Hello, Dear Readers.

If last year was the year of interim assignments, this is the year of daily subbing. 

I’ve tried to stick mostly within the same school for ease and consistency. Otherwise it can be very destabilizing to travel to a different school each day. This way, at least my commute is predictable and the days offer somewhat of a routine.

The job of a substitute teacher here in Florida is shit pay and hard work. Due to the disability, I haven’t been able to work every day. Last pay period I was only able to get two work days in. The disability appeal seems to be taking forever. I’ve been living off of credit cards, maxing them out, and considering bankruptcy. This is the shit I don’t post about on Facebook. But it’s the truth, y’all.

The interview process is like a joke. An assistant principal of a local middle school, who shall not be named, was seemingly impressed by me at an interview and called me later during dinner, telling me that the position was between myself and one other candidate. He made me come in to give a “demo” lesson. In between, I had to drive to and from the school to pick up the materials. I hustled it but prepared well. I think the lesson went well.

Lo and behold, when I called the AP to follow up the next week, he told me forlornly that they were still interviewing for the position. Then I saw them at the local job fair.

The job fair, which I attended in earnest, was an overstimulating cacophony of tables and applicants, but I hustled it anyway. (I was hired by my first principal in New York through a job fair.) I’m figuring out that lots of principals say they value teachers with experience, but then end up hiring “blank slates”. They’re easier to control and mold. I didn’t leave with a job, but I “networked” a lot.

Lots between the Florida and New York educational systems are the same. Administrators operate like kings and queens, applicants come through like court jesters, strictly for entertainment, and the jobs remain unfilled and/or ultimately given to an already-decided-on candidate. 

The charter school scene is even worse. It’s really hard for me to even interview for these charters, given my longstanding opposition to their existence and my unyielding conviction that private and public funds should not be commingled to fund education. (But my opinions as a 12-year educator and taxpayer be damned, a girl’s gotta eat.)

I’ve been hustling for every dollar I make. I’m on food stamps, which they just cut. Every time I go to an interview I pretty much lose a day of possible work. It’s a far cry from where I was less than 2 years ago, working as a tenured teacher for the NYC DOE. That wasn’t without its problems, if you’ve read my prior posts. But I’d resigned, here I am in Florida and life moves on.

I’ve been interviewing for non teaching positions but have been finding it difficult to get hired because I think supervisors are afraid I’m overqualified, or that I’d ultimately find a position in teaching and then leave (likely true).

Oh wait – I did have a job – for two days, teaching Language Arts to sixth graders in a Catholic school. However, I was ill suited for it and my disability intervened so I got out early and quit after two days of work. (I’m now kicking myself for that decision, deciding whether the misery of working at a job you’re ill-suited for beats the misery of poverty and debt. The grass is always greener, it seems.) 

I wish that there were a VA of sorts for burned out former school teachers. I think it’s a shame that I’ve served my community for 11 years, suffered PTSD from teaching, and now can’t even afford health insurance or to pay my bills. For some mystery, Social Security keeps denying my disability claim and I keep getting denied Medicaid. 

I guess when you’re an American worker, working and paying taxes since you’re 16 years old, this is what you can expect. (Maybe I’d have better luck getting social services if I applied as a “refugee”, or had an anchor baby to support). 

While I wish that this veteran teacher had better news to report, I will soldier on.

Thanks for reading!

Balance up

Carry that weight

Feather weight



Shift the weight

Lean into me

Sharp shoulders

Full heart 

Ignore the nosy lady

I insist 

You’ve forgotten to stand

Lost your center

Of gravity

Call a truce with the ground

You can stand tall

As a skyscraper 

You’re alright you told me

You’re alright I told you

Fuck the nosy lady 

She knows not this dilemma

She confirms that it could be bad

A bad thing to struggle 

To lift yourself up

I reject her

I reject all who judge

From a paradigm of shame

Your compass 

Is being recalibrated

What do all these people know?

Where were they for years?

And we’ll stay in the park 

And be awkward if we have to.

I’ll never be ashamed of you.

You are stubborn though;

I look suspicious.

How could you let her fall?

I know the world moves

Too fast for you now;

I can relate and it’s just

Too bad for the world.

The world must wait 

As you find your balance. 

And you will find it, slowly,


I promise.
Copyright, Maria Castelli, 2017.

The light on another day

is extinguished; 

yet I know

The sun will rise tomorrow.

You told me you wished

you could get those days back, somehow.

You enjoyed my precocious youth,

an unexpected surprise for you.

You dressed me in velvet and gold,

and I jumped off the kitchen counter

Into your arms. 

You caught me each time, strong and steady.

The world shook, ebbed,

and crested around our 

impenetrable fort of love. 

Satellites around my father,

I was your grateful moon. 

The sun rose and set

every day around us.

You are still so beautiful, 

Although thin and frail 

as you struggle to untie your sneakers and stay steady 

to walk barefoot in the cool sand.

The ocean spray mists your face and a transcendent smile breaks 

onto your velvet skin like a ray of subtle sunshine.

Copyright, Maria Castelli, 2017.

You set

My soul afire

In a peculiar way

Like I can’t resist toasting

A marshmallow over

A campfire;

Restrained by the 

Circle of stones 

Caught up by the twigs,

Setting confections aflame,

Reluctant to blow them out.
Copyright, Maria Castelli, 2017.

It was smooth sailing

Invigorating mornings

The dog pranced along 

The breeze could knock you down

That’s how fragile you feel

You have no idea

How you’ll reclaim lost lands 

Or how they fell

Into enemy hands

(Or if they did).

The dog skims the ground

With an instinctive nose

Drawn forwards and sideways

By who knows.

The air is fresher now 

The season’ harshness tempered

By uprooting and replanting.
Copyright, Maria Castelli, 2016.