Thursday, May 18, 2006

Adventures in Interviewing

SO! I had my third interview (I3) yesterday at the high school in my home town. I had really high hopes for this place in particular; it's spittin' distance from my house, I know someone who works there and, well, I just thought it'd be an ideal situation.

The thing is, though? I got a MUCH better vibe from the folks over at Interview Number Two, even though their school is a ten minute drive away and has a less-than-ideal reputation for both academic standards and teacher retention. I was greeted warmly, the interview was less of a question-and-answer session and more of a conversation, and the people I met with were really excited and enthusiastic about the work we do.

I took a lot of risks that seemed to pay off in I2 that didn't go over as well in I3. One of the questions I was asked in I2 was what I would teach for the first week or so of classes. I told them that I wouldn't teach anything the first week - that the first week is devoted to getting to know each other - building community and trust and establishing rules and guidelines for behavior, creating an environment where learning can happen. I spoke about how important it is that I know my students - their voices, their speaking and writing styles, what is important in their lives - in order to teach them effectively. One of my interviewers mentioned that I spoke a lot about how important it is for me to make connections with my students, and about how I find it difficult - and unnecessary - to separate my work as a teacher and my work as a parent. The interviewer noted that one of the reasons he wanted to interview me specifically is because of lines in my cover letter that say "an essential component of education is the growth and maturity that students gain along the way, and I take my responsibility as the adult in the classroom very seriously. The connections made in the classroom are, I believe, equally as important as the connections students make to literature."

I've been told by a couple of people that this was a gutsy thing to put in my cover letter. CT told me that a lot of administrators would read those sentences and decide out of hand that I'm not the right candidate for their jobs, so I find it interesting and encouraging that this was something that caught the favorable attention of this group. The folks in I3 were less interested in how I would create a classroom and more in how well I could teach to the curriculum and how well I could integrate with the team of teachers assigned to guide freshmen through their first year in high school. They weren't concerned with what I could do on my own, but whether or not I could fit in.

I'm not sure I want to fit in.

I haven't heard anything from either place. I'll let you know as soon as I do.

**oh, and I almost forgot another gutsy risk I took in I2. At the end, interviewers ask you if there are any questions you have for THEM, and, well, I did. I brought up the fact that their school has a less than stellar reputation, that I'd heard that the academic standards were low and they had high teacher turnover. They were more than willing to talk to me about this; they admitted that, in the past, both those statements were true and talked about how hard they've been working to turn the school around. One of the interviewers - the one who told me he'd been intrigued by my cover letter - said that I might be able to find a better paying position, but I would be hard-pressed to find a more supportive and nurturing environment in which to work. I'm encouraged by that. I'm not in it for the money - I want a supportive and nurturing work enviornment. I'm really hoping they call me back.


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