Have Teaching Job? Will Travel
By Jon Eckert and Morgan McClymonds
Jon Eckert is an assistant professor at Wheaton College and a policy consultant with CTQ. Morgan McClymonds is a recent college graduate desperately looking for a full-time teaching job. She has been offered a teacher-aide position, the result of five months of turmoil.
Right now, Barnett Berry is off to Finland with education experts and policymakers to learn about what Finland does to create such a strong educational system.
In contrast, Morgan, a recent graduate of Wheaton College, and one of my students, describes her attempts to enter the education profession. She scored in the 95th percentile on the SAT, graduated cum laude from a selective liberal arts college, and is highly qualified and has Illinois K-9 certification, advanced Spanish skills. She has worked in an orphanage in Guatemala City, Guatemala and taught in Quito, Ecuador. I encouraged her to write about her process. Here are her brutally honest yet humorous experiences. This is how the profession is welcoming a bright, talented teacher …
Morgan's Job-Search Experience, In Her Own Words
I started out hopeful: “No, I don’t want to live in that city. First grade? Nope. It’s in what neighborhood in Chicago? No thanks.” Now, it’s a bit more like this: “Pre-K…am I even licensed to teach that?"
Too late, I applied.
Part-time? I can always work at Starbucks on the side (because I hear they have benefits). Central Arkansas? I’ve always wanted to move there. Music teacher position? Oh well, I could do it, I guess. Choral instructor? Sure. (Let’s not forget my only experience with choirs was a pathetic semester in sixth grade and occasionally accompanying concerts on the piano.)
I’ve had seven interviews thus far, each one strange in its own way.
Interview #1: Chicago Charter School Network (that will remain nameless)
What they told me: You look like an excellent candidate for this position! We’d love to have you teach a lesson and have an interview at our school!
What they should have told me: We’re going to have you take a day off of work to drive into the city (you don’t own a car, which makes it tricky). Once you get here, we’ll make you wait for a while (in our school that doesn’t have air conditioning in a full suit when it’s 100+ degrees outside; we like our candidates a bit damp), then lead you to a classroom of 30 fourth graders who start summer break tomorrow (unruly would be a kind description).
You were planning on teaching a lesson? Ha! I’ll be sitting in the back of the room chatting with the classroom teacher during your lesson, so feel free to flap your arms and talk as much as you want; I won’t be listening. Honestly, we’re really tired of the kids, so you function as a babysitter. Also, I don’t plan on getting back to you about the position. Assume you didn’t get it.
Interview #2: Chicago Charter School Network (I’m a masochist)
Part-time music teacher position? Not ideal. Of course, this is desperation time, so I’ll drive into the city for the interview. Rocked it. Annnnnnd never heard back.*
*This is when you tell yourself you never wanted the job in the first place, which might be accurate.
Interview #3: Seattle
Christian school in Seattle, super sweet and encouraging interviewers. Nailed the interview, didn’t get the job. I was just so happy they called me back, the rejection didn’t sting so much.
Interview #4: Alaska (?!)
Part-time enrichment teacher position in Kenai, Alaska. Somehow even this job eluded me.
Interview #5: Nameless Large Urban District
Situation: It’s 8:15 p.m. on a Friday night. You are alone in an elementary school with a middle-aged man who is cursing unashamedly and inviting you out for drinks. Do you run away screaming? Of course not! This is an interview. Because interviews always take place after dark on Fridays. It turns out that he is an awesome principal who does things a bit unconventionally (to say the least), but he may end up being a pretty great boss.
Result: I got the job. Unfortunately, it’s a teacher-aide position. Fortunately for them, I’m desperate. I think I’ll take it.
Interview #6: Chicago Charter School Network (Yes…Again)
Full-time music teacher position. I left work early to drive into the city (again I must state that this is incredibly difficult when all you own is a bike). Nailed the interview, never heard back.
Interview #6.5: This Shouldn’t Count, But It Does
“Hi. I’m calling from Tiwoerudksafjdisowe in Alaska. We’re about 20 minutes by plane from Anchorage [reading between the lines: we’re remote and don’t have roads]. I was wondering if you would be interested in a teacher-aide position here? Unfortunately we cannot offer housing at this time.”
I have so many questions. By telling me you don’t offer housing “at this time,” does that mean that you normally do? Does that imply that there is not other housing in your village? Am I to understand that you want me to relocate to Tweiaoreuklasdjf to be a homeless teacher aide?
“I’m sorry, I’m not interested.”*
Interview #7: Milwaukee Meets the Poverty Line
Principal: “The salary ends up being about $17,000 a year without benefits. I know that might be a problem. I don’t think I could live on it. That will be something you’ll have to think about. Also, We’ll need an answer in four days, and you’ll have to start work in a week.”
Seriously? That salary won’t be a problem since I can qualify for food stamps and probably live on the streets. How are the homeless shelters in Milwaukee?