time I’ve sunk into three nearly finished portfolio entries. This blog. My professional reputation. Oh God… the registrar at GMU? Who do I know at GMU? Can I go there on the upcoming teacher work days? They’re sticklers over there. Yadda yadda.
I take a deep breath. I call NBPTS again. I’m number one in the queue. Someone answers the phone! I explain my situation, interrupting myself to ask about the date on the letter: January 9? How could I get a letter this important 2 weeks late? How can I do this in one week?
She interrupts calmly: “We had an ice storm. The mail got held up.” Ice storm? In Texas? An act of God—does that get me an extension? My mind is whirring.
“Sir?... Sir!...” The voice is pulling me back. Don’t go towards the light…
“You only need to fill out one form. You also need to copy your teaching license and send that along. You can fax it to us. Do you have the fax number?”
“Yes,” I mumbled. “One form? Are you sure?”
“Yes, sir. Do you need the fax number?”
“I’ve got the fax. Are you sure I can fax it?”
“Yes, you can fax it. Just get it here by January 31st.”
“Thank you.” I’m not sure how many times I repeat it.
I went home. I filled out the form. I found a bar code label in the blue box and added that to the form. The next day, I took it to school, and the principal’s secretary stamped it and faxed it to Texas.
It was done. All had not been lost. With a sigh of relief, I sat down to this keyboard after lunch to type out my sad story. To purge. To move on with my life.
Near the end of the post, a familiar ding announced the arrival of a new email message. I clicked over. It was the principal’s secretary:
I got a fax report after we faxed your paperwork that says there was no answer on the other end. I’ll try again in a bit. They may have a problem on their end with their fax machine, or it might be out of paper, or who knows what.