Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The 300 Days: Part 10 - Spring Break 2k14 and The Hope

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9

Pictured:  Will, somewhere in the back, drowning
Spring Break 2K14 started with a bang, as will made the quick drive from school to central office.  There, waiting for him in a back room, was the district superintendent, the director of human resources, and the union president, there in support of Will.  Considering the seriousness of the meeting, Will was still slightly disappointed that nobody wore a black cloak or mask.  
The meeting was short and professional.  Will knew better than to sugarcoat this.  When the superintendent finished his spiel about “the right fit,” Will calmly slid his letter of resignation across the table, shook both men’s hands, and found his way out of the room.  While it was incredibly difficult, there was still a huge weight off his shoulders.  There were no more mysteries of the future:  Will knew he was no longer welcome there, and he was not returning.
While most will do some light traveling, perhaps to a warm beach, for their spring break, Will stayed put.  Hunched over his laptop, he meticulously updated resumes, applications, and everything in-between.  The following Friday, exactly one week after he resigned, he saw his position officially posted.  It stung a bit.
A haze surrounded Will the first day from break.  He could not focus;  his anxiety gripping him.  But soon enough, there was a spark, that would softly illuminate his surroundings…

Will turned on his phone after school that Monday to find that he had a voicemail.  He put his ear up to the receiver and heard the sweetest voice (next to his fiance’s of course) he had ever heard: “Hello Will, this is Miss Secretary from [Prominent District Schools] and are calling you in regards to the science position…”
Call it fate, call it Divine Intervention, but Will felt like this was it.  
This was why he suffered this entire year.  He quickly called back and excitably set up a time for an initial interview.  One week later, he sat down with the principal and articulated his responses to the usual teaching inquiries.  Before departing, he was informed that he was one of 15 that were selected “out of over 300 paper-applications” for this 1st phase.  Phase two would then be the four finalists.  Will knew he didn’t have to be THE best, just top four, so he liked his chances.  At the end of the week, he had his answer:
“Hello Will, this is Miss Secretary again calling for [Prominent District Schools] and wanted to set up our final round of interviews…”  Will grinned and pumped his fist into the air, knowing that he was one step closer to getting that dream job.  Will was nervous, but almost cautiously optimistic.  It just made sense:  resign on Friday before spring break, get called Monday back from spring break.
The next few days took forever.  Whenever Will had a free moment, he read hundreds and hundreds of sample teacher interview questions.  He practiced his responses in the car, articulating to the cars up and down the highway, and making sure to avoid any taxi cabs.  Will felt his morale slowly get better.  He wanted this job badly, and his cohorts began to rally around him too.  He got words of support from all kinds of teachers from all parts of the building: “Good luck, Will!  You deserve this.  You really do.  You got screwed…”  Some even gave him some reading material to “study up” on Common Core methods.  It felt nice to be cared for.

The room was warm, likely due to the poor circulation and the number of bodies that were currently occupying it.  The sun beamed in through the blinds, causing Will to gently squint. He was cautious to ensure his brow was not furrowed or wrinkled, as Jaden Smith is a terrible human.
What is this?
What are you?
Please stop.

He could feel the sweat streaming down his back as he answered question after question that were flying at him at machine-gun pace.  He was on the hot seat, sitting next to three science teachers, the principal, and an 8th grade team representative.  He felt he could barely breathe.  His mouth was dry, as he felt he had been talking for 45 minutes straight.  Still, he felt pretty good about his responses.  As he was escorted out of the room, the principal informed him that they would be in contact “within the week” to decide the finalist who would then meet the superintendent as a means of formality.  Will was reassured by the principal that he "had never had a candidate turned down after the committee made their selection." The issue was, the district had just elected a new superintendent not two days prior, so it would "take a little time.”

One week; no word.  Making sure he was pro-active, Will emailed the principal at the end of week to inquire as to whether a decision had been made.  A quick reply was made, informing him "a decision has not been made” and that they were still in a “holding process.”  He was assured that they would be in contact by the next Thursday.
Next Thursday; still no word.  Again, Will emailed and received the same response: “sorry, we are still in a holding process.  We hope to know by next week.”
“Hope to know?”  Will was a bit confused, amongst other things.  Even if the district was waiting on the new superintendent, why wouldn’t they inform the candidates of their choice and simply say “congratulations!  Be patient, and the new superintendent will be contacting you in the next few weeks to hopefully finalize your candidacy.”  As each day passed, Will’s confidence again shrunk.  References were not called.  There remained only a tiny bubble of hope…
The bubble then burst on a Friday afternoon commute.  His phone vibrated in his pocket. Pulling it out, he recognized the number from his two voicemails and flexed his abdominal to prepare for the gut-punch: “you were a great candidate, very strong...but you are not our finalist.  Thank you for your time.”  Will saw the writing on the wall, but it did not stop it from hurting.  He pondered how close he was to securing that elusive job.  As it would turn out, he was not even close.  Not even the same zip code.
Will would learn (from a rather beautiful, well-connected inside source) that the reason for the stretched time-frame was because of hiring of a new superintendent.  However, it was because of the actions of this new superintendent for the delay:  upon his arrival, he had insisted that he bring in his own candidates for consideration.  Ironically, the candidate who was chosen came from the same district from where the superintendent originated.  What a small world!

After enduring these interviews, after all of the preparation, after all the stress, everything amounted to the same quantity that Will began this ordeal with:  absolutely nothing.  With all these trials and tribulations, Will found a few bright spots back at his lame-duck school district.  He would find that many of his cohorts were rooting for him, almost living vicariously through him.  “At least you can get the hell out of here,” one math teacher muttered to him.  There seemed to be a common theme involving the sentiment toward Mr. Evans, as well.  But it was not just contained to the district:
  • one of Will’s closest “advisers” confided in him that her son, who also used to be a teacher, had also gone through a situation similar to this, where he was “let go” without any sort of indication as to why.  As a matter of fact, her son went through the exact same the exact same building...with the exact...same...principal.
  • one of Will’s references, who was an administrator at the time, wanted to confirm that his principal was indeed Mr. Evans, because he thought that his wife may have worked with him at one point.  He was correct.  According to his wife, Mr. Evans was “a terrible administrator,” “a weasel,” and “a prick.”  Yup, that’s him.  Oh, Captain my Captain.
Will had the perspectives of an army of professionals, from former teachers to current teachers, and one wonders:  what was the common denominator here?

Will’s support didn’t seem to be whispered either.   During a Building Leadership Team meeting, one of the head intervention specialist loudly claimed to the committee (Mr. Evans included), “we all know the only reason why Will isn’t coming back is because of Miss Marley.”  Rumor has it Mr. Evans said not a word.
Another incident, this time during a department meeting, occurred at the hands of Mrs. Handler.  As the team was discussing the next year’s plans for science, she asked/pronounced “I just don’t see why we can’t keep Will…”  Mr. Evans scoffed.  The topic and it's surrounding tension would eventually come to a head, as the two remaining science teachers were discussing who Miss Marley would “assist” for Supported Science the following year.  Knowing that they could not throw Will’s successor to the wolves so quickly, Miss Marley was to support the two veterans.  When presented with this fact, neither were happy, as neither of them wanted Miss Marley in their room.  
“I don’t want her in my room, because I’m concerned she’s going to tattle on me like she did with Will,”  Mrs. Handler proclaimed. Again, Mr. Evans scoffed and said it was “more than that.”  Eventually, conversation got so heated, that both teachers were asked to leave his office. "This meeting is over," Mr. Evans said, sweeping another issue under the rug, yet again.

After Will had met with Mr. Evans to conclude his third observation, they barely spoke or interacted.  But this was the kind of “man” he was.  He tended to stay away when the heat turned up.  His methods for dealing with uncomfortable issues largely seemed to be that of a young deer after hearing a loud noise in the wilderness, be it student discipline or a staff issue.  However, this did not prevent Mr. Evans from discussing issues.  
After Will had tendered his resignation, he had commented to Mrs. Handler that Will “seemed almost relieved and happy” and that was “weird” to him.  In this occasion, Mr. Evans was 100% correct:  Will was relieved.  He was relieved that the charades were over, and he was going to get the hell out of there.  “I may have to have a talk with him,” he sternly said.  About what, no one could know.  Apparently Will was not allowed to show the slightest bit of happiness at even the smallest nugget of joy.  Needless to say, Mr. Evans never approached Will, as that is not something a coward would do.

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