Linda took the other woman’s hand and replied, “Thank you Dr. Washington. This job sounds like just what I’m looking for. I look forward to hearing from you. Rose, it was lovely seeing you again.”
“You too,” replied the remaining woman. “We’ll see you soon!”
Joe stood as Linda walked in front of him to leave the room. Dr. Washington smiled at him and conferred quietly with Jennifer. After a few minutes of hushed talk she looked up at Joe and smiled. “Hello, Joe. I’m Stephanie Washington, and this is Rose Giuanta. You’re here about the kindergarten assistant position?”
Joe walked over and took the principal’s hand, “Yes, that’s right. It’s a pleasure to meet you Dr. Washington, Mrs. Giuanta.”
“Oh, please, call me Stephanie, and this is Rose. Please, come in,” she said after Joe and Rose had been introduced.
She led them into a small but pleasantly furnished office where they sat around a coffee table. “So, Joe,” Dr. Washington began, “as you probably already know I am the principal here at St. Jude’s, and Rose is the kindergarten teacher in need of an assistant. I have your application here but why don’t you tell us just a little about yourself?”
“Well, I’m 25 years old, newly married, new to Atlanta. My father is a high school principal in Connecticut, I graduated from Central Connecticut State College which is a small college just outside of Hartford that’s primarily a teacher’s college, I have a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and I really enjoy working with children.”
Stephanie perked up at newly married and asked, “How long have you been married, Joe?”
“One hundred and three days,” Joe blurted without thinking. Even before the words had erupted from his mouth he began to blush. Why hadn’t he just said three months!?
“That’s a pretty specific answer, are you always so precise?”
“No! Tuesday was Misty’s twenty sixth birthday and I noticed that we’d been married one hundred and one days, so today makes one hundred and three. Sometimes I notice how numbers fall together, but it was her birthday that made me think about how many days. It really hadn’t crossed my mind like that before Tuesday.”
“Things are going well for you? I see that you’re members of the parish. I hope you don’t mind but I checked to see how long and it looks like you’ve been with us since the beginning of the year?”
“Misty has. She transferred down here from Hartford the beginning of the year but I had student teaching to finish and then I came down after we were married. She’s been here since the first of the year but I’ve only been here since June.”
“Student teaching with fourth graders it looks like,” Stephanie commented, looking at his application.
“Yes, with Jane Seijen. Her contact information is right there if you want to speak with her.”
“I see that. Thanks, Joe.” Dr. Washington made a short note in her notebook.
“When you say that she transferred down here what does that mean exactly?” Rose asked.
“She’s been working for CIGNA, Connecticut General, C.G., they’re all the same but people know them by different names, for the last four years or so as an account representative. She likes her job but really wanted to get away from New England winters, so when she had a chance to transfer to Atlanta she jumped on it. I figured I could find a teaching job here as easily as in Hartford but maybe I was wrong. I don’t have the contacts, references and work history in Atlanta like I did back home.”
“I can see why she wanted to get away from New England winters. I grew up in Mississippi but went to school in Washington. I did my undergraduate work at Catholic University of America and then my graduate and doctoral studies at Howard. Even D.C. winters are too cold for me! It is hard starting someplace new, I know, but it just takes some time. How are you finding Atlanta?”
“Heavenly, so far! I’m enjoying the people, the culture and the weather. I’m a very lucky man.”
“It sounds like. Well thanks, Joe. That helps us get to know you a bit. So let’s talk about you and the job. Rose has worked with the same assistant for almost ten years. She is a lovely lady but had a baby the end of the last school year and decided that staying home with her new-born would work better for her. She’d planned to come back this fall but when she discovered how joyful it was for her to spend time just being a mom she contacted me and let us know she wouldn’t be returning. It was a last minute decision on her part and it leaves us in a bit of a pinch. These things happen and we certainly wish her the best, but that leaves us in a position where we need to act quickly, but not hastily.
“Rose has been making do with volunteer help but she needs a professional assistant, and preferably one who will stay with us for a while. I have your job application here for the assistant’s job, but it looks as though you have a fresh education degree. Is there a reason why you’re not pursuing a teaching position?”
Joe hesitated for a fraction of a second. Honesty was important to him, but he knew that he needed to be concise and to sell himself. “I have applied to three of the school districts looking for a teaching position but all that I have heard from them is that they have my application on file and will contact me if an appropriate position becomes available. I’d like my own class, but I thought getting into St. Jude’s could do nothing but help me move forward toward that goal.”
Rose smiled at him, “So, if you really want your own classroom what was it that made you decide to apply here?”
“Well, I’m working in a bike shop, which is fine, but it seems like I spent a lot of time and money getting a degree so that I could teach children and instead I’m working on bikes. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with what I do for a living and I enjoy getting my hands dirty and spreading the gospel of riding as it were, but my goal and my dream has always been to work with kids.”
“That’s lovely, but how do you think you’ll feel as my assistant rather than as the lead teacher?”
“I’ve thought of that quite a bit in the last few days. My job application is far from complete. I didn’t leave anything off to deceive you, there just isn’t a lot of room there for previous work history and they’re really not the kinds of jobs you put on a resume. I started working when I was a little kid and I’ve been at it ever since.
“Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this is that I’ve learned something important with all those jobs. What I’ve learned is that you go in to a job all excited and feeling like you pretty much know what’s expected of you and how to do it, but you really don’t.
“What I’ve learned is that I always have a lot to learn. Sure, I’d like my own class but I figure being an assistant is great OJT without the kids paying the price for me learning the ropes. I hope to have my own class, and sooner rather than later, but I’m patient and I always try to take advantage of learning opportunities.
As Joe spoke both rose and Stephanie took notes. When he paused the principal looked up and blinked her eyes three times in rapid-fire succession. “That’s a very insightful answer. I don’t mean to sound condescending but frequently new grads feel like they have all the world by the tail. It’s refreshing to hear a more nuanced and thoughtful answer.”
“Oh, I think it’s probably the age difference,” Joe immediately responded. “I used to feel self-conscious about being older than my classmates, especially the last couple years. I mean, there’s a big difference between somebody who’s 22 and somebody who’s 25, a lot more than the thirteen percent implies. But after I got over feeling like I’d been held back in school I realized that I had a very different perspective than my peers.
“The last two years or so I’ve pretty much been the oldest guy in the classroom, other than the occasional non-traditional student. And as an EE major I was usually outnumbered at least ten to one by women. I think it changed my perspective and helped me see things a little differently than most.”
Rose smiled at him and nodded. “About that elementary education degree, do you think you’ll be hampered because you didn’t study early childhood?”
Joe scrunched up his left cheek and squinted that eye. “You know, my first in school observation was in a kindergarten. I really enjoy their energy and I have fun leading them in active games and like watching the almost explosive, exponential growth that blossoms right in front of my eyes.
“I don’t know that my lack of early childhood emphasis would hamper me as your assistant, but I can see how it would if I were their main teacher. I think it comes back to being open to opportunity no matter what the form and that OJT. I think I’d make a good kindergarten aide.”
Stephanie had been looking at Joe’s transcript and resume as he and Rose talked. “Your classes seem to have been centered around elementary aged children. I don’t see anything but required courses for early childhood here. Is that because you aren’t interested in early childhood or because you felt that it might be difficult for a man to succeed in that setting?”
“Well, it depends on what you mean by succeed. I think I’m more nurturing than the vast majority of men and certainly more than a lot of women. I understand the importance of preschool and kindergarten and early life experiences and getting kids started on the right foot but even though I love being around kids of all ages I guess I find ten year olds to be the most intriguing.
“So many just seem to blossom at that age and I have fun playing word games and writing and showing them new ways to look at their worlds and themselves. It’s like they’re these eager, able learners who are just waiting for someone to point them in a good direction. Maybe it’s nature’s way of endearing them to their parents before the onset of puberty!”
“Speaking of puberty, you don’t have an endorsement for subject matter classrooms such as we have here for the seventh and eighth graders. Any reason for that?” Stephanie inquired.
“I think it’s the same answer only squared! I really like kids in fourth, fifth, sixth grade but after that it seems like a lot of them fall into self-loathing and self-doubt. I know they need strong hands and hearts to guide them but I’m not sure my heart could handle the ache of watching so many tortured souls day after day. I always say junior high is all of the hormones and none of the life experiences of high school! I know those years were the roughest for me.”
The principal continued, “Joe, I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. You seem like a prime candidate for a teaching position and I wish you luck finding one. We’re looking to fill this position immediately so you should hear back from us no later than Monday. As you can imagine we have quite a few other candidates interested in the position so we will be scurrying checking references and vetting applicants. Do you have any specific questions concerning job duties or our school calendar or the like?”
“No, I really don’t think that I do. The advertisement in the bulletin listed the hourly pay rate and I understand that for the most part that if school is in session then I’ll be working but that outside of some in-service days I won’t be. I don’t mean to sound naive but are there questions that I’m supposed to ask?”
Stephanie smiled. “No, nothing that’s required or that will greatly sway our decision. It’s rather a standard question in interviews. Rose, do you have anything else you wanted to ask?”