So, you know how life has been difficult for a long time chez WN because of D's career up-and-downs? Right at the end of the year she had that experience where a board she was interviewing with imploded a few days before her final interview, and then a friend of hers in a dream job, the sort of job she's dreamed about for years, got fired in what looks like a case of politics, and somehow this one-two punch drove home for D. just how unstable the church biz is so much of the time. And this was one thing when she was in her 30s, and she kind of thrived on the possibilities of the "roll your own career" path that she was on. But now she's in her 40s, and it turns out she's craving stability and a workplace where she is accorded respect (and you would be amazed -- or perhaps you wouldn't -- at how often that respect doesn't happen in church-related jobs).
So she started musing about something she's mused on more than once before: What if she returned to an earlier career path -- teaching? I mean, she was in grad school and teaching when we met, and she had already decided at that point that she didn't want to be an academic because she wanted to be more involved in the fulness of other people's lives than seemed possible in higher ed (although this impression was in many ways about what teaching at a big research university was like, and things could have been different in other school settings, as has been clear by the experiences of friends since then). But she's always loved teaching, and she's done a lot of it and of working with adolescents in various contexts since then. So all of this led her to wonder: What if I went into the world of independent schools, a career path that has made WN so happy?
We were having this conversation in mid-December -- perhaps idly, I'm not sure -- and the next morning on a whim I looked at the job listings for our regional independent school organization ... and lo and behold, there was a two-month history upper school opening at a nearby school, starting almost immediately! It was clearly some sort of emergency medical or family leave, because the job listing had just gone up in mid-December and they wanted someone to start when classes resumed on Jan. 7. So D. worked hard all day in writing a cover letter and crafting (with my help) a resume that highlighted her teaching/academic/work with youth experiences, and she sent it off that afternoon.
... and she didn't get that job. But that's fine -- she now has her resume (which she has continued to fine-tune) and a narrative that imposes pattern on her quite varied professional life and makes it look like everything has always been moving toward this moment of teaching in an independent school. (I remember crafting my own such narrative, one that was the truth, nothing but the truth, but not the whole truth!) And there are other temporary positions that she can apply for, and I'm sure still others will appear on the employment listing.
I have never forgotten the academic dean's saying to me at one point, "You know, WN, if I hadn't been on sabbatical when you applied, you never would have gotten an interview." These are the accidents of fate that determine so much! She won't even interview people who don't already have independent school experience; apparently candidates are supposed to get that experience at lesser schools and then come to FGS. (Or at least that's the case for English and history teachers, who are apparently a dime a dozen; there's a lot more leeway granted to candidates for math and science positions, since they're harder to fill.) The dean is perfectly happy that I'm here -- in fact, she thinks I'm fabulous -- so I don't take her comment personally but rather as a warning about how hard it can be to break into this particular world. I asked her afterward if she would consider adding a "WN clause" to her hard-and-fast rule in recognition that sometimes people who don't already have independent school experience can be fabulous candidates ... and she said "No"!
So clearly D. has to get some independent school experience on her resume to help her career prospects.
And then what should happen right around New Year's but that a colleague and I got an email from our department chair saying that she had been unable to find a substitute teacher for the two of us (we're both gone a day in the first two weeks for professional development workshops) and so we were going to have to scramble around a bit to get other teachers within the school to cover individual classes for us. At which point I wrote to Chair and said, "Um, how about D. as a sub?" And, hurrah, that is what has happened! Our HR person started the CORI process over break, bless her, and D. subbed on Tuesday and will be doing so again next Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday ... because it turns out that there are a lot of upcoming absences in English and social studies in the first two weeks of the year. D. was flying high earlier this week, and she had such a good time being at school on Tuesday, although she was completely wiped out while simultaneously wired afterward. Yep, I know that feeling well.
Chair and I have had our difficulties in the past, to say the least, but things have been much easier between us in the last couple of years, and she is being absolutely LOVELY in this instance and has pledged to D. any support she can offer. To wit: D. is going to come in to school next Wednesday (not one of her subbing days) and teach a sample class (one of my Othello classes) so that Chair can observe it, and then Chair is going to write her a letter of reference. I mean, how fabulous is that? She's going way beyond the call of duty here (indeed, I don't think she actually HAS a call of duty in this case!) -- so generous. And now D. can put FGS down on her resume and has a reference from there. Sure, it's just for being a substitute, but it's substituting in two different departments, and FGS is a well-respected school, so simply having that line on her resume might actually mean that some schools look at her that wouldn't otherwise.
So who knows what will happen in the long run? Maybe independent school teaching will work out, and maybe something else will instead. But in the meantime it is doing D. a world of good to be professionally engaged, to be using her brain in a different way, to be rearranging her schedule because she's pleasantly busy ... already 2013 is off to a good start!