Students like me. They listen, they respond thoughtfully, seem interested, respond to appeals to their better nature. The “bad” kids feel understood, respected, liked. The smart kids pick up on my being one of them, the smart asses find I get the joke, laugh with them, and don’t get offended.The ones who think school is a waste of time know I sympathize, but pick up that I’m asking them to make it count, make it theirs, come up with a better plan. The timid ones feel safe, okay to venture a word now and then. The special ed kids get a hand, the Spanish only speakers don’t feel ignored.
Teachers like me–they see I can handle things, seldom send kids to the office or for a time out or Step two or Make my Day or whatever. I understand the content, including science and math, get the lessons done, come up with things on the fly, dress professionally, have a sense of humor. I get asked back, recommended to others. Okay, so I’m not great at getting students to tiptoes down the correct side of the hallway without a peep on the way to lunch, and I sometimes forget to “do points” or give out golden tickets for behavior. I’m more than consistently adequate.
But after numerous applications sent to several districts for open positions for which I am qualified, no interviews. The kids say “You should work here!” The teachers say, “I’m surprised you’re still subbing!”
In my desire to learn, I want to go in and politely ask at district HR, what, exactly, are you looking for? Or what is in my application, or my online reputation, that gets me screened out? Is it perhaps that there are many more qualified candidates? How do you know, and what am I missing?
For now I’ll consider it an act of the Divine Will. “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” Maybe I need more time for my family to adjust to my having a career, for my third child to get her driver’s license, for my youngest to get more street savvy for walking home alone. The longer it takes for me to get a regular teaching position, the more I read and study and work out my views on education, the more styles of teaching and learning I encounter, the more connections I make so I can see my niche seems to be. I have time to sketch up my room design, plan displays, prepare my beginning of the year ice breakers and scene setters. I’ve come up with writing activities, field trips, unit study plans, lists of special speakers. I’ve written speeches to my students, planned weekly routines, visualized the development of friendships with other staff I might work with.
I got some job hunting tips from two friends, one a long time teacher who has the knack–how to link my statements with the district’s mission statement, what language to use, points to cover. No compromising my integrity there–these mission statements are good and idealistic, as am I. Another professional, a 4-H dad who happens to be an assistant principal, gave more more tips. One was be careful what I say about tests.
I think it’s my letter to the editor that’s the problem. It’s out there in cyberspace that I urged parents to opt out of state standardized tests. No, I was not being naive–I counted the cost, and felt there were enough administrators out there who would respect me for what I said, even some who agreed, and those were the ones I wanted to work for, anyway. Or they’d see that I was writing as a parent, not, as a substitute teacher, having the full rank of a district employee. I felt myself in any case to be free to speak according to my conscience.
All I ask is that they have the courtesy, the courage, to ask me the questions. I can explain–I really can. I know my obligations as a future employee, and I know the limits of my freedom of speech, more or less. I don’t wish to give up the opportunity to have a lasting influence on young people so that I can make public statements critical of the policies of the upper administration. I know there’s a huge amount of money involved in testing–money that can be withheld for failing to follow the state (federal/ corporate?) mandate. Give me a call. Ask me what I think? See if I won’t do so much more good than harm.