Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Good at My Job

"You're my favorite teacher. I really enjoyed your class."

"I didn't even like reading before I took your class, but I read another book by that author we studied, and I really liked it."

"I told all my friends to take your class."

"You're not like the other professors. You always seem like you're happy to be here, and you always make time to help us."

At the end of every term, many students approach me to tell me that they like the way I teach. Others say that they signed up for another class with me. Over the past several years, more than ninety-five percent of my student evaluations have been positive.

But I recently had to reapply and interview a second time for the same job I have had for the last two years. I was rejected, which means that it is now May and with the exception of my part-time website job, I have no job leads. The lease on my apartment ends in mid-August, and I only have enough money to get me through the summer. After that, if I don't find a job before the next school year starts, I'm screwed.

My department chair said that there were more than a hundred applicants for the job. He said that they were looking for someone with a different specialization (all Ph.D. candidates choose a specialization that they focus on in their dissertations, and it typically determines what kind of job they get). But the person they chose over me has the same specialization that I have (and less teaching experience, not to mention this person rarely holds office hours, whereas I set aside extra time every week in addition to my regular office hours to meet with students). Not to mention I've been teaching at the college level for more than ten years. I've taught at several colleges, in addition to high school. It may have taken me more than a month to figure out how to turn off my cell phone, and I might not understand half the things that Millennials say (I neither know nor care what "on fleek" means). But when it comes to teaching, I know what I'm doing.

On the one hand, I've been unhappy at this job for a long time. Everything they said I could do or have, they took back. For example, they said I could have my own office. Less than a day later, they said I had to share it with another instructor. They told me I wouldn't have to keep reapplying for my job, but changed that policy less than a year later. They told me that I could teach literature classes, but then changed the job description to just freshman composition. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how I've been treated.

If I had known that all of this was going to happen, I would not have come here. But I need a job to pay my bills and to cover the health insurance I need for my ongoing treatment. My health is unfortunately not good right now (in fact, it's gotten worse), and my doctors said I need ongoing treatment. That's why I can't just fill out an application at Starbucks or go back to working in retail. Jobs like those won't pay for my treatment.

It makes me angry that I worked so hard for two years and sacrificed the only two things I had left outside of work that mattered to me: a city that I loved and my writing, which I've barely worked on since I came here, only to end up like this. It's disheartening to know that although my students think I'm doing a good job, it's not enough to make my department rehire me. The academic term isn't over yet, and I still have to face my colleagues. It's all I can do not to scream and scream and scream or run to the restroom and cry.

But on the other hand, I thought of how my dissertation committee thought I would never finish my dissertation and how they kept criticizing my work. I kept writing, revising, and doing research, and I finished my dissertation. I earned my PhD and the title of "Doctor".

I thought of all those awful retail jobs I had where customers screamed at me and twenty-two year old managers on power trips bossed me around. I kept working, and I survived.

I've applied to dozens of other schools, although I've been rejected by several of them already. But I still have hope. Two years ago, when I applied for jobs, six schools were interested in hiring me. Five of them did not start contacting me until June of that year. So there's still time.

At the risk of sounding like a Diana Ross song, I will survive this. I didn't let all the other people who tried to drag me down stop me from achieving my goals, and I won't let anyone else do it now.

What about you? Have you ever lost a job? What was that like?