A master’s degree is a terrible thing to have in Illinois if you want to be a teacher. At least that’s what I tell myself to help explain the fact that I’ve gone on more than 30 interviews and only been offered a handful of jobs.
I do have some concrete evidence for this hypothesis. When a principal called me for an interview, one of the first things he asked was, “You don’t have a master’s do you?”
“Yes I do. It’s in my content area: biology,” I replied, perhaps a little boastfully.
“Oh, that’s not good.”
“What do you mean?” I mean, come on. The job was for a biology teacher. Why wouldn’t it be a good thing if I’m an (almost) expert in my field?
“The board doesn’t like to see Master’s degrees. Too expensive,” he continued, referring to the scale in Illinois where teachers get paid more the more education they have. He agreed to interview me anyway, but, needless to say, I didn’t get the job.
Up till then, I had heard the rumor that districts hire teachers straight out of college because a) they cost less and b) they are more flexible and moldable (I’m avoiding the words “able to be brainwashed” because hey, I’m not that bitter). But after that it became a little more obvious. I would go on tons of later-stage interviews only to hear that the job went to someone who just finished student teaching, or a sub who’d never had a full-time teaching position.
I finally got up the courage to ask my latest pass why she was moving on to the next stage of interviews without me.
“Well, when I asked you how you would incorporate reading and writing into your science classroom, you told me about the special Biology Reading class that you currently have, all of the professional development you’ve done for that, and the fact that you are a published author… but you didn’t give me any specifics.”
Wait. I’m sorry, you stressed over and over that it was a screening interview and that it shouldn’t last longer than a half hour. I thought emphasizing my love of reading and writing would have been enough on that question. Of course I didn’t say this to her. I just thanked her for giving me the opportunity to interview in the politest way possible and then stuck my tongue out at the phone after I’d hung up.
To put it plainly, this obviously would not have been a principal I would have wanted to work for (although the staff seemed great). I would have also had to have given up seven years and my tenure in another school, not to mention the possibility of having nearly $20,000 of my extensive student loans (to get that unfortunate M.S.) paid off in two years. And I would have had to drop a few thousand on a middle school endorsement, and (sigh) go back to school. It would have been a hard sell to get me to move from my current, though admittedly not so great, position as a high school teacher to teach puberty-stricken, immature middle schoolers for a (deleted) administrator (still not bitter).
But it still hurts. The words, “We’ve decided to go forward with another candidate,” mean, in plain English: “We didn’t really want you. We wanted someone else.”
I liken it to when I guy I really didn’t like that much told me he didn’t want to see my anymore when I was in graduate school (do you get the picture? I have a master’s degree. Smiley face). I didn’t see him as boyfriend material, but it was still a blow to the ego when he broke it off with me.
Rejection hurts no matter how much you don’t actually want the job or the boy. That’s why I became a writer. Because we never face rejection whatsoever (Is the sarcastic tone of voice coming across?) After ten or so rejection letters from agents , which is really not that many at all—Stephen King received 30 rejections before Carrie was accepted by a publisher—I decided to go the self-publishing route.
(You can read about more famous author rejections here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/stmartinspress/20-brilliant-authors-whose-work-was-initially-reje-7rut#.uyP9NOXOy)
Not that self-publishing is immune to its own stings; just yesterday, right before the middle school rejection phone call, I was told by a book blogger that my book was not selected to be reviewed. It felt a little like the raw-wound feeling I get every time a day goes by when my book doesn’t sell a single copy. And sometimes I lie awake at night thinking about the inevitable day I get a 1-star review.
I know, I know, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and all that jazz. You weren’t the right person for that position. Any of them. That guy was a grad-school dropout. One-star reviews actually make your book look legit. There are plenty of things we can tell ourselves to mitigate the burn we feel when we are turned down. And I’m going to use all of them.
I’m going to keep on pretending that it’s the M.S. after my name and not any fault in my personality that is keeping me from a new teaching job. And I’m going to keep on writing when I come home crying from my current job when my kids are acting up and I get no administrative support. And in my next book, look out for a thank-you to those 30 schools that rejected me, because had I not been motivated to better myself, I might never have become a best-selling author (which of course I will be by the time my next book comes out!).
Boyfriend, job, agent? Tell me about your worst rejection story below!