What Am I Going to Do Now?! (Part I)

Posted on August 6, 2014Filed Under First Job | Leave a Comment

(Let’s all just pretend that I have been here this whole time…again.)

Twenty-one years ago almost exactly, I was a “young” buck, finished with my first full year of full-time high school teaching. I had worked for that district for two years–my first year I “taught” what they call Independent Study–and there was an unwritten law there that they didn’t ever offer permanent positions. To anyone. Ever. So even after two good years working in the district, I was still on unemployment for the summer because I was technically fired. Again.

But then… That high school had just been awarded a federal grant of a million dollars (remember, this is 1993, so that’s big money) to rework their curriculum and schedule and staff from top to bottom. And part of that involved sending a core group of teachers to Lake Tahoe for a week of intense “thematic unit” (remember those days?) training. And they needed one more English teacher to complete the team. I told them I was a fired temp and that it didn’t really make sense for them to spend all that money training me if they were just going to fire me again. I knew it was a multi-year grant and I was feeling uppity; what were they going to do fire me again?

So they offered me a permanent position and a ticket to Tahoe. Yay! I started packing my bags. Not really, but I was getting mentally prepped anyway. The job I had been offered was 30 minute commute each way. I was not a big fan of driving that much, but this was a full-time permanent job in a nearby district that paid better than most in the area. It was more like, yay, I think.

But then… I got a call from the district where I live. The only junior high in town had an opening for a full-time, temporary English teacher. No commute–12 minutes on bike–but no guaranteed contract either. Also it was junior high. At that point I had yet to see the light.

I told the other district I’d come sign paperwork in a couple of days. Car trouble. Haha. Meanwhile I went to the interview.

The interview went swimmingly. They even bought my answer to their question about class management: “I don’t really have those issues.” The department head loved me, and she was the nicest person ever. I had subbed there on numerous occasions over the last three years, and several people already knew me.

At the end of the interview, I asked how they happened to call me. And now we’re finally getting to the point of the post…

They said that I had subbed often for one of their English teachers–“Colleen” I’ll call her here–and that when she heard they were interviewing for a new teacher, she told them something like,

“I sick of all the people you guys interview around here. They’re all the same. Call up this guy and give him a shot.”

I rolled the dice and took the junior high job. The other district was kind of mad at me because I waited so long, and I almost got to go to Tahoe anyway because they couldn’t find anyone to replace me. But they did, and the temp gig quickly turned into a permanent one when another teacher moved into counseling.

Colleen didn’t just get me my job, she was my rock. I always knew I could go to her and hear,

“Don’t even worry about it.”

For 20 years that always made me feel better. For 20 years we commiserated and consulted and eye-rolled and prepped and planned and excusified to management. We got called on the carpet together for not being nice enough to a fellow teacher. We always finished our pile of assessments first. We kept plugging away on teaching Tom Sawyer to 7th graders. We were always in agreement, even if the rest of the department disagreed.

I would not be the teacher I am today without Colleen. Thank you.

And now after that 666 word intro, tomorrow I will talk about why I keep talking in the past tense about her. Don’t worry, it’s uplifting not depressing.

Now I have to take a nap.

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