So! I promised you all a post that recounted my experiences at Classical Private School. I’m sorry I’m only getting to it now; I’ve been preoccupied with the (soul-sucking) job hunt and have kind of been avoiding thinking about CPS a whole lot.
The last thing I wrote about, if memory serves, is that I’d agreed to teach a writing workshop as a volunteer for six weeks. After a heart-to-heart with Dr. Wong, I discovered that CPS had no budget and couldn’t pay me (or, Dr. Wong assured me, she’d have hired me by that point). She gave me the impression that she was fairly confident that their budget for the 13-14 school year would be sufficient to bring me on board, though, so that was encouraging.
In any event, I taught the writing workshop for the six weeks. It was a little bumpy because the kids weren’t sure what the expectations were; some of them were under the impression that it was a required course while others were sure it was a volunteer deal, so I didn’t get consistent attendance. Two of the kids were convinced that they didn’t NEED any writing instruction (though Dr. Wong made a point of assuring them that they did) and one boy spent most of the time goofing off (there’s always one!), but the rest of the group did really well. Once they were reassured that I wasn’t teaching grammar, they kind of got into it (the adults in the school kept insisting on calling it a “grammar class” until I corrected them in front of the students – yes; I’d be teaching grammar, but it was a writing workshop. The focus was on the writing process, not on grammar, per se).
I pulled out some of my more successful lesson plans for the course; we did a unit about the basics of the writing process (topic, purpose, audience!) and about the different rhetorical situations one encounters (you need to know topic, purpose, audience before you start writing so you can be sure you’re addressing yourself properly to the situation and the reader). We reviewed some of my more stunningly awful emails (that’s ALWAYS a popular lesson). We played the synonym game.
After I got them used to the idea that writing is a process and that it’s okay (good, even!) to start out really, really badly, we wrote. I had them write personal narratives (tell me the story of your name) and, I think, it went very well. The kids work-shopped their papers with each other (using some very clear and specific guidelines I supplied for them; workshops are only effective if you know how to do them, and they had never done them before meeting me) and ran through several drafts of their papers. What was most fun was that a bunch of them didn’t really know their name story, so they had to go home and ask about it. When I came back after we’d started these papers, a couple of kids were excited about the things they’d learned, and they reported that they really enjoyed the writing once they felt they had a good handle on what they wanted to say.
The one big hiccup was that, one afternoon, I was completely usurped in a really disrespectful and inconsiderate way. I drove an hour each way to get to this place. Keep in mind, as well, that I was doing this as a volunteer. Well, one afternoon, I arrived and was asked if I would mind if Dr. Palmer interrupted my class for a few minutes to let the kids know about an elective he was going to be launching in the coming weeks. Of course I don’t mind, so I say so. Well, Dr. Palmer walks in five minutes into my class (we’d barely gotten started) and proceeds to take up more than my hour talking about the course he was designing around the acoustics of electric guitars.
Seriously. I sat there waiting for him to finish, and I ended up having to leave well before he was done. I was furious.
Beyond that, though, it went well. The kids reported, in their evaluations, that they learned quite a lot about their own writing process in the short time we spent together. They offered suggestions for what they’d like to know more about (were we able to spend more time) and expressed some satisfaction that they were noticing that writing felt a little less ominous to them for our having worked together.
I was sent off after my last class with a small offering to help offset my gas expenses, a coffee mug, and a CPS mouse pad. Though Dr. Wong was not in the building that day, the Dean of Students offered me what I thought were heartfelt thanks and an eagerness that we maintain communications. I left feeling pretty confident that someone would be in touch to offer me a position in the fall.
I haven’t heard a thing from any of them since.
Seriously. Crickets. No calls, no emails, nothing.
I’m not going to call them. At this point, I’m reasonably sure that if they could have hired me, they would have, and I’m not in a position to accept a long-distance volunteer teaching gig. I’m disappointed, though; CPS wouldn’t have been a perfect fit for me, but I think that I could have done some pretty significant good there.
I wish them all the best going forward. Maybe our paths will cross again sometime.