There be dragons here

by Terry Hargrove

Days remaining in spring break: 1
Days of meaningful employment left: 41
Paychecks remaining: 10
Unused sick days: 20
Number of three-day weekends coming up: I see a couple at least.

No normal adventurer would head out to sea without some reflection on what he has, what he needs, and what real and imagined dragons are out there waiting for him. Now is a good time to take stock of things, while I still have a job and some security and don’t believe in dragons. Let’s see, where to start? Ah, the old blue car is paid for! That’s good. Since I changed the transmission fluid, my car, like the Viking longboat, can go forwards and backwards. Of course, the car is eight years old, so that’s bad. I didn’t renew the lease on our rental house yet and the lease is good until September. That’s good. But I will have to move in September. That’s bad. My college transcripts are on the way! That’s good. So far as I can see, there isn’t a lot of money on adventuring, so I have to start interviewing for jobs again. That’s really bad.

By my count, I filled out 27 teaching job applications from 2005 to 2007, went to 17 interviews, and was the finalist for the position seven times. But since then the economy has tanked and the competition is really fierce. This week I have completed one job application for a position north of here, but I don’t expect them to call. I will probably go back to a teacher hiring agency. They helped me get the charter school job, but I hesitate. You see, every other job recruiter takes its fee from the employers. Not teacher agencies. They get their fee from the teacher, one more insult to the profession I foolishly picked after even more foolishly picking English as a college major. When I get that time machine, I’m going straight back to 1980 to slap myself right into pharmacy school where I belonged.

Oh, I know what you’re saying. “He’s going back to the classroom? What kind of adventure is that?” Well, he that is without unsecured debt cast the first stone. My dad lost his job in 1977, and he never worked again. I’m afraid of that happening to me. Besides, anybody who thinks teaching isn’t an adventure has never wandered into a public school in Philadelphia. It’s dangerous in there. I may be too old to hire, but I am definitely too young to retire. I have to make the effort, even if nobody is going to take a chance on an overpriced, overweight English teacher. I know my stuff, and I know how to use it to make kids better readers and writers. But that is the old. That is the life I had that is slipping away day by day, class by class. Now I face the new. In the new, I don’t exist. In the new, I don’t matter.

I am fighting the new. I hate the new. I wake up at night and wonder what the hell I’m going to do if nobody hires me. That’s a very real possibility, and it scares me more than shopping in a grocery store on the day before Thanksgiving. Unemployed in September is the dragon I face, and he’s hungry and looking right at me. What do you do when the dragon is looking at you?

What do you do? You back up. The Vikings knew what they were doing when they designed their long boats. And I was smart enough to change the transmission fluid in the old blue car.

Categories: Economy, Funny

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7 replies »

  1. Well, “good luck” goes without saying. And when you get around to expanding the scope of your search and thinking about transferable skills, I can say from experience that despite the competition, there really aren’t that many people out there who can write. So maybe there’s a spot for you in marketing communications.

    Some days it beats lifelong unemployment….

  2. I agree with Sam. Even teachers’ unions need good communicators — to the public, to the politcians, and to the teachers themselves.

    And there’s the “Best of Hargrove” hardcover collection of columns I’m dying to buy …

  3. A friend and I had a discussion about growing old. We both agreed that the moment you look old, unless you’ve already “made it”, you’re fucked, because no one will give you a chance, no matter how good your skills. Fortunately, after getting my health back together I now look like I’m in my mid 30s (a few years ago I looked like I was in my mid 40s).


    I wish you the best of luck, and perhaps the advice above will work for you. Having worked as an editor, I can certainly say that the number of people who can write well is indeed very limited.

  4. Job suggestion: An older friend of mine volunteers as a tutor in a free Kaplan SAT prep program. In time, he may be able to go professional. That’s one way to ease into that field.

    • Also, there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for “life coaching” these days. I don’t know anything about the economics of the gig – I imagine it’s a bitch to get established at first – but I’ve read enough of your writing to suspect that you’d be very good at it. Your perspective and sense of humor would set you apart in a world where too many people are too self-serious.

  5. Good luck with your search. I think students need a teacher with your grasp of language, humor, and humility. And I agree with you – try to avoid any recruiting agency that draws its fees from the candidate rather than the company.