Tuesday, July 01, 2008
To supplement my income, I've been teaching at colleges for almost twenty years. It's interesting, because the contrast between teaching at high school and college is very stark. In my college classes, even though the students are much older, activities tend to move a little faster, and sometimes a lot faster. There's certainly a difference between paying for education and having your mom kick you out of the house every morning.
When I interviewed for my first college job, the one I'm still doing, I'd just taken off a semester to get my ESL certification. I'd been supporting myself by playing guitar in a wedding band. The money was very good, but I was single then, and the job entailed wearing, among other things, Kelly green jackets with yellow polyester ties. I'd get calls on my answering machine saying, "Friday night wear the red jacket and the black tie." I was ready for a change (and not just a change of clothes) . For the college job, though, the interviewer asked me about playing music for half an hour, never spoke a word about teaching, and gave me the job.
For a while, after I could afford to leave the wedding band, I worked a third job at a community college. For that interview, I put on a suit and showed up at the designated time. There were a bunch of professors in T-shirts sitting at a folding table shuffling papers. The biggest one shouted, "Do you have the degree?" I responded in the affirmative, and he took a copy of my transcripts. "Okay then," he said, "We'll observe you this semester and if we don't like what we see, you won't be asked back." I worked there a few years, and was very popular. My counterpart's method of teaching writing entailed sitting around a table, holding hands, and thinking positive thoughts. Students who wanted to actually write favored my class. In retrospect, maybe he was just smarter than me, as he ended up with far fewer papers to mark (if indeed there were any).
My most interesting interview, though, took place at a Manhattan college. I'd found a textbook I really liked, and the woman interviewing me happened to have written it. I complimented her on the book. We spoke for a while, and she asked what TV shows I liked. I told her I wasn't home enough to watch much TV. "Oh, do you have an active sex life?" she asked. I don't remember how I responded to that. I don't even remember whether I got a job offer or not.
But I'm fairly certain, if I ever get to interview anyone for a job, that I won't be emulating her questioning technique.