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

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