Tuesday, August 12, 2003

So where am I coming from?

Okay, I have a little time to kill right now, I may as well flesh out my biography a bit. I went into teaching initially because I was good at math. In high school I was on the fast track for math. I took the equivalent of five years in only four, and I was not only a good math student, I enjoyed it. So I thought I'd do something mathematical for a career. But engineering and the like didn't appeal to me, so I thought I'd become a math teacher. And once I entered college, I started taking the necessary math classes.

Then reality set in: I was a good math student, but I wasn't that good! I struggled with college-level calculus, and did a re-think of my goals. I still wanted to teach, but it looked like I might have some trouble teaching math. There were also other things I wanted to do as a teacher that would not be at all math-related, so I decided to work on getting my degree in elementary education, instead. But I still specialized in math. Once I got through the calculus courses, I found I wasn't so bad at college math, after all, and kept going. So almost as soon as I graduated and got my initial certificate, I also got a math endorsement.

I started looking for jobs, but admittedly not terribly hard. I ended up subbing in Seattle for two years. It was a baptism of fire, but it sure taught me a lot. I worked primarily in elementary schools, but thanks to my math background and experiences with computers, I also worked some at the junior and senior high schools. Finally, my third year, I got a contract! It was only half-time, teaching elementary computers, but my foot was in the door, and it was a good experience. I thought I was pretty well set -- then nothing happened the next year. The position had been for a leave replacement, so I knew I wouldn't be returning to the same school, but I didn't get a position anywhere else, either. I had a few interviews for other jobs, but no offers. So I was back to subbing. This went on for some time. I would make the occasional inquiry about other jobs, but I never put the effort into it that I should have. Finally, after eight years working in Seattle, I decided it was time to move on.

By this time, I was married and living in Bothell, northeast of Seattle, so I decided to see if the local districts needed subs, possibly allowing me to move into a contracted job later. Sure enough, I was able to get on the sub lists right away in both the Northshore and Lake Washington districts. And a year later, Lake Washington offered me a job! To be sure, it was part-time again, teaching two math classes at Lake Washington High School, but it was my foot in the door again. It was another good learning experience, and again I learned a lot. But because of decreasing enrollement, my contract was not picked up for the next year, and I foolishly did nothing to get another job in the district.

Since then, I've been subbing again. I subbed in both districts for four years, teaching at the elementary, junior high, and high school levels. I found that I really enjoyed teaching the older students, especially math, which I hadn't taught a lot of, but kept gaining confidence the more that I remembered and practiced. I had a lot of students tell me that I explained things a lot better than their regular teacher, and in general I seemed to do well, at least for someone they'd only see a day or two.

But I still wasn't getting job offers. I kept my application files up-to-date in the districts I worked in, but that was about all I did. Both are attractive districts that many of teachers want to work in, so there wasn't much call for me. So I finally decided that I had to do something about it. I couldn't just wait for the jobs to come to me, I had to go out and pursue them. I know, I know, it took me a very long time to figure it out. I keep kicking myself for how much I could have done by now if I'd actually worked at it. But that's water under the bridge now. The point is, I did finally do something. My New Year's Resolution was to get a job, and just about every day I did something. I updated my résumé, I contacted colleagues to be on my references list, I started researching districts, I bought some books on job hunting for teachers -- in short, I did everything I should have been doing all along.

And it's finally paid off! I had a number of interviews this spring -- before, I'd usually only interviewed in August or September -- and one district made me an offer at last. It's been a lot of work, and I know I have a lot more work ahead of me, but I am very happy that Marysville Junior High thought I would be a good fit for their school. I only hope that I won't disappoint them.

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