Monday, February 2, 2009

The Job Search

I got laid off from my fundraising job at a health organization back in October. I wasn't too broken up about it because my boss was rarely in the office and I hardly had anything to do. What I miss are the paychecks (ironically, it was the highest-paying job I've ever had) and the health insurance!

I've been looking into becoming certified as a Learning Disabilities Teacher/Consultant, but since you need three years of classroom teaching experience to do that, and I only have two, I need to get a teaching job. I got my master's in special education ten years ago and have a permanent NY State teaching certificate, and since special ed is a shortage area, I didn't think it would be too hard.

A few weeks ago I had an interview at a charter school in Brooklyn. It was a panel interview, which are always a little intimidating -- the principal, special education coordinator, and two teachers all grilled me. I was actually lucky there were only four people, because, as the principal said, "Usually our ENTIRE hiring committee would be here, but they're off doing emergency teaching assignments because we have three vacancies."

Three teaching positions open in the middle of the year -- I figured I had a shot. Sure enough, 24 hours after that first interview, the special education coordinator contacted me, saying the committee had liked what I had to say. Could I come in the following Thursday and teach a demonstration lesson to one of the eighth grade classes? Why, of course I could.

I sweated and slaved over this lesson, then went into the school on January 15th and taught it, with the hiring committee watching. It was a challenge because I didn't know the kids, and I ran out of time at the end so I had to cut short the group activity I had planned. But the kids were pretty good, and seemed fairly engaged. They certainly didn't make me want to run out of the school screaming or anything. But by the time the period ended, the entire hiring committee had already left, except for the special ed coordinator who just said, "We'll be in touch in the next day or two."

But they weren't in touch in the next day or two. They didn't contact me at all -- until today (more than two weeks after I taught my demo lesson), when the school secretary called me. "The principal wanted me to call and ask you if you would be interested in a substitute teaching position starting this Thursday," she said.

Substituting? Huh?? "For what subject?" I asked.

"What subject were you interviewed for?" she said.

"Special ed."

"Then it must be a special ed substitute position."

It "must be"? Shouldn't you know for sure what the job is before you offer it to somebody? "How long would it last?" I asked.

"Well, it's open-ended. We've had temps in the classroom since there isn't a permanent teacher in that class right now. It could lead to a permanent position," she said.

I asked what the rate was, and she said $154 per hour, but I'm sure she meant $154 per day -- if it were $154 per hour, that would be over $150,000 per year! "And no benefits," she added helpfully.

Great. I asked if I could think about it, and she said yes. But what I really wanted to say was, "So let me get this straight. You asked me to come in for an interview for one of three vacant teaching jobs, and I did. You liked what I said and asked me to teach a sample lesson, which I did. After observing that, you think I would be good enough to teach -- but only as a subsititute??" Seriously, what are they thinking? I interviewed for a permanent job; I'm ready, willing and able to take a permanent job; but instead they want to hire me as a sub and continue this parade of temporary teachers in that classroom? How can that possibly be good for the kids? And, it's already February -- it's not like they'd be making some big commitment to me if they just hired me to teach from February through June. Once the schoolyear ends, couldn't they just not renew my contract if they didn't like me?

I guess they really don't want to pay benefits. I'm very fortunate that I don't have any health issues (knock on wood), but I don't want to go without health insurance. If I were substituting I would earn too much to qualify for Healthy New York, the public insurance program I will soon be on (for $235 per month out of pocket, of course). And if I'm teaching full-time, planning lessons and grading papers and managing a classroom just the same as a permanent teacher, I really shouldn't have to forego the benefits. What cheapskates.


  1. I really think it's a crime how difficult it is for American's to get good health coverage. My boyfriend has been without it for years and my Mom, recently retired early, has to pay almost $130 a month for it. It's outrageous!

  2. I totally agree! We're the only developed nation that doesn't have a comprehensive national health care plan for all its citizens -- it's a disgrace. That's awful that your mom (a retiree!) has to pay so much, and your boyfriend has to go without it altogether. Grrrrrr....

  3. Why does it seem like it's so rarely about what's good for the children and it's all about money? I guess because it is. So sad. They missed out on a great opportunity with you.