Three days ago I wrote This post. I basically had a mini breakdown because I was not having any luck with finding a job.
After I wrote that post, I broke out my trusty ole prayer journal and prayed. Of course, my prayer to the Big Guy upstairs was mostly me having another panic attack. “God, please, I have no idea what I am doing over here. Show me something, guide me, give me direction because I am lost.”
God and I kind of have our own thing going on. He “gets” my breakdowns, he lets me ramble and it is okay.
I end up falling asleep in a stress-induced coma.
The next day I got a phone call from “Ranier Hill Elementary” asking if I was still interested in the Para position I applied for and if I would I be available to come in Tuesday for an interview.
Well, Duh! Of course, I am available to come in for an interview.
Now, I do not want to toot my own horn or anything, but I am good at interviews. I know how to dress the part, I know how to make eye contact, I know how to make the people interviewing me laugh, I am good at reading people. I have the firm hand-shake locked down, and I know the proper follow-up questions to ask.
And, whether given the opportunity or not, you always want to ask follow up questions.
“I would like to know what you guys are looking for in a Para.”
“How long have you been teaching Special Ed?”
“Interesting, what made you decide to teach Special Ed?”
These questions create a dialogue which will show your continued interest in the position.
I am just good at the interviews. Now, the irony that I still did not have a job does not escape me, but I am telling you, it is not because of my lack of interview skills. It was due to my lack of formal job training.
So, Tuesday morning off I go Ranier Hill for my interview. Now, naturally, I had already done my research. At this point not only had I Googled the school but I also “Googled” the Special Ed teacher I would be potentially working with. I went into that interview armed with knowledge and confidence. I walked right up to the teacher, without waiting for introductions, introduced myself, sat down at the table and told them. “Okay, I am ready, let’s do this!”
I left the interview feeling pretty good, but, I have also left all other interviews feeling pretty good. The Vice Principal of Ranier Hill told me they wanted to make a decision sooner rather than later and she promised she would call to let me know either way. It was out of my hands, but once again I felt I did everything well.
On my way home, I stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up a few groceries. As I was making the difficult choice of which holiday coffee creamer I should buy, my phone rang. Just looking at the number, I knew it was someone from the school district.
“Hello, Jennifer, I am the new Assistant Principal at Olympic Trails, I am calling to see if you are able to come in tomorrow for an interview?”
I was mind-blown. You guys, Olympic Trails is the school that I have volunteered at for the last three years. Olympic Trails is the school that has taught both Gracie and Sofia since Kindergarten. Olympic Trails is the school that changed me.
Six years ago I entered the doors of Olympic Trails scared to death. I was a shy insecure worried mother. Gracie was entering her first year in Special Ed, and I was not ready to let go. Gracie’s teacher seriously has the patience of a Saint when it comes to me. She is an amazing teacher who was so beneficial not only in Gracie’s growth but mine as well.
Over the years at Olympic Trails I have met lifelong friends, meaningful connections, I was the PTA Treasurer for one year, PTA President for two years, classroom volunteer for three years, and picked up a part-time gig as parent facilitator. I entered that school not knowing who I was, and walked the halls for the last time with a new found confidence. So, when I got that phone call, looking over the coffee creamer, of course, I jumped on the interview.
Early this morning, I get a text message from my (former) Office Manager at Olympic Trails.
“Jen, Ranier Hill just called me for a reference check! I am telling you, you got this, she loved you!”
I got this text as I was literally getting ready for my interview at Olympic Trails. After way too much thought I decided I needed to go to my interview. I mean at this point I had nothing to lose, right?
It’s only a six-minute drive from my apartment to Olympic Trails. I was early and decided to get a coffee. My phone rings just as I am ready to turn into the coffee shop parking lot.
“Hi Jennifer, this is Elizabeth from Ranier Hills. So here is the thing, I want to move forward and offer you the job, but your second reference, he is not answering the phone. I already spoke to Teresa, she gave you glowing reviews, but district policy is, we need to speak to a second reference.”
I am in shock, and literally, have no idea what to do. Mr. Connor, my mentor, my reference, the one that encouraged me to move outside of my box and apply for jobs in the district, Mr. Connor is in Cuba on vacation. Of course, he is not going to answer.
Elizabeth asked if there was anyone else who could give me a second reference.
“I mean not to sound cocky but you could call any teacher at that school and they will give me a good reference.”
I have balls, right?
Elizabeth laughs, “Okay, let me call Teresa back and see if she can connect me with a teacher.”
At this point, I said “Screw the coffee, I need to figure out what to do.”
I am now in the parking lot, the parking lot that I have been to for the last six years. I am in the parking lot getting ready for my interview while I am this close to a job offer from Ranier Hills.
“Okay God, what are you trying to tell me. You know me, I need a little more direction!”
I run into the school, make small talk with the secretary, then, and even, writing about this makes me laugh, I see Teresa’s head pop up in the back corner from under her desk. Apparently, she was working on wires to her computer. Quickly, I go over to her desk, and in pure Jen dramatic form, five minutes away from my interview, I exclaim “I NEED TO TALK TO YOU!”
“Ranier Hills is ready to offer me a job, but Mr. Connor cannot be reached because, you know, he is in Cuba, and they need a second reference, WHAT DO I DO?”
Teresa, calm and collected as she can be.
“Oh, Melissa, she can give you a reference.”
(Melissa is the secretary I just made small talk with)
You guys, everything that happened next is either divine intervention or a series of unfortunate events, you decide.
Teresa somehow works her magic and gets Melissa on the phone with the Vice Principal from Ranier Hills, at the same time, my former principal and the new vice principal come out of their office ready to start the interview.
I am at a loss. I have no idea the proper etiquette on how to handle this. However, that is what Teresa is for.
“Sorry guys, you did not snatch her up in time, she was accepted at Ranier Hill.”
My former principal is disappointed, yet happy for me.
My phone rings. It’s Elizabeth.
“Jennifer, I just got off the phone with Melissa. I would like to formally offer you the Para position, do you accept?”
And, right there in the office, the same office I entered six years ago not knowing anyone, yet knowing this was the school that offered Gracie the program she needed.
The same office I entered countless of times to check in with Teresa, the same office I would go to sign the girls in or out of school, the same office I would take Gracie when she needed a break from the loud noises, right there in this office, surrounded by Teresa, and Mary, and the new Dean, I accepted the job, the job at a new school, but a job that I hope would continue to help me grow just as much as Olympic Trails did.
I hang up the phone with the biggest, most nervous smile on my face, and Teresa reached out and gave me a hug.
“Congratulations Jen, you did it!”
And I did, I did do it, but not without the help and support of so many……especially, the Big Guy upstairs.
Once again, everyone else saw something in me that I was not able to see in myself….and for that, I am forever grateful.
Teresa and I made one final walk down the halls of Olympic Trail. I saw teachers that have taught Sofia, I see memories in the form of bulletin boards and dust. This was my school. Teresa and I reach our destination, she opens the door, the same door to a classroom that taught Sofia, the same classroom I volunteered in for three years.
I walked into that classroom, my eyes, automatically going to the corner, the same corner I would be studying for my Para test. The same corner where I had my most favorite third graders teach me. The corner is different now though, there is a new teacher in the room because Mr. Connor has moved on to a new district.
But, if I look close enough, and close my eyes, I am right there, back in that corner of the classroom, the same classroom that told me “This is what you need to do.”
As Teresa and I walked back down the hall, I knew it was for the last time. Olympic Trails has served its purpose, but the people, no, the people, they are staying with me.
Those are direct orders from the Big Guy upstairs.