Why I’m (a little bit) glad I was laid off

Nobody wants to talk about getting laid off. At least, I don’t think so. It feels personal.

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But it feels personal.

I put a lot of energy into my last tutoring job. I felt a connection with many of the students there. I wanted to give back to a community that had once helped me, personally, academically, and professionally.

At one point, I had been told that a teaching position or two would be opening up in the near future. It would be a part-time position, but I was ok with that. Alternative education is important to me. When I was offered another part-time position tutoring at a local school, I turned it down, even though there was an opportunity to advance.

Then I was laid off.

At first it hurt. At first it felt like a door had been closed.

Finally I realized doors had actually OPENED. I had spent so much time thinking about how I could work on my position there, that I had been neglecting other opportunities – grad school, scholarships, PhD applications, strengthening my writing sample, presenting at conferences.

Since I no longer had to worry about that job, I got two other part-time jobs, both at the university where I am pursuing my M.A. This meant less commuting time. These jobs also taught me new skills (especially in social media!) and enhanced my application to PhD programs in English. Now I’m going exactly where I feel should be at this point in my life.

Instead of thinking so much about the past, I’m looking forward to the future.


10 Things I Wish I’d Known about BEFORE Going to College

For the past few years, I’ve taught in adult education and alternative high schools, worked on my Master of Arts, and applied to PhD programs. Oh, yeah, and I had two kids. This year, I applied for the THIRD TIME and received two fully funded offers.

I’m really excited about the program I’ll be entering. That said, there is a lot I wish I had known long before I applied to PhD programs the first time. Actually, I wish I’d known most of this before I applied to college at all.

10. The SAT and ACT sometimes qualify students to get into really good programs with scholarships. I had no idea. I was terrified of taking the SAT or ACT, plus it seemed like the paperwork itself was a hurdle. Now students tend to be required to take it.

9. The Truman Scholarshipfull scholarship for graduate school. Only current undergraduate students qualify.

8. The Rhodes. There are age limits. If this is something that might interest you, you need to start preparing early on in college. Make sure your undergrad institution has a Rhodes contact so that you can get an endorsement from your university.

7. The Marshall. See above.

6. You can get involved in research as an undergraduate. For instance, go to and present at conferences. This will most likely greatly increase your chance of getting into a PhD program, and it will definitely increase your preparation.

5. Some of these programs, like the McNair Scholars and Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP), entail guaranteed scholarships upon applying to grad school. Also, completing these programs allows students to receive fee waivers to a number of institutions when applying to graduate school.

4. There are also similar programs that are location or institution-specific, like the Lindon Barrett Scholars Mentoring Program and the Mentoring Summer Research Internship at the University of California Riverside.

3. Post-baccalaureates. The Hot Metal Bridge Program at the University of Pittsburgh is just one. Again, I’d never heard of these.

2. There are Fulbright programs to which you can apply right out of college, or even during your last year of undergrad. I thought Fulbrights were only for university teachers.

1. Think about your life goals, short and long term. Seriously. I love my kids intensely, but you can’t go into the Peace Corps when you have dependent children. Most of the Fulbright programs don’t include stipends for children. Etc.

What do you wish you had known? Please let me know if any of these tips help or if you have questions!


Why is mentorship so important and so scarce?

Perhaps I am borrowing a bit from the meme that is currently circulating: the world does not need more successful people. The world needs more dreamers, lovers, etc.

I have been thinking about mentorship for a while, particularly in the context of education: elementary, secondary and higher education. We do not necessarily need more teachers. We need more people who are willing to, and who can, mentor. Students need to be able to build a rapport with their teachers. They need to know that their teachers genuinely care about and believe in them.

Teachers need to be able to do this. For this to happen, we as a society need to invest in our teachers. How can teachers invest in students if their employers are not investing in them?

Teachers also need to be interested in mentoring students, and to not feel like it is a stigma to care about what their students are doing. Support from the administration, in this regard, would also help.

In secondary education particularly, we need more teachers willing to start and maintain LGBTQ clubs and other support/outreach groups, which, unfortunately, are still so often seen as problematic.

Finally, students need the simple things in mentorship – someone to tell them which scholarships are available and how to apply for them – someone to review drafts of cover letters and essays – someone to say, “I believe in you. Keep trying.”