Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Adventures in Teacher Job Searching in Los Angeles: Part 1

I keep saying I'm going to post at least once a week. I keep not posting at least once a week. I was taking an online course for my California English Language Learners credential, so that was keeping me busy. There were 20 units, and they took a lot of time. It's a good thing I have a job with very little to do, because each unit took two-three hours to complete.

But I finished the course last week and I take my English Language Learners exams this Friday. Three separate standardized computer-based tests. Well, one of them is an essay test. It all sounds awful, but California requires its teachers to have their ELL credential. So I have to do it and I hope I pass.

The good news is that now that I have finished my course, I am supremely bored. I have twelve more weeks of this VISTA gig. I have no idea what to work on for the next 12 weeks. At this point I pretty much hate everyone at my job, so I have absolutely no motivation to work on anything. Plus the teen room is closed indefinitely. The teen coordinator now has to cover shifts at our site in Orange. So there is no reason to plan any teen programming when there is no one to deliver it.

I have been applying for jobs like crazy. I had two interviews and demo lessons for Green Dot schools. Both sessions were for middle school English positions. I don't really want to teach middle school if I can help it, but I don't want to be picky. The first interview/demo was in Watts. It was seriously the worst neighborhood I've ever actually visited. At first I couldn't tell where the school was -- it just looked like a big warehouse surrounded by a huge iron fence. I called the school to ask where to park, and they opened the gate. Once inside the gates, there was actually a lovely school building with really nice green space. Sad that everything has to be hidden in an iron fortress.

The school is Animo Charter Middle School #2. I don't know why they don't give it an actual name. All Green Dot schools have Animo as their first name. Most will have a second name for a famous figure, but not this one. Just Charter Middle #2. It's a brand new school and this is their first year. The principal was super nice and I was impressed with what I saw. I knew that I had to deliver a 25 minute lesson to a group of middle schoolers.

I have my lesson plan and I had borrowed a big post-it notepad to write notes on. Before I set everything up, the principal told me that they did things differently at Charter Middle School #2. I would actually be doing two demo lessons. The first lesson would be performed in front of the teacher/admin team who would be impersonating the worst middle school students you can imagine. So that was weird. I went to the restroom and ran into a teacher who warned me that is was weird and that they would truly be behaving like awful middle school children. She said that veteran teachers sometimes had a hard time with this and she wanted to give me a heads up.

I did my first demo and thought it went well, considering. The biggest blunder I made was I wrote my name on the SmartBoard, thinking it was a regular white board. The principal called time out and yelled, "You wrote your name on the SmartBoard!" I thought I'd die on the spot. I said, "Oh god, I'm so sorry! We don't have SmartBoards in Chicago Public!" The principal ran to the office to get some Windex and thank god my marker washed off. After that mortification, the lesson continued. When it was over, the teacher/admin team gave me 10 minutes to self-reflect, and then they brought me in to give feedback. It was largely positive.

Then I had to do the same lesson to actual middle schoolers, who were very well-behaved. Things went smoothly, for the most part. It was hard, though, because a lot of the kids didn't have pencils or paper, and I was scrambling to make sure everyone could do the assignment. I would think that they would make sure the kids had the supplies they needed, but they don't.

Anyway, after that was over, I had another ten minutes alone to reflect. Then they brought me in again for more feedback. Then the admins left and the teachers asked me some questions and I got to ask them some questions. Several teachers made reference to my age and how I would be the oldest teacher on staff. Which was a big worrying. I am debating whether or not to mention it to HR. At a minimum HR should remind these hiring teams that mentioning age is illegal.

This whole ordeal was super exhausting -- I was there for more than two hours. When it was finally over, I was so happy to get into my car and make the long drive on the 405 at rush hour! I got a call from the principal a couple of days later that they weren't able to offer me a position, because the positions were tied up in HR. But he thought I was great and that I should absolutely be a Green Dot teacher, and he had talked to HR to make sure I got some more demos. He just didn't want me to wait for him. Which is bullshit, of course, because they are a brand new school and they have to hire teachers for their incoming seventh grade class. But it was nice bullshit, I suppose.

Next post I'll tell you about my second Green Dot interview and demo. This time at Animo Phillis Wheatley Charter School. It did not go well!

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