When I look back at certain events in my life, I can accept the fact that there were things I could have done differently. There is nothing wrong with owning your decisions, whatever the outcome, but that doesn’t get everyone else off the hook. There will always be times in your life when you need to rely on someone and if they don’t come through, then you only have three choices:
Permanently remove them from your life, forgive them and move on, or keep them in your life but never trust them again. Doesn’t seem like a lot of variety in those choices does there?
The year is 2000-2001, my senior year of high school. By this time I had been in Upward Bound for almost three years, which is where I learned about the Summer Youth Employment Program. It was through SYEP that I got my very first job as a teacher’s assistant for a daycare, although officially it was SYEP signing the paychecks and the daycare considered me more of a volunteer than an employee.
The actual year of SYEP was during the summer between my sophomore and junior years, but the very next summer I could not participate in SYEP because they had changed their demographic to focus only on the 14-16 age range. But that didn’t bother me so much because at the time, I knew in my heart that I wanted to work with children, preferably in a daycare setting. (Incidentally, Early Childhood Education was the original reason I had tried to apply for Salem State University)
During my senior year, I filled out many applications for daycare related positions. At this time, the daycare I had worked for in the summer was bought by the hospital and their requirements were stricter. Even volunteers had to be in college and working towards some kind of education related degree, but there were still plenty of options in Bennington. After much pounding of pavement, the daycare for the Bennington Health and Rehab responded to my application and called me in for an interview.
Aside from the standard question and answer part of the interview, I was obviously introduced to a lot of the children, who were primarily between the ages of one and 4. One such boy, who was about two, was afraid of men. I had such visions of working here and with time and patience, slowly earning the trust of this boy and having a positive influence on him.
The interview went well. I only needed three references and the director of the daycare, a woman whose own son was also among the children I interacted with, made it clear to me that she had to follow up and speak with each reference I put down.
Anyone looking for a job knows the basic rules of references. They should not be people who are related to you or people who are close friends. Generally they need to be people who can attest to your work history and reliability, among other things. But at that time I only had two solid work related references and one of them was the Bennington Potters, which had just undergone a massive management change. At this time, I only had the contact information of three people who would be appropriate as references for any job, but more specifically, any job in a daycare setting. Among them was a teacher from Upward Bound, who was also the mother of my best friend at the time.
Why was she different? Because obviously she’s not my best friend, but my best friend’s mother. As a teacher of a handful of students in Upward Bound, she was more qualified to speak on my behalf to a potential employer. She also knew of my job at the daycare, which I worked at during my second year of Upward Bound and she also had knowledge of my volunteer work (also done through Upward Bound) with a school aged group at a local housing project in Bennington.
Like my other two references, I asked her several times if she would be willing to give me a reference. I asked her many times because I was serious about getting this job. The best thing she could have done for me then, if there was even the slightest chance that she would not get in touch with the director, was to say no. At that point, I would have tried a scatter bomb approach, calling teachers who knew me well, any one that could give me a reference. But because she told me had no problem giving me a reference, I was counting on her and the two other people I put down on the application.
When the director called me to tell me that one of my references did not call her back, you can probably guess who failed to come through for me.
Even then, I knew I should have been looking for backup references, just in case one of my first choices didn’t follow through. The trouble is that since the job was for a daycare, there really weren’t too many people I could count on.
It’s true that you shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket. But that only applies when you have a significant amount of eggs, or a significant amount of time. Sometimes all you have is three eggs and if you only put two of them in the basket, you’re left with one rotting egg and you wouldn’t have been any better than if you had just thrown it in with the other two.
In this case I had three eggs. One of them definitely turned out to be rotten and because it had nothing to do with my friendship with her son, I didn’t break things off with him until much, much later. But even when I applied to The Bennington School after turning 21, I didn’t ask her for a job related reference ever again.