Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Good Things Are Coming! (I Hope!)

We moved to Orange County, California, in August of 2011 because Todd lost his job and we decided there wasn't really anything keeping us in Chicago. Todd has family in Southern California, and I have family in Arkansas, and we decided that with our kids getting bigger, we should move somewhere they could be closer to grandparents. California won, of course.

We chose Orange County because the job that moved us out here was in Yorba Linda, and that city is in Orange County. But Yorba Linda is Northern OC and we wanted to live closer to the coast. Todd's brother and aunt both live in Irvine, and Irvine is ridiculously nice, so we decided to live there, too. It would be an easy reverse commute for Todd, and Emiko would get to go to a really good school.

So we moved to Irvine and quickly realized that we do not fit in in Orange County. Orange County is the red part of California. We are pretty much surrounded by rich, largely evangelical, Republicans. Living here reminds me a lot of growing up in Springdale, Arkansas. Most of the people we meet -- well, I think all -- go to huge mega churches. Most of the moms I meet are stay-at-home moms. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a stay-at-home mom, but it's not something I ever wanted, and I don't have much in common with those moms. I'll have to write a separate post about the Orange County Moms. Some of them are pretty amazing.

We've been here for a year and a half or so, and it's fine. Irvine is a master planned community -- boy is it ever. Everything looks the same. It's very Stepford. But I can go running by myself at 5AM and no one is going to bother me, other than the occasional coyote. There are a lot of coyotes. But there are no independent restaurants or coffee houses. There are no bars. You have to buy your booze in a chain restaurant. It's bland and safe and boring.

Todd lost the job that moved us here last fall, and he started working at a new job in City of Industry, in LA County. He's much happier at that job - he's back in the lab doing research and development, so that it way more his speed. But he's commuting about forty miles each way.

I finally got my California teaching credential, but there are just no teaching jobs in Orange County. Since we've been here, I believe there have been six English positions listed. I applied for all six positions, to which I received no response. It's depressing and makes me feel like a big old loser.

A couple of months ago, it occurred to me that I should be applying for teaching jobs in Los Angeles, and we can just move. There is nothing keeping us in Irvine. Todd and his brother aren't close -- we hardly ever see him or his family. (Which is kinda sad, really.) Hideo starts kindergarten in the fall (how is that even possible???) and will have to start at a new school. Emiko is happy wherever you put her -- when I asked her if she would mind moving again, she said, "I like meeting and making new friends, Mommy." So why not?

I decided that I need a real job and I can't take being underemployed any longer. So I went online and applied for English positions with Green Dot schools. They are a charter operator, and yes, I have some qualms about charter schools. But they at least are a nonprofit charter operator, and their track record seems pretty good. I applied and the NEXT DAY I got an email requesting a phone interview. I had the phone interview the following day, and it went great. The day after that I got an email requesting I attend an interview session in LA. So I called in sick Friday, January 31st, and drove myself to LA. It was very exciting driving myself to the big city.

The interview session was awesome. It was fantastic getting to think about teaching again. I had to prepare a lesson plan (my dear friend JoAnn from Dunbar helped me). There was a Socratic seminar, where the candidates discussed various issues in public education with each other, while the HR team observed us and took notes. There were six of us -- two student teachers who were finishing their credential, one other veteran social studies teacher who was subbing (he was kinda creepy and had long scary nails), one Teach for America teacher - you know how I feel about TFA. That teacher was working in Chicago -- you know how I feel about TFA teachers taking jobs from ACTUAL teachers in Chicago. But she was nice and it was fun to talk about Chicago. Then there was me, and a teacher who has had her credential for three years and has yet to find a job. The HR director told us not to feel like we were competing against one another -- that we were from different disciplines and some of us were applying for positions for this school year and some of us were applying for positions for next fall. It was still kind of weird, but I didn't let it bother me.

After the Socratic seminar, we were given thirty minutes to answer two writing prompts. Then we were called in one-by-one to receive feedback about our lesson plans. My lesson plan critique was fine -- I need to make a couple of corrections, but nothing major. This is all way more work than I've ever had to do for a teaching job before. Whatever -- I'll jump through any hoops you give me -- I just want to work again!

At the end of my critique, I was told that as Green Dot was still determining what schools had openings for fall, I wouldn't get a final interview until March. But HR said I would hear the following week as to whether or not I made it to the final interview stage.

I left the session feeling wonderful. I can't believe how much I miss teaching -- even teaching at Dunbar. I drove from downtown LA to meet my dear friend Kris at her house in Pasadena. I had lunch with her and her husband, and then I drove back home.

By the time I got home, I already had an email from HR congratulating me on my performance in interview session, and informing me I had made it to the final interview round. WOO HOO! That's more like it! Now I'm just waiting for Green Dot to tell me which school I will be interviewing with. HR emails me regularly to let me know the timeline. It's all so exciting, this feeling wanted!

A week or so after that, I submitted my LA Unified application. The NEXT DAY I got an email from their HR department requesting an interview! I have my interview with them scheduled for April 3rd. Then I got an interview from another group of schools within LA Unified about applying for their positions for fall.

I'm feeling very confident that I will be teaching high school English again in the fall. LA schools actually appreciate my inner city teaching experience (what a concept!). The idea I'll actually teach again makes me giddy. I am almost scared to get too excited. But if I can't get a job teaching in LA, then I'll know that I have to just give up. It's going to happen, though. I feel like my almost two years in OC purgatory are going to soon come to an end.

It'll be awesome living in LA. We'll be in a major city again! I have my friend Kris in Pasadena. My friend Tera is in South Pasadena. I don't ever see her, but maybe if I'm actually in LA, I will. We went to Vegas for our friend Remey's 40th last month, and met several people who now live in LA, via Chicago. So that was super cool.

We aren't sure where we'll live yet. South Pasadena has the best schools. Silver Lake or Eagle Rock would be actual city living, which I think we'd like best. There are a couple of good schools in Silver Lake. I don't think there are any good schools in Eagle Rock. It's fun to think about it - I spend a lot of my time at my super boring AmeriCorps VISTA gig scanning craigslist apartment listings.

Please cross your fingers that everything works out. I never in a million years imagined it would be so hard to find a job. Wow it's demoralizing! I need this! And I am ready to leave the OC. I'm really not as weird as people here believe!


Alannah said...


I might have yelped at the screen and done a couple fist pumps in the air reading this! For many reasons - A JAY OH BEE? How awesome is that? And how awesome is it that you're writing again.

I have so many requests for future posts such as:
- writing prompt (yes, again. sorry. you brought this dude up) on long-nailed teaching candidate and how he spends his weekends
- More on your thoughts on Teach for America. Yeah the CONCEPT is sorta good...but how could it be put to better use? Seems to me like a way for Millenials to figure out by process of elimination what they want to be when they grow up.
- ORANGE COUNTY MOMS. I want this post! In my mind it's like the first season of Weeds - all identical spanish-tiled, cheaply-built, beige-everything McMansions, Starbucks (oops, I mean Coffee Bean. this is CA), and strip malls with nail salons and dog groomers.

So happy to read you again! We need another FaceTime sesh soon. I miss Emiko. xoxoxo.

Alannah said...

Oh, and I know as much about LA area neighborhoods as I do about their relative geography (meaning: nothing) but I hear great things about Eagle Rock...but that's just the neighborhood, not the schools.

I've got it so easy in AR. The good schools are so accessible.

And I'd also like to hear your thoughts on charter schools, while I'm making blog post requests.