Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My interview at the new high school in Brooklyn

Yesterday I had my interview for an immediate full-time special ed teaching job at a high school in Brooklyn that just started this schoolyear with 100 ninth graders. It took me an hour and twenty minutes door-to-door to get there by subway, and it was *freezing* out. But I followed my directions from the train station, walked up to the huge brick building, and...had to go through a metal detector. (!) The school is housed on the top floor of a large high school that has performed so poorly, it's being phased out and will graduate its last class in 2011.

I met the principal, who was nice, but not Mr. Rogers-nice like he'd seemed on the phone. Which is good -- if you're running a high school, you have to be at least somewhat strict. I observed a global studies class first period. It was a CTT (Collaborative Team Teaching) class, which means anywhere from roughly a quarter to a third of the kids in the class are classified as special ed, so a regular education teacher and a special education teacher team-teach the class together. They were teaching a lesson on Mesoamerica, and doing a pretty good job. But they had the door open, and I could hear this DIN out in the hallway -- it sounded like students just standing around talking, calling out to each other and laughing. I kept thinking someone would make it stop, but no one ever did, and it was so LOUD, the teachers finally had to close the door.

Then I observed an English class, and the students spent most of the period using laptops to work on a writing project. But they took a while to settle down, and though some of the students were actually writing, some of them were sitting around talking. One student next to me didn't write a word -- he surfed the internet on the laptop for the entire period. And again, sometimes it just got so noisy! It made me anxious.

When the principal interviewed me afterward, he said that both the classes I observed had first year teachers, and they needed more assistance with classroom management, and with scaffolding instruction (whatever that is -- I'll have to look it up). Again, he was nice, but I just don't think I could handle working there. At first I thought, maybe it's just that high school kids aren't for me, but I've been fine working at the high school in Queens. The two schools are so different, though. At the school in Queens, no metal detectors, for one thing. And students and their families have to be with-it enough to choose to apply there, to audition, etc. It seems very ethnically and racially diverse, but I get the feeling the students tend to be mostly middle and upper-middle class. The other day, for example, two of the boys in the resource room were talking about how different pizza in Italy is from pizza in the U.S. -- they had both been to Italy. The school in Brooklyn is so new that I couldn't find any statistics for it, but I'm sure the school it shares a building with has a similar population, and at that school 95% of the students qualify for free lunch. It's a tough population, and I just don't have enough experience as a teacher and a classroom manager, especially in a gritty urban school, to feel like I can do the job justice.

I had a real comedy of errors getting to my Queens high school job after my interview in Brooklyn, by the way. First, I came up out of the subway and was walking to the school when I tripped and fell hard on my left knee. Because of the snow and ice? Of course not. It was the clearest, most dry sidewalk I'd walked on all day. I tripped over, apparently, nothing. A nice woman walking by grabbed the newspaper I'd been carrying before it could blow too far away, and asked if I was all right. I said yes and thanked her, and then limped on my way over the Queensboro Bridge -- on the side without a walkway. If you happened to be driving across the five-lane highway over the bridge yesterday and noticed a woman in a black coat staggering along the snowdrift at the edge of the road, trying desperately not to get hit by a car -- yes, that was me. At least the pain in my knee and the concentration required not to end up as roadkill made me forget the biting cold for a few minutes. ;O

Anyway, this weekend I'm going to the 7th Annual Metro NY Charter School Career Fair ( -- hopefully I'll get some interviews out of it!


  1. aw, sorry about your knee! :( :( i'm glad you made it home ok. you know, i wonder if teaching at the college level is more for you--i think you do a wonderful job for high school level kids, but i wonder if the flexibility of college classes would offer more, for you?! i know it isn't easy to find those jobs either though. anyway, just a thought...

  2. Yeah, that's the problem -- without a PhD, even adjunct jobs teaching college English are hard to find, let alone tenure-teack jobs with benefits! Ah well....

  3. I can't believe that kid surfed the net with you right next to him. That's gutsy.