ANOTHER INTERVIEW TALE
by Life in Limbo
Well, at least it didn’t last six hours. Nope, this principal managed to get me in and out in less than an hour. I must commend her efficient use of time. (Seriously.)
This was the second “job fair” related interview I was recently invited to, and on the surface, it seemed like a good fit--the principal was engaging and expressed what appeared to be a genuine interest at the “job fair” and came pretty close to offering me the job on the spot. The school was a new school which required interested students to apply. At the “job fair,” the principal said that she wanted her literacy coach to meet with me before she offered me the position because she doesn’t like to appear to be ignoring the input of her advisers.
As usual, I arrived at the school about fifteen minutes before my scheduled time and was escorted into the principal’s office shortly thereafter, and introduced to the Literacy Coach. All was looking good until this principal mentioned that she saw on my resume that I have another skill that she imagined could possibly be the makings of an after-school club or activity. I responded that I would gladly consider this as a per-session assignment and that it would probably be more fun than work.
Her entire demeanor changed as soon as I said, “per-session.” She said, “Now you know in these times that budgets are tight. I heard you say that you would do this per-session, but I am wondering if you would still be as enthusiastic about this if we could not pay you.” I went on to explain that I already do this activity after school and on weekends and that I am paid when I do. I told her that volunteering my time instead of being paid would impact my availability as I would be hesitant to give up a paying gig only to replace it with an unpaid one--this would be the equivalent of taking a pay cut. Her face froze at that point, and the temperature in the a/c-free room dropped by at least 20 degrees.
She changed the subject abruptly and asked me, “As the parent of young children, I have to ask if your parenting responsibilities and child care situation would prevent you from being able to fully devote yourself to doing whatever it takes to move this school forward.” (I have no idea how she knew I have kids, though she may have seen my “Happy Mother’s Day” bookmark when she came to greet me. It was a gift from my 10 year-old.) I told her that I have always been able to do my job and get my work done while balancing my outside responsibilities. She pursued the topic, saying that teachers need to be “flexible” about working hours and willing to make the students at her school their first priority at all times, and she wondered how I could commit to that while parenting young children. I reminded her that I have always managed do quality work and that my family situation is really not relevant to the conversation at the moment. (Actually, it’s illegal to ask questions like this in an interview; I was trying to be polite.)
The next topic was instruction. I was asked to describe a typical lesson. My last school used the Reading/Writing Workshop model. I sketched out the components of the workshop, including an Independent reading activity each day. She looked at me coldly and said, “Well, I guess we can say that we will have to work with you on your rigor. Our students don’t have time at the end of a lesson for any “independent work.” When I said that my last school specifically told us to include independent work in each lesson, she ignored it. Instead, she went on to say that the fact that I included independent work showed a lack of academic rigor on my part and that I would certainly need to be brought up to speed on what it means to have high expectations. (Sounded like she was setting me up for a U-rating right there--“You know Ms. Limbo, I had concerns about your academic rigor when you interviewed…” At the very least it was clear that I could expect a zillion snapshots to assess my “rigor”.)
Needless to say, I was not surprised to get a phone call from the Literacy coach saying that they found a “better” candidate. Not “more suitable.” Just “better.” Hey, I have to say she showed a bit of class there. Usually no one calls back.
I find it curious that everything seemed to be going swimmingly until I hesitated to work after school for free and refused to discuss my child care situation with her. The fact that I knew that she can’t insist that I work for free or ask me about my kids/child care situation clearly ticked her off.
The bottom line? I have a nagging feeling that I was denied this position because I am hesitant to give up a paid after-school job in order to do the same job at her school for free, and because my role as a parent made me less likely to stay late/arrive early in accordance with her whims. I love teaching, I really do. But I refuse to be anyone’s martyr.