Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Jobs and Life and All That Stuff

In the end, all it took was a conversation with my next-door-neighbor.

Since February, I have been looking for a job.  My teaching job at a small regional university was not being renewed and I am nearing the end of my doctoral program.  Time to reassess my options.  I don't really feel tied to Oklahoma anymore, given the extremely low pay for teachers- even with PhD's.  The heat on teacher unions, doing away with tenure and the malicious and oppressive testing environment bullshit that comes with the territory makes public school less attractive than it used to be.

I did a nationwide search.  Ok, I did a "Western half of the U.S." search.  Put out resumes, applied for positions, held my breath, published some stuff, went on a couple of insulting interviews and received around 50 rejection emails.  The rest of the 200 or so positions didn't bother to reply at all.

I have an interesting conundrum.  My education prepares me to do teacher education- that is to say that I can teach teachers to teach English.  My teaching experience is in teaching English on the college level (plus a stint teaching chemistry and one in the prison teaching GED classes).  I've never taught in a public school before.  In order to do teacher education, you have to teach in public school.  That's one part of it.

The other part is that I teach freshman composition courses.  It's a great part time job and you can string together a lot of part-time work to make a living.  It just doesn't pay as well as say, selling drugs on a street corner, or petty theft. I'd love to teach full time for a community college, but these days the colleges are sometimes 80% or more comprised of adjunct instructors.  To be competitive, I would need an advanced degree in straight up English, not in *teaching* English.  Only my bachelor's degree is in English.  My master's and doctoral degrees are in English Education.  See the difficulty here? Yeah, me neither, especially since I can get all of the part time work I can handle.  Alternatively, I could do an advanced degree plus eighteen graduate hours of English.  I have nine hours right now.

So that's the small and frustrating hell that I've lived in for the last few months.  Public schools look at me like I've lost my mind and colleges and universities think I'm a dime a dozen.  Until last night, when I talked to my neighbor, Janet.
"Oh, you're looking for a public school job!?"
"Are you certified?"
"Alternatively.  Well, almost. I'm waiting on the State Department to push it through."
"We're looking for someone at my middle school.  Can you send me your resume?"

Half an hour later she walks out to me in the yard with the phone in her hand.
"Can you be at the school tomorrow by 10?"
"Cuz I have the principal on the phone and he wants to talk to you."
"Oh.  Ok."
They hired me on the spot.  The principal and vice principal seemed really nice and enthusiastic.  They both looked at me like I was crazy, but listened to what I had to say.  I get talkative when I'm nervous so I'm sure I rambled, but I remember asking the vice principal to not judge me by my education.  "I'm still teachable!" I exclaimed.  She laughed as though that was what she was waiting to hear.  Janet and I did our happy dance outside of the cafeteria, by a sagging chain link fence that half surrounded an overgrown basketball court.  I think I will really enjoy working at a Title I school, teaching English to seventh grade kids. The pay is terrible and the location is in the ghetto, right where my skills might do some good.  And right where I might learn the most.

I'm not sure if there is a great philosophical lesson from this.  Maybe it's just "be nice to your awesome neighbor".  Maybe, as Booker T. Washington exhorted in the Atlanta Compromise speech, I should have just cast down my bucket where I stood.  Either way, the rodeo starts next week.  Wish me luck!


  1. we all know damn well you don't need luck. :) Knock 'em dead, Mindie.

  2. Congrats. My wife is an elementary school teacher, but there are no job openings in L.A. I went with her to apply for one job and we were part of a stream of applicants coming into that school district office. At the moment she gets regular sub assignments, but subs make half of what a "regular" teacher makes, and who knows how long the sub assignments will keep coming? Scary times. So, congrats on the job!

  3. If anyone can do middle school it's you. :) PH