Friday, December 09, 2005

juggling for work

I got called back for an interview, one of the "chosen 200." It was a debacle. They told me to arrive between 10 and 12, so I got there at 11. I got interviewed at 2. The room (at Holy Cross College) had three groups: elementary, administration, and secondary. I chose a seat in the secondary section and a woman next to me told me I had to sit at the end of the line. For three hours we sat in the seats and each time the first in line got called forward for an interview (in plain sight of the whole crowd) we all moved forward a seat. A little rotation. It was bizarre. I did two New York Times crossword puzzles (only completely got one), went outside twice for a smoke, paced, drank water, had several lengthy conversations with strangers, one of whom turned out to be my neighbor just one block down Marigny. That was pretty cool. Anyway, by the time I had my turn my clothes were rumpled, my shirt untucked, my resume bent at the corners and a little dirty on the bottom from being on the floor, and my mind dull. The hard-faced interviewers were the two secondary principals and their assistant principals. One was the man who screened me last week. The first question they asked was this: principals and assistant principals in the new charter system will have additional duties besides administrative. What leadership role will you play in the school to help pick up the slack? Actually, the question wasn't even that clear. I paraphrase. So there I sat, dumb, unable to remember what administrators actually do, and you're not going to believe this (I tell you, my mind was dull) I said aloud, I can't remember what administrators actually do. That did not go over well at all. Before I could even stumble around with an inane answer to the question I sat there, silent. I really could not remember what administrators do. I said something stupid, like help by holding after school detentions. One of the interviewers asked me if I'd be willing to commit to that and I said I'd have to think about it. They were not impressed. And then the second question was, how do I handle discipline in my classroom? And I reminded them that my last school was Douglass. They weren't really listening actually. So I said that when I have a problem with a student that the next day, before I allow the student in the room, I have a talk with him in the hall and require that he promise to do as I say, sit where I say, or he cannot come in the room. The interviewers said, what if he won't promise? And I said I won't let him in. And they said, then where would he go? And I said I don't know and I don't care. They were dumbfounded, even laughed at me. In retrospect I wish I'd asked the question, would YOU let someone in your room who has no intention of behaving? I mean, duh. But I also told them that no one has ever refused me before, which is true, and it always works for me, which is also true. But they were still laughing. And I reminded them once again, I TAUGHT AT FREDERICK DOUGLASS HIGH SCHOOL. And then I said, that answer about me attempting to exact a promise from the student wasn't the right answer was it? And they laughed again and shook their heads no.
I'm too old to lie or to make myself be what they want.
I left there not interested in teaching for the ACSA. And I decided that if they called me for a job (haha!) I'd refuse it. They didn't call.
Which is a very good thing for another reason. The day after the "interview," Lusher School called me in for an interview. They're a magnet/charter school focused on the arts. And that interview went great. I think that if they do indeed find that they have a position available they'll hire me.
Today Douglass teachers are allowed into school to get our things. That sad experience will be my next blog.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

light and dark

The electricity comes and goes, two or three times a week for 12 hours or more each time. But I'm still so grateful to have electricity. The other night I had to drive to Metairie so I tried to take the least painful route there. I chose Canal Street to Metairie Road, but it was not a painless route. There's a long section of Canal Street without power and it choked me up. I almost turned around and went home. It was a little party I was going to, which seems so incongruous right now. As it turned out, almost everyone at the party had lost their houses altogether (lived in Lakeview and off Canal Street and by City Park). As happens lately every time a few New Orleanians get together, we talked about how much crying is going on. And drinking. I went home the same way but when I got to the dark part I sped, even through stop signs. There were no cars to stop for anyway. I don't like going outside my neighborhood at night. There is no route out that does not put me in darkness's way. From the interstate at night you can see how dark the city really is. Oh, and there's still a boat at the Elysian Fields exit ramp.
I don't see too many National Guardsmen around anymore. A few weeks ago someone got murdered in the next block on my street. Last night someone stole the new tire off my bicycle, which was locked at the corner. The Red Cross comes by most days around noon, honking a horn and over a bullhorn offering hot meals and water. I ate one once. It was a chicken patty sandwich. It was pretty good, too.
Last Saturday there was a second line from Sweet Loraine's on St. Claude Avenue, through several neighborhoods, and which ended at the river for a concert. Spike Lee took the walk with us. We stopped at the usual places -- a few bars (including Ernie K-Does Mother-In-Law Lounge), Blandin's, Preservation Hall -- but we also stopped to serenade some OPP inmates. The sheriff in charge of watching them took pictures of us. We did the dirge and we did the dance. The thing I detected among us was an innocence, a hope that New Orleans would be okay and that this would lead toward that. But as I think on it, the great thing about the second line was that it was New Orleans itself, and that it didn't have anything to do with how New Orleans would BE, but that New Orleans IS. The concert lasted 'til sunset. We had, I'd say, a hunger to be together. Even after Kermit had packed up his trumpet and the dark settled in, people lingered, loathe I think to be alone again.
I've been having strange nights filled with something like a dream, but not exactly a dream, and in this something like a dream there are two things in my mind trying to reconcile with each other. Then the other night, a third thing came into it. The middle thing, like a screen, showed life as normal. One of the side screens depicted destruction and the other depicted plants growing wrong, like they'd been contaminated with radiation.
And last but not least, there's the school system. I was hearing nothing, nothing was on any of the web sites, nothing was on the news, about how teachers should proceed. I kept hearing about schools trying to open but no one knew how to get in to get interviewed. So I found an email address for the big cheese with the takeover firm hired last year to fix us, and he very kindly emailed me back with an address for his employee in charge of the Algiers Charter Schools. Anyway, the process has been that we fill out an application and deliver it and our resume to their office in Algiers. Then Tuesday and Wednesday we suited up and went for a "screening." This involved answering a few questions in writing, writing a little essay about teaching, and answering five math questions. I could not remember how many ounces are in a gallon, so I probably got that wrong. Then someone picked up the thing we wrote and we got assigned to a principal (they were just hired last week) who asked some generic questions. The feeling I got was that the manning of the schools has already been done and this was just a way to appease us, to make us think they were interested in us. My screener asked me questions and then, I could feel it, didn't listen to my answers. He didn't take any notes, didn't read what I'd written, didn't have my application or resume with him. Didn't know anything at all about me. And didn't listen to me. It was insulting. The deal is that of the many many teachers who came for the screening (I heard there were 2500), 200 will be called in for a second interview, and then on Sunday the 60 chosen teachers will be notified, and school will start Tuesday. Yesterday's screening gave me a bad vibe and now I don't want to teach with that organization.
And then yesterday, on the New Orleans Public Schools website, a press release was posted, announcing that as of 1/31/06 all school personnel will be officially fired. Each school is given a date for teachers to come "pack up your shit and go. You're fired!" (that's what one of the clowns last year did to me, came into my room, looked at some papers, and told me that the office had sent him up to give me that message.)
I can't believe I won't be returning to Room 219.