The first dramatic climax of the TFA experience (of many to come, I’m sure) has been the placement process. Each of us was assigned a provisional placement subject and grade level when we were accepted to the program, but the process of placing us into actual positions at schools has been ongoing these past few weeks. Some folks had managed to secure placements before Induction, but most of us arrived with nothing yet set in stone. For those of us without placements, today’s hiring fair figured to be the best place to make a play at the most choice placements. I fell in an unusual middle ground; a few principals had expressed interest in hiring me, so I knew I’d have some leads to follow up on after getting into town. One principal had expressed strong interest in hiring me for a middle school position, so I knew I had something pretty much in the bag, if a couple other options didn’t pan out. It seemed as though the hiring fair would be a pretty painless process. Wrong!
The plan was pretty clear cut: chat up a couple charter high school principals to see if I could get an ideal placement, and then follow up with the middle school principal to close the deal. So I went first to High School, which was a great school I’d heard about from a current Baltimore corps member, and had become my first choice. The assistant principal caught me off-guard with her aggressive interviewing style, and even though the questions she asked weren’t that out of the box, I found myself struggling and making rookie mistakes. The other lady with her interviewed me next and seemed a lot more interested in me, so all was not lost. They said I would hear back later in the week, but I left far from convinced that I had the job in the bag.
While in discussion with High School, I missed a call on my cell from Middle School, and immediately after the end of the interview, I set out to find their table, but couldn’t. Perplexed, I returned the call. And this is when my day got complicated. First of all, the lady I was speaking to identified herself as the principal. This alone was weird because I thought the guy from the school I’d been in contact with the past couple weeks was the principal. Anyway, I told her I couldn’t find the table. She responded that they didn’t come to the hiring fair because mine was the only position they hadn’t yet filled, and she was told that I had signed on.
*** TIRES SCREECHING ***
Taken (way) aback, I fumbled to explain to her that we clearly weren’t on the same page. I had expected to speak to a representative from her school at the hiring fair about the details of the school and of the math opening–you know, minor details, such as what their philosophy of education was and what grade I’d be teaching. She proceeded to guilt trip me about how they’d held the position for me, but I wasn’t about to capitulate. I compromised and said that there were other schools I had planned to talk to and that I would call her and give her a final answer as soon as possible, but that I needed to speak to someone about the position. She recommended I talk to a guy named Dr. Roberts from a school called Friendship Academy, even though they were a different school.
So at this point I was torn. I had a bird in hand, so to speak, but only a couple hours to decide whether to go for it, or to leave them high and dry. Honestly, I felt bad about the prospect of turning them down, but I didn’t have an incredible amount of pity for them, because they put themselves in the position by not communicating properly with me or sending someone to the hiring fair to speak to me. But the worst case scenario was that I would turn down Middle school, get turned down by all the hiring fair principals, and end up having to take whatever random assignment I might get. So I went outside, prayed on it, and went back in, putting it in God’s hands. I figured that if nothing else panned out, then Middle School was place for me.
First stop: High School. I decided I’d lay the situation out for them, that they were my top choice, but that my second choice was waiting for me to decide. The assistant principal basically told me that she didn’t recommend I hold my breath. Well that took care of that.
Next stop: I talked to Dr. Roberts at Friendship Academy explaining my situation at Middle School, but instead of telling me about them, right away he started selling me on working for his school. And it sounded sweet. Right away we hit it off, and his opening was for 9th grade, which in my mind is the perfect mix. You still have time to hook the kids on math and bring them up to speed. They’re old enough to reason with, but not too old to take orders. Not only that, but the school sounded like a perfect match. It’s a charter school with school uniforms, a dedicated staff, and focus on science, technology, and engineering. Before I knew it, or really thought about it, I was giddily signing on the dotted line.
Only as I walked away did the gravity of my potential mistake dawn on me. Frindship was not on our list of TFA partner schools, and therefore I was specifically told not to interview with them. So I tore off to find Annie Caldwell, our longsuffering placement coordinator and find out what to do. After some tense minutes and some back and for walking between Friendship’s table and Annie, it was determined that Friendship was, in fact, a partner school as of today, validating my commitment.
And suddenly, all my problems were solved. Well, all of them except turning down Middle School. Naturally, the principal didn’t take it well, and I reckon Dr. Roberts is in for a scathing phone call. I guess each of us is somewhat to blame, but for my part, I feel as though I’ve tried to be as straightforward as I could be, so I don’t feel too bad about it.
Since I left the hiring fair, I’ve been on a high, and at the same time, I’m exhausted. Well, that’s one less big variable hanging over my head! I’m very excited about my school placement, and Dr. Roberts seems like he is going to be a fantastic teaching mentor. Now, I just need to find roommates and a place.