When I walked into work on a Friday halfway through my first year of teaching, I was smiling from ear to ear. The day before, I had my summative evaluation and my boss checked the recommended for rehire box. We shook hands and took turns signing on the dotted line.
I set down my bag and scrawled the day’s agenda on the board while I waited for my desktop computer–oh, 2009, how I don’t miss you–to boot up. After clicking the Microsoft Outlook icon and letting out an exasperated sigh while my inbox populated, I looked around my classroom. It was a dream come true. I had been one of my only friends to land a teaching job right of out college in the midst of one of the biggest job shortages in education history. In fact, after I accepted my job, my principal let me know that they had received over 800 applications for a single teaching spot. It was meant to be.
After Outlook loaded, I saw an email from a sender I didn’t quite recognize. It wasn’t a student’s name. Or anyone I worked with. Could it be a step-parent? The name was attached to a whisp of a memory that I tried to tug at with no success. No matter. Surely, the subject line would clear everything up. That’s when I read: RIF of All First-Year Teachers.
Frantically, I clicked open the email. Word by word, sentence by sentence, I tried to make sense of this all-staff email. What was a RIF? No matter. I had been re-hired yesterday. I had the paperwork to prove it. We shook hands. Surely, whatever this reduction was, it could not apply to me.
To make a long and painful story short, the email did, in fact, apply to me. Due to drastic budget cuts, every first-year teacher was set to be released with the possibility of being rehired by August. It was February. I held it together through the day, but barely. Coworkers and administration tried to console me with the fact that this was the first Reduction in Force in our district in over a decade. It would all work out, they promised. And it did work out. In fact, I was recalled and hired back by the end of May that year, months earlier than expected. I felt invincible. Until it happened again the following year.
Unwilling to gamble with my future or my finances, I started to apply for other positions. Every day, I looked at my students, I was absolutely gutted. They needed me. I needed them. Over half a decade has gone by since that last fateful firing. I teach in a different–and more affluent*– district now. As much as I refused to believe it at first, these students mean just as much to me. While I can’t say that everything worked out perfectly, I can say that everything worked out. And for that, I am so grateful.
* My first building had an 80%+ free-and-reduced lunch population. My current building teeters around half that.
Note: Thankfully (knocks on every piece of wood within arm’s reach), this experience is far from current. However, it is constantly on my mind as I wait to have my contract renewed from year to year.
So Tell Me…Have you ever been fired? Did it teach you anything?
I worked in local government, in the Community Development department. It was the summer of 2009 when the time came for me to be let go, and I was a single 26 year-old who had bought a house 3 years earlier.
Not having any job options in my area, I moved 1,000 miles away and lived with my parents for 2 1/4 years, working a low-wage job to be able to keep my mortgage current. I wasn’t going to be one of those people who walked away from my obligation, no matter how much I wanted to.
Looking back, they did me a favor letting me be one of the first to go. Many of the same people are still there, miserable, as things have slowly picked back up. I was given the forced opportunity to try new things, add to my toolbox of skills, and become much more conscious about my spending. Whereas I used to save $200/month, I now save over half, and am working towards FIRE.
Heather @ Simply Save
I went after my dream job last year and it didn’t work out. I had the choice to resign or be fired…same thing though. It was tough but a learning and growing experience for sure! Fortunately I liked my previous career and was able to find a job in that field again pretty quickly.
Steve @ Think Save Retire
I almost did – well, it was more of a layoff than a firing. I was officially told of my impending layoff on a Friday afternoon, and about 2 hours later, another project manager in the office covered me under his project going forward, so that particular crisis got averted.
The only thing it really taught me is…well, I need to look out for myself first. You can pour your heart and soul into a business or cause, but that certainly doesn’t mean that you won’t be out on your butt if the going gets tough. While I always strive to do good work, I also don’t think of my job as “my life”. My job is how I make money. Companies come and go. In fact, I like changing jobs – it keeps me active and learning new things. I no longer hang my hat on having a full-time job…
…because on that Friday about seven years ago, I nearly didn’t, and I certainly wasn’t in any position to quit work on my own terms.
Our Next Life
Wow, what a traumatic experience! But at least it wasn’t because of anything you did — and at least with a layoff, you have that comfort. I was almost fired once, and it taught me to seriously buck up and try to figure out what my employer needed from me, not just what I needed from them. It was only about two years out of college, so good timing for a major life lesson like that!
Penny, after reading this article, you were not really fired. More like laid off or let go. My basic understanding: being “let go” means it is NOT the employee’s fault… being “fired” means it IS the employee’s fault. In your case, you did not do anything wrong except being in a school district thats was doing cost-cutting measures and you were among the casualties.
That’s such a kind way to put it 🙂 I was a budget casualty for sure! Thanks, Monique.
I haven’t been fired, just laid off when my whole division was shut down, but I think that’s a bit similar to your situation in that it wasn’t a firing for cause (which is what your title made me think), it was an elimination of the job or job category. Not that it makes it better for the purpose of having a paycheck 😛
Happily (hah!) I had the blog so I chronicled some of the layoff there since we were only in the middle of the recession, no big deal, but it was super stressful and a big reason why I insist that I need to have 2 years of expenses in cash. It’s ridiculous, I know, but still, I want that much cushion in case of another long-term stint of unemployment.
It’s crazy how much of an impact it can have on you, right? My current boss in my new district now sends me emails every spring to the effect that there isn’t going to be a RIF as far as she can tell. Having a cushion gives me so much comfort. We don’t have two years of expenses in cash, at least not in our emergency fund, but we have probably more than enough for two people with year-long contract jobs.
So sorry you had to go through this… twice! It’s also unfortunate that the district leaders don’t understand the stress this puts people through, and the energy that employees use to cope with this could be put to better use doing their jobs well if they felt more safe and secure.
I’m glad you’re in a more stable place now.