Tag Archives: alternative teacher certification

I was looking for a job, and then I found a job…


And heaven knows I’m actually not so miserable now. More like conflicted.

I went to a teacher job fair about a month ago, which was the usual depressing meat market of hungry, desperate wannabe-teachers trying to impress school administrators. If you’ve never been to a teacher job fair, and don’t know what it is, just imagine hoardes of people lining up like drones to talk to representatives from schools, hoping they’ll be interviewed and offered a position. Everyone is dressed to kill, and too nervous to talk to the people around them because they are the “competition”. Of course, people do make small talk, but it’s always uneasy because you can tell that the “competition” is wondering who the fuck you are, how much experience you have, and if you’re more qualified. If we were all allowed to bring knives or guns into the arena, I’m sure the place would be a bloodbath within seconds.

Here’s a picture, but it does nothing to depict the tension and generally depressing nature of the event:

I wouldn’t mind going to these things if they were actually worth my time, but they always seem so pointless. You stand around for ages waiting to speak to a school district, and then when you finally do get to talk to somebody, they seem completely uninterested but take your résumé anyway, saying they’ll call you for an interview. Of course they never do. The only reason I go to job fairs is because it panics me to see how many people are looking for teaching jobs, so it puts me in a more ruthless job-hunting mindset.

At this particular job fair, I was more depressed than usual. I had been mailing out résumés left, right and centre in the previous weeks, but hardly ever got any response. I had been to two interviews, and the interviewers couldn’t even be bothered to contact me to tell me I hadn’t got the job. This is apparently the norm these days. Whatever happened to fucking manners? Are people really too busy to send a simple rejection email? Or are they too cowardly? Don’t they realize I would rather be rejected than waste countless hours checking my email to see if they want me?!

My state of mind hadn’t been helped very much by this New York Times article which stated that teachers in 2010 are “facing the worst job market since the Great Depression”. It was becoming more and more obvious that I wasn’t going to find a teaching job. Why would anyone hire me? I’m getting certified through an alternative teacher certification program so I don’t have a nice shiny BA or MA in education from a university. I also have zero teaching experience unless you count the pathetic two weeks of student teaching I had in 2009. Back in the good ol’ days, I’ve heard that this didn’t matter; apparently all you had to do to get a teaching job then was have a pulse. These days, though, with countless experienced, university-educated graduates looking for jobs, I was hardly an attractive candidate.

Back to the job fair, though. Right at the very end of the day, just as I was about to skulk home, tired and dejected, I noticed another school district right at the very back of the hall. I had ignored them before because I didn’t recognize the name, which meant that it must be miles away, and my teacher certification program wouldn’t let me take a job out of the district. “Ach, what the hell”, I thought, and went up to speak to the principal anyway. I liked him immediately, and he told me to come for an interview on Tuesday! The catch? The high school is in the middle of fucking nowhere – three hours away from where I am now, and an hour and a half from any other decent sized city. It’s in a town of about 3,500 people!

MM and I discussed this job, and we both decided that we would never be able to live in such a rural environment. I was just about to email the principal to tell him so, when I checked my inbox, and found an email from him checking if I still wanted to come to the interview. “Well”, I thought, “if he’s so keen to interview me, I might as well go for the sheer hell of it”. Also, I had never been to that part of the state before, so I thought it would be interesting to see it.

To cut a long story short….I got the job, and will be moving down there in around a month! Yikes! The idea of living somewhere so small is scary (everybody – and I mean everybody – knows each other, or is somehow related) but the town is way cuter than I imagined, and I’m so fucking ready for a change of scene. My life where I am now is going nowhere. There is nothing for me to do here. Also, I’ll be teaching in a very low-income, minority school district, and this is what I always wanted.

But why did I say I was conflicted about the job in the first paragraph of this post? Well, let’s just say that MM is not exactly thrilled to be moving somewhere so isolated. There are very few jobs in this part of the state, so now he’s going to have to apply for art teacher positions in a high school. He thinks teaching is “selling out” and would much rather stay here and work on the graphic novel that he never seems to fucking finish. He thinks that moving away will deprive him of a glorious career in art, which seems to have curiously eluded him although he’s lived here for five years.

MM has a very bad habit of being passive aggressive and being resentful towards me, so I’m nervous about what the move will mean for our relationship which, to be honest, has never exactly been perfect. And, if I’m honest, I’m feeling resentful towards him also. He’s thirty-three years old, and yet refuses to get a real job despite the fact that his art career is going nowhere. God knows why he can’t finish his graphic novel (fear of failure? Fear of success? Crippling perfectionism? Or just simple disorganization and laziness?) but whatever it is, he needs to realize that what he’s doing now (or not doing) just isn’t working for him. I find him to be an overgrown spoiled brat, always harping on about how a real job will take so much time away from his precious art. What makes him so special that he can’t find a relatively well-paid day job like every other single fucking creative person out there? Ugh.

Sigh. Will there ever be a day when things will go completely smoothly for me?

Is Arekino actually “Belle de Jour”?


Is it just me or do you also find it suspicious that Arekino (see the comments on my last blog post) returned to the blogosphere exactly one day before Belle de Jour finally outed herself? Could they be the same person? You never know. Anyway, whatever your story is, welcome back, Arekino.

Ooh, I have been naughty, haven’t I? I’ve stayed away for such a long time. I don’t know what happened really. I just got out of the habit of blogging. Also, I have been really sick with allergies, and too tired to do anything but the very bare minimum.

I don’t exactly have very much to write about either. The higlight of this month so far was finally saving up the $1600 I needed to file my immigration paperwork so I can adjust my status from a student visa to become a permanent resident in the US. I have no idea why it should cost so fucking much to send off four forms, but it does. It’s outrageous. If all goes to plan, I should receive my work permit by the end of December/early January. The next stage will be the interview for the green card in which Midwestern Man and I have to prove that we didn’t just get married for immigration purposes. Shouldn’t be too difficult to prove that, as it is a real marriage. Mind you, we definitely wouldn’t have got married so quickly if my visa hadn’t been about to run out.

There are times when I think we made a huge mistake getting married only a year (almost to the day) after going on our first date. No matter which way you look at it, we weren’t ready for it. Almost as soon as I’d fedexed my immigration paperwork off, we startred having huge fights. I don’t know if that was just a coincidence or if things suddenly seemed more serious now that we were making our marriage “official” (at least in the eyes of the USCIS – United States Citizen and Immigration Services). Things have calmed down a lot since then because I actually emailed Midwestern Man’s mother telling her how unhappy we were. Perhaps it sounds weird that I did that, but I just wanted somebody else to know about what we were going through. I think it helped us a lot not to have to struggle all by ourselves. We’re going to get counselling, too. We both have such horrible tempers and are incredibly stubborn, so we often end up in a stalemate with neither one of us wanting to back down.

I think things will work themselves out. We’re both going back to Midwestern Man’s parents’ place for Christmas in (surprise!) a Midwestern City. I can’t say I’m exactly thrilled about going there again (it’s hardly a top holiday destination) but his family are quite adorable, and it’s lovely to see what a healthy family dynamic looks like. There’s just so much love to go around, and a total lack of judgement. My own family was exactly the opposite. We will also be buying Midwestern Man’s stepdad’s mother’s car, and we’ll be driving it all the way back down south! I’ve never been on a road trip in the US before (although I did go from Coast to Coast all by myself by Amtrak when I was eighteen), and the romance of it really excites me. I’m pretty obsessed with road trip movies and if I could somehow get by being on a permanent road trip, I would! The idea of constantly moving and never staying in one place appeals to me a lot.

The good news is that I will be able to post every day from the road with my iPhone, so hopefully there will be some more interesting posts coming up soon! Hurrah!

Hmmm, what else is new? Oh, I’ve been applying to alternative teacher certification programs again – I reapplied to the one I was in before (although the idea of actually being accepted and having to deal with that Southern Belle Bitch fills me with dread) and a different one, which might suit me better because it’s run by a non-profit organisation and is actually geared towards putting teachers in high-need schools. I’m also planning on applying to New York City Teaching Fellows and Teach for America. I don’t know how I feel about these programs, however, as I’d have to relocate if I got accepted, and I’m not sure I can handle moving to a brand new place right at the moment and having to deal with being a first-year teacher in a challenging school. Both Midwestern Man and I are totally broke so, even though we’re both tired of this city and want a change, it might make more sense for us to stay here, and build up some savings before taking off for somewhere new.

Well, I’ll let you know what happens as regards my teaching career.

Shall I meet you all back here tomorow night then, eh? Just a suggestion…trying to keep myself accountable.

Disheartened


I really need to start posting on here in the morning (as I always intend to do, but somehow never quite get around to) because, quite frankly, I just can’t be bothered writing anything at this time of night. I’m just too bloody tired. Back in the “good ol’ days” (2006-2008) when I had my other blog, I used to enjoy staying up late writing blog posts way into the wee hours of the morning. I was probably more lonely back then, and needed to feel that there was “somebody out there” listening. Now, of course, I’m married, so I don’t stare into the black void quite so often.

Right now I’m not in the best of moods as I’ve spent the last couple of hours contacting people to give me a reference so I can reapply to the godawful teacher training program I had to drop out of this year because I didn’t have a work permit. I still don’t have a work permit but as I wouldn’t actually start this program again until the fall of next year, it won’t matter, as it will have turned up long before then.

Why am I re-applying to this program if I hated it so much? Well, simply because beggars can’t be choosers. I would much prefer to go to grad school in another state to get certified in a proper university setting, and not some stupid alternative certification program, but I really can’t afford to go off to grad school next year. 2011 probably, but not 2010. There are, of course, university teaching programs here, but I’m loathe to spend lots of moolah and time in this town when I want to leave. I just don’t want to be tied to a graduate program for two years. I’d stay here for that amount of time if I actually had a career, but not just to be a bloody student again! Besides, I’ve looked at the main university’s teaching program, and it’s just not that good. If I’m going to go to grad school, I may as well go somewhere good.

Also, as good old Magnús Magnússon himself said, “I’ve started, so I’ll finish”. Yes, I know that reference is probably completely lost on non-UK readers but, ach well, you’ve got fingers, haven’t you?! You can google him if you’re interested. He’s a wee picture of Magnus in all his glory, though:

magnus_228x303

[Noooooo! When trying to find the above picture, I found out that Magnús died in 2007! I had no idea!!!! Noooooo! Why is everybody dying in Britain? First, there was Wendy Richardson (I’m a huge Eastenders fan so this was a blow); then there was Jade Goody, and then there was that bloke from Boyzone (well, OK, he was Irish but, still, close enough to the UK)…and now I find Magnús is gone, too?! Who next, I ask? Who next?]

Why did death have to claim all of these people when he could taken the old crone in the certification program?! Seriously!

I’m going to make a prediction: despite the fact that I did great work during my time in the program; that I have a Master’s; that I’m really passionate about helping “high needs” students, I predict that this Southern Belle Bitch will not accept me back into the program.

I predict that she will probably invite me for interview just to have the sadistic pleasure of being able to reject me. Just for the simple reason that she, personally, doesn’t like me. I’m just not blonde, bubbly and fake enough for her.

Oh well. To be perfectly frank, I won’t be all that bothered if I don’t get back into the program. I’ll just file a complaint about the way that woman treated me, and then I’ll move onto bigger and better things.

The grass is always greener?


Yesterday, just after I had spent ages writing a post bitching about that evil Southern Belle bitch of a teacher, I received an email from her which was actually nice:

I hope you will continue to pursue your dream of teaching, and that you are doing well. If you would like to reapply to the cohort, don’t forget the deadline is October 30. Let me know if there is anything you need.

As soon as I read that, I actually thought to myself, “Oh, that was nice…Maybe she’s not so bad after all!”. The funny thing about me is that, even though I am capable of experiencing extreme anger, I calm down pretty quickly and sometimes even forget all about the person/situation that made me so angry. In many ways, this is a nice quality to have as I’m not the kind of person to harbour a grudge (God, I hate people like that!) but, on the other hand, my amnesia means that I sometimes fail to protect myself from unhealthy people and situations just because I’ve forgotten the pain they caused me in the past!

Take my former Master’s thesis advisor, for example…Readers from my former blog will remember that she said she would give me a good reference when I applied to the teaching program, but she then purposely sabotaged my chances by giving me a bad one, and sending it off without telling me. I wouldn’t say she was directly to blame for the problems that ensued with Southern Belle Bitch, but her bad reference certainly set up a situation whereby Southern Belle Bitch was looking out for me to slip up. I was extremely angry with my advisor – and I still am – but I’ve filed the anger away in a little compartment that’s so deep inside me that it’s hard for me to access it now. And because I find it hard to access that anger, I never wrote a letter to her telling her exactly what I think of her.

Part of me wants to, but would it really even do any good? Her actions show that she’s clearly a self-righteous bitch, and morally superior to others, so would she even stop to ponder my words?

Throughout my time in my teaching program, I swore that I would complain about Southern Belle Bitch at some point. I believe that she emotionally bullied me (as well as a friend of mine who left the program because she was so demoralized and broken down), and I saw her play the favourites game shamelessly, and let her ego and personal prejudices affect her teaching at every point. There is no doubt about it – this woman is a bad teacher, and an even worse person. How strange then that one little email can make me better disposed towards her!

Her email also made me wonder – and here’s where the title of today’s post comes in – whether I should re-apply to this program again and stay in this town where I’ve never really felt happy or settled. I’ve been thinking about applying to graduate schools on the East and West coasts, and the idea of that is filling me with excitement. I’m someone who gets bored very easily, and I need constant stimulation and “newness” to keep me going. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but I do spend a lot of time feeling unhappy wherever I am, and believing that I’d be happier elsewhere. I’ve lived in four countries at this point, and you’d think I would have learned by now that a change of locale is exactly that – a change of locale. Changing your physical location won’t really do all that much in the long-term to change your emotions. Sure, in the beginning you’ll have a regained sense of joy and excitement, but slowly and slowly, your old bad habits and negative thinking patterns will creep back in.

I have pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I will be disappointed no matter where I live or with whom I associate, as I’m far too idealistic and have far too many expectations; but there are, nonetheless, many things I don’t have in this town which would make me happier, if not happy, if I had them elsewhere.

I know that life on the other side of the fence might not be what I’m hoping for, but this time I really do believe it would be a good idea to try that grass out…

“Education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century”


Besides getting married, the most significant thing which happened to me during my long absence from the blogosphere was applying to and getting accepted in an alternative teacher certification program. Yesterday, however, I made the difficult decision to drop out of the program.

This was not a decision I made lightly, as I am more than aware that I, since graduating from university, have had an abysmal track record when it comes to starting a project and following through. First of all there was my Master’s program, which I did eventually complete but only after sinking into a deep depression when I realized that academia was not the career for me. Since the age of twenty-three (and I’m now in my early thirties!), my life has often lacked focus and direction, and this is quite a depressing fact given that I’m not getting any younger. I spent many years swearing that I would never become a teacher – it just seemed like the most boring and predictable thing to do – but this time last year I realized two things: (1) that working full-time as a sex worker was slowly eroding my soul and not very fulfilling, and that it would be nice to “rejoin society” by having a normal job and having a salary and (2) that I really wanted to help underprivileged kids. I realized that the reason I had failed so miserably in academia was because I found the work so abstract and pretentious, and completely unrelated to reality. As interesting as it was to do research on obscure late eighteenth/early nineteenth century poetry, there was always a voice inside me screaming “Who the fuck is reading what you’re writing?! How the hell does your work change anything or help other people?!”.

When I decided to become a teacher, I vowed I would never set foot in a university again, so it made sense to me to apply to an alternative teacher certification program, which would be cheaper than a university program, and would also have classes at night and at the weekened (so I wouldn’t be a full-time student and could still work as a masseuse to pay the bills). The application process did give me some doubts, though. First of all, potential students were not interviewed or required to teach a mini-lesson, which I know is the standard procedure for being admitted to a teaching program in the county where I’m from. Instead, the whole application process was online, and they required you to do an online “interview”, which was basically a series of multiple choice questions in which the correct answer ranged from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”. I don’t see how this test can possibly predict whether a person will be a good teacher or not and, indeed, when I finally met my fellow students, there were many people in the class with either weird attitudes (e.g. lack of compassion for the kids; a narrow-minded viewpoint etc.) and others with introverted personalities whom I just couldn’t imagine being able to engage a class full of unruly teenagers.

Much to my disappointment, I also soon realized that the vast majority of people in that class were there purely because they were bored with whatever job they were doing, and wanted a career change. I found very little passion for teaching, and I never once had a conversation about teaching the whole time I was there. There was only one other person interested in teaching poor kids in high-needs schools; some weren’t necessarily against the idea but I overheard so many people turn up their noses at working with troubled kids because they would find it “too difficult” or “too stressful”. I also heard lots of little barbed comments and judgements about troubled kids.

The worst of all was that when I arrived for the first class, I found that our teacher (our only teacher…how fucked up is that? We only have one teacher for the whole duration of an eighteenth month program?!) was a woman I had met at the information session and found incredibly insincere and fake. I disliked and distrusted her immediately even then and all my instincts were telling me “She’s trouble!”. As the months went by, I discovered that I couldn’t possibly have found a teacher whose personality would have clashed with mine more. She was a Southern Belle type who went to church regularly, and who was yet one of the most biased, prejudiced people I have ever met…not in racist way, or anything like that, but it was clear she judged people who didn’t fit into her idea of what a teacher, or even a human being, should be.

I was essentially a marked woman before I even entered the program because of the bad reference my bitchy Master’s advisor had given me. I could sense that this teacher was observing everything I said and did, and just waiting for me to trip up..and, well, of course I did because it made me paranoid, anxious and insecure to be so judged and watched.

The beginning of the end for me with this teacher was when I went off to get married. I had spent hours and hours pouring over the class schedule, trying to find a good time to tie the knot that wouldn’t clash with my teaching program classes (you were only allowed to miss two classes over the whole eighteen months otherwise you could be kicked out of the program!). Just when I had booked everything, the teacher gave us a new schedule, which featured an online course which was going to take place exactly during my wedding and honeymoon. I emailed the teacher to see if I could do it at a later date, but was basically told to fuck off. This angered me, and especially so months later when one of the teacher’s favourites announced in class that she would be moving house, and perhaps wouldn’t have an internet connection to be able to complete that weekend’s online course. The teacher told her to email her if she was having trouble and “we will work something out”. Wow!

After having spent nearly my entire honeymoon completing an online course, I was so frustrated and angry that I made the “mistake” of emailing the teacher to express my opinion that it was unfair to expect people to do work during important life events (such as death, marriage, birth). I got called in for a meeting after this email, and was informed that (1) “I was emotionally fragile” (huh? where did she get that from? I wonder if my advisor said on the reference she gave me that I had suffered from depression in grad school?) (2) I wasn’t cut out for the “rigours” of the American public school system, which was so much more “rigorous” than in Europe (3) I should think about leaving the program to work in a charter school which would suit my personality more and (4) I had behaved in a completely “unprofessional” manner and that she doubted I would be able to work in a school if I was going to behave in such an “insubordinate” manner and, finally, (5) even though I was clearly passionate about and dedicated to the teaching profession, and produced quality work, that that ultimately meant jackshit to her because of all my other “problems”.

A few weeks later, when we were about to do our two-week student teaching placement, she assigned me to a school around thirty miles away from my home – in an entirely different city! – which had no public transport links. She did this despite knowing that I had no car, and could not even apply for a driver’s licence because of a stupid immigration technicality. I had been looking forward to student teaching so much, and I was pretty sure she had sabotaged this on purpose, so I had to excuse myself from the class at that point to go off and cry in the toilets out of sheer frustration and disappointment. Afterwards, I was told by the teacher “See, this is just another example of how emotionally fragile you are”. She also told me I should probably think about leaving the program because I didn’t have a car, and had “visa issues”. I told her that I had made a professional connection in a school right up the street from my home, and asked if it would be OK for me to work there instead but I was informed that would be “impossible”. Curiously enough, the next morning – no doubt after she had spoken to her superiors – it suddenly was possible for me to work in this school, a fact I was told about at 11:00 a.m. I was given two hours by this teacher to find my own student placement, at a time when most principals are at lunch. Luckily, I managed to talk to the principal and convinced her to take me.

Ugh! I never meant to go into so much detail – I’m sure I must be boring you all to tears – but these are some of the reasons why I have decided to leave my program. I am hugely passionate about teaching; I really, really, really care about the kids; I’m fucking smart, and I know my subject well, and I’m good at presenting it in fun, engaging ways…I don’t mean to be arrogant, but I would be asset to any school! It’s probably true that I would be better suited for work in a charter school, but I don’t believe that charter schools – while some are good – are the answers to America’s public school problems. After my experience with this teacher, I have come to the conclusion that most public schools and the teachers who work in them are probably bland and conformist, and, yes, I will probably hate having to deal with the administration. However, I also believe that students need teachers like me who are “alternative” and challenge them to see a new perspective.

The main reason I left the program, however, was because I still haven’t been able to save up the $1,355 (!!!) I need to apply to change my immigration status and hence receive a work permit. Having no work permit means I couldn’t apply for a job for this school year. I could re-apply for the program next year, but this would mean being stuck in this city until 2011 while I got certified. Both Midwestern Man and I are ready for a change. I also found out recently that certain states (New York was the one I looked into) will not let you teach there with a certificate from an alternative certification program unless you have three years’ experience! I would be trapped, in this awful conservative state, until 2013! I’ve already been here since 2004, and my exile needs to come to an end sooner rather than later.

So, my plans? I’m looking into applying to graduate school in various states to get certified and gain a Master’s in education in the process. If anything has come out of my disappointing experience in this program, it’s that I still want to be a teacher. I think that’s very important because that awful teacher could easily have put me off teaching forever. I never thought I’d want to go back to school again, but I want to learn as much education theory and as many teaching strategies as possible before having my own class. Around 65% of 12th grade kids do not read at grade level, so I need to know how to help them. In my alternative teacher education program, we learned nothing about this. In fact, we pretty much learned nothing in general.

It was, bizarrely, John McCain who, in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, said “education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century”. I never thought I’d be quoting John McCain in my blog, but, well, there you go…The American public school system is badly failing its students, and the vast majority of them are African-American, Mexian-American and/or poor. Something needs to be done! And I, people, am going to try to contribute what I can. It will take more than some bigoted Southern Belle to get in my way!