The Price of Education and Teaching: Part VI
I'm thankful for the opportunities I got.
I was surprisingly happy that all three districts were offering me a job, and that I could actually choose who to work for. This reminded me when mom asked me if I wanted to go to school or go to work when she and I re-united in the United States, and I chose school even though I had no idea what I'd face. It was the same thing this time; I was going into this teaching world blindfolded and with earplugs in, but both disappeared in a split second. My first interview with the person who'd 'hire me' was like 'starting off on the wrong foot;' I had to wait in the lobby for over an hour because some head custodian had passed away unexpectedly. Then, when somebody finally called me in, the person whom I was supposed to speak to, was talking recipes on the phone, and she totally ignored me for at least twenty minutes; I started feeling very weird and uncomfortable but still waited patiently.
During the 'interview,' she did what she was supposed to do then asked if I had any questions. I asked her if I could some day teach mono-lingually, English; her quick and sharp response was: "I'm hiring you as a bilingual, and you'll stay bilingual!" Gosh, it was just an informational question, I didn't stay bilingual anyway, but not by choice!
After my interview with Ms. Fits, she sent me to interview with the site administrator. I think I entered The Twilight Zone because the principal started talking all kinds of nonsense right away. She said she'd taken a chance hiring me like she'd done with another teacher; she said the other teacher's mom was her friend, whom she had interviewed. I felt like I was the one taking a chance here, but she wasn't finished with me; she told me I wouldn't fit in and that everyone already had their own clicks. Additionally, she said that I had an accent and I shouldn't expect to be invited to social gatherings; (at this point I was hoping they wouldn't invite me, thank you); that such and such had been through a lot,...
The next step of the nightmare, er, interviewing process was to do a three-day observation of the teacher/students/class I'd take over.
The principal introduced me to the teacher and students then left; please stay! As soon as the principal had left, the teacher started trashing me in front of students and assistant; she said the students were misbehaving because I was supposed to have been there two days ago, and they'd been waiting for me. I told her I'd been next to the bilingual coordinator who'd made the call with dates and times, but the teacher wasn't listening; instead, she kept flipping through an English/Spanish dictionary to communicate with her mostly Spanish-speaking class.
The next two days got even worse; this teacher started saying I'd stolen her job; that such and such had given her the position and she was a US citizen and fully qualified to teach this group. First of all, I don't steal jobs; I apply for jobs I know I'm fully qualified to perform and do well. She, however, didn't have the 'required bilingual credential', didn't have classroom management skills, and exposed students to racist, prejudicial, stereotypical, and discriminatory abuse because she was telling me all this stuff in front of the entire class. I don't know how I held my composure.
We finished off the observation ordeal with her racist litany: Mexicans are filthy and lazy; they're depleting all our social services; all you have to do is look in our cafeteria; and bilingual education doesn't work, people who know say so. I asked her who are those people who know? Her answer was the politicians, they know. I was enlightened and empowered for the next and final blow: I'd made sure I had all the materials I needed for the following Monday when I'd have my own class then went home for the weekend.
I could barely sleep over the weekend trying to prepare special activities for the first week with my students; however, when I got to my classroom Monday morning, I was shocked to find it completely empty! I went to let the office staff know, and they called the previous teacher who'd occupied the classroom; shamelessly she told us other teachers had left or given her the stuff and she'd taken it to the district warehouse. Staff told her the materials belonged to the school and present teacher. The staff asked me what materials were more urgent and sent for them. I worked with what I'd prepared for a couple of days till most of the materials ended back in my classroom.
It was hard to stomach the hatred this Bible-loving person spewed all over the students and me; and regarding the unruly students who'd been waiting for me, the assistant told me they always behaved badly because the teacher had no control over the class; I was listening to what I saw was true but was happy to have a witness who saw and knew the same things I did; the assistant told me to ignore the teacher.
The beginning of my teaching career could've been the end, but I knew how much my parents had sacrificed for me to have a better future and to work for the things I needed. They instilled in me the importance of education even though they barely finished second grade. My dad actually went back to school when he was about 60-years-old and was so proud when he finally learned the 'little house math', old-school division. Then when he was about 70 when he'd mastered multiplication and 'stinking' subtraction.
Dad would proudly brag about his US teacher daughter with his friends. He learned I was working on my Master's just a few months before he passed away. It was six months after my stroke and I couldn't visit to say goodbye because I was still too sick. I'm sure he'd also be proud of my publications and would want to read them or ask me to translate and write in Spanish.