Friday, January 29, 2010

F you Teach for America!

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So I wanted to write a little about the excruciating stress and drama that has been job searching.  I believe I have mentioned before that I am trying to do a career change to teaching.  I can explain another day about why I wanted to make this particular switch...especially considering I have my Master's degree in social work.  But I'm not going to get into that now.  Thinking back to last...February? was January.  I decided to apply to Teach for America.  At the time, I saw many benefits to getting into TFA.  Before this I had done extensive research on lateral entry programs for non-certified teachers.  TFA just seemed to streamline the process and it was almost a guaranteed way to get a job in a school system.  It seemed like it would be way harder on my own.  Through all my research, I decided to pursue special education due to the high need of teachers in this area.  So in January 2009,  I applied to TFA.  At the time I submitted a resume, letter of intent, and an essay about an obstacle I had overcome.  I had this shit finished way back in December, had friends proofread, edit, and give advice.  Either by February or March, I would get an answer about whether or not I would move on to the next round of a phone interview.  Well to my disappointment, I was not chosen to move on to a phone interview.

I still wanted to pursue teaching in special education.  I scheduled and dished out the $200 to take the Praxis II exams.  If I wanted to try and find a special education position on my own, I had to pass these exams before even being considering for a position (Teach for America requires this of you as well).  I took the 2 special education/exceptional children exams in March.  I was pretty nervous considering I had no formal education about teaching...especially not teaching children with special needs!  One test was an essay test (i despise essay tests plus I'm a super slow writer) and the other was multiple choice.  I think I received my scores about a month later...and I PASSED!  This was encouraging at least...

Moving along, I was anticipating to quit my current job before our Europe trip and go ahead and move to North Carolina.  I had no such luck finding a job in NC, but hadn't diligently looked.  My job ended up giving me paid leave for almost our entire trip, so I ended up staying.  Well...I still wasn't going to give up on the teaching thing.  I decided to give Teach for America another shot.  This time I applied to the first deadline...I really didn't do much.  I tweaked my resume and letter of intent just a bit and submitted on a whim.  I believe it was August 27 I found out that I was going to get a phone interview!  Ok...moving along...after the phone interview I got accepted for a face-to-face day long interview.  The process is intense.  You have to present a five minute lesson plan to the "class," which is other interviewees.  You have to do some critical thinking stuff and small group discussions.  Finally is the one on one with the interviewer.  Fast forward through lots of planning, preparing, and materials for my lesson, and stress....I didn't get accepted.  Mainly it was frustrating to get so far in the process only to be denied.  I won't rail too bad on TFA, but I think they have the wrong thought process behind who they choose as candidates.  Now I believe everything works out the way it is supposed to and I'll probably be glad I wasn't chosen.  TFA still should probably reevaluate their candidate choosing system.  They focus on just graduated students with "leadership" qualities.  They don't consider whether or not a candidate has any experience working with kids.  Whatever.  I may be a tiny bit bitter...but I also think I'm right.  Anyway...following fail #2 of epic proportions...I finally moved on.

I started googling jobs everywhere.  Since TFA fell through, D and I were back at square one.  We were no closer to figuring out where we were going to live or what the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life.  I had been majorly pressuring D for a decision from his company as to where he could be placed (as far as sales repping another state).  Since the TFA is stupid and makes you pick your potential placement areas (if you're actually picked), I had to get an idea of potential placements from D.  Then when I didn't get TFA, the pressure was on me.  To make myself feel better and be closer to some answer for D, I started applying to social work jobs, teaching jobs, everything all over the east coast (ok...well just as far as New Jersey).  I was still hating on NC even though D was pushing for it.  Over time and months, I had barely heard back from anything.  I heard from a school in NC, but it turns out it was too far away than D wanted to live in wasn't close enough to the Triangle area.  I was still sending out hard copy resumes and cover letters like crazy.

Finally in December, I got a hopeful phone call.  A principal in a county right outside of Raleigh, NC called and wanted to schedule an interview with me.  It was a special education position, and I was so excited.  I had two Skype interviews, one with the principal, the other with the vice principals.  At this point, D was still antsy to know something and tell his company an answer.  It accepted the (seemingly) inevitable...we would move to NC.  I told D that it seemed like answers were just pointing to NC.  The only real job prospects I had gotten were in NC.  I also had a real possibility of getting this other position.  We decided on NC.  D was happy.  I figure things work out.  Realistically living somewhere where the cost of living is lower makes more sense for us.  In the mean time, I've come to be really excited about our decision and moving to Raleigh.  I mean at least this way we know we can afford to travel back for holidays with our families :)  After weeks of waiting on an answer from that job, I finally heard.  I didn't get it.  Fail.  I was up against, what the principal told me, was a candidate who was almost exactly like me (as far as qualifications and experience go).  Unfortunately for me, the other candidate lived in the area already.  The principal had so many nice things to say and actually referred me for another position at a different school within the county.  Unfortunately, I only heard back from him right before the school had their winter holidays.  Since I know at this point that NOTHING is guaranteed, I continued to send out resumes and cover letters throughout the holidays.  My point about this experience helped me learn.  I told multiple people that I wanted to tell TFA to go fuck themselves.  Why?  Because schools did think that I was a good candidate for teaching...regardless of my lack of "leadership experience."  I had been picked out of a group of people to be a top candidate for a teaching position.  Self-confidence booster!  I knew I was better than TFA.  They can go fuck themselves.  I guarantee I'll stick to teaching a lot longer that three quarters of their candidates. forward because this post is getting super long.  Anyway, I got the teaching position that the other principal recommended me for.  It is a super long waiting system to find out of you're officially hired by the school.  I'd love to tell more about my interviewing experiences in another post.  I think I'm going to like this school better.  I have the benefit of the teacher whom I replacing to "train" me.  I'm nervous about starting this new career path (and it's at a middle school!).  I definitely have increased self confidence that these experienced professionals feel that I can succeed at this job...I hope I can prove them right.  Yay 2010...on to bigger and better things :)


Sarah M said...

Well its probably a blessing in disguise you didn't get teach for america -- I've had a handful of friends that did it, and were absolutely miserable throughout the 2 years they did it. There are much better/worthwhile teaching opportunities that are not TFA , and I think you'll REALLY like the school you're at! Congrats on the job!!

meghan said...

I didn't know you applied for TFA. This came up in the link within, and I have the same sentiments as your title here for that program. I applied the year after I graduated from college, and I had been working in a fellowship program that put me into the classroom at a title one middle school with a TFA teacher...I got that experience and loved it and wanted to try it as well. I got through the in person interview before they slammed the door in my face. The worst part about the process is the fact that they don't tell you why you weren't accepted. I mean, I understand there are a lot of people not accepted, but it's hard to overcome a rejection of that proportion when you have no way of knowing what went wrong. I hear you.


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