Saturday, April 05, 2008

Higher highs and lower lows


Her face says it all.  She was full of so many emotions today - she couldn't contain herself.  She laughed, screamed and danced.  We made purses, played "Pin the wand on Tinkerbell", decorated cupcakes and hit a Purse pinata.  

Unfortunately, about 15 minutes before the party started I received a certified letter from my school.  I was "pink slipped" - or I think the correct word is "fired".  As a provisional employee (within three years of employment) the district can let me go without reason.  I was naturally blown away.  This came out of left field.  No phone call - no sit down conversation - a LETTER!  I suspected that I was not my principal's favorite person, but I NEVER believed that she would let that get in the way of our work.  I am a good counselor.  I have not received a negative review - in fact they were supposed to review me twice this year, but never did.  I was never reprimanded or "talked to" about my performance - good or bad.  

As the reality sunk in, I started to freak out.  I actually broke down and started crying and shaking.  Chris didn't know what to do until I yelled, "Go clean the bathroom floor - they'll be here any minute!"  And then he made me a strong rum and coke - I didn't think a valium was appropriate. 

After watching the joy that Ella experienced today, I was able to contain myself a bit and am slowly regaining composure about this situation.  I needed to stay calm for her sake.

After the party, I emailed the attorney on staff with my union.  What do they say in the commercials - wrongful termination?  We'll see what he thinks.  Luckily I have a week to mull this over.  This upcoming week is Spring Break.  At this point, I'm feeling so humiliated I don't think I can face anyone back at school.

California - here I come.

53 comments:

Red Headed Mama said...

A letter? You have got to be kidding me!

Even though it was a big blow, it just might be the right thing. As hokey as it sounds, everything really does happen for a reason, but it might take a while to see that!

I'm glad Miss Ella had nice party..the purse pinata is TOOO much!

In the meantime, have another rum and coke :)

blackbird said...

Oh, Carol, that's a terrible thing.
The only upside I can find to the letter is that you could be in your own house with people who love you when you got the news.

I'm anxious to hear what the lawyer says...you can always email me if you don't want to blog about it.

TBG said...

a letter sounds highly unprofessional. I am sorry and what horrible timing right before the party.

Ella's face is priceless.
Glad she had a great party.

Please keep me posted on what happens. I am shocked as well.

Have a great time in California!

Crazy MomCat said...

Although I know it couldn't come at a worse time, at least you had something to distract you for the time being. Now, as for that letter--it definitely sounds like you have grounds for some sort of action. I think there are a lot of laws in place now that protect employees from being blown out of the water like you were. The fact that you've not been given any criticism in a review to work on or reasons for being let go, that's just not right.

I hope that you push this out of your head and enjoy Cali. And, I think Red Headed Mama is right--things happen for a reason and maybe you'll benefit from this in the end.

Anonymous said...

Carol, long time lurker without commenting.

First of all, I love Ella's birthday party. Yeah you for hanging in and making it so special for her.

The job...oh the job...as shocking as it is, I do believe you were talking not too long ago in a post about wanting to move on in your career, change things up.

I know you would have much rather it been you making the split...but this is a way to make sure you look at other opportunities...you talked about moving away from the school counseling and now you have the perfect opportunity to seriously look at that.

I know the devastation you feel; i asked to be laid off...and when then did it...i was all "but they should want to keep me".

You'll be fine...and don't worry about facing the others...do it with a smile and a new attitude...and they'll wish it were them!!!

I have confidence in you.

Melissa

mamalife said...

I'm sorry. What an awful way to let a person go. And what crummy timing. I know you've been having doubts about your career and current job; maybe this is just the nudge you need to pursue some of your other thoughts and dreams. Good luck.

jonniker said...

Oh Carol, I'm so sorry. God, this makes me mad, because you deserve better. But two things come to mind:

1) That woman who wanted your job back. I can't help but feel like she had a hand in this, and it infuriates me, and yeah, you have grounds if that's the case. She made a choice, she didn't like it and undermining you isn't the answer. Well, the whole thing infuriates me. But! There is ...

2) I'm sorry to be blunt, but it's a sign, Carol. You've been talking about getting out of this field for so long, and this is like a giant cosmic Nerf bat to the head that THIS IS THE TIME. I'm holding you to this GIANT GLEAMING SIGN, and we will discuss it! WE WILL.

April said...

Although I didn't get the pink slip delivered to my home (that is really crummy and cowardly), I did get the same sudden jolt and shock by my company letting me go. I will testify that sometimes that is the BEST nudge to get you going, albeit a bit humiliating. Better things do come along and I found that out very shortly. For short term, relish the fact that you will have a bit more time for home and family. Long term, begin focusing on that new career direction you have spoken about. It only takes the desire to do it. Then, take those baby steps to get there.

I have never commented on your blog, but i read every new post. Your blog gives me someone to identify with (life's small victories and struggles for every person). It makes me feel like i am not so alone. In short, you inspire me to keep moving forward. Hopefully, this time I might be a small spur for you! Hang in there.

Starshine said...

I'm so sorry you found out that way. Sending a letter without talking to you first is pretty cowardly, if you ask me.

You have nothing to feel ashamed about! They acted like stupid-heads...not you! (Aren't I adult in calling them stupid-heads?)

Melinda said...

Aww..that's awful, but my first thought was 'Is it part of the Reduction in Force'?

Don't know if that's what is done in UT, but in IL, they 'fire' a bunch of low seniority people to balance the budget then hire them back at the start the next year when the state gives more money.

Anywho...hard to get news like that any day but horrendous on that day.

Adrienne said...

Ah, the joys of being RIF-ed. As a shiny new teacher (albeit older, I went BACK to teaching from science research) I live in terror of the RIF letter. Last in, first out is the rule in IN, too...

Susie Sunshine said...

What a chickenshitty way to let someone go.
I'm so sorry, honey.

mo*reezy said...

I came here via Dooce and was amazed at how similar your story is to mine - 9 weeks before I was to marry my college-student (read: unemployed) husband, 4 weeks before the end of the school year, my asshat principal called me into his office to tell me the very same thing, that I was not being rehired. He and I hadn't seen eye-to-eye all school year, possibly because he was an incorrigible redneck moron. And I hated my job, but still, no one likes to be fired, and I'm terribly sorry you have to deal with the stress of that situation.

However, it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me, leading me on a path directly to the job that I have now that I love (there were 2 short-term jobs in the 7 years since that happened). I'd like to say thanks to that principal, but that would involve courtesy which I do not think that man should ever receive. I hope all ends well for you in your situation.

staceirene said...

I came here through Dooce as well. I don't know what state you live in, but you need to check to see if it's an employment-at-will state. Hopefully not. The fact that you're in a union helps - check the bylaws and with your union rep to see what your options are, and good luck!

Kim in MA said...

That had to be an awful shock -- and bad timing, to boot. For what it's worth, in my school district, every non-professional status (under 3 years) teacher gets a pink slip every year. Then when the district knows how the budget shakes out, nearly all of them are rehired.

The only exception I know of was a teacher who got mad & burned bridges when she got the pink slip... they ended up hiring someone new to replace her. So you may not really be gone (unless you really want to be!). Hope it all works out for the best, these things usually do.

Anonymous said...

Many districts routinely generate LOTS of pink slips toward the end of the school year as a part of dealing with budget issues for the upcoming year, but don't actually fire the staff in the end...you might want to find out if that's the case where you are.

Pretty Lush said...

Luckily, if the blow was going to come, it came when there was a sweet little birthday party to compensate. Best of luck.

eprairiegrrl said...

Speaking as someone who got the letter put in front of them in a boardroom....The rum and coke was a good short-term filler. Get yourself some upbeat music..."I will survive" is not so bad lol and do what you can to keep getting out and chatting with those who support and love you. If you can get a severance that will give you some breathing space - possible since it doesn't sound like they have cause. Mostly focus on you and doing some things that reassure you that you're ok and make you feel good. I picked up some little cards that you pop open that are called "I believe in you"...keep your chin up and don't doubt that you're worth your salt!

leyla said...

please remember that california has huge budget problems. i haven't heard of it affecting counselors, but then again, i haven't looked into it enough. 13 teachers at my school in san francisco were just pink-slipped due to budget concerns. but when it is a budget-inspired pink slip, i am told that most people get their jobs back.

i don't want to be negative, i just want to let you know..

i don't know where you're thinking of moving to california - but the alum rock school district in san jose pays well (way better than my district in SF), and they are usually hiring.

hope that's helpful. perhaps it's not.. whoops.

sassypriscilla said...

You could pretend you didn't get the letter and keep showing up.

That letter is rotten and crooked.

I was only fired once for a made-up reason. Well, actually it was because I called my boss out on being a jerk. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. My next job was the best one I have had to date (except for my current job, which is mom).

Best wishes to you.

Ange (formerly Writer Mom) said...

Karma will avenge you.

But that does seem incredibly unprofessional.
If you got slipped without a face to face and no explanation, I'd definitely suspect personality conflict. Also gross negligence of funding (late night meetings at Chip-n-Dales?) which had to be righted by letting go perfectly fantastic employees.
Wish I was a lawyer. I'd take the case.

Good luck, and you've got one beautiful kid.

Right Brained Gal said...

Have you ever considered going out on your own? I live in California and I know there are several people who are personal counselors and make a great living doing it. In this day and age, when it is so important to get into the right college, people will pay to have someone handle the college application process and give personal attention to their child. Just an idea.

Bootilicious said...

I'm actually not a fan of the "everything happens for a reason" club. If anything, I'm a "make lemonade (+ excessive booze) from lemons" type. This sucks and whoever is responsible in the administration (principal, etc.) should be embarrassed. If they aren't, their mamas would be. While this is hard now, something better will come around the corner. It's not a question of if, but when.

I wish you all the best and until then, drink up!

Petunia Face said...

YOU TOO???
I just got laid off last Thursday. 10 months after being promoted.
I've found that blogging about how bitter and bitter I am helps. Yes, I said bitter twice. Because one bitter does not begin to describe how very Mrs. Havisham I am about the whole thing.
Good luck to you (and to me).

Heather said...

I came here via dooce, too. Just wanted to add that the same thing happened to me after my first year of teaching at a new school. As the principal handed me the letter in early April, she said "Don't worry. It's not a big deal". Hah! I cried for a full day.
Then I found out that it was a formality - something they did every year because of budget stuff. They "re hired" me before the end of the same school year. Good luck.

Mel said...

ugh, that's a bit of a low blow. i don't agree that this was the most professional way of handling things. :( i hope your lawyer is able to help out...

Klipschgirl said...

This too shall pass. Chin up, girl, better things always await.
Cute little girl :0

mexicanmasala said...

I came from Heather's site and wanted to say this happened to me as well. As a first year teacher, they put me in an "open environment" meaning I had NO WALLS in my classroom. I heard everything everyone else was teaching and I was given special education students even though I had no background in Special education. It was very difficult with 4 children alone having Tourette's, and the no walls thing did me in. 36 fourth graders, no aide, and no walls in my loud school and they ended up doing the same thing to me that happened to you.

But, I ended up landing an awesome job after that and really, it was for the best. I just felt used. I hope your trip made it a bit better and best of luck! It's really no wonder no one wants to teach anymore. This stuff happens all the time.

Kathy said...

You're going to write a letter BACK and I am going to help you. Here's how it will go:

Dear School Principal Mother F-er,

You can take this job and shove it. I was going to quit ANYWAYS! Before you even were THINKING of firing me I was going to quit. So pretty much I'm quitting right now. And BTW I don't see how firing people who are better looking than you is going to make you a happier person. When you are that ugly there will ALWAYS be someone prettier than you at the school. Sorry. But pretty much everything about you sucks. Which is why I QUIT. And I hate you. In fact NOBODY likes you because your just UGLY and nobody likes ugly people. So screw you and your stupid job you angry, letter firing, jealous biatch! Now you'll excuse me...Tinkerbell needs her wand back.

Cordially,

Carol.

ps See you Monday!!!

I think this is really the classiest way to go about things. Taking the higher road is kind of my motto in life. You can thank me for it later!!

copacetic said...

hi there...came over from reading about this on dooce's page. I am sorry to hear of this and do think it was a fairly skeezy way of letting you go. Good luck with the union attorney and I wish you the best...

Thank you.

CarpeDM said...

Here via dooce as well.

This brought back memories. Bad, bad memories. Sounds like from the comments that you've got a lot of great support. I have looked back and realized that my boss actually did me a favor by firing me. And I now know what I'm going to post about. Thanks for curing my blogging block!

The idea of playing pin the wand on Tinkerbell is so hilarious, I love it. And the name Ella is beautiful.

Slice of Pink said...

A former teacher here....

As a provisional employee, I was also pink slipped every year and then rehired before the start of the next year. I was always told "not to worry about it" as it was something they had to do for budget reasons. Any chance this might be the case? I sure hope so...

Good luck and best wishes. I hope that it all works out (and I suspect that it will, despite how it certainly may seem right now!)

Anonymous said...

This happened to me a few years back. I was never observed and they pretty much said they could give a flying flip if we did the year end evaluation and then out of nowhere I was let go. I too wanted to look into the legal side of it. I was told (by nobody official) that California has the "no fault" law or something like that, so they can pretty much fire you for no reason at all. I hope that you can find better counsel than I did. Or at least I hope you can feel like I do now. Being let go at that particular school was THE BEST THING that could have ever happened to me. It's terrible when it happens (especially when it comes out of the blue), but hopefully time will heal. I feel for you and I don't even know you!! Good luck!

heather said...

me too here via our mutual friend dooce. So sorry to hear your news. I was recently "let go" via letter as well. I worked for a federally funded grant project, and we got a letter one day that basically said the gov't was backing out of our 5 year contract "due to changing funding priorities". Read that how you like. I'm sure you're an awesome counselor! Best wishes from your newest reader!

Deb said...

Found you on Dooce, too.

Remember: valium is always appropriate.

Now go sue their butts!

Jennie said...

Also here via Dooce. Gotta love it.

I'm so sorry to hear about this, because I think counselors are so important, and I know when I was in the Utah school system there just weren't enough. Being involved with the education system in Utah is hard. Having both a mother and an aunt who teach/have taught special education and who have been "surplused" several times, I've come to the conclusion that Utah has some kind of vendetta against educators. Good for you for getting your union rep involved.

gilliansmom said...

Here via dooce...

Wow, reading this I was dumbstruck. Same exact thing happened to me. Except that I had had my reviews and they were perfect- highest possible scores! Again maybe the principal and I weren't best buds, but no reprimands, nothing at all. I'm a single mom- with 2 kids and a mortgage! Talk about devestating, but y'know what. Like you I wasn't happy in that career (teaching), so I took an enormous leap of faith and refused to look for another teaching job. Took me until late Sept. to find something, but I'm now in the software field. Love it! Hang in there. It sounds trite, believe me I know, but there are better things in store for you.

Just as an aside to the folks who commented on employment law, teaching is different than other professions. In most states if you are not tenured they can let you go for absolutely no reason at all. And you have no recourse. :(

Peggy Houston, TX said...

So can relate. And I remember always saying the word FIRED so everyone else could feel my pain. It took about a year for me to be okay with it. But I feel your paint. My philosophy is that is happens to everyone at least once a career.

Anonymous said...

You may be sick of advice, but I work for an online university and we're hiring mentors. Your counseling background would be perfect. Best part about it- you work from home! We're based in SLC and we're a non profit. Western Governor's University. Google it. Come apply. We have a yearly 30% growth rate and we hire 5 mentors a month.It's an awesome opportunity with good pay and lots advancement. Wouldn't you love to make lots of money without the inconvenience of having to shower every day! And you could be home with your kids. How cool would that be? Just a thought...

Megan said...

Girl, we educators are getting laid off out here in California too. I got laid off one week after I was hired as a temporary teacher. And here I thought being in education was a secure career choice. They'll always need teachers, right? Wrong.

minxlj said...

"As a provisional employee (within three years of employment) the district can let me go without reason."

I'm stunned by this - the US have some strange laws relating to work. In the UK there is a provisional period of usually 3 months (you sign a contract as soon as you start working somewhere) then you're contracted, that's it. If they let you go (make you 'redundant') there has to be a solid reason or you're entitled to sue for wrongful dismissal, and also when you've worked for a company over a certain amount of time (1 year I think) we are entitled to extra 'redundancy pay'.

I don't know if the educational sector is different from other sectors in the US, but the whole set-up seems ridiculous to me. Firing people every day only to rehire them? Hmm.

nibblets said...

Ugh! So sorry Carol! This is the status quo in CA though. With our economy well in the red, about 25% of the teachers at my sons' elementary school got pink slips - which essentially mean you may not have a job in the fall. We'll get back to you when we know. As I understand it, anyone with less than 3 years gets one EVERY year as a failsafe. What a sucky system.

My Kindergartner has an Ella in his class. She's a blondie too. :-)

Anonymous said...

I followed the link from Dooce--bless your heart! I'm so sorry.

I work for an attorney and you definitely should have some leverage considering you were not evaluated during the school year.

On the other hand...my former position was eliminated after I slaved there for 8 years, and while my boss *tried* to help me find another place in our company, I thought it best to make a clean break as opposed to taking what essentially would be a demotion. I changed careers, make much less money, and am twice as happy. Sometimes we just have to trust in the Universe to do what is right.

Anonymous said...

After reading the comments, I ask the question, when will all of involved in educating kids, One of THE MOST IMPORTANT tasks in the world, be TREATED LIKE PROFESSIONALS?

good luck, however it shakes out. I'm going through it, too.

Anonymous said...

Carol,

I came over via Dooce as well, and I just want to say: stop and look at how many people are supporting you, sending you their best wishes, good thoughts and prayers, and don't even know you.

You are obviously a strong, wonderful person, and people sense that in you. I suspect you know that abut yourself. Instead of getting horrible news and turning into a puddle of tears, you gave your sweet daughter an amazing birthday party any little girl would love. You're a do-er, a go-getter, and over-comer.

I'm not an "everything happens for a reason" person. I'm a "life is full of setbacks, and success is determined by how you handle those setbacks" kind of person. You've already shown yourself to be a person who can have a major setback and a few minutes later, throw a kick-ass purse party for your daughter. So, there is no doubt in my mind that you will handle the rest of the situation with the same level of success.

It's not that you can do it-it's that you already are doing it. Keep going.

-Linda

chasing fireflies said...

Well shit I've got too much work right now.

I could hire ya for a month or two.

Matt said...

From a Minneapolis suburbanite and long-time Dooce follower via Dooce as well...

Hope your time with Heather has been remedial, and remember to always stay positive. Not to sound cliche, but God doesn't close one door without opening another. I ended up getting laid off about four years ago, and it took me 6 months to finally get a job where I work at now (Wells Fargo- A strong company with great benefits, a company I will probably retire at). Even though the 6 months without an emergency fund found us losing our house to foreclosure, I would not be where I am today, and would not be as successful moving up the ladder. Keep faithful, for this is just the beginning of the rest of your life, and it will be exciting!

Anonymous said...

The same thing happened to me. It wasn't easy, but I ended up at another school in a different county. I hated everything about my old job, and I absolutely love my new job.

It will work out just fine.

Jenjifer said...

Came here from Dooce, hope you don't mind us newcomers commenting on your blog.

Anyhow, just wanted that I feel for you on the whole pink slip thing -- a few years ago, I worked remotely for a company headquarterd in Utah, I live in Massachusetts. The last week of my maternity leave, I got an EMAIL from my boss telling me they had cut my position. An email -- WTF???

If your a pal of Dooce, you've gotta be cool. Hope you don't mind if I hand out here a while!

Kate said...

Discovered your blog via the dooce.

In New Jersey, we also have the ever popular RIF (Reduction in Force). My brother in law, a middle school history teacher, fell victim to the RIF in his first year. My mother, a retired teacher and veteran of his district, told him not to worry and that it was a mere formality. He was rehired for the next school year.

The timing of this DID leave a lot to be desired - sending it so close to spring break, just when you need to talk to someone, is crappy.

Anonymous said...

sorry to anon but it is soo time consuming to be logged into everything.

Speaking as one who was pink-slipped twice within 6 mos... this will look up for you - they have to - there is nowhere else to go ;-)

Red said...

I don't understand why people who do such a public thing as blogging are ever surprised when they get fired. When you talk on your blog about how you aren't that into your job, you're not "in love" with your job, you're thinking of leaving, you don't much like some of the people who you work with--it is your right to do that, certainly, but how can you be surprised when you suddenly get fired? Why would a school want someone who was half checked-out all the time and complained about it publicly when there are plenty of people who would be grateful for such a job? I'm not trying to be a jerk, I just don't understand how people don't see how blogging about their jobs can get them into trouble.

Overpronator said...

I too came here via Dooce. I feel your pain - I got laid off in February. http://overpronator.blogspot.com/2008/03/moving-along-but-ever-so-slowly.html#links

For me, it's been really hard finding something else, but at the same time, it's been a sort of a blessing. I'm tapping into random networks that I've developed but didn't realized that I had nor ever really used. The best thing of all is the rekindling of many lost friendships.

In short, the situation sucks, but it might be enriching sucky situation.