Excerpts from Ordinary Harassment
June 23, 2000
Everyone has that one really important job interview that comes along at some point in their life. Mine was tonight. I spent the past four years working, going to school full time, and devoting every minute in between to Alonna, my daughter. I graduated with honors in May and surprised myself with how well I did on the National Teacher Exams, but in Gallatin County teaching jobs are very hard to come by. You can spend years on the substitute teaching list unless you know someone on the school board or are related to them. I don't know anyone on any of the local school boards so when I was called for an interview at The Penn Area Vocational Technical School I was a nervous wreck for days. There are four teaching jobs at Penn; two instructional and two shop jobs. I qualify for the instructional jobs. I almost feel like my nerves are going to pop through my skin! If I am hired I can stay in Pennsylvania. I don’t want Alonna to go through what I did when I was growing up. We were constantly moving and just when I started to make friends and feel a little comfortable, we would move again. It was unbelievably hard even though I had two parents, a brother and a sister to help me.
Life is different for me and Alonna. She has been my greatest joy for the past nine years but it isn’t easy raising a child on your own. I want to stay in Pennsylvania. I don’t want to have to move away. I want Alonna to continue to grow up around her grandmother and aunts, uncles and cousins. Life is so much easier when you have the love of a strong family around you. All I could do at this point was pray.
I waited for half an hour in the front hall of Penn for my interview. I have never been to an interview where they didn’t have at least a chair to sit on while you waited for the interview to begin. It was uncomfortable and a little unsettling. Finally a large, stocky man came out of the conference room to get me. His suit was a size too small, he was sweating profusely and he looked more nervous than I was. He didn’t introduce himself so I had no way of knowing he was actually Mr. Bart, the school’s director. Other than calling my name he didn’t say a word as we walked down the long hallway. He opened the door and pointed toward an open seat at the head of the table.
Ten out of the twelve school board members were at the interview. I didn’t expect to see that many there to interview me but I have learned to be prepared for anything. Thank goodness because I was expecting a real interview and that’s not what I got. Five board members were shuffling through piles of papers instead of listening to me and one woman actually got up as I was answering a question and placed a call on her cell phone. It was distracting, not to mention extremely rude. I could understand answering the phone if you were expecting an important call, but to actually place a call was very disrespectful. The board members didn’t seem to have much respect for Bart either. Every time he tried to ask me a question someone cut him off. He just sank back into his seat. I was quickly losing any respect that I might have had for this board.
As the interview was wrapping up, a male board member seated next to me patted my hand and told me that I had done a good job. He made me feel like I was ten, but deep inside I hoped he was right. I am not your typical new teacher. I am forty years old and it is a late age to enter the teaching field. I am competing with people who are vibrant twenty year olds. But I did inherit good genes – my father’s dark hair and olive skin along with my mother’s big brown eyes and petite frame. I don’t know if I would consider myself vibrant, but I have always had a free spirit. Changing jobs every two years; always searching for my place in life. Things changed nine years ago though. My spirit found ground. Mac, the man I loved, walked out on me when I was five months pregnant. He talked a good game of civic duty and responsibility but that only applied when it involved public recognition for himself. His brother convinced him that the baby and I would just hold him back politically so he lost no time in packing his bags and heading out the door. Actually he ran to the door; he wanted that political prize more than anything in the world. I wanted to fall apart, but I didn’t have that option. I had a baby on the way and she would need me to be her everything. I knew I would protect her and care for her with every breath in me. I don’t know if it was right or wrong but I made the decision I wasn’t going to play games with her heart so I made a deal with Mac; I got sole custody of Alonna and he was free and clear of any child support or us for that matter. He was free to pursue his quest for public acclaim. He jumped on the offer.
My decision meant life wasn’t always easy. There were many tears and many fears but Alonna was worth every struggle. I was devoted to her. And now my ability to provide for her rested in the hands of a group of individuals who reminded me of Mac; craving power and praise without putting forth any effort to earn it. But since teaching positions in this area are hard to come by I just had to suck it up and smile. I smiled as big as I could for them even though I wanted to tell the cell phone woman how she could use a lesson in basic manners and how the rest of the group needed lessons in common courtesy and respect. I guess I will just have to wait and see what happens.
June 27, 2000
Wow! I feel like I can finally breathe. I have a teaching job! It is what I have been working toward for the past four years. I was officially hired this evening as the Resource Instructor for Penn. It is Pennsylvania’s first area vocational technical school. The fact that Penn is a historic school suits me. I am the descendant of George Ross the Signer, member of the First Continental Congress, Signer of The Declaration of Independence, uncle by marriage to Betsy Ross, and friend of George Washington. I like being part of something rich in history.
There is one unsettling aspect about taking the job at Penn. Legend has it there is a bad vibration in the school. Penn is closely located to Fort Liberty, a military fort where people sought refuge from Indian attacks in the 1700s and was a stop-over for Daniel Boone and his band of settlers on their way to Kentucky. There has been a lot of bloodshed over the centuries on the school’s property. It is said there is a sense of unrest there and it can affect those who spend a lot of time on the property. More than a few deaths have also occurred in the building. Is it a connection or a coincidence? The thought of the history associated with the area is intriguing for a history buff like me, but it is also a little unnerving. Actually after all of these years so is the thought of going back to high school. I just have to get through the rest of the summer and then I will have a real paycheck. Maybe we can even have a real Christmas this year. No more poster board painted Christmas trees hung on the wall and doll houses made from cardboard and wallpaper sample books.