Learning to reframe bad news


broken heartFirst, the bad news: I didn’t get the job I’d really hoped to get. I’d applied to be the After School Director at Prospect Sierra’s middle school, but I got beat out by someone with more experience and a PhD. I can’t compete with that. Sigh.

I usually wouldn’t get so emotional about being turned down for employment, but thinking about it afterward, I began to understand the implications. This was not merely an employment opportunity–landing this job would have represented something more akin to healing. Rejoining Prospect Sierra’s faculty would have felt like reconnecting with a long-lost family member or childhood friend.

Now the background: Out of 24 years of teaching, 19 of them were at that school. It was a great place to work, and I got along with teachers, students, parents, and administrators. Except Sheila, the lower school head, who of course was my boss.

In independent schools, teachers don’t get tenure the way they do in public school, and our contracts allowed the administration to dismiss teachers without cause. When the school didn’t renew my contract eight years ago, it felt like a divorce. I was devastated.  It seriously broke my heart.

Luckily, my husband, Dave, was there to pick up the pieces and offered me a job in his company without even so much as an interview.

A few years ago, Sheila retired. Former colleagues kept telling me I should come back now that she was gone. But I had moved on and switched careers. I became a copy editor and proofreader, and I had time to pursue writing. Occasionally I missed the classroom, but I was happy.

I began teaching an after-school creative writing class in the Bay Area called Take My Word For It and ended up getting assigned to one semester at Prospect Sierra and a few at Madera. I think in the back of my mind I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to teach any more–I’d lost my confidence. But it all came back to me, and I enjoyed teaching again, although it was only once a week for an hour.

About this time, my husband and I were reviewing the state of our finances, and it was none too rosy. We weren’t bringing in enough income and had spent most of our savings. It was unlikely that we’d ever be able to retire. We started entertaining the possibilities.

This past February, I ran into a former colleague who still teaches at Prospect Sierra, who mentioned that the school had raised the pay rate for substitutes to $150 a day.

Hmmm…I updated my resume, filled out an application, and was subbing at Prospect Sierra the day after I handed in all the paperwork.

The biggest surprise? I discovered that I love middle school students. Maybe part of my brain stopped maturing after age 13, but I totally relate to them and appreciate their sense of humor. I’d always taught elementary school, but now I was seeing myself as that rare breed I used to pity: a middle school teacher.

mortarboardI became quite fond of these kids and even attended graduation last week. (Yes, I did cry a tiny bit…)

So I was overjoyed when I found out about the After School Director position. What could be more perfect? I wanted it too much. When the head of the middle school called yesterday to break the bad news, it hurt. Even though she wasn’t even at the school when I was let go, it felt a little like getting back together with an ex-boyfriend just to get dumped again.

But the take-home message is that I’ve discovered a new side of myself, and I don’t have to teach where I taught before. There are middle school students all over the place, so there must be openings at other schools, right?


3 thoughts on “Learning to reframe bad news

  1. I think disappointment is under recognize as a huge emotional challenge. you’ll move on, but it is hard. I’m with you in spirit and looking forward to being with ypu in person.

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