Thursday, December 14, 2017

Reflections on Losing Your Dream Job

I'm not ready to write about it in any concrete way because I am too close, too in it, too surrounded. This week, I was notified that I would be "RIFfed." A projected future budget shortfall due to state budget cuts made the salary I get to teach developmental writing too much to bear (despite the funds existing for a new $50 million building to house upper administration and a brand-new administrative position hired just this month. Despite a Chancellor who makes $300,000 a year and still gets a housing and car allowance. Despite. Spite.) Fifty-eight full-time faculty members received the same notice. 


"That's mommy's work," I proudly declared to my daughter, strapped in to the carseat in the back, as we passed the old red brick building. "Mommy's work!" she would call out in her lilting toddler voice every time we passed. I would swell with pride. 


"You know, part of college is learning to follow directions and paying attention to the details. It's really important that you type your papers and submit them through the online system."

"Well, you see, I . . ." 

"What? What's wrong? Do you need help finding the computer labs? You could use the public library, too, if that's easier. I can open the lab classroom for you after class if you want to be near my office to ask questions." 

"Ma'am, it's just that I have to leave right after class. I can't come back to the computer lab."

"Well, I know that everyone has very busy schedules, but we'll have to find some time you can make it to the lab."

"Yes, ma'am. I'll work on it. It's just that . . ."


"It's just that if I'm not in line for the shelter by 4pm, I probably won't get a bed, and it's been so cold this week, and I just . . . I'll figure it out."

"You can turn it in handwritten. It will be fine. We will work this out." 


I'm bad at treasuring items. I don't have shadow boxes or scrapbooks.

In some plastic basement tub sits the high school graduation cards full of love and congratulations. I was the first person in my family to be heading to college.

In some other plastic basement tub sits the cords I wore around my neck at graduation. Honors. English Honors Society. Summa cum laude.

In a stack of notebooks and novels and books full of advice on parenting a spirited child, a blue certificate holder embossed with silver letters holds a piece of paper. PhD. 


I'm handing back graded papers with handwritten comments along the margins. 

"Wait. You actually read these? None of my teachers have ever read my papers." 


Fuck them. Fuck them. Fuck them. Fuck them. Fuck. 


"I've never read a whole book before." 


One student comes to my office after every paper grade is returned. She's an angry tornado. Papers spill out of her arms and onto the floor. She can't sit she is so furious. She paces. She yells. 

"I can't believe you gave me this grade! I can't believe you! Do you know how hard I worked on this? I asked you if you thought it was a good topic! I did the work!"

"Do you want to sit down?" 

"I can't do this anymore! I never should have taken this class. I never should have come to college! You don't even want me to pass this class!" 

"Do you have any questions about the comments?" 

She plops into the chair. She's crying. I hand her a tissue.

"So are you going to revise it?" I ask.

"No! I'm done! I'm just dropping out. This is stupid!" 

"Do you want help revising it?" 

"Yes! I have no idea what to do! You told me that I need a clearer thesis statement, so I guess I need to change this sentence, and then you told me that none of these paragraphs are focused, so I guess I would put this one here and then put this one here." She sits and plans out her entire revision without me saying another word. "So what am I supposed to do?!"

"That." I gesture at the flurry of notes she angrily wrote in front of her. She looks at them like she's never seen them in her life. 


"It's due next week." 


She takes two more of my classes over the next year and a half.


All my colleagues have closed their doors or hidden away off campus. It is too hard to look at one another. It is too hard to see it in the eyes, feel it in the hall, breathe it into truth. 


"I know you worked really hard, and I think you can do this, but you didn't quite make the grade to pass. You can take it again next semester. There are a lot of teachers teaching this class, so if you want to take it with someone else . . ."

"Oh. No! I'm taking your class again." 


"You can check the College website for employment opportunities. There will likely be plenty of adjunct positions available." 

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