Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My Teacher Story and My First Linky Party!!!

Welcome to my first linky party!   To my teacher followers...I'd absolutely love to hear your story/journey too, so please please link up by copying and pasting my fancy little button below.  At the bottom of the post is the spot for you to put in your link.   I'm talking to you especially The Pace of It AllJuice Boxes and CrayolasSprinkle Teaching Magic, and Once Upon A Classroom.  I'm always curious to hear how other people got to where they are today!

I'll spare you the bit that goes all the way back to those days when I was a wee one forcing my little brother to sit on the other side of a little table doing math problems I came up with and corrected for him when he was finished.  Instead, I'll just dive into the parts I remember most.

Oh and I'll gift you with some random pictures from a mini-scrapbook from student teaching that I took with me to interviews so I could stand out a little from other applicants.


After attending college in Northern California (10 hours away from home in San Diego) and being part of an extremely famous teaching program I returned home to Southern California.  But in San Diego, no one knew about the program I had been in and I did not have any connections the way so many others did.

Top:  4th grade...my favorite! Bottom:  Making green eggs and ham with Kindergarteners
I filled out applications like a mad woman and even went to two career fairs hoping to get an off-the cuff interview or at least to get my face remembered by a nearby district.  In fact, I waited in a line for a mini-interview with the Poway district (a gigantic and very well-known district in the area).  It was painful!  I was horrible, too nervous to put complete thoughts together, and I was sweating from every orifice.  Did I say the interview was done at the front of the line, so everyone in line behind me was basically watching and starting at me?!  Needless to say, it went no where.  Eventually, I landed an interview at a year-old school in Oceanside and I was one out of about 8 people they were going to interview for one teaching position.  So, I drove out to the school to check out the area, researched the district online, did all I could to prepare.  My nerves were so bad that I had to ask for a cup of water as I was being walked into the conference room by the principal of that school.  There were about 8 people in there and they were all staring at me.  I was only slightly better at this interview than the other one I had went through.  A few days later, I found out that they had only interviewed me and the others as a ruse to hire back a teacher of theirs that they had pink-slipped.  Sigh.  I was devastated.

I dressed up as Athena to introduce my Ancient Greece unit to 6th graders.
At that point, I started to apply in districts an hour away from where I lived, desperate to get my first teaching job.  Looking back, I can't believe I went to those extremes.  But the teaching job market in San Diego was horrendous.  I thankfully scored an interview about 70 minutes from my apartment and did much much better in this one, yet I wasn't hired.  It was then, I decided to apply for a smaller district nearby to be a substitute teacher.  At least that way I'd be able to get my face seen around the schools, make a name for myself as one of the best subs possible, and go from there.  After subbing for about 6 months, I was offered a part-time position in that district in which I was a Title I tutor for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders and had to share a tiny temporary building with a Spanish tutor who was really loud.

Kinders doing a puppet play created by me and read by me.  It is so weird to look back and see myself teaching such little ones, but I loved it at the time.
I didn't hate it, but I certainly didn't love it either.  Near the end of that school year my husband and I decided to move to Arizona where my husband had relatives (and my older brother had just moved there as well).  The housing market was on the up and up and we were tired of moving from apartment to apartment because of rent hikes.  Our hometown was a tricky place to live because of how expensive the cost of living was.

4th Grade Rocks!!  Doing a geology unit on sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks using 3 different colored Playdoh that I made at home.  Those were the days when I had time to do that kind of stuff all the time.
I drove out to Arizona by myself (a 5.5 hour drive each way) two or three different times to scout out districts and drop off applications.  On the the last trip I made, my life changed forever!

My brother's realtor happened to be married to a teacher who worked in the district I have now taught in for almost 9 years.  It turned out the district was the exact type I was looking for and dreaming about for years...one that is an at-risk urban area with a diverse population.  Not to mention, it happens to be one of a couple of the highest paying districts in the city of Phoenix.  At that point, I felt like it was meant to be.  The next day, I drove out to the district office to turn in my application and drove back to San Diego the next day...hoping beyond hope that I would hear back from them.

A week or so later, I got the call that they wanted to interview me!  They set up a phone interview so I didn't have to drive out there.  I studied and prepared like a mad woman by researching the living daylights out of their website and schools.  I looked into the curriculum they use, the student population, their report card status (state assessment scores), and anything else I could get my hands on from a whole state away.

The day came when I hoped my life would change.  I remember having notepads at the ready and questions I wanted to ask them all written out and ready.  When the phone rang, I locked myself in our extra bedroom and turned into someone I never knew I was.  All I remember from the 30 minute phone call was that the HR woman told me she was going to ask me about 40 questions back-to-back (with no think time in between).  Thinking back, I can't remember any of the questions she asked...all I remember is that I was able to answer every single one of them confidently and eloquently.  It was like an out-of-body experience.  At the end of the phone call, she told me that they would like to hire me and that she would mail a letter of intent that I would need to sign to officially accept the position. Once I did that, principals would begin calling me to interview me for spots at their school.

I went from being desperate to having multiple principals calling me from different schools.  Finally, I felt valued as a teacher...because a district had taken notice and wanted me to be a part of them!  After interviews for Kindergarten and 6th grade positions, I accepted a 4th grade position at a fine arts elementary school (ummmmm...helloooooooo...it was totally meant to be)!

My very own first class of 4th graders...all mine.  They are now 12th graders and I can't wait to see them graduate!!!
The principal that changed my life!  Oh and me...as a little baby teacher so many years ago.
About a month later, I packed up and moved to Arizona...and had to leave the hubby behind while he wrapped up his job for another month.  Visiting my school and meeting my principal for the first time was absolutely surreal.  When she walked me to my classroom and gave me my key...it was even more of an indescribable feeling.  The rest is history!

My first  classroom is always a reminder of how far I have come.  What was I doing?!  Ugh. (the top picture is what it looked like when my principal showed it to me for the first time)
So...teachers out there reading this.  I love hearing all about how teachers got to where they are today. Please share your story and link up below in my first linky party.