I was never one of those people who planned to leave his or her hometown as soon as possible. On the contrary, I remember the day I was forced to accept the fact that I would have to leave Pittsburgh. It was one of the worst days of my life.
It was in the late spring of 1994 and I was substituting at my Alma Mater, Langley High School, during the day and working at Kaufmann’s at South Hills Village at night. I had just completed my student teaching in the fall at another urban (although not in PPS) Pittsburgh Area high school and graduated from IUP in January. My GPA was just average but I earned an A++ for my student teaching and had glowing letters of recommendation. Life was good.
One day, I got a message from my cooperating teacher saying that he decided to retire and had recommended me to replace him. I couldn’t contain my excitement at the prospect of getting a real life so soon after graduation. My friends would all be jealous!!!! It was common knowledge that teaching jobs were worth their weight in gold in PA so I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I followed his directions to the letter, applied for the job and started planning to decorating my first real apartment in the best IKEA had to offer.
A few weeks passed and I didn’t hear anything. I called the school office to check and make sure my application and resume were received. “The position has been filled,” was the answer I received to my inquiry. What? There must have been a horrible mistake because the retiree recommended me – I mean who would better know who could do the job, right?
Ah, the folly of youth. Apparently, there were several people who knew better (the interview team) and apparently they were looking for a teacher with experience. Which I didn’t have. Because I needed to get a job to get experience. A job which I couldn’t get because I didn’t have experience. I hate Catch-22’s. Even the term Catch 22 is annoying. It didn’t even help that I was a woman in a field of education generally dominated by men. The Department Chair even went to bat for me. He insisted that the interview team should meet with me as a courtesy, just so I could get some interview experience.
Instead of cool, Swedish mod furniture, I started decorating my bedroom with rejection letters from school districts. It was pathetic. The only consolation I had in this debacle was that there was a regular substitute at that school who had been subed there virtually every day for 6 years. He was 40 and he couldn’t get an interview either. I saw it as an omen.
I had to make the impossible choice: Stay in Pittsburgh and try to pay my bills while paying my dues substituting and working odd jobs or take a chance on finding a teaching job somewhere else and see if teaching was really what I should be doing with my life.
Truly, I had no choice but to leave.
West End Girl