The other Hollywood

While at work at the bookstore, I bumped into a teacher from a middle school I work at. I hadn’t seen her since school ended, and since school is going to begin in less than a week the conversation turned to the usual question.

Did you find a job for September?

I haven’t had any luck. I had an interview at a nearby school, but they ended up hiring someone with more experience — and a wife on the faculty. I shared this with her, and she tried to encourage me with the idea that one of the social studies teachers at her school would be retiring at the end of the year.

That’s actually not all that reassuring.

There is a glut of aspiring social studies teachers. Just about every job I apply to has 100 applicants or better. Schools have their pick — there are applicants with dual certification in special education, those who coach a sport, speak a second language, or who have graduated from some chichi college. Many applicants have experience teaching in some godforsaken district. In many cases applicants have some kind of connection.

People seem to think that working as a substitute teacher for a district is a good way to get hired, but that’s not always the case. Stick around too long and the shine is off the apple.

I brought this up with the teacher, and she agreed. Schools are a lot like Hollywood, and getting a job as a teacher if your subject is very competitive is a bit like breaking into acting. You’re hot only for a short time, and then the powers that be become interested in the next shiny object — the fresh new faces that come along.

They begin to think of you as a sub. And that’s the end of it.

But the similarity to Hollywood doesn’t stop there. Many districts, when you send in an application, or interview, don’t even bother to respond with a ding letter when they’ve decided to hire someone else. Arlington — one of the largest, and arguably the most desirable district in the area to work for — is like this in my experience. But it’s hardly the only one.

“Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” is becoming increasingly the standard way of doing business.

The best part, as I was telling my teacher friend, is that years ago when I was a voice major and aspiring opera singer I eventually left college and gave up on a singing career because I dreaded the thought of dealing with the endless bit parts, working for exposure, schmoozing with phonies, networking, and attending any and all cattle calls — smiling all the while — while waiting for my “big break.”

Lucky for me I picked the career I did.

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