The Gwinnett County Teachers Job Fair- Part Deux

The first time I went to the Gwinnett County Teachers Job Fair, I was only fifteen minutes early- and the 10,000 car parking lot was half full. Opps.
Apparently teachers, being a prompt and overall organized bunch, were willing to suffer pretty much any indignity to get a shot at a job in Gwinnett County, well known for it’s awesome benefits, if not its fantabulous class sizes or attention to basic accords of the Geneva Convention for the humane treatment of teachers (i.e. Gwinnett is known for stacking the teachers’ daily planning period/pee break with ‘meetings’ in order to foster ‘improved and enhanced child development tactics’).

And indignities were suffered, let me assure you.  Not due to anything specific to the hiring processes of Gwinnett County.  No, when you have over 5,000 college-educated, relatively put together individuals desperate for a teaching job, and you pack them into a warehouse-sized room to compete for the attention of 200 or so school principals (who, interestingly enough, will for once be the ones having difficulty scheduling a pee break- the irony!), it is inherently undignified.  Everyone is tense.  Everyone is in a hurry. Everyone is trying to put their best foot forward.  It’s like one HUGE first date with thousands of others, except instead of wooing for booty, you’re wooing for security.  And healthcare.  No chance of pregnancy (one would hope), but the stakes are measurably higher.

So we come back to the Gwinnett County Teacher Job Fair, hereinafter refered to as GCTJF by this party of the first part.  You stand in lines leading away from a table to wait and speak for three minutes to a principal or vice principal.  You sit down after standing in the line for about 20 to 30 minutes trying to look perky and reliable and professional.  You woo…you woo your little child-loving, pedagogically diverse, constructivist-theory-advocating heart out.   You give your resume and answer the same questions about your background that the principal at the last table (3 feet and 40 minutes ago) ask you.  Your resume goes into the basket with several hundred others.  You shake hands and take a card.  Then you go stand in line again. Rinse and repeat as necessary until all resumes are gone and you’ve been to every table that you need to visit.  Did I mention that the lines your standing in are snaking past the other tables in the vicinity.  There is no partition, no privacy screens, no offices.  It is a cattle call.

Moo.

Now, I know this is the nature of the job hunt for teachers.  The methodology of it no longer freaks me out the way it used to.  It is undignified but not unusual to job searching to come to a cattle call and hope for a shot at an interview.  The indignity is easily gotten past once you have your own classroom and are once again captain of your own destiny…sort of.  I mean, you still won’t get the copier code, or a lunch longer than 20 minutes, but that too is gotten over by most teachers.   The complete anxiety-inducing aspect of the whole deal comes from the sheer number of people.  The NUMBERS!  Thousands of people-thousands!!– who are all dressed in their Interview Best, looking for all the world like we all got up and read the exact same ‘How to Dress for an Interview’ book.  ‘Freaky’ doesn’t even cover it.

You’re looking at thousands of people whose clothing, accessories and expressions all look suspiciously close to what you think you must look like.  Sensible, solid colored suits in black, grey or black.  Sometimes there’s pinstrips.  Usually white on black.  A solid colored shirt.  Minimal accessories (on the ladies).  Pumps (hopefully also on the ladies).  Portfolio booklets with resume copies.  Conservative hairstyles.  Coordinated purses.  It sounds so bland and harmess to describe, but I almost had a panic attack this morning when I was looking around at all the other short, white brunette women there and realized that between the intense looks of concentration and the vanilla interview outfits, I really couldn’t see how we weren’t a little bit redundant.  Argh, I can’t ever describe it now.  No words will do.  It was freaky- freaktastic even.  Unnerving.

So I left the first time and vowed I would never do that again.  I think you know where this is going.  I already gave it away in the title.

So today I went back for the second time to the GCTJF (yay, acronyms!).  This time I was a whole hour early, and the parking lot was only 1/4th full.  By the time the doors opened, there were lines of people snaking everywhere.  Same dance, different day.  Same outfits.  Black, grey, solid colors, still more brunettes that looked waaaay to much like me for my comfort.  The crowds only continued to swell after the doors opened.

So. Many. People.

So many people looking for jobs in this economy.  So many of us that it’s hard not to dispair and think that there’s no way in hell Gwinnett County has enough space to accomodate all these people.  Now, I’m a good teacher- I think.  And I feel confident that given a chance to show my qualities, I would have little trouble finding a job.  (Yes, I think my mad teaching skillz are just that damn good.)  But that is the trouble with this whole paradigm of teacher job fairs.  These hiring principals won’t get a chance to know me.  I’m one of thousands.  I’m a short brunette to top it off.  They likely wouldn’t remember me if I mugged them in a brightly lit alley sometime next week and they were forced to pick me out of a line up of other Middle Class European Descendants.

The anxiety stems from this frustration that my chances of avoiding a repeat of this year’s underemployment marathon are largely reduced to luck, connections, and opportunity.  I’ve got precious little chance to be judged by my actual merits and am likely to be a paper in a filing cabinet somewhere.

But, like anything that has luck or random chance factored in, you never know what might come my way.  That’s why I’m going to play the lottery this week.  And next week.

Now, I’m going to go put on something colorful and slightly alternative.  Maybe something from The Gap.

Weddings and other signs of my 20’s.

Marking time in my life has been done by the most subjective of measures. Childhood marked by holidays, shared custody arrangements, tree climbing, summer camps, and grand adventures. In my teens, it was marked by the changing school year. And, oh yea, puberty. College marked by semesters. My first ‘entry-level’ jobs marked by miniscule pay raises. But my 20’s have been something else entirely. So far there have been about four or five consistent threads running through my 20’s. Yo-yo debt, job/career changes, travel, dancing, and weddings. Lots of weddings.

Fortunately for me and my wallet, I have not had to be in a lot of weddings (can’t afford it anyway), but I’ve been to plenty. Recently two wonderful friends finally got hitched. I say “finally” because I’ve been looking forward to this for a year or more, since shortly after I first met them both. They’re wonderful with and for each other, and seeing that kind of love is inspiring to me. It makes me wish and wonder for that kind of love for myself.

I don’t usually enjoy weddings for their own sake. Due to a lack of sisters or close female friends, I am that rare North American creature who never once dreamed what her wedding would be like. Never played Bride with my dolls, never picked out flowers or thought about a dress. So weddings never send me into a comparative tizzy over what I liked/didn’t like/wouldn’t do/etc. In that, I am largely alone, having almost never met a female who feels even remotely the same way. But love- ah, love! Now there is a dream I can get behind…

One side effect of weddings is apparently babies. Now I know it doesn’t take a wedding for that, but there’s more pomp and joy around a socially-sanctioned reproduction, so many of my high school friends who are now starting the next generation with full legal protections are slathering Facebook with pictures of their prodgeny. So the later half of my 20’s are being marked by the weekly announcement of some new impending arrival. I’m not saying anything new- I’d imagine this is the life stage many of my friends in their 20’s find themselves in. The surrealness of it fades quickly, replaced by many emotions, not the least of which is a nagging worry that somewhere inside me, eggs are whithering. (On the other hand, when I sit on a plane for five hours, listening to an infant shriek and shrill as it sees fit, piercing the ears of those nearby, my eggs simply try to escape via a back door somewhere. My confidence in my fertility stems from the sincere belief that they have yet to actually find one such door.)

On a related note, working in elementary and middle schools provides an interesting lens for viewing the fertility of my fellow 20-something cohorts.  Whenever I substitute at an elementary school, there are several teachers who are fully preggers…to the point of waddling.  The elementary children are used to it.  They likely think it is a consequence of being around them…teachers just get pregnant.  And I think it likely is…being around all those adorable little kids likely makes all the recently married and economically semi-stable want to start that family they’ve been dreaming of…but that’s in elementary school.  When they’re cute.

Middle school is totally different.  I’ve seen one pregnant teacher in a middle school.  Everyone else is of a decidedly older age-grouping (30s to 60s mostly), and is around teenagers enough that their reporductive days are now behind them.  Not because they are past their prime.  Oh no.  Marines could learn a thing or two about stamina, battle tactics and survival from middle school teachers.  No, these teachers are done with reproduction because spending 8-10 hours a day around hormones like that makes you not want to breed.  Ever.

But I digress.

Babies, weddings, job-hopping, travel…signs of my 20s.  With my current situation, babies are going to mark my 30s, if at all, and job hopping and travel are the only things likely to happen until then.  I would be quite happy to mark the end of my 20s with a lottery win or a ridiculously over-paying job…

…sigh.

I’m Employed!!!!!!!!!!

By the movements of the gods of teaching, and whatever else runs the universe right now, I’ve somehow managed to find a position teaching FULL-TIME until the end of the year.

Salary and Benefits never sounded so sweet!

The catch is that it is at my old school where I taught last year. Anyone who remembers my mindset last year would understand how that might be an issue for me. That’s all I’ll say about that on a public blog.

Sufficed to say that I’m not looking this incredibly stressful gift-horse in the mouth. In this economy, I likely will not find another teaching job for next year. My county is currently cutting back 3% across the board, and teachers are being displaced left and right. Next year, since I likely won’t find a teaching job, I’ll have to venture back to the private sector. After the week I just had, I’m not at all sure that this is a bad thing…