About three years ago, I applied to teach English at The Academy of Our Lady of Peace, an all girls Catholic high school in San Diego, California. I had taught middle school for the six years that preceded my effort, and I decided that teaching high school suited me better. I knew that I ultimately wanted to teach at a college level, but I did not have a qualifying degree completed yet, and I thought this would be a good compromise in the meantime.
My CV was as strong as it needed to be, and during the interview I connected with every member of the panel. Apart from saying all the "right" things, I said a few things that came out of left field and excited the English department. I told them that I wanted to coach sports. I told them that I lived close by and was excited to be able to take part in so many extracurriculars. I even said I wanted to start a Creative Writing program, something they didn't have.
"You finish your MFA in another year, so you would be more than qualified to teach Creative Writing in high school," said one teacher. "That would be a huge hit here, wouldn't it?"
Her colleagues nodded excitedly. The interview went so well that we even exchanged a few hypotheticals about collaboration in the department. In short, I had this job locked up. I was excited for the new chapter in my career.
About a week later, I got an e-mail from the Department Chair thanking me for my interest. She said they had decided to hire someone else. I felt a sense of defeat.
As I always do, I sent a "thank you anyway" response, letting her know that I was disappointed but that I thoroughly appreciated the consideration and the opportunity to interact with the small department during my interview. Something compelled me, however, to be candid.
"I have to admit, this comes as a surprise," I wrote. "After the interview, I felt as though I had great chemistry with the other members of the department. Is there any reason in particular that I was not hired, or was it simply a better fit elsewhere?" I expected the canned, diplomatic, "We decided to go in another direction," but I got something else.
"The Principal did not want to hire a young man at an all girls school."
Why even interview me then? Why build up the hope of a young, aspiring educator? And while there have certainly been instances of inappropriate teacher-student relationships, wasn't that a bit presumptuous to assume that all qualified male instructors of a certain age group would be more likely to engage in such shenanigans?
Notice how each of the above concerns is founded in ego. Thankfully, I have a wise father who reminded me that something else would come up. "Maybe it's for the best."
Three years later, I am not merely teaching -- I am in love with my job. Moving to the college level was the best decision I have ever made -- professionally and even socially. I now have peers who share my passions and I have energy to spend outside of my workplace. In many ways, that rejection saved me, because I was overstressed teaching at the middle school level and who is to say that high school would have been any break for my mind?
I still remember the feeling I had when I was told, "Sorry, but no." I felt disrespected and deceived. I felt that creeping, "What now?" dread we all have when considering our life direction. But just like any other situation, the days passed, the sun kept going up and down, and enough doors and windows opened for me to find other opportunities.
The Dalai Lama once said, "Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck." What luck I had in failing to get that high school job!
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