How Getting Laid Off Changed My Life

by Charise Rohm Nulsen

My ample midsection cramped up as I stood tapping my foot distractedly outside of a once welcoming room – a room that now held my fate. I tried to ignore the contractions that gently rocked me from the inside out and focus on presenting a confident countenance that would be worthy of hearing the words I had been told I would receive today: “We look forward to having you back as a faculty member next year, Charise.”

A fellow teacher suddenly burst through the closed door. Was that a tear on her face? I tried not to let this rattle me as I reflected on the possibility that the fantastic teacher who just brushed by me was a possible casualty of these district mandated layoffs. I focused instead on the promises this incoming principal had made our staff. He understood that the last thing the children of our tumultuous, inner city school needed was more abandonment. Whether it be by choice or not, these kids already had more people walk away from them in their short lives than most people experience in a lifetime. My students loved me and I loved them. I was respected by my peers and my teaching evaluations were perfect. I had nothing to worry about.

I smiled brightly at next year’s principal and the HR rep as I attempted to squeeze my copious belly into the miniature chair across the table from them.

“I’m sorry… What’s your name again?”

This startled me a bit as I remembered how many times we had emailed and at how many meetings we had spoken recently. Wasn’t I sort of memorable at this point with my 8 1/2 month pregnant belly?

I gave him my name.

“And what do you teach again?”

Oh. Crap.

“Special Ed ELA.”

He scanned a list, really looked at me for the first time, and pronounced, “I’m sorry we will not be having you back next year. Here is the paperwork you need. Thanks for your time.”

I was so shocked that I could not respond. Later, I would think of seemingly one hundred questions and retorts that I should have uttered, but nothing came to me in my paralysis of awe.

Oh my god. We just bought a house. And a car. And we’re having a baby. And I ADORE these children. How can I be without them? What the hell just happened? Didn’t he know how I didn’t think twice about throwing my lifegiving body in the midst of the fights and assaults that happened in our hallways on a now daily basis? Didn’t he know that these kids poured their hearts out to me? Didn’t he know that these children inhabited my dreams on a regular basis?

As the day went on and I saw crying teachers, outraged students, and hysterical children, I came to realize that our status as a turnaround school led to exactly what we were told wouldn’t happen. Eighty-five percent of our middle school staff had been let go.

Fast forward to now. I am still a teacher. I am also a student. My sole pupil and inspiring instructor in life lessons is much younger than my previous students. He pays me in cuddles and adoring glances that empower me heart and my life with contented ferocity.

The curriculum may be different, but the process is the same. My days are filled with love and learning, inspiration and hope, and I never dreamed I could be this happy.

My student

My partner in love and learning.

This post is in response to a RemembeRED meme from The Red Dress Club: This week we want you to recall something in your life that seemed terrible at the time, but looking back, brought you something wonderful.

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