Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ordinary Bravery: Day 4

I have applied to long shots, jobs I am well suited for but don't really want, and ones I think would be perfect. Then there are the ones to stave off the wolf at my door. I believe and reaffirm in moments of doubt that I will get a quality job in a good environment. I have recently come from a hostile work situation. I have had enough of that and am dedicated to finding something much better. I find that staying hopeful is key to any major change and life challenge, but there are times when remaining hopeful is alone the challenge.

The Next Step

After my disastrous teaching demo with the sixth grade, I uncovered a teaching position at a charter school for young adult high school ESL students. Right up my alley I thought; and so, I submitted my application. Within the week, I was relieved to find an email inviting me in for an interview.

I interviewed Tuesday afternoon with two down-to-earth, yet professional, heads of school. A leadership team consisting of the principal and the head of instruction asked me similar questions which I asked the teachers I hired at my recent job disaster. I knew the answers well.

As we were wrapping-up, they asked if I could return in two days to give a teaching demo. Since this was an adult education ESL program, I was confident this would go over far better than my previous demo for the sixth grade (see Day 3, #bravery3).

This job was not the full-time, fully benefited one I had hoped for. It is a part-time teaching gig, teaching night school. For a part-time job, it’s not bad paying -about $48,000 a year for 18 hours a week of my time. Since my previous supervisor can’t be trusted to offer a decent reference, this may be the job that could transport me into my next full-time position. I would be grateful to be employed again. 

Prepping the Demo

The next day was spent on prepping for the teaching demo. They asked me to focus on time, the simple present and the present continuous verbs. That may mean nothing to you, but to me it meant developing a lesson plan I have done a thousand times.

Thursday, I arrived early and set-up for my demo class. 

PowerPoint ready? Check. 
Handouts in order? Check. 
Name tag paper handy? Check. 
Ready? I’m ready. 

Rockin' the Demo

I turned on the projector. Vanessa, the Head of Instruction, announced the principal would be arriving late, and was encouraging me to get started while she took a seat.

I handed out blank sheets of paper to be used as name tags and began warming up the class with some questions accompanied by pictures. Then I transitioned from the warm-up to the meat of the lesson – telling time and describing schedules. Just then, the principal arrived to observe my lesson. I continued on while he scurried to the next to last row and sat down readying a pen and note pad,

I found myself strangely without nerves. I suppose after being run out of a job where I had been demeaned and yelled at for a year, turning down my only immediate offer, and leaping into the void of joblessness, not to mention being tortured by sixth-graders, I had adopted an attitude of it can’t get much worse. 

As the lesson progressed, I had the students repeat sentences after me using the day's vocabulary. I stopped and worked on pronouncing numbers as their fifteen sounded a lot like fifty. I heard one student saying “sixteen”. I had them repeat the number fifteen again. One voice to my left was still saying “sixteen”. I said, “Who’s saying sixteen?” Everyone laughed including my observation team. One more time, “fifteen, repeat”. I heard that same voice ring out with a perfect sounding “sixteen”. 

I had identified the offender and had the entire class practice the range of sounds from thirteen to nineteen and thirty to ninety while I began circling around and corrected the students struggling with the sounds. Of course, I targeted the young man saying sixteen on my rounds. He still has a few issues to sort out.

The Selection

I was given the signal to wrap-up. I did, and we reconvened in the principal’s office where I was asked if I had met those students before. That was a good sign as this was the first time I had seen that class. They were just a great group and I was able to build rapport with them quickly. 

Mr. Rimirez, the principal, and Vanessa told me more about the position and the hiring process. They added they had a couple of other interviews following me, but they would let me know their decision by next Tuesday. 

Venessa escorted me out. She mentioned quietly, “You taught a good class”. I knew that was meant to be encouraging. Then she spoke to me in Spanish. I didn’t understand each word, but I knew she was asking me to call her if I had any further questions. Is this a bilingual school? I wondered. Not being bilingual I was concerned, but I answered her in Spanish as best I could, "Voy a llamar si tengo alguna pregunta". I really hope this was correct!

Next Tuesday came and went. I was still waiting for an answer. 
Wednesday morning? 
Nothing, again.

I finally received an email late that afternoon congratulating me on being chosen for the teaching position. I accepted immediately as it was all I had. 

I am employed! I am still not employed enough. I either will need to land a full-time job, or find another part-time one to supplement my income while I build up my reference and hopefully make enough of an impression to get in the running for full-time teaching where I am. 

At the End of the Day

This has been a whirlwind of job hunting mixed with moments of panic, wanting to give up, pregnant with possibility, super stressful, a relief and growth promoting time all at once.

There’s no time to rest on my laurels as I need to stay vigilant for job opportunities so I can remain in my apartment, and feed myself and my pets.

I don’t like this situation. It didn’t have to be this way. Jen and Andora set me up (read Day 1). It is my belief that karma will handle them in its own time, but I haven't enjoyed the image of the two of them going to their nice, safe jobs while I am living on the edge, working diligently to return to the security of full-time employment. When my mind starts drifting toward thoughts of anger, and revenge, I instead imagine a position where I can do work I find fulfilling and meaningful in a positive environment. Much healthier and beneficial!

Right now, I am embracing the vision of being at my new job satisfied with the work, as well as my colleagues and supervisors.  My acts of ordinary bravery have been staying focused on my end goal while keeping the fear in check.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Ordinary Bravery: Day 3

The Feeling of Bravery

Bravery is a tricky thing. At any moment it can flip to fear and back again without warning or reason. It’s the morning that’s most filled with anxious thoughts. I can easily fall prey to them as I transition out of sleep. That’s when I dwell on the worst case scenario of having no opportunities on the horizon and slipping into destitution.

The Sixth Grade

It’s 8:30 a.m., and I have just arrived at the charter school ready to face the eighth grade. I flashed back to my student teaching days when I spent an afternoon observing the eighth grade, and was convincing myself it’s not much different from high school which is where my experience lies. I took a breath and announced my arrival to the front desk receptionist.

Mandy, a young woman who was to be on my panel interview, came down and greeted me. She casually said, “This morning you’ll be observing the sixth grade.” I said with a question mark, “The sixth grade? I prepared an English lesson for the eighth grade.” “Yes,” Mandy acknowledged, “The sixth grade teacher suddenly quit. Our immediate need is to fill the open sixth grade position." In shock I replied, ”But my lesson plan is for the eighth grade.” “That’s alright,” Mandy assured me. “The sixth grade class can benefit from your lesson on adding detail to narrative writing.”

Since I was there, I decided to give it a try. I was escorted to my first class where I was an observer. I watched kids working intermittently between repeating insulting comments to one another and popping in and out of their chairs. If that wasn’t brave enough, I was about to deliver an eighth grade lesson plan to a group of high energy eleven and twelve year olds.

I entered the class that could be mine, took in the environment and readied my materials while the haggard teacher preceding me was concluding his lesson with the words, “Put your butts in your seats!” He seemed relieved to have me take the reigns for the next 50 minutes and left the room swiftly.

The principal, assistant principal, Mandy and 3 other unknown teachers came in to observe me. I had just begun my lesson when one little boy put his feet up on his desk and loudly asked, “Why are you here?” I answered him honestly and continued with the passage I was reading to exemplify plot, setting and character. Before I finished, two boys got out of their chairs. One grabbed a pass and told me he was going to the bathroom. The other stood up at his desk and chat with his friends. Then the first boy announced he didn’t like the story. Despite my attempts at classroom management, it went on much the same for the next 40 minutes.

It wasn't this bad, but it felt like it!

In a nutshell, I spent the demonstration surviving it more than teaching it. I felt pretty beaten up by the end of that hour in the sixth grade.The assistant principal told me it was a challenging class as she escorted me to her office for the debriefing that followed. She ripped apart my lesson stating I didn't provide enough feedback, a clear conclusion, or allow the ESL students to share out their sentences. At that point, I had to ask her why the last teacher left suddenly. She squirreled around her response, but I was fairly certain she had been run off by that class. I personally believe it is a job better suited for a law enforcement professional.

I couldn’t wait to leave. I knew I didn’t want to teach there and was confident they felt the same about me. I stepped onto the sidewalk outside the school relieved, exhausted and disappointed as I had mustered the courage to teach the eighth grade, got tossed into the sixth grade, and the experience exceeded my worst expectations.