Monday, January 26, 2015

Ordinary Bravery: Day 2

Day 2

Job Offer

In my career as a teacher, I have taught high school, university and college students. The position I was just run out of was a brand label university with a satellite campus just outside Washington, D.C.

Because of my untimely departure, I accepted the first job that came my way out of desperation. Leaving that uni-dimensional, bully of a boss has been priority number one given the level of anxiety I was managing daily. Plus, the small school system located in the middle of Virginia was willing to work around the need for an immediate supervisor’s reference. They were kind, friendly and surprisingly professional being located in the middle of nowhere. The big hitch aside from its rural locale was they wanted me to teach elementary school. I was confused that I was assigned rug rats as they specifically asked me in the interview my preference of grade, and I 100% requested secondary school.

I taught elementary school once for seven weeks as part of my penance for receiving my teaching licensure. It was the longest seven weeks of my life without question. I was assigned the third grade which, to me, was a germ laden popcorn popper of activity complete with squeals, snot, vomit and energy power packs soldered to each kid's shoes. I have been seriously questioning the sanity of accepting that teaching position, but I was moving forward with it as I had no other opportunities knocking at my door, and was faced with a refusal from my boss to provide a reference of recent employment which had already been a huge setback for me in securing a decent job.

I lined-up movers, placed an ad in Craigslist for a renter to take over my lease to avoid a penalty, secured a rental in the new town, and was gearing up to pack  and arrive there by Groundhog Day. The next problem I encountered came after verbally accepting the position.

The teaching positions in Central Virginia pay quite a bit less than in the D.C. metropolitan area. I was trying to convince myself to keep moving forward with it as a means to continue an uninterrupted salary, health benefits and work-up a solid reference. I had pretty well sold myself on the idea until the hard copy contract arrived.

The Contract

I took a good look at the contract which stated in parenthesis next to the annual salary the amount I would be paid as a teacher starting halfway through the year. The number amounted to one-third the annual salary which was initially quoted me, and it needed to last me seven months through the end of the summer. How it worked was I was being paid for 80 days of teaching rather than the full 200 days for the entire school year. 

On top of that, no one has responded to the ad I placed to take over the lease to my current apartment. I guess that has something to do with it being the dead of winter. What it boils down to is I would be charged three month’s rent as a lease breaking penalty, plus the rent in my new place at $900 a month including a $600 dollar security fee and a $1,000 moving fee. I was looking at a $6,000 dollar minimum expenditure to manage on a pittance.

Elementary school, high expenditures, pittance pay, middle of nowhere – I turned down the offer and the only sure thing I had. That was my first act of bravery for the day. I felt as though I had just stepped off the edge of a cliff and fallen into a vast, dark, endless pit; and it is in this pit I am calling upon faith and focus in order not to freak out.

Bravery in Action

In a desperate effort to secure a position here in D.C., I interviewed for a teaching position with a D.C. public charter school one week ago. I had set that in motion prior to my leaving the previous job with the boss from hell. I passed the first hurdle and was invited back to offer a teaching demonstration. This time, it would be for the eighth grade.

Today, after walking Kona, my pup, for an additional 45 minutes, goofing around on the internet and intermittently experiencing pangs of intense fear which I tried to erase with food, I finally ceased procrastinating and got down to work on the lesson plan for tomorrow which I am relieved to announce is done and ready to go, but it took every last little drop of motivation I had to gather the strength I needed to prepare a respectable demonstration of my teaching ability.

Although I am still enjoying the much needed respite of no longer being beaten down and up by my work environment. I have removed the covers from my head and am now embarking on a serious job search. I am going out and facing the world with my daily affirmation that I will find a job that contributes as much to my soul as it does to my bank account, and I will once again enjoy my work.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ordinary Bravery: Day 1

Defining Bravery

When I was a kid, I included bravery under the limited heading of exceptional and honorable acts of courage performed by soldiers, fireman and anyone who risked their life in the service of another in extreme circumstances. This IS bravery. No question!

As I have engaged life and her many challenges, disappointments, and just plain tough days over time, I have come to understand bravery more broadly and deeply. Those who show up and face life, take risks, remain hopeful and keep moving forward despite heartache and tremendous setbacks have also become my heroes. They address life’s hardships with courage and even dignity. Their bravery leads the way to better places for the many of us who sometimes find ourselves in situations where it is a challenge to simply place one foot in front of the other.

When I decided to write about every day bravery, my ideas were small. They were small as life hadn’t yet hit me with both guns yet. Since the inception of 28 Days of Ordinary Bravery, I find myself in the midst of a situation requiring a clear head, motivation, faith and, yes, ordinary bravery. Here's my story...

Day 1 

At 8:30, I arrive to work. I say hello to my boss who acts as if she is uninterested in my presence and focuses her attention on her computer screen. I hang-up my coat, put my lunch in the refrigerator and head back toward my office when my boss summoned me to tell me I neglected to write an email before the break and someone had to write it for me.

After breaks and vacations, my boss arrived early and often hit me with a list of what I didn’t do or did wrong first thing often before I had the chance to put away my lunch. I guess I was relieved it was only one item, and I got to put my lunch away. I decided not to respond as I was afraid of being hit with more of what I didn’t do, should have done or had done wrong.

Her assaults had on a few occasions escalated to yelling and tantrum-like behavior where she verbally hammered on me until I was so devastated, I couldn’t function. Once, she even stomped her feet during a yelling episode. This time, I thought I got off easy. Still, I knew she was keeping a constant watch for any error I made to build her case against me. I tried not to show how hard that was on me as not to prompt her to escalate her monitoring, criticism or temper, but it was tough. By trying so hard not to make a mistake, I inevitably made them as I knew she was waiting to catch me.

Run out

The person I had replaced had returned from retirement and wanted her old duties back likely as much Andora Toad wanted her in her previous position. I knew that meant I was headed out the door likely sooner than later. Jen had since been hired back under me theoretically, and my favorite duties one-by-one were being turned over to her by her old friend, Andora Toad, while the tasks of writing tedious reports and the like were ending up on my desk.

I had been performing teacher training, teacher evaluations and all things faculty related. I enjoyed the hiring through training aspects of my job most. I, however, didn’t like being tied to a desk and computer as I had been a teacher for many years and enjoyed interacting with people over machines. All that I enjoyed about my job was being taken from me and given to Jen.

I have been trying to leave that hell hole for some time. I had sent out application after application and interviewed as much as I was able given my boss was also keeping her eye on my leave time expenditures. The other problem was she was refusing to provide me with a reference. I have been in a catch 22 situation of being run out of my job while not being provided needed assistance with the transition into a new position. In the teaching profession, a reference by an immediate supervisor is critical to securing a position. I was refused three jobs due to my inability to provide that reference! It has been a terrible nightmare.

Final Assault

After I checked my email and began to get started on other tasks. I was summoned into Andora’s office again. She said, “Your job is too big for one person. We are going to dissolve it and create three Assistant Director positions. Jen will take over Academic duties (my current duties). They will each pay $20,000 less than you are making.” You can have one of those jobs until you can find something else.” I asked then, “Can I have a reference?” My boss replied, “Sure. Of course, but I will have to tell the truth.” She said the truth so snidely that I knew it would be a horrible reference and she still had me trapped.

Andora had been out of the office off and on for the past seven months, I was in charge in her absence by default. I had been there only a year myself having received scant training. I managed a quadrupled enrollment and specialty education programs, meetings with Korean and Malaysian Ministers of Education as well as advertising and marketing with success offering up productive ideas, curriculum development and more. I didn’t earn a bad reference or deserve all the hostility directed toward me.

Coincidentally, an offer did finally come through for me the Friday before Andora’s final assault. I told her I had an offer. She said, “You should take it, and I’ll move Jen into your office.”

I was so tired of Andora’s demeaning treatment and abuse, I wrote my letter of resignation and handed it to her. I couldn’t bear another minute of her cruel treatment. Not one more minute! I quit.

I left the building feeling totally defeated that day. My act of ordinary bravery was not only leaving a job where I had been treated horribly, but before getting in my car and driving away, I did what I had wanted to do for the longest time. I turned around, walked back into the building and straight into Andora’s office and called her what she was…a bully. 

Andora has to win at all costs. She yelled, “Yeah, I’m a bitch and you’re a manipulator.” This time, I yelled over her as she repeated her bitch/manipulator mantra…” "Bully!” That’s exactly what she was right up until the end. I said my peace and left.

None of Andora’s actions were acceptable. Just briefly, I am enjoying some much needed relief from the abuses before embarking on upcoming challenges. For now, I will pull the covers over my head. I'll face the world again tomorrow.