Sunday, May 31, 2009

2 job interviews this week!

This week I have two job interviews for full-time special ed teaching jobs for this fall. One is at a charter school in Manhattan, for which I have to teach a sample reading lesson to a group of four sixth graders with reading difficulties. And the other is at a private school in Manhattan for kids with learning disabilities, where the class size is capped at 12 students. Sounds nice, though of course if they can't handle being in a class with more than 11 other students, there is usually a very good reason!

The kids at the charter school go to school from 7:45 AM to 4:30 PM. I wonder if the teachers are on staggered schedules or if they're expected to teach for 8 hrs and 45 minutes per day, in which case they must have to stay up 'till all hours every night grading and planning. The school day at the private school ends at 3:00 PM, but they have a six week school summer program which they strongly encourage all students to attend. I really don't want to work during the summer. Summers off are the reward that makes the stress of teaching worthwhile!

But at this point I just need a job, so I'm excited to be getting interviews.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Scenes from the resource room

Teacher: "Mitchell, concentrate on your test, please."
Mitchell sticks his tongue out at her and gets back to work.
Teacher: "Hey, that's not nice. I wasn't rude to you -- don't be rude to me."
Mitchell (matter-of-factly): "I wasn't rude. I was just being silly. If I wanted to be rude, I would've flipped you off."
Teacher: "Oh. Thanks for clarifying."

Teacher: "You shouldn't be wearing that shirt in school."
Simon: "What's wrong with it?"
Teacher: "You're not supposed to expose your shoulders."
Simon: "No, it's OK as long as the sleeves are at least three fingers wide, or something like that. I've worn this shirt a lot and no one's ever said anything."
Teacher: "Really?"
Simon: "Hey, you should see what some of the girls wear!"
Teacher: "Oh, I know. I do."
Simon: "Not that I'm complaining. As far as I'm concerned, all the girls could wear bikinis to school and I'd be perfectly happy." Pause. "Although I don't think I would get any work done."

* * *
Teacher: "You have a really good way of explaining things. Maybe you should be a teacher."
Jared: "No way. Are you kidding? I'd get fired my first day!"
Teacher: "What do you mean?"
Jared: "Teachers have to put up with too much crap. I've talked to teachers and asked them about certain things they should have done, and they've been like, 'Yeah, you're right, I would've done that, but I can't go against the bureaucracy.'"
Teacher: "But you'd get some of that in any big organization."
Jared: "I guess. But I also can't deal with stupid kids. You know? I wouldn't have any patience whatsoever. I'd just be like, 'You're being stupid. Get out of my classroom.' The worst would be to have MYSELF as a student. I couldn't handle me! I would kick myself out of class every single day!"


Monday, May 11, 2009

Now we know why there are food banks

Last week I went to a government services building in Coney Island, Brooklyn, to apply for food stamps. By the time I left the subway the rain had begun to fall, but I did get to walk past the famous Cyclone roller coaster along the way.

The building smelled like a nursing home, but I forged ahead and told the security guard I had an appointment. She said to find a seat, which was hard -- the large 'waiting room' with several rows of seats was nearly standing room only. A few people had a book or a newspaper to read during their wait, as I did, and a few others spoke quietly to the person next to them. But the majority just sat there, grim-faced, staring into space. I listened to the older woman next to me hum quietly to herself as I read my book ("The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand, who definitely did not believe in food stamps). Every so often the security guard would come to the front of the room and ask, "Does anyone speak Russian and English?" and ask them to translate something for an applicant who had just walked in.

An hour after my scheduled appointment time, I was finally called in by a blondish woman with a Russian accent. I followed her into a maze of cubicles and sat down across from her. I showed her my proof I was receiving unemployment benefits, and she looked at the receipt for my nearly $1,000 a month rent, but she didn't look at the electric or gas bills. She sighed a few times as she entered my information into her computer. "I don't think you'll qualify," she said apologetically. "I'll say you're getting $405 a week in unemployment instead of $430" (you can do that?' I thought) "because $430 a week is too much."

She typed away at her computer, moving through various screens. Finally she said, "Do you want to be fingerprinted now, or do you want to see if you qualify first?"

I was taken aback. I didn't know you needed to get fingerprinted for food stamps. "Um, I'll see if I qualify first," I said.

She went through a few more screens, hit the magic button -- and sighed again, shaking her head. "I'm sorry," she said. "Your income is too high."

"Even taking my rent into account?" I asked hopefully.

She said, "We only count that if you're under the limit, but you're over." Which doesn't make sense to me (shouldn't it be the opposite?), but rules are rules.

But then I felt guilty because she seemed to feel so bad for me! She went on about how unfair it was that I didn't qualify. "If I make the rules, you would qualify. But when they make the law, they don't ask me," she said. "People like you who work should get. Not the lazy people who don't work!"

"Oh, that's all right," I said quickly, trying simultaneously to reassure her and stop her rant. "I knew I probably wouldn't get them, but I just thought I'd try."

"Well, I don't wish this on you, but if, God forbid, your unemployment runs out before you find a job, I hope you know you can come back to us," she said.

I thanked her profusely and left, thinking, If, God forbid, I don't find a job before my unemployment runs out in October, $200 a month in food stamps isn't going to cut it. Note to self: do some shopping for the St. Bart's food pantry this week. If I had to live solely off unemployment benefits, I would be one of its clients.

The New York Times actually ran an article on Sunday by Jason DeParle entitled "The Safety Net: For Victims of Recession, Patchwork State Aid," about how piecemeal the social services safety net is in this country, and how so much of the aid you can get depends on the state in which you live (

In other news, I'll have to send my resume much farther and wider for a teaching job than I have been. I was only applying for jobs in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and not at first-year schools (since they haven't had a chance to iron out the kinks yet). But that was before I went to the NYC Public Schools web site last night, where they have a big notice posted about a hiring freeze for the upcoming schoolyear. The only exceptions are specific shortage areas (like bilingual special ed -- if only I were bilingual!); schools that have been in operation less than 3 years; and "high need" schools (which is probably code for scary schools with metal detectors). The New York Times also ran an article about it, in today's paper (

Maybe it's a good thing I have a friend in the food stamp office. ;O

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Do I qualify for food stamps?

I don't think I do. But back in January, I completed and mailed in an application for food stamps, just for the heck of it. I never heard back and promptly forgot about it. Well, they called me last week to say I had a phone interview on Friday. But then on Thursday, I received a letter saying I was determined to be ineligible, but that I should attend an in-person interview on Friday if my circumstances had changed so they could re-evaluate. I called on Friday, and the woman I spoke with seemed to be saying that I'd been found inelegible just because I hadn't included a bunch of paperwork: a copy of my lease, bills for electricity and gas, proof of unemployment benefits, etc. So I made an appointment for tomorrow at 9 AM. Should be interesting.

According to the NYC Human Resources Administration's Department of Social Services pamphlet, "What You Need to Know About Food Stamps" ( a "family" of one can't make more than $1127 per month gross, or $867 per month net. I gross $1720 per month in unemployment alone, so according to those guidelines, I'm over the limit. But in fine print, it says, "Certain subtractions to your gross income, called deductions, are allowed. These can be for things like housing, child support payments, monthly medical expenses over $35 for elderly or disabled people, or child care." My rent is so high ($992.75 per month) that if I can deduct that, I may qualify. The maximum monthly food stamp amount that a household of one can receive is $200 -- the equivalent of $50 a week.

Incidentally, if I were trying to live solely off unemployment, after paying taxes on the unemployment (oh yes, they tax it), and paying for the bare necessities: rent, monthly Metro card, electricity, gas, phone (you could argue this is not a necessity, but it's hard to find a new job without a phone), laundry, food for my cat (I couldn't give her up -- no one else could handle her!), and a bus ticket to NJ to visit my dad once a month, guess how much I would have left for food every month?

$55. Yes, just $55. Scary, isn't it?? Thank goodness for tutoring.