It’s September


For those of you who don’t know, I recently, along with 8,000 others, lost my job. By the time the email finally came, it wasn’t much of a surprise. Except we were lied to. Repeatedly. We’re just going to do this… nope, not. Now we’re just going to do this…nope, not. You hear that enough and you become distrustful of the people saying it. And I did.

So, when my paycheck was deposited, along with a separate check for my accrued vacation pay, I did not for one moment believe that it was a “payroll glitch.” I knew I was unemployed and immediately began sending out resumes. Immediately.

Some of the folks I worked with, friends, bought the line and went home that fateful Friday secure in the knowledge that on Tuesday they would have jobs.

But they didn’t. Early that Tuesday morning, 8,000 people got the same generic email, Dear Employee…

Clearly not dear. It was a bulk email. No severance. No insurance—or notice to COBRA. Just, hey you—person Headquarters doesn’t care about, don’t bother coming to work anymore. Get on with your life.

And then it hit the news.

Immediately thereafter, my inbox was flooded with questions from students—well, former students, I guess. What do I do? How do I continue? What about my credits? I’m sure it was the same for all of my former coworkers. How did we respond? We don’t work there anymore! So, fu… No, they were my students. They were numbers to some random bureaucrat in Indiana, but they were my students. People chasing dreams, whose minds and souls I had touched. Whose lives I had influenced.

I answered each email until HQ suspended my account. Many of my friends had given students private email addresses and phone numbers, and for them this continues. Because teachers are born. You can take us out of classrooms, discredit, denigrate, underpay, and disregard us; we remain teachers. For the vast majority of us, the initial response wasn’t, oh my god, I’m unemployed. No, it was, oh my god, what about my students? And two weeks out, for the people who worked on my campus, it’s still a question we’re asking (with one glaring exception—who when my anger decreases will get a post all to herself…calling the news, WTF was that?).

I found a part-time gig tutoring, the day after the fateful email. I like it, it’s not enough to live on, but I like it and I’m good at it. I am also editing a book. It’s another thing I like to do, and do well—so, if you know anyone…

I’m following leads, chasing opportunities. Some I want more than others. A lot more. I really like the idea of working from home. I am actively pursuing that.

My mom, my kids, many of my non-educator friends have made the same comment, “Mel, you’re brilliant, well-educated, focused, on-task, such an amazing teacher, someone will snap you up in a heartbeat.”

Well, thank you, but… No. It’s mid-September. College classes started in August. High School in September. The jobs are all filled. Filled. No vacancies. I could be Einstein or Shakespeare and I would still be unemployed—school has already started. End of story.

Full stop.

Many people have suggested that I take this opportunity (?!) to write my book(s). Well, that’s all well and good, except I have to eat. That’s kinda important. And I have an electric bill, cell phones (most of the family on one plan), taxes, credit cards, student loans, gas for my car, groceries—Internet! To be fair, I decreased my bills by almost $500 a month in the days immediately following my job loss. I definitely lead a first world life.

My museum membership has lapsed. Lapsed! My gym membership on hold—love the folks at my gym. Cable TV & house phone, history. Neflix, no more DVDs, just streaming. Reduced the 8-line cell phone plan by $140 per month… So, yeah, I’m working it—but it’s not enough for me to stay home and write.

What is maddening about that is Headquarters knew—likely weeks out—that they would be closing the doors, and they left us in the wind. Inconsequential. The admissions reps were let go weeks ago, and got severance. Not the educators. Education is not valued in our culture. In retrospect, I can see the house of cards collapsing. I should have seen earlier how it would play out. I should not have listened to the lies for as long as I did—but as ever, I was focused on my students.

Students.

Coworkers—friends (except for afore-mentioned quisling).

Now the dust is settling. The class-action suit initiated. The betrayal recognized. The unspoken, unacknowledged rage dissipating. And I am finding a new center, a new way to approach my days. Job searches, emails (about job searches), phone calls (about jobs), editing, house-stuff…tutoring. Three to five hours of every day is sucked up looking for a job. It leaves me little time to write, especially since my preferred writing time is in the early morning.

So, sorry for being sporadic, but it is what it is. I’ll work on writing blogs and my great masterpiece. In the meantime, if you hear anything…

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4 thoughts on “It’s September

  1. The “like” button is not the right thing to hit considering what you’ve been ‘hit’ with. I hate hearing how good teachers – educators – got the shaft as you all did. Betrayed. Best of luck in finding your balance in a new world. I hope the tutoring helps – I’m sure you’re a fabulous tutor, but being a tutor myself (and a creative writing teacher) I know it doesn’t pay all the bills. I’ve gotten the ‘why don’t you write a book’ line also, as if it’s (a) easy to write it (b) easy to publish it and (c) easy to make money from a published book. Urgh. But that said, keep on writing!

  2. Mel – it sucks. Every single bit of it. I was where you are a couple of years ago, though not in the same profession. My position with a company I had worked at for more than 20 years was “eliminated” (it wasn’t). What I learned from that experience: Age discrimination is real, gender discrimination is real, sexual orientation discrimination is real, experience and skills do not matter. Landing a new full time career type job is a numbers game, a luck game and a “who you know” game. As you continue to work on your blogs, write your masterpiece, take on the tutoring and other part time work, apply for and hopefully interview for worthwhile, desirable full time jobs – keep the faith in the power of universal support from family, friends and even distant hardly known ex-classmates. We are pulling for you. Stay healthy so you can substitute for sick teachers this winter! Jae

  3. I don’t know how best to say how sorry I am. And angry. And frustrated with our money-grubbing culture where women still get the very short end of the paycheck. What sleaze-bag organization pulled that slight-of-hand? Was it really an educational institution?

    • Yes, it was a teaching job. Education is a cut-throat business, with 99.9% of instructors underpaid. At all levels– kindergarten through graduate.

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