Seeking my “Timothy” (Part 4)

Phone Interview

At the very end of March, going into my last weekend of being employed in oil & gas procurement, I had one job offer teaching 8th grade math at Land*** and another interview scheduled with a second S***** Branch junior high school. Having agreed to give an answer to the Land*** principal by Monday, April 3rd (which happened to be my last day of work), I went into hyperdrive.

I called both W***er junior highs (where Seth hoped I would teach out in the country), called ******* Christian High School (where Dani had given me an “in” with the principal), and I reached out to the other S***** Branch junior high to try to bump up my interview with them. I wanted to keep all my options open and make the best decision possible.

I really liked Land*** initially, enjoying my interactions with the assistant principal at the job fair and loving my interview with the principal and two of the other teachers on the interview panel. But the third teacher – the head of the math department and my possible partner teacher – seemed like she would be very unpleasant to work with, and I suspected she was the reason the position was open. Another point of consideration was the fact that the school was very old, rundown and decrepit (as well as a Title I school). I felt badly counting this against Land***, but if I was honest, I figured it would be a smoother transition into teaching without these added barriers to success.

After spending most of my Thursday afternoon calling around to touch base with each of my other open teaching opportunities, I was surprised when the end of Friday came and I hadn’t heard back from either of the W***er junior highs or the other S***** Branch school. The only school that made any effort over the 48 hour period was ******* Christian High School, where a kind administrative assistant spent a significant amount of time speaking with me, praying with me, and setting up a phone interview with their principal for Friday afternoon.

I felt loved, appreciated and encouraged through my interactions with ******* Christian High School, which just stirred up my excitement about the possibility of teaching at a private school where I could openly share my faith with my students and be supported by other teachers and administration who shared my beliefs and values. My interview with the principal went well, although he was more stilted and formal than I expected, not coming off over the phone as warm and friendly as either his assistant or the principal of Land***.

Especially after my God-orchestrated meeting with Dani, I half expected to be a shoe-in to this private Christian school, but the principal’s first comment to me during my phone interview was, “So, looking at your resume… you don’t have any teaching experience?”

Flustered, I pointed out that – as outlined in my resume – I spent one semester volunteering to teach art at an after school program, another semester coaching a math club, three years teaching Sunday school at church, and had been substitute teaching since October. “But you are correct that I don’t have any formal, full-time teaching experience.”

He asked about what math courses I took in college, asked if I’d be competent and comfortable teaching calculus, and also mentioned a new engineering program with hands-on projects that he would expect me to be able to teach if I were hired. He asked about my beliefs and faith background; my testimony; why I wanted to teach. I explained that I believe everyone needs a Barnabas and a Timothy. The Apostle Paul had a mentor in Barnabas and a mentee in Timothy, and I believe each of us as Christians should follow suit. I am currently in a women’s mentoring program at church where I am poured into by older women, but as of now, I’m still looking for my “Timothy”, and I would view my students as my ministry and collective “Timothy”.

Overall, the ******* Christian principal seemed satisfied with my answers, adding near the end, “This has been helpful for me. Anyone can write the right answers on their application, but hearing you explain your answers over the phone gives me a better feel for who you are.” He agreed to give me an answer by Monday morning so that I could make a decision about Land***, and by the end of the day Friday, I had decided that if ******* Christian offered me a job, I would take it, but otherwise, I was content to teach at Land***.

With a job offer in hand – and potentially another one coming Monday – I was emotionally checked out from continuing to interview and job search, but my mom called me Friday night to make sure I was still planning on attending the Kl*** ISD career fair the next morning. I personally attended K-12 in Kl*** ISD, and my parents were excited about the possibility of having me teach in the suburbs near where they still live.

“You could move in with us to help you save on rent,” my mom offered, but we both know that would be detrimental to our otherwise loving relationship, and I told her so. “Well, the house next door is for sale,” she suggested as an alternative. “You could move in next door to us, and that way you wouldn’t have to see us every day.”

I knew she meant well, but the more we talked, the less I wanted to attend the Kl*** ISD career fair the next morning. I felt like my mom was pushing it on me, and I tend to buck when I sense something being forced on me. But, partly to keep the peace and partly to finish strong and explore every possible teaching opportunity, I planned to wake up early the next morning to attend one last career fair.

Authentically Aurora

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Discernment Required (Part 3)

Teaching Panel Interview.png

On March 23rd, I’d attended the S**** Branch career fair, but at the time I was dealing with all of my anxiety over my three H*****y Public Schools interviews, I still hadn’t heard anything at all from the S**** Branch schools I’d visited at their career fair.

Of the eight junior high schools in S**** Branch, there were two schools that seemed like the best fit for me. I enjoyed the administrators I’d met at their career fair booths, they had math teaching openings, and I felt like I’d be a natural fit in the culture of these two schools. But I hadn’t heard anything back…

…until Monday, the day after Dani prayed with me at church. I’d just turned down the three H*****y interviews when my phone rang, and it was the principal of one of my two favorite S**** Branch schools. They wanted me to interview on Wednesday, and I was ecstatic.

A few hours later, my phone rang again, and it was the principal of the other S**** Branch school I’d hoped to hear from. We scheduled an interview for the following weekend. Of the eight schools in that district, there were two I liked, and those are the exact two schools who offered me interviews. Amazing. But I didn’t get those two interview opportunities until after God convinced me to operate by faith, turning down the H*****y interviews and trusting Him to provide.

He’s teaching me a lot about faith these days; releasing control and trusting Him rather than trying to do everything in my own power. In this season of life, God is clearly teaching me about the futility of my own efforts and that I should instead declare and embrace and celebrate my dependence on Him! Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus… And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4).

That Wednesday, I went to Land*** to interview, and – short version – it went great. I loved the principal, a fun-loving, high-energy man in his late 40s. Two of the other teachers on the interview panel were equally fun and engaging. We laughed and talked for nearly an hour, and I felt like I fit right in. After a while, it stopped feeling like an interview and just seemed like a conversation with new friends.

But near the end of our time together, a third teacher came in. This heavyset middle-aged woman shuffled in with a grumpy look on her face and an irritable demeanor. She was introduced to me as the head of the math department and the woman who would be my partner teacher if I took the open position as Land***’s new 8th grade math teacher. She only asked me one question during the interview: “If you had an issue with someone on staff – ” she laughed unhappily, “- let’s be honest, if you had a problem with ME – how would you handle that?”

Somewhat taken aback by the question and her tone, I explained that I think open communication is key and that I would want to sit down and talk through the issue with her directly, making sure she felt heard and that we both had an opportunity to explain ourselves. I’d asked the principal earlier in the interview the reason the position was open, and he said evasively that the prior teacher had decided Land*** wasn’t a good fit. After meeting the math chair, I suspected it had something to do with this woman.

At the end of the interview, the principal walked me out, shaking my hand and telling me pointedly, “You did great in there.” He gave me a knowing look and said, “I know you’d be a great asset to our team. My assistant principal who spoke with you at the career fair said you were an amazing candidate, and you proved her right today. We’ll be in touch. You can expect to hear from me by the end of the week.”

But he didn’t make me wait until the end of the week. I was still working in corporate procurement at the time, having given my two weeks’ notice but not yet reached my last day of April 3rd. So when the Land*** principal called me a few hours later, my phone was on silent, and I missed the call. He left me a simple voice message asking me to call him back. Since I didn’t get the message until after 5pm, I decided to wait to call until the next morning during work hours, but when I logged into my email the next morning around 7:30am, I already had a follow-up email from the principal. “Good morning! I wanted to let you know that the interview committee thoroughly enjoyed visiting with you yesterday. Can you please call me regarding the position at your earliest convenience?”

Surprised at his persistence, I called as soon as I finished my morning meetings, stepping into a private conference room about 9am. “Hi, this is Aurora. I’m returning your call about the 8th grade math position at Land***.”

“Aurora! Great to hear from you!” The principal’s magnetic personality filtered across the phone line. “I just wanted to let you know that we all agreed yesterday that with all the interviews we’ve done, you were the bright shining star that clearly stood out from the rest. There was no competition. We know that you would be an amazing addition to our team here at Land***!”

“Wow, thank you so much! That’s great to hear,” I replied with a smile.

“Yes, we are excited about the possibility of having you join our team,” he added, pausing for me to reply.

“Thanks. The feeling is mutual. I really enjoyed meeting you guys yesterday. It was a great conversation.”

“So…” the principal paused, seeming to be confused at my response. “To be clear, I’m calling to make you a job offer.”

“Thanks,” I said again. I wasn’t sure what he expected me to say. I appreciated the glowing review, reiterated again and again, but I was waiting for him to lead us into an “offer” conversation. I’ve worked in procurement for eight years, and I expected him to outline the scope of the offer.

We were both dancing around the offer at hand, and our circular conversation started to get stilted and awkward. I didn’t understand why the principal wasn’t directing the conversation toward outlining my proposed salary, start date, professional development I’d be expected to do over the summer, benefits information and the like.

“So…” the principal hesitated, his initial enthusiasm starting to fizzle at the sudden awkwardness of the conversation. “Do you accept?” he asked finally.

I laughed uncomfortably. “Accept what? We haven’t outlined the terms of the offer.”

“Um… what do you mean?” he seemed confused that there was more to be said than just “I’m making you an offer of employment at my school. Do you accept?”.

“I mean, we haven’t discussed salary and benefits. I don’t know the scope of the role and the associated terms.”

“Salary and benefits are public information and can be found on the district website,” he told me, seeming exasperated and perturbed by the direction of the conversation. Was he second-guessing offering me the job? I really liked the principal initially, but I was shocked by what I viewed as his lack of professionalism.

“Okay, great. I’ll have to take a look at that,” I told him, assuming he understood this meant I needed some time to review the district website, but he pressed me again, “So… do you accept?”

I laughed uncomfortably again. “Well, I’d like some time to review the district website. I realize salary and benefits are standard across the district and don’t vary much between districts, but I would still like to do my due diligence.” I was going to ask for two weeks to make my decision, which is standard in my industry, but the principal pushed me again, “Can you give me an answer by Monday?”

Monday was my last day of work at the corporate oil & gas company where I’d worked for eight years. I’d given my two weeks’ notice without so much as an interview, and now I had a job offer with a principal asking me to make a decision by the very Monday that would be my last day of work at a career that had held me for almost a decade.

I agreed to have an answer by Monday, and I was amazed at the way God worked out the timing. But then again, that’s the character of our God. He stirs up amazement, awe and wonder in those who know Him and follow His leading. He was just waiting on me to take a leap of faith.

Authentically Aurora

 

A Trifecta of Job Fairs (Part 1)

career-fairs

The past week month has been a whirlwind! Starting back in March when I gave my two weeks’ notice, I wanted to chronicle my search for a teaching job, but SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED that I’ve been drowning in an influx of stories I wanted to tell with no time to actually sit down and do my story telling!

Let’s start at the beginning. On March 5th, I went to my first teaching career fair ever. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Seth was rooting for it to go well. Of course he wanted all of my career fairs to go well, but he had particular interest in this one because W***er is a school district situated far out in the country away from town, and Seth can’t wait to get out of the city.

So I showed up in a black pant suit with a bright blue top and matching earrings, portfolio in hand and covered in prayer. When I walked in the door, I was greeted by school cheerleaders who directed me down the hallway to registration. The woman at registration welcomed me warmly and, when I admitted it was my first job fair, she cheerfully explained the layout of the cafeteria where I would see various booths, each representing a school where I could interview that day.

They’re interviewing today?! I hadn’t been mentally prepared for that, and Seth was really hoping for me to land a job out there in W***er. I walked down the hallway to the cafeteria, taking my time and collecting myself. Student artwork was posted along the walls of the corridor, so I took some time to look over them. I love art, and there were some really talented kids at this school.

“They’re talented, aren’t they?” I heard a friendly baritone voice behind me. I turned and found a tall man in his fifties, temples just starting to grey and a smile on his face.

“They certainly are. This one is my favorite.” I gestured to a portrait of a black horse with farmland in the background. The man beside me studied it a moment, agreed, and turned to shake my hand. He introduced himself; then added, “I’m the Director of HR here at W***er.”

“Oh! Nice to meet you.” He and I spoke at length about my background, why I want to teach, what I want to teach, and what I could expect at W***er ISD. At the end of our informal conversation, he shook my hand again and said simply, “I hope we get you. I know talent when I see it, and I know you would be a great asset to any school you choose. I hope it’s us.”

Stunned, I smiled and thanked him; then I floated through my interviews with the two junior high schools in W***er. Everyone was kind and friendly; warm and welcoming. I genuinely enjoyed my interviews, and I was surprised to find that I could honestly see myself working out there in W***er.

That Sunday after church, Seth was so excited about the possibility of my teaching out in W***er that he suggested we drive out “just to look around the area… you know, to get a feel for what could be.” He drove us around the school and stadium; then he surprised me by driving us through neighborhood after neighborhood, looking at houses and starting a discussion with me about what I liked and didn’t like about each style. We were both pleased with the big lots of land – an average of about 6 acres per house – as well as the affordability of being so far out in the country. Seth timed how long it would get him to get to work (35 minutes), and at the end of that afternoon together, we each agreed with beaming expressions that we could envision raising a family out there. “This could be a nice home for us.”

My second job fair wasn’t until nearly three weeks later on March 23rd. By that time, I’d already given my two weeks’ notice to the major oil & gas company where I’d worked the prior eight years. At the time I turned in my resignation, I didn’t have any job offers yet. I didn’t even have any interviews! And going into this second job fair, for the first time, I started to consider the possibility that I might not land a teaching job for August and the start of the school year.

I’d tried to leave that OG company countless times, but nothing ever seemed to work out. I was trying to be wise and prudent and not give my two weeks’ notice until I had another job offer in hand. Everyone told me it was foolish to quit a job until you had another job lined up. So I stayed. And stayed. For EIGHT YEARS. Last February, I even had an offer from a consulting firm and was getting ready to quit, but oil prices tanked, and the job offer got revoked just days before I gave my two weeks’ notice. It was exhausting and frustrating, and finally this year, I decided to forget trying to be “wise” and “prudent”. I decided to take a leap of faith instead, trusting that God would provide a job for me.

So on March 20th, I gave my two weeks’ notice with no job offers on the table and no interviews in sight. I was disappointed not to have heard back from W***er, and I was nervous about my upcoming career fair at S***** Branch. But I just kept praying for God to provide the right job at the right school with the right students and the right administration.

The S***** Branch career fair on March 23rd was completely different from W***er. Immediately upon entering the building, I sensed the corporate atmosphere. It was obvious I was back in the city. There were no peppy cheerleaders greeting me; instead I was faced with polished, professional adults in full suits handing out pamphlets with no smiles on their faces. The lines to speak to each school were longer, and most of the principals were ruthless. There were no private interviews like there had been at W***er. Principals talked to applicants right there in the gym in front of everyone else waiting in line, and one of the applicants in front of me was pummeled by an overly aggressive principal on a power trip.

“Why should I hire you? My math teacher who is retiring has had 95% pass rates for all his students on state exams for the last decade. And look at this stack of resumes – look at it! I have sixty other resumes right here – ” he patted the stack triumphantly ” – of other applicants who want this job. Why should I give it to you?!”

It was a fair question, but the arrogance and abrasiveness with which the question was asked made me certain I didn’t want to work under that principal. These interviews go both ways, buddy, and you just failed mine.

At another school’s booth, the principal started off her questioning by asking me, “What makes you want to teach at an IB school?”

At first I thought she said “Ivy school”, like an Ivy league school. Then my brain registered that she’d said “IB”, and I knew I’d heard that before, but – being new to the world of education and having gone to a normal public school myself – I wasn’t sure what that meant.

“Sorry, an ‘IB’ school?”

She rolled her eyes at me. “You really should do your homework, shouldn’t you?” Her scorn was evident on her face and was dripping from her tone. “You don’t know what an IB school is?!”

I calmly gathered myself and retorted, “The reason I’m here is to learn about your school. So why don’t you tell me about what makes an IB school unique.”

She huffed and answered my question, but neither of us could wait for the exchange to be over. Another principal who failed this two-way interview. 

Of the eight junior high schools in S***** Branch, there were only two I’d consider working at. And I wasn’t sure how well either of them liked me. Was the feeling mutual? Time would tell.

Two days later, on March 25th, I went to my third teaching career fair. It was for a public charter school system called H*****y, and (learning from my interaction with the scornful principal at S***** Branch) I decided to research H*****y beforehand. I just Googled the name of the public charter school system, and I was stunned and disappointed to read article after article about how, for the duration of 2016, this school system was under investigation for preferential treatment and discrimination. Apparently it was started by a group of Turkish PhD students, and there were repeated cases of preferential treatment shown particularly to Turkish teachers.

I decided to attend the career fair anyway, having still not heard back from any other schools and becoming more discouraged by the day. But I regretted the decision immediately upon entering the school cafeteria where the booths were set up. I was definitely in the ethnic minority, and every teacher and administrator I interviewed with was a Turkish male. Unlike W***er or even S***** Branch, none of these interviewers ever smiled, and their eyes were dull and dark, without any joy or sparkle. I felt honestly creeped out the entire time I was there. I’m not overly charismatic, but my spirit definitely felt oppressed there, like I was surrounded by spiritual darkness.

I went ahead and interviewed at all three junior highs; then got out of there – back into the sunlight and open sky. A mere three hours later, I got the first of what would be three phone calls: All three junior highs wanted me to come back for second-round interviews. And my spirit sank.

Authentically Aurora