Canned, fired, terminated, laid-off.
It's taken me a while to gather up enough strength to write about this, and I didn't really want to release the info. widely before my students' big graduation day - which was today.
The reason for my being laid-off is the dismally poor attendance the school is forecasting for the upcoming academic year. A school whose student body may drop by as much as 25% is faced with a serious situation indeed. Imagine any school losing that percentage of its student body.
No one quite knows why the attendance is to drop like this - it might be the huge tuition rebates that the McGuinty Ontario Government is planning - but cannot itself afford. It might not be that. It might be the end of an era where a private Catholic school was deemed important enough by at least a small segment of people to make it viable. It might be that the school has been inadequate in its recruitment of students. It might be - paradoxically - that with the growth of the school to around 90 students what had made the school attractive in the first place - a homey, friendly environment - has been destroyed. Maybe it was that in our desperation to keep the school going we let in the wrong types of students - poor students, poor Catholics who ruined the atmosphere that had made the school such a special place. It might have been the increase in tuition a few years ago up to the normal tuition rates in Ontario. It might be a combination of all of these factors, or some that I have failed to consider.
I had been warned of the possibility that my position might be terminated in light of these dismal projections. It was not the first time I had been told this. It had practically become a Rite of Spring for me these last few years. When people hear that of the twenty or so employees at my school I am the expendable one they kind of scratch their heads in confusion. I do too. I am one of only two full-time teachers there with a PhD. You know how much my degree cost me? $100,000. That is why I am one of only two full-time PhDs at the school. Who else could afford it? I could not. I have lived on a lot more than my OLSWA salary these five years now.
But to put a bit of context here: of the four departments at the school, only one of them - mine - the theology department - has three professors. Unfortunately for me, the other two members, though not having doctoral degrees, have been there much longer than I have. Unfortunate for me. The philosophy department has one prof., the history department too, and the literature. Makes sense in this light, then.
Now I could make a extensive and, I think, valid and persuasive argument that of the 20 or so employees of the school I am not the one who should be gotten rid of, but the fact is, I am not really interested in any of that.
Actually, I think it is time I left.
Why would I say such a thing?
I have a few reasons. I'll try and rank them.
1) What my career really needs is published writing. I can spend this year on severance and unemployment insurance writing and researching. I have five years of teaching experience, and that is invaluable, but it is so hard to write when you are teaching. I will only get hired by other schools if I have a record of publishing good academic writing.
2) I don't feel vitalized by the school any longer. What I mean is that - for whatever reason - I do not feel like I am doing as much for the Kingdom as I could be. There are other ways of stating this, but I want to contribute to Catholic education, not detract from it, so I am going to say all of this in the most productive manner I can. Simply, I don't think my gifts are being properly used there.
3) In general, comfort is not beneficial. This has a lot to do with reason number (2), but a little to do with (1) as well. This is the longest I have ever held a job. Academically, these five years have not exposed me to many new ideas. Or, perhaps I should say, over these five years I have gained everything good that I can from this environment. I have grown so much as a result of being here - spiritually: especially from the students. So many of them have edified me so much. How my marriage has improved is proof of this. I have grown intellectually as a result of the courses I have been made to teach, in some cases courses that I would have never myself chosen to teach if the choice had been mine. I have grown intellectually simply by the passage of time and the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of books I have had the opportunity to read over these five years.
4) All the bad stuff that I don't regret leaving behind.
How do I feel?
That's the million dollar question, isn't it.
I feel sad. Right now, I feel sad.
Of course, I feel sad ever year around graduation. Now I have an additional, piquant reason.
I have also felt a bit excited by the prospect of (1) above especially.
Those first few people I have told this to, some have reacted very negatively. I have been touched by their affection. To one who thought about doing drastic things as a result I said this:
"I never tell anyone what to do. Do whatever and say whatever you like, but I think that if I were to be offered this same job back under the same conditions, I would opt for being laid-off. So keep that in mind."
To those of my readers who have supported my school over these years all I can say is that I live my professional life to promote Catholic education. I will continue to do so. If you want to honour me, promote Catholic education in the way you think best.
I have heard before that a woman most wants love, a man most wants respect. As a husband, father and teacher I always think about appreciation when I think of respect. In general, academics are an insecure lot: professionally, they survive by their reputation. Thus, they seem especially sensitive to the opinions of others. Yes, I am feeling a little under appreciated. Who wouldn't in my position?
Today, this morning, someone, a lovely young lady, a former student of mine, came up to me and tearfully said, "Thank-you. Just, thank-you." I wish she realized how much I needed to hear that at that very moment.
I don't live my life to please others. My students know that, certainly. But to know that you have benefited someone else's life in some small way is nice.
Otherwise, where have we gone and what have we done?
Thanks for reading.