Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Adventures in Teacher Job Hunting in Los Angeles: Part 2

I've been so lazy and bored at work, that I have no excuse not to be writing in my little blog. I promised a post about my second Green Dot demo lesson, and since that demo lesson, I've had a couple other teacher interviews.

All Green Dot schools start with Animo at the front of their name. I think it means the spirit of knowledge or something to that effect. They didn't hire me, so I don't care. I have always been against charter schools, especially after working at one in Chicago. But I need a job, and the research seems to support the idea that Green Dot charters aren't super evil. And I thought I might not really want to get back into the huge urban school trenches of Los Angeles Unifed. So when I got the bright idea to find a teaching job in LA (that's not sarcasm - I really think it's a good idea!), I started with Green Dot.

I told you about my first interview and demo lesson at Animo Charter Middle School #2. After that ridiculous and exhausting experience, I was invited to demo the same lesson at Animo Phillis Wheatley Charter Middle School. At least this school had a real name. And I felt better about it than the first school, because although it is a charter school, its campus was a neighborhood school that was considered the worst in the entire State of California, so Green Dot took it over. This means that any student who lives in the attendance boundaries is guaranteed a spot, no matter what. This is better than the usual charter deal, where you have to sign up for a lottery and hope to get in. Seems fairer.

I had had a phone interview with the English department chair, and it went well. I had also come in person to interview with the English department chair and the principal, and going into my demo lesson I felt very confident. I truly thought I had this gig in the bag. Even though the neighborhood is in West Athens, which is basically Gardena (southwest of where we are planning on living -- like 20 miles away), I was super excited. 

I did the same lesson as before, but this time I brought my own pencils to ensure everyone would have a pencil. I also made handouts of the objective and the agenda for the students, with the activity. I thought that was a smart thing to do -- I don't know these kids and I can't hold them accountable for doing the assignment. This way they could follow along and do the work on the sheet. 

The students were wonderful -- they were responsive and polite and engaged. There was one table of three boys who you could tell weren't super interested, but even they did the work and answered my questions. So I felt great. But as I looked at the adults in the back of the room (I think there were five or six adults on the hiring team), I could tell they hated everything about me. Everything. It was rather disconcerting.

The demo ended, and the principal led me to another classroom so the hiring team could discuss how much they hated me. He gave me a self-evaluation to complete while waiting. So I sat alone in a classroom for about 25 minutes. A teacher walked by and saw me and came in to say hi. She's like -- they just left you in here? I said yes and she wished me luck -- she was very nice.

Finally the principal came and got me and led me back to the original classroom. He asked me to share my self-evaluation. I said what I thought went well and what I could do to improve the lesson in the future. Then he just looked at me. Everyone else just looked at me. He said, "Do you have any questions?" I asked if anyone had any feedback to share with me? No one did. Then the department chair asked me to discuss a bit about my first year teaching in Chicago and how I adjusted to that experience (she and I had talked about that during my phone interview). So I talked about being a white middle class teacher and how I had to adjust my ideas about things to teach poverty class African American children. Still everyone just stared at me.

Then it was over. I honestly don't see how this was so terrible. I think if I can get 20 middle schoolers who I don't know to complete an assignment, that's success. I now realize that the team probably thought I made it too easy for the students. Green Dot likes to brag about how different they are from LA Unified, and how innovative and whatnot. I think maybe they believed that by my making a handout with the notes, I was basically dumbing down the lesson. Or maybe I just suck; there is always that possibility.

The principal led me out  and thanked me and said they had some more candidates to interview, but they would get back to me. I got an email the next day from Green Dot HR telling me that Phillis Wheatley did not wish to further my candidacy. Shocking. I was annoyed that the principal or department chair didn't email me - that's just poor manners. 

But ultimately they did me a favor. In my heart of hearts, I want to teach high school. And I don't want to drive 20 miles each way to work everyday. And they were jerks. Green Dot prefers hiring really young teachers and Teach for America teachers. At the first school I demo'd, several teachers made reference to the fact that were I to get the position, I'd be the oldest teacher on staff. I plan on notifying HR about that -- not that I plan on doing anything about it, but it is clearly illegal (and insulting) to make reference to a candidate's age. Phillis Wheatley wasn't explicit about it, but it was clear that I would have been their oldest teacher, too.

So screw 'em!

1 comment:

Alannah said...

That is so lame - the age issue. If a school aims for diversity, then age diversity shouldn't be ignored. Not every "older" teacher is stuck in her ways, or outdated, or opposed to new ideas! It's crazy how once you hit 40, you might as well be 60.

I agree with your assessment - that this was a gift, a practice demo for a better opportunity.