Monday, July 4, 2011

Why I am moving on

So, about the job. The last time we talked I had two prospects on the horizon, each of which was far from perfect, though for very different reasons. Well, I seriously considered the Cairo option for all of 12 hours, then read this blog recommended by Oneika, and realized, what the hell was I thinking? Yes, it would have been an adventure. And I may very well have considered it when I was 22, or 24, or even 26 (I think you get the picture), but at the moment it doesn't fit in with any of the goals I have for my life right now. Though settling down at 31 and single may look a bit different than I would have imagined ten years ago, nonetheless, I want to settle down. I want my own place, I want to nest. I want to live in the same place for longer than a year or two. I want to form relationships with friends and family; I want a social network. I want a dog, and maybe a cat, too. It might not be picket fences, but this is what I'm asking from life right now. I may have given up on finding someone to share it all with, but if I can't have that, then please, just give me this. And somehow, I just couldn't see myself doing any of it in Cairo. 

And the other job prospect, the one that sounded like the exact opposite of what I was looking for, that fulfilled none of my requirements except the most important one, namely, being a job, any job at all that would pay me a salary plus benefits; that one? The all-girl private boarding school in the middle of nowhere, VA, that would require me to live in the residence hall? I humored them for a while, submitting to not one but two phone interviews. Then, when my contact said he would like to put me in touch with the headmistress of the school if I was still interested, I said yes, please, and also let her know that I would be in the area the following week, if it would be helpful to meet in person. And then I heard...nothing. Not a thank you for your time, not a we've decided to go with another candidate; nothing. That was over a month ago. I didn't follow up because I wasn't particularly interested in the job anyway, but still, after two phone interviews? Rude.

But, after all this, happily there was another prospect looming on the horizon, and it happened to be in a city where I could actually see myself living. I spent a nervous hour on the phone with HR, sweating bullets and gripping the phone so tightly that afterwards my fingers hurt, as they threw at me one tough question after another. It wasn't as if I was unprepared for these questions; I had spent the last 12 months in a teacher prep program, after all. But the phone interviews I had had before this had all been a bit easier, and more laid back. There were some tough questions, sure, but they were interspersed with fluffier ones, and they sure as hell didn't last for a solid hour. But somehow, miraculously, it appeared that I had passed, and I was invited to the school to do a teaching audition. I planned a lesson based on the objective they had given me, but otherwise I went in completely blind. I knew nothing about the students, or what or how much they knew. Then, after hours of practice and preparation, the day came. Even after the best of intentions and careful allotment of extra travel time, I arrived just on the edge of late--harried, flustered, and breathless. The set-up of the classroom was strange, and I realized that in order to operate my PowerPoint, I would have to be standing at the back of the room, behind my computer, instead of in front of the class. From that perspective, not only would my back be facing the video camera the whole time (oh, yeah, that), but I had trouble seeing the nametags taped to my students' desks. There was a lot of scurrying back and forth as I dealt with the computer in the back, then ran to the front to interact with students and read their nametags in order to call on them (and each time catching a faceful of light from the projector). I had trouble pronouncing one student's name, and each time I attempted it, the rest of the students would titter. Another student had written her name as "Mrs. Pember." After calling her Mrs. Pember for half the class, and feeling slightly ridiculous, I asked her if she might have a first name she would like to share with me. "Yeah, but like, I'm just tryin' to keep things professional," she informed me. Basically, it was not the most spectacular teaching audition in the world, but I rolled with it and I did the best I could. At the end, the students expressed positive feedback, and whether they were just being nice or enjoyed the diversion from the everyday grind, I thought that should count for something. The HR rep who had recorded my performance told me they would give the video to someone who spoke French, and then I would find out in a week or two if I was recommended for hire. In the meantime, she said, I would be able to interview with schools where there were openings. And verily, not a week later, I was asked to do a phone interview with the language department at the very school where I had done my audition. This interview was even more intense than the first, if possible. Again, the tough questions just kept coming. Then they asked me for my top three strengths, and my top three weaknesses. Three! Weaknesses! Anyone who has ever interviewed knows that the weakness one is a trick question, and like anyone who has ever interviewed I had previously thought long and hard in order to come up with the one perfect weakness that I was ready to spout off at any moment. I repeat, the one perfect weakness. And they wanted three? On the spot? Maybe if I had had twenty minutes or so to think it over I could have come up with something halfway decent, but argh. I went over my one prepared weakness in breathtaking detail, hoping that by the end of my spiel they would have forgotten about the other two, but no dice. I mumbled something vague and hopefully not too incriminating for the others and hoped for the best.

Meanwhile, I allowed myself to imagine what would happen if I actually did get a job there. I played the Craigslist where would I live if I lived there? game, and tried not to faint when I saw the going rate for a one bedroom apartment. I imagined meet-ups and book clubs, wine tastings and French conversation groups. Brunch! Walking places! Urban living! Urban dating! And so it was particularly spirit-crushing when I received this e-mail several days later:
"We would like to thank you for taking the time to apply for a position for the 2011-2012 school year. We appreciate the time and effort you have committed to sharing your instructional practices and experiences with us. After careful consideration, we are unable to invite you to the next level of selection."
It wasn't until I lost it that I realized how much I had actually wanted it. In an instant, all of my dreams and hopes for the future had been crushed. And what's more, I didn't have anything else on the horizon. I didn't have a backup plan. All in all, I was pretty damn glum. 

Which is why I'm sure you can imagine my shock when a week later the principal of the school in question called to offer me the job. Bwah? 

"After your phone interview with the language department teachers here, they were very impressed with what you had to say, and we would like to extend an offer to you. You're not showing up in our candidate tracking system here yet, for some reason, but I think I can push you through with your resume that we have here. That is, if you accept?"

I certainly didn't want to tell her that I knew exactly why I wasn't showing up in the tracking system, and instead blurted out a hurried, "Yes! Yes, I accept!" This was followed by a week of awful limbo, an employment purgatory where I didn't know if I actually had a job or not. I was relunctant to tell anyone, lest it turn out that they retracted their offer again, and so instead, I just waited, and worried. But finally, I was contacted by HR with their congratulations and a long laundry list of documents I need to start getting together, and I could breathe again. I have a job. I have a JOB! 

And so, without further ado, I would like to introduce you to my new home for the next year or possibly, hopefully more:





Internet, I'm moving to DC!!!!!

26 comments:

  1. AWESOME!!! I'm SO happy for you! Huge congratulations, mighty Rachel!

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  2. OMG OMG OMG!! This is AMAZING! Congratulations, girl! I am so glad that everything worked out for you; judging by the rigorous interview process the school sounds fantastic! And DC is a wonderful, vibrant city. When do you move?

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  3. Oneika--Actually, it's the public school system and, um, I'm not sure I would qualify the school as fantastic. Probably far from. It will be an...interesting experience, for sure. But I am looking forward to the challenge.

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  4. Wow, that's awesome! Sounds like it will be a good experience and will certainly shake things up a bit (which is probably what you need). Can't wait to hear more about it.

    Félicitations!!!

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  5. Congratulations! I'm so happy for you!

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  6. Wonderful news! I really liked DC when I was there - and recognized it pretty much right away in your photos. And yeah, that interview process for a first teaching job is probably the toughest thing to get through. After that, the teaching job itself is usually a walk in the park - until that first year evaluation, of course! Best of luck!

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  7. Yay! I've got goosebumps after reading all this! What a long and stressful process... but hurrah! You did it! So long, Mythaca. Hello there, DC! I have heard a million and one fabulous things about the city (and hey, it has GOT to be better than Cairo or the all-girls school out in the fields somewhere). When are you moving? Oh, and congratulations, Rachel!

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  8. I was really excited to read this post. I'm happy for you.

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  9. Congratulations, lady! So heartwarming to know maybe someday I'll have a job too :)

    I hope you at least somewhat enjoyed your little séjour in my hometown...

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  10. Congratulations. That's great news!!!

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  11. Congratulations! I'm kind of thrilled you'll be so close! Hopefully this turns out to be a dream job-- incredibly fulfilling and not horribly stressful!

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  12. Alright so here it is, congrats on the job, i do believe the kiddo's of DC have just got themselves one hell of a French teacher...

    Now as for the choice of cities? hmmm, i've spent enough time in DC to know it's got it's strong points and weak points, yes it's nightlife is pretty decent but everything is horribly expensive, apts. included, i used to hang out near NW16th a twenty minute walk from Adams Morgan (which i was highly unimpressed by) and a hood where the first language was espanol, i loved that hood, was one of the few gringos who'd actually go into the Don Juan to eat tacos, as for the people, it's a networking town, the first question you will get from every person you meet is "what do you do?", that right there is enough to annoy the shit out of me and after awhile i used to make things up just to get a rise out of people, i'd let them hand me their card then laugh and tell them it wa all a lie and that i didn't in fact work for the Democratic National Committee...

    but you're out of Mythaca and that's what counts, i could recite Oh, The Places You'll Go, but instead i'll say once again congrats and good luck.

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  13. Congratulations and welcome home! Your family must be so excited!

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  14. Damn, they didn't tell you? All the men here are gay or trying to get into the witness protection program. But whatever.

    Seriously, congratulations on the job. You'll be great. The D.C. public schools have improved under new leadership in recent years, but there are challenges. It will be interesting.

    If you're near Capitol Hill, lunch is one me one day.

    M.

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  15. Shannon--Yes, I suppose they are, although my dad gets all his info on DC from the evening news, and pretty much assumes that anyone who lives in a big city for long enough will eventually end up killed/raped/shot/murdered, and he does love a good parade to rain on. He would much prefer I live in the safe old suburbs (like them!), but luckily I am old enough to not have to listen to my daddy anymore. But yes, I guess other than that they are excited. (They just hide it well?)

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  16. DC is awesome, congrats! If you need a friend, a pal of mine is the Godfather of DC. She is everywhere and knows everyone!

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  17. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are moving out of Mythica! This is pure amazingness. Congratulations ma belle!

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  18. Oh, this is so exciting! Congrats! I can't wait to read about your adventures in DC.

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  19. Well done, Rachel. Well fucking done.

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  20. Way to go!!! So excited for you!

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  21. Congradulations, you deserve it! :)

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  22. AHH!!! I've never posted before but I've been reading for a while and absolutely DYING to move to DC so CONGRATS!!! I've been putting in hundreds of job applications all over the city and know how hard it is so that is HUGE for you!

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  23. CONGRATULATIONS. This is so awesome! Yay!

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  24. I have family in DC. My mom has a dry cleaning business in DC if you need a good dry cleaner let me know ;-)

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