My story: "Build your own rainbow" by Alice Cassidy

“Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.”*

At the 2012 Educational Developers Caucus conference hosted by St. Mary’s and Dalhousie Universities, I led a session by the same name as this article. Its premise was this:

“What if” the educational development work that you currently enjoy is suddenly “no more”?

I spoke from personal experience. An educational development position I had enjoyed immensely (for 17 years) was eliminated without cause. Bam! Yes, it feels as bad as it might sound. And it sounds like a colossal failure and to some it would be. I was mostly sad, and even now, six years later, can conjure up that sad feeling quite easily.

But I knew it was entirely out of my control and dwelling on it would not help in any way. After a cold beverage on the sunny back deck, I moved into action mode. What are the basics that I need? A computer and an email address were at the top of my list, as was changing some items on LinkedIn. The messages, calls and visits that poured in were much appreciated. It was nice to know people cared. And it reminded me that I have a large network of colleagues from which to draw energy and ideas. I did that.

One step was that EDC session. The focus was on finding a balance between watching for other opportunities and creating your own, through networking, reflecting on what you really like and want to do, and online sleuthing to find out more. To me, this was the rainbow-building. The colleagues who came to the session included those who had lost jobs, or were graduating and looking for a first job, or were retiring and wondering what to do to keep busy. We talked about things like creating an excel file and adding every item that occurs to you, a place you used to work, something you read, someone you met for coffee – add a line for each of these, with columns that help you – what did or might this idea or encounter connect to for possible work? What do I need to do now? Look something up? Call or email someone? What else?

I now have the chance to do some rainbow repair work. Two other part-time jobs I held in the past four years were also eliminated. Restructuring, financial constraint, that sort of thing. Roll with the punches? Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again? Well, in some ways yes, though starting all over again is not something, as educational developers, we really need to do. We can draw on our skills and experience. We can network. We are invincible… okay maybe that is going a bit too far.

I have learned the kinds of tasks or places that I don’t want, which is not something that is often talked about. I have busied myself (as I always did) with a lot of volunteer educational development and teaching and learning projects (My tip is don’t overdo it, keep that balance of volunteer and paid work – or looking for it!). One of the most important lessons I have learned is this:  “You are not your job.”  So, whether you find yourself out of work, or are looking for your first job, or planning how to keep busy once you retire, reflect on what you like to do (and as it comes to you, what you won’t do), what you are good at, what you can learn more about. Most of all, find happiness in all that makes up your rich life. If it is not there just now, go out and find it or create it. Good wishes with building your own rainbow.

*Excerpt from Somewhere over the rainbow, written for The Wizard of Oz. Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. 1939

Alice Cassidy, Ph.D.


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