Several of my blog readers recently sent me questions about how my struggle with Iowa Workforce Development is going.
S … L … O …W… L … Y.
First a quick recap: I applied for a program called Training Extension Benefits. The program extends unemployment benefits up to 24 weeks to people who lost their job in careers with a declining outlook and seeking training for a job that needs workers.
Iowa Workforce Development denied my claim in August. One of the reasons given was that I hadn’t left a declining profession.
I was laid off from a job in print journalism. The local paper recently announced they were only going to publish a print edition six days a week; they won’t print on Saturdays. This does not strike me as a trade that’s looking for veteran workers.
The program requires you to be actively training for a job that needs workers. I am in my final semester of graduate school at Drake University seeking my Master of Arts in secondary education.
If all ends as planned, I’ll end with my teaching license and be able to teach grades five through 12.
Saydel schools had to close for a day because they couldn’t find enough people to cover their classrooms.
A wave of early retirements and departures from the teaching profession is expected this spring. The legislature is busy coming up with criminal penalties for teachers sharing books that some conservatives don’t like with students.
The governor wants to make things easier for charter schools, even though nobody seems interested in opening a charter school in Iowa.
Teachers are needed; I’m going to become one.
I appealed the decision against me and finally got a hearing with an administrative law judge in mid-January. The hearing was over the phone. The judge was very organized and the whole event took about a half hour. She said she would enter a decision within a week. Iowa Workforce Development would notify me by postal mail.
It’s been six weeks since that hearing, and I’ve received no letter. I call the office. They can only tell me if a letter has been sent or not, not what the decision is. No letter has been sent, they say.
I started student teaching in January. This work is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I love the work.
But with the fees heaped upon student loans, it feels like the state doesn’t even want people to be teachers. I spent $160, plus a $3 “convenience fee,” for a background check and a license application fee. I owe another $20 for a fingerprinting session next week.
Soon, I’ll have to pay $300 to a private testing company to review my portfolio. That doesn’t factor in the $60 a week I pump into my battered old Dodge Charger to haul me from my neighborhood to the far-flung suburb to teach each day.
Never mind the regular living expenses like rent, insurance, utilities, and so on. I choose not to look too closely at the pile of student loan debt I accumulated in this effort to change careers and regain some meaning in my life.
I hear the scolds. Get a part-time job, they say. Great idea. Except everyone involved with my program says that’s a terrible idea. Even if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t need them to tell me that.
I come home from a day of teaching so physically exhausted that I can barely make it through a 30-minute episode of “Pardon the Interruption” before I sleep the sleep of the dead.
My arthritic knees barely survive a week of teaching. There are seminars and portfolios to assemble, weekly logs to fill out, lessons to plan, and so many miles to go before I can rest.
This is a scary time for me. I am so close to becoming the person I’m going to be after journalism. I’m resilient. I am strong.
But as close as I am, I realize things could fall apart with one bad break. I have some money, but it drains quickly with weekly expenses. I’m not living a lavish life. I eat a lot of soup. I make my own sandwiches. I indulge in the occasional coffee from McDonald’s.
I hate coming to you like this. It feels like begging. It feels like whining. I am just trying to survive. I’m three months away from graduation, my license, and a new career. I can find work to get me through the summer. I’m sure of that.
I know the state is slow, but I didn’t anticipate it being this slow.
So, again, I ask for your help be it a couple of bucks or more. I promise you that you are all in my mind, even those of you I’ve never met, when I stand before a classroom. I would not have made it there without you, but with your help I’ll be there until the end of my working days.
As always, thank you for the love and kind words, and the donations to my cause. May the higher power of your choice bless and keep you.
With love and hope, Daniel P. Finney
Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.