This morning I had another job fair to attend. My job fair enthusiasm having flagged a bit, I considered the prospect of staying home. Then, realizing that This is the Time to Look For New Jobs, I got up, got my resumes, and went down to the appointed senior high school, where parked outside was a sea of cars, showing that a huge number of my teacher colleagues were already there. Inside were greeters, nametags, and tiger-striped bubble gum on a table.
Smile. Smile. Exhibit Most Charming Version of Self. No negativity. You can do it!
Suddenly the impulse to run into the rest room and stay there. No. The sooner I went to meet the school representatives, the sooner I could go home and have breakfast. I plunged in. I approached the first table, decorated with (I can’t remember but these are some themes I saw)
a) supersized stuffed animals
b) balloon bouquets
c) Dr. Suess-themed memorabilia
d) cardboard cutouts depicting the habitat of the school’s mascot: dessert, jungle, and polar ice cap (my personal favorite)
Do they make all these props just for the job fair, I wonder? No of course not. They have this stuff in hand for *any* event at which the school must represent itself. I feel relieved by this thought, somehow.
I go and approach the first table.
“Certification?” is the first question every time.
“Early childhood through 4th.”
“Grade Level preference?” That’s the second one.
“4th or 1st.”
“That’s rather an unusual pair to choose.” Okay, it’s true.
“It’s all about reading,” I tell them. “Reading is my passion.” Now it’s time to sell myself. I remember Barbra Streisand singing in Funny Girl, “I am the greatest star, I am by far, but no one knows it.” But really that idea coexists with the idea that I’m not good enough for any of these people. Where did this bipolar self-assessment come from, and how do I keep it from operating? I need these two opposite self-assessments to shut up long enough so I can answer job interview questions without freezing up and looking foolish.
“What is the one thing you did this year which defines you as a teacher?” I’m asked.
My brain screams silently. “Why didn’t you prep for some of these questions before leaving the house this morning?????”
I give a coherent answer about every child being special, even those who struggle, with the story of a child in my class who has done so. But I’m not sure it goes over well.
Some of the lines are long. While waiting I talk to other teachers who are also waiting, who have various reasons for being here. I wonder what the principals will say when they get done? Will they look in the stacks of dozens, maybe hundreds of resumes that they received today? If so, will they see mine?
I do know that last year after the job fair last year I did get a couple calls — after I gave up looking and re-signed with my school, so I wasn’t able to go to the interviews — but it was something. Months too late, but something.
One of the women I met has been working for years in a very high-need school. “It’s 45 minutes from my house,” she said. “I have to get something else! I already told my principal I couldn’t come back.”
Wow. Radical step. Talk about burning bridges!
“I’m gonna get another job, whatever it takes!” she tells me.
I have to say I admired her courage. Of all those who were milling around the tables, trying to be the one, the star, she was a realist. If she got a desperate phone call from a principal who’d had a teacher leave suddenly in August, she’d be ready.
Would I be in my new classroom by then? Well, as we say in the building, “more will be revealed.” And also this, which I said to a new teacher I met outside the front door.
“When they want you, they really want you, but when they don’t, you’ve gotta wait until they do.” And putting out a lot of resumes is one way of doing that.