Monday, January 2, 2012

My interview in hindsight

I had a really weird experinece when I got hired at my current job.

Now mind you, I had applied for the "English teacher with a masters, debate experience will be given special consideration" job and needless to say didn't even get a call...probably because I had just graduated and hadn't even started my masters. But, when I heard through the grapevine that the debate job hadn't been filled I sent an e-mail to the Directer of the Upper School (This is Hogwarts speak for high school principal) asking about the position. He invited me to come in for an interview. When I got there we...just talked. We talked for 20 minutes about what types of assessments I do (and he thought he was correcting me when I said process-oriented work and he said formative assessments, but that wasn't really what I meant and that's a story for a whole different time), what my classroom looks like and my teaching philosophy. He wrote nothing down, he didn't have any papers in front of him, and he came out from behind his desk to sit in one of the big armchairs stereo-typically reserved for being yelled at. It was wonderful, and when I got the job I honestly felt like I had cheated a little bit by not having to answer any questions such as "imagine that you are standing in front of a room full of students who just won't pay attention to you. What would you do?" For those of you who have never been in a teacher interview, this question is BS. Teaching is based around context and teachable moments and this question is literally unanswerable without context...but people still ask it.

But, today when I sat through a 2 hour brainstorming session where the English Department where my colleagues talked about their personal teaching philosophies. They used words like "workshop model" and "backwards design" and "generative projects" and all kinds of other words that are considered very "new age" and "touchie-feely" and "impossible in light of standardized testing"...and all of a sudden I knew who I was hired after a 20 minute conversation even when I don't have a single graduate class under my belt.

Through my horrible teacher preparation process I somehow managed to pick out the pieces that are often ignored in larger, score-driven schools. I learned the philosophies that are seen as scary and impossible in many other classrooms. And I became the type of teacher that my school wants. In 20 minutes my principal heard me say the things I need to say to see that my enthusiasm was real and to know that my foundation was shared with my now-colleagues.

I realized something scary today: Even if I need to take a part time job again next year to stay at my school, I want to be there badly enough that I will find a way to make it work.

Where there is a will there is a way.
(Some things are so cliche because they are so true)

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