Getting Fired

Just about every time I send a mass e-mail -- to parents, friends, or church members -- a couple of copies bounce back.  Work e-mail addresses "not found."  Someone else has lost a job.

I've only been fired once.  It was just about the worst thing I've ever gone through, and I'm still not completely over it, especially since it was unjustly done (the conflict was personal; I was an excellent employee.  Lesson learned: you can't please everybody!)

In a way, though, I get fired every time I lose a student.  It's the same feeling whether it's a piano student or a student who drops or transfers out of my class at school: sometimes shock, sometimes a little relief, but always, always disappointment.  I invest a lot in each one of my students.  I love them, both the ones that inspire me and the ones that frustrate me (and sometimes I love those the most!)  And even when the parents follow all the rules, even when they explain that they just can't afford lessons anymore or that the drive was getting to be too much for them, you can't help thinking, "What could I have done to keep them?  Was I the best teacher I could possibly have been?  Should I have tried to be more patient, more tolerant, less rigid?  Was I kind enough?"  And above all, "What's wrong with me that they wanted to quit?"

I've lost two students in the last 24 hours: one who was too old (too many activities in high school) and one who was too young (concentration difficulties, as well as a long drive.)  I know it's not my fault.  I try to remember what the Reverend Mother told Maria von Trapp, and I think of the open windows that have brought such blessings in the past.  New students have an uncanny way of appearing awfully soon after my old students leave.  And when Rob was laid off six years ago, he was scared to death (especially since he'd just bought my engagement ring a week before!)  But it gave him the opportunity to open his own firm, which has been quite successful, and to devote more time to teaching, which eventually became his full-time career.

Still . . . still . . . a part of me feels I have failed them.   I remember when my father got laid off after a 20-year tenure at a company he helped get started; although he'd known it was coming for a long time (new, inexperienced, foolish management) it was still a blow.  The day he got the news, I called to see how he was doing.  "Well, I knew as soon as I answered the phone," he said.  "I expected it.  But still . . . it never feels good to have someone think you're not worth keeping around."