Not Even Laura Ingalls Would Survive

We are up early on Saturday morning, teachers without a stable position. The ones who know better or actually listen to advice of the sages leave earliest to get it over with. We groom ourselves; we dress in our finest, interview-worthy clothes. We primp, we practice our smiles (a la sorority rush). Some put on suits, some polos, some wear frilly dresses, others the shortest skirts. 


We pack resumes into briefcases. For us, this day off will be one long interview. We ready our handshake, our conversational abilities about nothing, hoping to make an impression that will last long enough past the myriad that precede and follow.


Driving is the easy part, who else is up at 8 a.m.? And as we enter the parking lot a half hour early, we see it is already half full. The owners are full of hope and eagerness, not knowing someone is about to feel like that child on the playground who’s picked last, if at all.


The smell of fresh meat is intoxicating, the little interns frolicking around—most are too young and too naïve to know that low cut tops, short skirts and pretty, little smiles aren’t enough to get a job. What they don’t know is that priority goes to math, then science, foreign language, and special education. Coaches go straight to the head of the list, they trump most anyone.


Competition for humanities is stiff—upwards of 90 to 1—and most applicants with either too little or too much experience will be out of the running. Metro area schools are rife with applicants, living close or over 100 miles away, including teachers with 1 to 20 years of educational experience.


Those who are picked vary by reason—a bachelor’s degree equals less experience for less money, 5+ years means more knowledge of the way things are and less handholding. Most principals seem to know that paying for the newest model may save financially but will cost more in time and attention in the long run. Veteran teachers know the paperwork, the administrative process, and, most importantly, when not to bother the principal.


We stand in line and wait to speak to an administrator, forking over resumes with the gusto of a car salesman. Most know the drill and perform accordingly by genuinely smiling and asking perfunctory questions about current status and expertise. For these, the lines are longest because they offer interaction and at least a superficial interest.


Others respond with the disingenuous attention of a production-line attendant. They give a curt nod, a short introduction, perhaps the request for a resume to distract their guest enough so that they can move on to the next recipient. Others engage in conversation of lackluster distraction, paying as little attention as possible and they must often pause to catch up on what has been said.


For those with repeated job fairs under their belt, we approach it with either an air of desperation or as if it were a waste of time. We get in and get out, attempting to woo those we prefer and visiting others quickly out of obligation. We devise a plan of attack, as we determine who to contact and what networking connections can be made. However, we are in the same holding pattern as the rest—we wait and see, hoping a call or email comes in with the promise of a future.

the parking lot


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