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?