I Am A Teacher At Last

Two days later, Keith called me with the name of a school, the principal’s name, an address and a phone number.   It was mid July, and it was the first concrete job prospect I’d seen all summer.  I eagerly printed out yet another copy of my manuscript and cover letter, inserting the new information at the top, on my pale rose colored resume paper and fired it off in the mail.

I was rather surprised when only three days later I received a phone call from the principal herself, asking if I’d be interested in a job interview.  The last job interview I’d been on consisted of me sitting at a table at the bar and grill I worked at currently and discussing whether or not I’d be willing to work past midnight on Saturdays.  I had my interview suit that I’d bought so hopefully right after my college graduation over a year ago cleaned and pressed and ready for the occasion.

These were the days before not only the Internet, but also Mapquest, and so my search for FR Elementary school on the east side of Detroit consisted of me buying a street map of the city and mapping out the route myself.  It appeared that the school was not far inside the city limits; truly, as close as a school in the city could be to where I lived.  I could take surface streets the whole way.

When I pulled up to the school a week after that fateful phone call, I was quietly encouraged.  The street was quiet, lined with brick bungalows with watered lawns.  It reminded me of my sister’s neighborhood, but a little nicer, even.  The houses seemed to be in good repair, always a good sign of a neighborhood’s health.  Flowers were planted in pots on some of the tiny porches.

“Are you Ms. S?  Come on in,” said the woman who answered the buzzer at the door for me.  This was something new.  In the suburbs, you don’t have to buzz a doorbell to get into a locked school; the doors are always left open.  I didn’t even remember this from the school I’d student taught at elsewhere in the city.

I was led into the principal’s office, likely the only area of the sweltering, older building that was airconditioned.  She was pleasant, and encouraging, and a little off putting.  Before I had even gone into my educational philosophy, she was asking if I’d be interested in a position teaching first grade at her school, and she’d be happy to show me my classroom if I wanted.

Stunned, I agreed to take a quick tour of the building and tried to think of my options here.  I needed the job.  Keith had shown me the pay scale for teachers in the city and the benefits package too.  I’d have great health insurance, and be paid one of the highest starting salaries in the state.  I knew the job would be challenging, and the commute wasn’t ideal (though a great deal shorter than the commutes I’d seen both my parents have for years and years).  How long would I be able to get by substitute teaching?  If I just did this for a few years, I could build up my skills and my resume while not struggling to pay the bills.

By the time I saw the newly constructed preschool and kindergarten rooms, I’d made up my mind.  I didn’t have the luxury of my parents taking care of me any more.  I was the parent.  I needed a job.  Like my mother had done ten years prior, I would take a job in the city so that I could support my family.

“I’d love to come teach at FR Elementary,” I told the principal at the end of my tour.  “When can I come in and start setting up my classroom?”


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