Category Archives: The Job

Quick Hit: Getting Ready

So!  I start teaching at the two community colleges the Tuesday after Labor Day.  Next Tuesday marks the start of staff meetings.  Of course, both colleges are holding important, orientation-type meetings for new adjuncts on the SAME DAY, but I was lucky that the staff meetings at Not Local Community College (NLCC) end in exactly enough time for me to hop in the car and make my way to Local Community College in time to make it to the meetings there.

Phew!

I’ve just about got my syllabi put together.  I’ve found myself stressing most about the schedule part of the document; I tend not to schedule out a semester’s worth of classes just because experience has taught me that scheduling is a pointless exercise; the first two days go as planned, generally, but then the class takes on a life of its own.  I don’t want to spend a lot of time and energy on a plan that I’m going to abandon in the second week of classes.  If I abandon the idea of mapping out every last class meeting, I can say with some confidence that my syllabi are ready to be printed.

Neither of the classes I’m teaching (college composition and developmental writing, which is essentially pre-comp) are particularly challenging for me to teach; I’ve done it many times before, and I have more than ample materials and facility with the process to make it work.  I’m going into two entirely new environments, however, and I think that’s what’s accounting for the mild case of low-level jitters I’m experiencing lately.  I’m sure that, once I get a feel for what the respective colleges are like (and get to know my colleagues and supervisors a bit better), I’ll fit right in.

So, that’s my professional life at the moment.  What are YOU all up to?

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Filed under doing my own homework, lesson planning, little bits of nothingness, self-analysis, the good ones, The Job, writing

The Post I’ve Been Promising

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.

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Filed under about writing, analysis, colleagues, composition, critical thinking, failure, I love my job, Learning, lesson planning, rhetoric, Teaching, Teaching Writing Seminar, The Job, writing, Yikes!, You're kidding...right?

Branching Out

So, have I mentioned here that I’m becoming less and less confident about my ability to find work in a classroom? If not, well, I am; I’ve been out of work for more than a year and in all that time – despite having sent resumes to literally every educational institution within a 50 mile radius (some more than once) – I’ve only had three interviews. There’s something not right about that.

As a consequence, I’ve begun to consider moving outside of education and pursuing something in activism. To that end, I’ve been sending out this letter to groups and organizations that work for social justice causes (I’ve only changed identifying details):

Hello!

I wish that I could make this introduction in person because I fear that I’m not going to come off at all the way I intend. Keeping that in mind, I’m just going to forge ahead and hope for the best. I beg your indulgence.

I am a 44-year-old mother of two teenaged daughters. My husband and I have been together for over 20 years and have lived in Coastal New England for all of them. I graduated from LU in 1996 with a degree in English with a concentration in education and literary criticism, got married that summer, and delivered our first child the following June. Mr. Chili and I did the math and realized that it would be much more financially sound for me to stay home with the baby, so that’s what I happily did. Our second daughter was born in March of 1999, and I rocked the stay-at-home-mom gig until she went to kindergarten and I headed back to LU for grad school. I finished my Master’s in English teaching in 2006 and worked teaching at the high school, community college, and university level until last year, when I took some time to pursue a post-graduate certificate (again, at LU; I have an all-State education!) in adolescent development.

I’m writing to you because I have discovered, through both casual observation and focused introspection, that I’m deeply passionate about social causes. Just about every class discussion I ever led was grounded in figuring out why things happen to people the way they do, in identifying what forces are in place that cause them (and how we do or do not perpetuate those systems), and in exhorting students to think critically and to find – and use – their voices. My friends have told me that I’m the first person they go to when they need information about an issue, or when they want someone to help them work through their thinking about one thing or another. My whole life has been spent as an outspoken and unapologetic LGBTQ ally and, separately, a strong pro-choice advocate. A significant part of my identity is wrapped up in being socially conscious and energetic, and in teaching others to be so, too.

I wholeheartedly embraced the crazy of this past election cycle (I had time on my hands, after all) and I found myself being frustrated, again and again, by the lack of knowledge that was being utilized by my friends and acquaintances. I posted about a zillion things on my facebook page and tried to direct people to thoughtful, accurate sources for the information they lacked. I spoke to people, I enlisted former students into the voting rolls, and volunteered with the local Obama campaign.

I want to do more of that, but I’m coming quickly to understand that my energy and passion are seen as liabilities in traditional school settings. I guess what I’m asking you is this; is there an opportunity with your organization that would use my passion, my teaching skills (I am an excellent and enthusiastic teacher, particularly of teenagers), and my research, writing, and speaking abilities in a position where I can feel like I’m making a difference? I’m not a naive 20-something; I understand that one person doesn’t go out and set the world on fire. I do believe, however, that one person can set off a ripple that reaches farther than that person ever imagined it could, and I feel like I am a significant pebble that could make some really wonderful waves if I could just find the right pond.

So, there you have it. I’m outspoken, energetic, committed, and thoughtful. I’ve got some significant work experience and I care about the job that I do. I’m personable, easygoing, and eager to learn. I need something to do with all this energy. Got any suggestions?

Thank you so much for taking this time for me. I really, really appreciate it.

Warmly,

Mrs. Chili

 

I haven’t had any luck in getting positive responses to this email until today, when I got this:

Hello Chili,
Thank you for your email and for your passion for justice.  I think that I would like to meet with you face to face to talk and see what we could possibly do together.
Is it possible for you to meet sometime next week in *one of our bigger cities*?  I will be free Thursday and Friday afternoons.
Or suggest another time/place.
 
Best wishes,
Sarah Jane

I’ve written back to let her know that I’m available at her convenience.  I’m really excited to see where this goes.

 

p.s. I’m still working on putting together the post about my experience at Dr. Wong’s school (here’s a spoiler; once I left, I never heard from them again…).

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Filed under Civics and Citizenship, concerns, critical thinking, frustrations, job hunting, Learning, Mrs. Chili as Student, out in the real world, self-analysis, speaking, success!, Teaching, The Job, winging it, Yikes!

Yin and Yang

Mrs. Chili got dressed up today (in a skirt, even; it was 7° outside with a howling wind, and I had to get gas before I left!  Brrrrr!!!) and met with the director of a private school (let’s call her Dr. Wong) in the middle of the state.

The visit was both heartening and terrifying all at the same time.

I’m heartened because I think I did very well in the meeting; Dr. Wong and I hit it off reasonably well, and I didn’t trip all over myself trying to get words out.  I wonder; does anyone else come off like a complete, drooling idiot in interviews –  or even in meetings with peers – despite being confident and energized in front of a room full of students?  I mean it; the other day, I was in front of a group of about 50 – FIFTY! – new yoga students at Local U, and I was comfortable and articulate and even a little funny and self-effacing.  This morning, while I didn’t completely blow it, I did not at ALL feel like the same women who lead those kids the other day….

ANYWAY…

I’m terrified because I left the meeting feeling like there’s a distinct possibility that I might actually be offered a job with this school.  Dr. Wong was excited about the skills that I brought to the table, she seemed impressed by some of the things I said (even some of the things I said that, as I was saying them, I wasn’t sure I should be saying…), and assured me that she’d be in touch to talk further.  She invited me to attend some classes at the school to observe how the days are structured and the ways in which teachers and students interact.  She even introduced me to another teacher in a way that, to an outside observer, would give the impression that my hiring was a foregone conclusion.

Yikes.

I mean, I’m certainly not closing any doors, but I’m not 100% sure that this school would be a good fit for me.  For starters, it’s an hour’s drive in each direction.  While that’s not a deal-breaker – the girls are older and much more self-sufficient now, and Mr. Chili is still 7 minutes away at Local U. and has a ton of flexibility should something happen that needs adult attention – but I’m not wild about the idea of spending 14 hours a week in my car (especially in the winter).

Another thing that has me nervous is that the school focuses on a classical liberal arts education.  I mean REALLY classical; like, the first years read Homer, and the most modern authors Dr. Wong mentioned in our meeting were Thomas Paine and Mary Wolstoncraft.  *I* haven’t read Homer in YEARS, and I don’t feel like I have any kind of working relationship with any of the books that I imagine are on the reading list for the school.

Dr. Wong has a specific kind of teaching style that she expects her instructors to employ, and I don’t know, exactly, what that is.  I’m less anxious about that, though, as she said that she’s working on this school as sort of a pilot program and intends to mentor new teachers in the pedagogy, so I won’t be left on my own in that.  Still…

Finally, the school is very formal.  The teachers are called “Professor” or “Doctor” according to their credentials, and the students are referred to (and refer to one another) using Mr. and Ms.  While part of me thinks that’s great – I think that kids need to have a strong grounding in social contracts and instruction in etiquette – I wonder how long it will be before I get in trouble for calling a student “Sweetie,” as is my wont.

I left the meeting with the promise of further contact and an invitation to come back to the school whenever I like to spend the day in classes observing and talking to students and staff.  Dr. Wong has my resume and a couple of letters of recommendation, and I’m expecting to hear from her soon, maybe even early next week.

We’re heading into new, exciting, and frightening territory here, my friends!  I’ll keep you posted as events unfold.

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Filed under concerns, job hunting, The Job, winging it, Yikes!

Quick Hit: Vindication

I attended a seminar yesterday on the Constitution and the ways in which the document continues to change and evolve as society does.  It was a fascinating day – much more so than I imagined it would be – and I’m eager to sign up for the rest of the programs in the series.

One of the panels featured a lawyer who does extensive work with issues of privacy.  After her session, I made my way to the front of the lecture hall to try to get a moment or two with her, which she graciously offered me.  I quickly told her to story about what happened to me at CHS last year, giving her a thumbnail sketch of the proverbial ‘facts of the case,’ but stopping just short of the fact that I was let go at the end of it all.

Her very clear and unhesitating diagnosis of the situation was that a school representative, working with the express permission of a parent, has the right to disclose personal information of a medical nature about said parent’s minor child.  It seems that  HIPA has a clause that allows for the release of information by the subject party or the subject party’s legal representative – in this case, a parent – and, in the absence of a clear school policy forbidding such disclosure (which there wasn’t), there is absolutely no wrongdoing if said school representative gives information about a student to the school community.

The attorney literally gasped when I told her that I’d been let go as a consequence of the story I told her.  She went on to tell me that I absolutely had actionable cause (which I’m not going to pursue) and that this never should have happened.

I said the things that I said that day with the express permission of Sweet Pea’s parents (and Sweet Pea concurred when she was well again and I was catching her up on what was going on at CHS).  I knew what I was doing was right when I was doing it, but I walked away from the conversation yesterday feeling incredibly vindicated.

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Filed under Civics and Citizenship, doing my own homework, ethics, failure, frustrations, General Griping, I can't make this shit up..., Mrs. Chili as Student, out in the real world, parental units, Questions, really?!, self-analysis, success!, Teaching, The Job, You're kidding...right?

A Ray of Hope

(author’s note; I wrote this whole post once already, but my internet went out when I hit “publish” and I lost the whole thing.  I frickin’ HATE that… Grrrrr….).

 

SO!  A few months ago, I was talking to Dude about CHS and everything that happened (and was still happening) there.  In the course of the conversation, I bitched about how difficult a time I was having looking for work, and he mentioned that he’d met someone in the local government who was looking to start a new charter school and suggested that I look this guy up to see if that was still in the pipeline.

It took me forever to track the guy down, but I did and I sent him a message.  He got back to me to say that he wasn’t involved in it, but he did put me in touch with the people who are, so I sent THEM messages.  They got back to me right away (which, to be honest, kind of surprised me) to tell me that they were holding off on making any decisions at the time because our whackadoodle legislature is in a pissing contest with the DOE and were holding up approvals for new charter schools.

Long story short, I corresponded with the director (let’s call her Sally) for a while, but nothing really came of it until last weekend, when I saw that the school had set up a tent at our town’s annual apple harvest festival.  I marched right up to it and introduced myself.  With a firm handshake, a level gaze, and with far more confidence than I really felt, I talked myself up.  I told Sally about my Master’s degree and my state certification, about my experience teaching at both the community college and the university level, and about my three years as the chair, curriculum designer, and primary teacher in a charter high school’s English department.  By the time I was done, I’d talked her into wanting to have me on the team.

The impression I’m getting is that this school managed to get all of its little ducks in a row before the aforementioned whacadoodle legislature decided to try to kill all new charter schools in the state.  Sally seems pretty sure that the school will open in September; she’s going to be accepting student applications in January and they have their sights set on a facility (ironically, the building where I first taught community college; I’m already trying to decide which room I’ll put dibs on).  She told me that I was to go straight home and send her an email (“Put the subject line in all caps,” she said, “so I can find it right away!”) so that she could add me to her email distribution list, introduce me to the other members of the team, and invite me to their meetings.

The first meeting is Monday.

I’m cautiously optimistic.  I really, really want this to happen; getting in on the ground floor of a school is literally my dream job.  I learned an awful lot about what NOT to do at CHS; I’ve seen firsthand where the energy needs to be put, and I think I have a lot to offer a brand new school.  I come equipped with a ready-made 4-year core curriculum that meets exceeds the State’s standards, several elective courses (including a writing minor complete with a course curriculum), and several years’ worth of lesson plans.  I can literally hit the ground running; I just need someplace to do it.

I’ll keep you all posted.  Wish me luck!

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Filed under colleagues, concerns, Dream Course, job hunting, out in the real world, politics, The Job, Yikes!

Ten Things Tuesday

I don’t know if I’ll make it to ten things, but here are some of the things on my work-related summer to-do list:

1.  Planning.  I’ll be teaching at least three core courses (most likely, English I, III, and IV) and at least two electives.  I need to decide what those electives will be, then plan an overview of the year for each of them.

2.  Writing competencies.  The State has decided to use competencies to determine student achievement, and it’s pretty much fallen to me to write these for the English department for the school.  I’ve already begun the process – I’ve done a fair bit of research into what other schools are doing to measure mastery – but I still have to codify them into a useable rubric.

3.  Interviewing.  I’ve made it pretty clear that I want a different part time teacher next year.  The man who taught this year was well enough – he read books and graded the kids’ work – but he never even bothered to become a part of the community.  Not once in 180 days did this guy ever stay for lunch; he’d disappear as soon as his morning class was over, reappear for his afternoon class, then bolt out of here with only an occasional “see ya later.”  That doesn’t make him a bad teacher, but it does make him a bad fit for the community.  I’m not convinced, though, despite my making requests that he be observed and evaluated, that that actually happened, so it may well be that admin decides to offer him another part time gig.  I’ll argue against it, but I don’t know how well my arguments will be heard.

4.  Rearranging.  I’m not good at moving rooms around; once I get things to a point where they’re both functional and appealing to look at, I tend to leave everything well enough alone.  I’m not sure that I’m making the best use of the classroom space I have, though, so I’m going to bring a couple of outside eyes in to the room to see if I can move things around to make it work even better than it does.

5.  Laminating.  I have a ton of inspirational bits and pieces that I rotate on and off the walls of the room – cards, images I’ve scanned, that sort of thing – that are printed on plain paper.  When it gets humid, all that paper curls, so I need to spend some quality time with a laminator to protect them.

6.  Reading.  I’m reading for my own personal enjoyment again (I’ve taken the Outlander series back up, and am heartily enjoying spending time with old friends), but part of my planning process is choosing which books to read during the upcoming school year.

7.  Cleaning.  We inhabit a nearly 200-year-old mill building that seems to generate its own gunk.  I’m planning to spend at least a whole day after the kids leave taking all the furniture out of my room and vacuuming the shit out of the place.

8.  Re-cataloging.  I have a lot – A LOT – of personal property at this school.  I need to document everything that’s mine, and make sure that I have record of its being mine in the event of loss, damage, or separation.

9.  Organizing.  I have to go through all my files and make sure that a) everything is where I can find it and b) everything that can be scanned and cataloged has been.  I have a lot of great materials that I just don’t use because they’re not convenient to me when I need them.  I need to figure out how to remedy that.

10.  Networking.  I am concerned, because of things that have been happening around here, that there may be a need for me to keep certain options open.  I’m going to review my professional development, look into some more college courses (I’ve been flirting with the idea of a degree in social work), and talk to some of my contacts about the possibility of perhaps stretching a safety net underneath me.  I wish it weren’t so, but wishes aren’t horses, so beggars don’t ride.

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Filed under colleagues, compassion and cooperation, concerns, doing my own homework, ethics, Extra-curricular Activities, I can't make this shit up..., job hunting, Learning, lesson planning, Literature, Mrs. Chili as Student, out in the real world, politics, self-analysis, Teaching, The Job, winging it