Not My Favourite Interview*

I just finished my whirlwind Monday cleaning, and procrastinating making my children’s lunches for tomorrow seemed more appealing than actually making them, so, here I am.

I ended up taking all of last week off work because the kids and I were sick, so tomorrow is my first day back. I’m still not 100%, but I don’t really want to have to take any more time off either. Luckily I’m just booked for a morning, so I can come home and crawl into bed tomorrow afternoon if need be.

It’s the best of both worlds. :)

Tomorrow is another random assignment from the system. I’m heading to a school I haven’t been to in ages–not since I interviewed there over three years ago. It remains one of my least favourite interview experiences, and it really soured me on working there at all. I’m sure tomorrow will be fine–I used to supply teach there a bit back in the day–but the interview I had there bothered me more than I care to admit.

It was at the end of the summer three years ago, back when P was just a twinkle in my eye and I was still actively searching for full time work. Two English LTO postings came up at this school, and I applied to one of them immediately. I had been in a few times to supply teach and always had positive experiences, so I figured I’d give it a go. I was really happy when I got a call a few days later, asking if I would come in for an interview.

I spent a good deal of time preparing, made extra copies of my resume, donned my lucky interview outfit and drove to the school. I walked in feeling confident–by this point I had a few other LTOs under my belt, and I’ve done over 20 interviews. (The joys of occasional teaching in Ontario!) I was invited to wait for a few minutes while the interview team got ready, then it was go-time.

The principal of this school was female, and I took this as a welcome sign. The first two principals I worked for were both female, and they were both wonderful. Most of the interviews I’ve done since have been with men, and I thought it would be a nice change.

I was wrong.

The principal was joined by two vice principals and the interview began. We quickly covered introductions and pleasantries, and began working through a list of questions. There weren’t any that were out of left field–I’ve done this so many times that it’s rare that I’m shaken by a question now. The vice principals handled most of the interview while the principal sat back and observed, but I felt prepared and answered easily.

Then she began to speak.

It was clear that she had spent some time looking at my resume and had gone over it in depth. She began asking questions about things I have included that I’ve never had mentioned before, like my extra curriculars and volunteering. She was keenly interested in the fact that I had taken several college level French courses after I completed teacher’s college. I explained that it had been difficult to get on our supply list after graduation, so I began exploring other avenues to begin my career. When I was a brand new unemployed teacher, I was willing to do just about anything to get a job. I knew there were openings for French teachers, so while I applied and waited during that first year, I began working towards adding French as another teachable subject. I was only one or two courses away from completing the college program when I was finally hired by the board, and work was very steady in my current teachables. I ended up being hired to teach English, and never really looked back.

To be perfectly honest, I really don’t think I would have been happy teaching French anyway. I just don’t love it like I love English Literature.

She seemed completely dumbfounded that I had starting working towards my FSL (French as a second language) and hadn’t followed through, and kept pressing the issue. When I explained that work had been steady in my present teachables, she responded with,

“…So? Why didn’t you keep working on this in the evenings? Why didn’t you finish?”

By this point I was a bit taken aback, so I explained that not long after being hired by the board we started our family. I laughed a little and said life was a little busier with my children, and I liked to have my evenings with them. She looked at me square in the eye and said,

“Well that’s no excuse. You should never let that get in the way of your career. You could have a full-time job teaching French by now. That’s where the jobs are. You should have finished it.”

I was floored. It was a full-on reprimand from someone I had never met. First of all, I was interviewing for an English posting, not French, and I have never felt so judged for the choices I’ve made for my family or my career as I did in that moment. I supposed I mistakenly assumed that as a woman, she might better understand the struggle of balancing home and work life. It’s a delicate dance and I always feel like I’m a beat or two behind the rest of the group. That being said, when it comes down to career vs. kids, my family will win out every time. I fumbled and tried to come up with a coherent answer to respond to her statement, but I could feel myself getting upset.

It became clear to me in that moment that there was no way that I was getting that job. The interview ended shortly after, and I thanked them for having me in and left.

And then I sat in my car and cried.

(My skin is not as thick as I sometimes pretend it is.)

The path of my career has been long and winding, with many, many bumps and turns in the road. For better or for worse, I made a choice not to turn towards teaching French. I really believe that part of being an effective teacher is loving what you teach… and I knew that my love is with English Literature. I also had a few rest stops as we started (and grew) our family. Those were choices I made that have definitely changed my career path, but also brought us so much joy.

Looking back, I hope that maybe this principal was hard on me because she saw potential and felt I was squandering it. Maybe, on some level, she was trying to give me some advice.

At the time, it just didn’t really come across that way.

So, maybe tomorrow I’ll have another really great experience at this school and change my mind again. Maybe not.

Either way, I get to come home and have a nap and that’s a win in my books.

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