Thursday, June 5, 2008

It's a Matter of Perspective and the Universe HAS been Speaking to me After All...

So the interview with the school went very well and not so very well.

Thankfully, the demo lesson was the part that went very well. The girls all swarmed me in the end saying they had so much fun, and that it was a really fun lesson, and then wanted to chat with me about my summer plans. This was all great because I have been thinking about adopting some lesson plans into a package to send to schools as a supplemental writing program. I could be hired for say a week to a month and the school could select the writing program and I would then get paid to teach it. Some schools call this a writing residency, or artist in residence, or just plain a supplemental program.

Anyway, so I think I've maybe made it kind of clear - I don't want to go back to regular classroom teaching - so I told myself not to think of this as a demo lesson for a job interview, but instead as trying out a lesson plan for my artist in residence program. So I was ecstatic when the girls said they really enjoyed it.

The part that didn't go so well, was when the two fourth grade teachers interviewed me and basically said, We have been teaching together for years. We like what we do and the way we do it. Can you be a team player? (My thoughts: doesn't sound like a team to me??) What I said: Sure. And... We like to stay on the same page in class. We like to plan together, test together, and make sure we are doing the same thing on the same day. How do you feel about that? (My thoughts: YUCK! And... that sure makes it easy on the adults, but not really what's best for this kids.) What I said: Well, that can work for LA, science, and SS, but not so much math. If my students don't understand today's math lesson for example and yours do, I am not turning the page just because yours are ready. And likewise, you shouldn't have to wait to turn the page for me either.

Then I met with the Dean of Faculty and Head of Lower School, when I was told... ready for this one... that they don't read novels. They, instead, read leveled readers (we used to call this basals. Most schools stopped teaching basal about 20 years ago!) and may allow one, I will repeat myself, ONE novel to be read aloud to the girls but not for curriculum, grading, or teaching reasons. (My thoughts: ARE YOU KIDDING ME? No wonder why the students in my demo didn't know what an antagonist was! No wonder they had never heard of Sharon Creech, or Lois Lowry, etc. What a Chandra!) What I said: (and this is probably when I started praying they wouldn't offer me the position) You will never be able to teach foreshadowing, personification, and character arcs from basal readers (they didn't like that I called them "basal" readers), just to name a few. You will never teach the love of amazing writing or the love of reading from basals. My philosophy (I probably should have stopped but I went on.) is teaching from only one program is never a good thing. It doesn't give a well rounded education (OK maybe I shouldn't have said that - but this is fourth grade we're talking about and the year is 2008 for crying out loud. AND parents are paying $25,000 a year to send their daughtrers to this private school and they DON'T read novels!!!) Well, we feel some students would struggle reading a novel while others would soar. Some just wouldn't get it. (My thoughts: Seriously?) What I said: But that's the beauty of it. When you always only group students to their level, they never rise above it. When you vary it and from time to time all read a book together, the higher students inspire the lower students in ways adults just can't. They learn from each other. They teach each other. Would you consider allowing me to do one novel with them? Yes, you can read it to them, not assign pages, or work from it. (My thoughts: Can I leave now?)

OK so I was not at all sad when I received the phone call a day later saying, We're sorry, but we're not going to be able to offer you this position. I answered, in probably too chipper a voice and said, Oh OK. Sure. Yeah. That's fines. Yes. OK. Bye! :) (My thoughts: THANK GOD!)

So here's what I was thinking.... did you ever hear the one about the man who drowned waiting for a sign from God? It goes like this. A man sits waiting in his house while warnings of a severe flood appear on his TV screen. A knock is heard at the door. Excuse me Sir, but we are evacuating the area. A severe flood is headed your way. That's OK, says the man, I'm going to stay here. I am waiting for a sign from God. But thank you.

A little while later, the water is rushing in through the windows on the first floor. So the man climbs the steps to the second floor to wait for a sign from God. He sits by his window and sees a Coast Guard boat. Over a megaphone he hears: This is the Coast Guard. A severe flood is headed your way. We are evacuating the area. Please let us take you to safety. No thank you, says the man, I am waiting for a sign from God.

The waters continue to rise, filling up his second story and forcing the man to climb out onto his roof and wait for God there. A little while later a helicopter hoovers above him. Sir, we are evacuating the area. We will send down a ladder. Please climb up and let us take you to safety. No thanks, says the man, I am waiting for a sign from God.

A little while later... the man drowns.

He goes up to Heaven and meets God. He says, God, I waited for your sign. Why didn't you save me?

God says, What, a television report, knock at your door, Coast Guard boat, and a helicopter weren't enough!

And so I say to you... I have heard the signs... a miserable year when I did go back to teaching two years ago to fill a maternity leave possition (I was downright depressed!), the teacher came back leaving no available positions for the following school year, a prospective position this year that dissolved before my eyes (You're perfect for this job. We all wanted to hire you, but you won't believe this, the position dissolved!), and now this 1950's stringent, completely uncreative way of teaching...

Universe, I hear you loud and clear! So, I am off to discover new horizons to support my junkie writing habit!!!

Now, I leave you with a smittering of what we did in the demo lesson. The students, as you know from the previous posting, learned about shifting perspectives... They had to read these passages aloud with feeling (great actresses, btw) and then guess what story it was from and whose shifted perspective it was before coming up with their own....

I just can’t get a break. In every story, I am portrayed as big and bad. But hey, maybe you’re a meat eater too. Do you like steak, cheeseburgers, pork chops, BBQ chicken? Yum, delicious! So, why am I so big and bad then? All I wanted was a little breakfast, lunch and maybe dinner… Is that too much to ask?


ChrisEldin said...

That school sounds horrid. And no parents have complained about their children not coming home with any books?!!!!! WTF?
These paying parents aren't saying anything, so that's why it's still status quo (ie easy for the adults, as you said).

So glad it went *THIS* badly, because if you saw something redeeming, you may have been tempted, and may have wasted time in your life.

I hope Writerkat reads this post. You should go ask her. I can't tell you why now....

Jeanne said...

As I was reading that I started to laugh, thinking that if they have a clue that you have a blog and find it - no worry - you definitely won't be hired! But then I see how it turned out. Yes, just as well.
Think creatively as to where what you have to offer might be appreciated - I'm getting some intuitive flashes, so will e you privately. If we want to do something innovative it has to be in a receptive environment - and that may take a little searching. But you're right - that's definitely the direction!

Sheri said...

Chris, could you direct Writercat to my site. I've only been on her site a few times. I'm not sure she would have the foggiest idea who I am asking her to read my blog...

And I couldn't agree with you more. Did I mention that is was a Catholic school???? But on the private sector, not affiliated with any church. I am not Catholic, but a good school is a good school, I thought. HA!

Jeanne, Yeah, I did NOT hand them my business card, because I knew this was an experience to share with all of you. So they don't even know I have a blog.

I was literally sick on my way home thinking about it - they don't read novels! Exactly Chris, WTF! When I taught 4th two years ago, we read 4 novels and some readers, but I was VERY picky with what readers I chose. It CAN be done!!!

PJ Hoover said...

We heard that story in church just last weekend, Sheri. Coincidence? I think not.
Reading signs is important, and you will find a way to make things work perfectly just as you want them.

Sheri said...

I sure hope so! Thanks PJ and what do you think it means that you just heard that same story in church???? How strange!

PJ Hoover said...

It's the inspired action thing. God (or the universe or whatever) will send signs. It's up to us to see those signs, interpret them, and take action. Lots of people wish for things and never do anything about them. They think miracles will drop in their lap (and maybe they will), but chances are increased by taking inspired action.

Sheri said...

I agree. I keep having people tell me to look for the signs, hidden meanings. I mean, I usually do, but lately all sorts of people are literally telling me to. Makes me think, maybe I am not interpretting them correctly... or I wasn't at least. Now I hope I am.

Off to the June conference today! Having a one-on-one with Daniel Lazar from Writers House. Very nervous!

ChrisEldin said...

You have a one on one with Dan?!!!! OMG!
Please, DETAILS!!

WriterKat said...

Hi Sheri,

I just found your blog by Chris's direction and enjoyed your synopsis of the job interview (also loved the changing perspectives – very thoughtful).

I think she called me in as I am actually working on a writing and workshop project about "Finding Your Dream" in terms of career development. It sounds like you are doing the right thing in following your voice. Sometimes we don’t know where it leads us, but always it leads us to a better place if we trust ourselves and that intuition.

From my experience as a shrink (sort of like the same as a teacher I would imagine) is that no matter we are in a “helping” profession, the first item on the agenda is corporate politics. If you can’t play the game (which can be repulsive & rigid to a lot of us that are creative), you aren’t going to win. Lots of people “suck it up” for the paycheck and follow the rules. To some extent, I’ve done that in my part time employed life but have a part time private practice to balance the other side of me.

Many chose to find their own way, in private practice or self employment so that you chose the rules. From reading your demo – lesson, it seems like you have some great ways to pull in clients. Maybe you can offer a community class for that age group, private pay, and start to market in the area.

I bet a lot of parents would jump on the train, there’s a lot of money to be found from parents dying to have their kid be better than.... Also, I have had budding actors, etc. in my practice that have found private tutoring jobs from Craigs list, which have led into a mini-self directed business of their own.

One book I love is called "I Could Do Anything if I Just Knew What I Wanted" It has practical advice & exercises to start figuring out what you really want to do. Another, "Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway".

Anyway, that’s probably TMI and certainly unsolicted, but it’s my take. Good luck on your journey! I’m looking forward to hearing it unfold. :-)


PJ Hoover said...

Must hear about DL meeting!!!!!

Sheri said...

Chris, It was a well-worth experince. I emailed you the details.

WriterCat, Thank you so much! It is so, so, so interersting to me how everytime I think, the Universe doesn't have vocal chords (the title of my latest book...) it speaks right up. So it did through you. Thank you. I am feeling a wee bit lost and pulled in too many directions. it's the old, what's an artist to do syndrome, trying to make money and his art before his art makes money... And thanks for visiting my blog too! I will be sure to visit yours.

Anonymous said...

WriterKat is right on the money. Don't give thanks to "WriterCat", it shows you don't mean it.
"From my experience as a shrink (sort of like the same as a teacher I would imagine) is that no matter we are in a “helping” profession, the first item on the agenda is corporate politics. If you can’t play the game (which can be repulsive & rigid to a lot of us that are creative), you aren’t going to win. Lots of people “suck it up” for the paycheck and follow the rules. To some extent, I’ve done that in my part time employed life but have a part time private practice to balance the other side of me."

“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

- Anonymous