Oh boy. So we talked about how you need a full time teaching job to get an alternative license. You can’t get the alternative license by observing or just taking classes. You must be in the classroom working. And you must be working in your endorsement. So if I wanted to get licensed in English Language Arts (ELA) I would have to get a job as an ELA teacher. I couldn’t just take a elementary school position or a science one. It’s an awkward position where you’re competing with licensed teachers to get a job without a license. It can end up being less-than-great districts who are desperate or open minded enough to hire a non-licensed teacher.
Chris applied to 2 teaching jobs, and was immediately contacted by 3 schools (one he didn’t even apply to). A high school in the area saw he had an interview with the middle school so they tried to swoop in and get him first. He interviewed Friday and by Wednesday he had a job. He made it look easy. He made teaching jobs look like they grew on trees.
Meanwhile I had a wild ride. My final total of schools I applied to was 31. I was offered over 4 jobs and actually have 2 jobs right now. What?!
31 applications. Maybe you’re thinking it was simple, just write up 1 cover letter and send it to everybody. But it was a ton of work. Job applications online use computers to scan for buzzwords. You have to work hard to hit these words and get past the computer phase into the real-person phase. This part is then impossible for alternative license folks because you’re competing against licensed and experienced teachers.
I applied for 3 types of jobs:
- ELA – I was 1 class away from a double major in English. I thought I liked English (I love to read!) but I soon realized enjoying reading is super different than trying to make kids understand iambic pentameter or alliterations. I applied for ELA positions but it soon became my 2nd choice
- Social studies – Chris had over 70 university credits in social studies so he knows more than I do. I always compared myself to him and thought: I don’t know that much about social studies/I’m not that passionate about it. But I really am. I’ve always loved history class and have been fascinated by anthropology and geography. I demanded to take extra history classes in high school (rather than “fun” electives like art or music). My all-time favorite classes in university were human geography and history classes.
- Combined – many schools are starting to combine social studies and ELA together into one big “humanities” class. These are pretty neat, you read a historical fiction book and learn about prose/verse/allegory while talking about the historical context of the story. Since I was pretty open to either ELA or social studies endorsement this would’ve been a great position for me. I would only be able to get licensed in 1 or the other but I liked the idea of it.
I applied to 15 ELA positions and was invited to 2 interviews with ELA. ELA soon became cursed for me. 1 of these interviews was required to interview in-person in a room of 12+ people without masks back in April when Colorado was completely locked down. I got in more-or-less of an argument via email with the school district and burned that bridge. I didn’t want to risk my health and still not even get the job.
The only actual interview I had for ELA was atrocious. It was virtual so there were 6 of us on a computer screen together. It began with one member coming late so everyone else gossiped about their coworkers while I just sat there. “Feel free to join in!” they said. I can’t gossip about your coworkers I don’t even know who you are. When the late member arrived it was a really difficult interview. Chris had had softball questions like “why do you like teaching?” So I was prepared for these. No. I got “A parent calls you claiming you are being unfair to their child with grading what do you say?” Ummmmm I’m an alternative license teacher, I’ve never taught in America before. I made something up and tried to bring in real-world times where I dealt with parents but they made it obvious they didn’t’ like this, or really any of my answers. In fact, one woman repeatedly rolled her eyes and actually walked away from the interview multiple times.
Most of their questions pertained to working with other staff members, not teaching
- “what would you do if a coworker was badmouthing the principal?” (the principal herself asked)
- if someone said this and someone else said that what would you do? (gossip)
- How best do you work as a team member?
- How do you usually work with fellow teachers and resolve conflict with them (not with students but with staff)
Who hurt this school? I’m sorry I thought I was applying to be a teacher, not to be a best friend.
When I answered “why should we hire you?” I really put my foot in my mouth. Saying I wouldn’t be a burden on the school because I’m a fast learner and self starter. They spent the next 15 minutes lecturing me on how this reason was bad. Like you need to ask for help, we’re a big family, it’s ridiculous to not ask for help. I didn’t say I wouldn’t ask for help I said I’m a self starter and fast learner.
They never even called me back. It was obvious to everyone I didn’t get that job.
After I stopped feeling like crap I realized that was not a school I would ever want to work with anyway. ELA felt cursed by then so I focused more on social studies positions. With Chris locked into his job we wouldn’t be competing against each other for social studies anymore. So I focused all energies on social studies. I soon got an interview with a high school 20 minutes from Chris’s school. I googled and prepared for difficult teaching questions. Chris asked me interview questions for hours. I didn’t want to get a in a bad position like the last one.
This interview wasn’t that great either. It turned out to be more of an interview of how well I would fit into the school’s community and the community in general. Which I didn’t answer well because I thought, again/falsely, that I was interviewing to teach. I got hit with “what will you do to get involved in the community” (I’ll do my job) “how will you be part of the school and community as a whole?” (I’ll live nearby and attend a couple games). Then I got a mean jab about how it didn’t seem that I could “subscribe to the Colorado lifestyle.” Shit, I know I gained weight during quarantine but you don’t have to be ice cold about it. I’m Colorado born and bred! I live at a higher altitude than you and have actual hiking trails with pine trees! Not this desert sagebrush crap that hasn’t stopped being on fire since we moved here. I subscribe to such a Colorado lifestyle I just insulted the elevation in which you live!
Easily the worst 2 interviews of my life. Back to back. Not bragging but I’ve never really had any bad interviews before. I’ve always left the interview feeling okay, if not great about it/my answers/myself. I left these interviews feeling icky and downright awful about myself as a person.
We were trying to stay within our teaching-license-program’s jurisdiction to save money (and its easier to focus on 4 districts than the hundreds that make up Colorado). After these failures I had burned bridges (at least it felt like this) with 3/4 districts. So I branched out. Significantly.
I applied to Greeley. If you know our experiences in college you know this is a big deal. I applied to almost anything I could find except for inner-city Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo. In the end we ran out of time for us both to find something somewhere else. New teacher orientation would start for Chris August 1st so we had to move and commit to an apartment so Chris could start.
I noticed the district I had fought with over quarantine (the one I burned the bridge with) had re-posted same position I had been invited to interview for. The person they picked left. So I ate crow and emailed the principal to say “hey, obviously I’m safety conscious, wanna try again?” They said yes, we have the position open, school starts tomorrow and you’ve basically got it. I actually started lesson planning for this since they made it sound like it was in the bag. It was not. She never called back or said anything.
On my birthday I got called by the other district I hadn’t heard from yet. A really nice district that paid nearly 8,000 more than Chris was making a year. They were desperate for a humanities teacher and liked that I was already living nearby. I interviewed the next day by phone. It felt great, he seemed happy with my answers and I liked the idea of teaching social studies through historical fiction books. He called the next day to say “we loved your interview, you seem like a great fit but with Covid we aren’t comfortable putting a new teacher in this position. We’re just going to restructure the existing staff we have. As fast as things are changing don’t’ be surprised if I call you next week and hire you, though. This year is just too crazy.”
Emotionally exhausted by all of this I took all of the rest of my pending applications down. Then Chris’s principal was suddenly asking for my email and phone number. Next thing I know I’m getting cold called by some lady saying “we have an online position. It’s online only, you would teach 6th, 7th and 8th grade virtual kids.” I said “I’m not interested in this position unless I can get my license through it. They said no, it’s a substitute position. I said I’d think about it.
The next day the assistant district superintendent personally called me and really sold the position. There were promises of higher pay and the “possibility to make it full time” so I could get my license. We chatted really casually and she said she was so impressed by me that she offered me the job right there and then. Even though I hadn’t really been interviewing. She liked the stories of my suffering in Korea/Spain so she said she believed I could handle it.
I began paperwork and even started attending planning meetings before I was even hired officially. It was breakneck speed because school started in 3 days (including the weekend). Grand Junction called me the next day asking if I wanted a position (no interview required) as they were so short staffed.
Then the school I burned the bridge with (then they ghosted me) called a few weeks into my new job saying “you can have the position starting immediately if you want it” (they were desperate as well). I obviously stuck with the virtual position. Even if it wasn’t 100% what I wanted I didn’t want to drive to the ghosting school 30 minutes away (plus it was currently at risk of burning down so I liked the job security).
This isn’t even the end of the story.
I’ve been working as a virtual online teacher for over 100 kids from 2 schools in 3 grades. It started out as the most miserable thing that I’ve ever done. But I really like it now. Even though I’ve never seen my students’ faces I know them and really like them.
But I’m currently making under minimum wage if you calculate how much I’m working to coordinate so many people. As Chris says “there are easier ways to make minimum wage.” And it is a substitute position so I could never get a teaching license through it. The plan was work this for a year and I would have “top priority” for any jobs that open next year.
But then Chris resigned his position so I’m going to take over his old position in 2 weeks.
To say 2020 has been chaotic would be an understatement.