In April of 2009, I was in between jobs. I wasn't working on Wall Street anymore and I still had a few months to go before Teach for America's summer training program started. Teach for America (TFA) gave me an advantage in the job hunt in that they started sending my resume out to schools before I had even started training. Of course, TFA doesn't just send you off to interviews to act like an idiot: I had a few interview prep sessions with a placement associate, Jennifer. Jennifer was helpful, honest and quite frankly, supremely nice. I can't thank her enough for the school placement I have today.
My first interview was with a high school in the Brownsville [insert brown person joke here] region of Brooklyn. Teaching interviews usually call for a one-on-one interview with the principal, followed by a demo lesson in front of students to gauge your teaching ability, style and management. I remember I was really excited about telling my story to the administration. I left finance because I wanted to do something more worthwhile. Who wouldn't eat that shit up? I also prepared a pretty detailed Algebra lesson. I felt ready to kick some ass.
Brownsville was a 45 minute commute via subway. I was dressed to kill in my black Zegna suit, white shirt and green skinny tie. Most importantly, I had just shaved before I left. My "5 o'clock shadow" arrives within a couple of hours, so the timing of the shave was essential. Real men grow facial hair. Lots of facial hair. If you can't, see the two previous statements.
I arrive at the school and get sent to a classroom to get interviewed by an assistant principal. Apparently, the principal was busy in another meeting. That's odd, but okay, you look nice, I'll answer your questions I thought. The interview was relatively brief, straight-forward and boring. I never even got a chance to explain my background. I sensed the culture at this school was very stiff and strict. I did not like overall feel of my interview, much less my interviewer. She ended with a surprise question:
"So, off the top of your head, what's two raised to zero?"
"Two to the zero power, what's the answer?"Wow, they must have hired some really idiotic teachers in the past. Okay assistant principal, I'll bite...
"That would be one."
"Are you sure?"No, I'm an idiot. Go fuck yourself.
"Hmmm. Let's move to a classroom for the demo lesson. I think you might have someone ahead of you, so just waiting outside the classroom until you are called in."I did not like this person. I was letting my personality leak into the interview and this person was not having it. Whatever, maybe she was just having a bad day. I was waiting outside of the classroom when I met Mr. T for the first time; he was also interviewing for a position at the school through a TFA placement. He was wearing a three-piece suit and had his motorcycle helmet in his hand. What a douche, I thought.
Just kidding, Mr. T. I know you're reading this.Anyway, the students in the classroom were very agitated - they had been held against their will to listen to random interview candidates. Their school day ended at 3:30 PM and it was now pushing 5 PM - need I explain more? Fifteen minutes later, Mr. T wrapped up his demo lesson and headed out. I waited outside next to the door for someone to call me in, but all I could hear was complaining:
"Mista, do we have to hear another teacher do their lesson? This is mad wild and stupid. I'm sick of this," whined a teenage girl. Let's call her Denise.
"Yeah Mista, you ain't even warn us. This shit ain't worth no extra credit. I'm failing your class anyway, this ain't gonna help me," cried the Denise's friend.
"Guys, we only have one more interview to go," explained a history teacher inside the classroom. Apparently, they were his students. Lucky him.At this point, I started getting nervous. My lesson was on solving systems of linear equations through the substitution method. I was fucked. These kids aren't in the mood to be challenged, they want to get the hell out of here.
Denise continued, "Mista, pleeeease let us go and just hire everyone! Wait... is he fine? How about this: Imma go outside and if he hot, he hired!"Oh. My. God. She's coming towards the door. Freeze.
Denise popped outside the classroom. "Hi! Are you here for the lesson???"Awkwardly, I nodded. Avoid eye contact, I thought. Denise shut the door and ran inside:
"Mista! HE HIRED! HE HIRED MISTA! HE HIRED!"Awkward turtle. I spent the entire lesson avoiding eye contact with Denise, who was clearly going out of her way to answer questions she didn't have the answers to.
And after all of that, I didn't get the job. Apparently, I was too laid back. In retrospect, I'm glad. That's just me.