Thursday, May 05, 2005

Interviewing really, really, ummm, sucks...

First of all, let me just state that my allergies are making me miserable. I have a pile of used Kleenex next to me. I don’t know if it is the cats or the pollen or a mixture of the two, but I am ready to rip my sinuses out. Today, for some reason, has been especially bad.

So, job interviews. Fifteen minutes that will decide how one will occupy the next few years of ones life. Amazing how much actually rides upon a job interview. Maybe that is why I don’t do well at job interviews—I am aware of just how much I neeeed to get the job. That and I have no ability to make small talk.

Anyway, my job interviewing skills have hit a new low this past Tuesday. It was so bad that I am still laughing about it. I mean, it was really, really bad. It was so bad that I can’t even get upset about it.

This was my interview with Salisbury University for a teaching assistantship next year. I have already applied to the Graduate school to get an MA in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and I assume they have accepted me, if they are interviewing me for a TA. The TA guarantees not only a tuition waiver, but also a $9,000 stipend. This is big money for graduate school, especially for a Masters degree. All the TA has to do is teach two classes of freshmen composition every semester. Not so bad.

So, I went in to my interview. It was four older guys, and we were all sitting around a huge square table in the basement. They admired my GPA and asked me a few questions about my teaching experience. They explained to me that TAs teach English 101 and 102. 101 is strictly composition based and 102 is composition based on literature. Freshmen have to take both classes. The interviewers said that usually TESOL students lack the literature background to teach 102, so they usually just teach 101. I reminded them that I had received my BA in English Literature and they asked me what types of literature classes I had taken. When I told them, they seemed impressed.

“Well, our literature course is based—obviously—around the three art forms of drama, poetry, and short story,” one of the interviewers explained to me.

Then (and this is where it all started to go wrong) he asked me, “So, is there anything that you have read that you would really like to teach?”

And my mind went blank. It was like I had not read anything in the past ten years, let alone studied literature for three years. I could not think of a single thing—nothing came to mind. I was like, “Ummmm, well, uh… I’ve always been partial to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.”

“Really?” the interviewer asked, “And what is it about the short story that you like?”

Oh shit. At least I had read it. About fifteen years ago. “Well, I remember reading it in high school and it really stuck with me.

"Stoning will do that to a person," the interviewer said wryly.

"Um, yeah, well also it was one of the first serious works I had read, and it was one of the stories that started me down the Dark Path to studying English.”

“Oh, like Darth Vader,” one of the other interviewers piped up.

“Yeah,” I smiled. Whew. With any luck they would only remember the Star Wars reference.

Blah, blah, and they asked me about how I felt about teaching literature in translation. I said I was fine with it, but that I would probably want to show the students a couple of different translations so they could see how different translators can affect the meaning.

Then, one of the interviewers asked me if there was any drama work that I really enjoyed. I figure he either wanted to give me a second chance, or he sadistically enjoyed watching me squirm.

“Well, honestly, I haven’t done much with drama, so nothing comes to mind.” I said, and they all seemed fine with this answer. But I wasn’t safe yet. The interviewer decided to go for broke and ask about poetry.

Again with the hmmming and uhhing. Then, “Well, I’ve always been partial to Yeats. You know, the, uh, the one about the, uh, Thing Fall Apart. Oh! But he did do the play Deirdre! That’s drama! I could teach that. It would be interesting… to me, at least.” Shut up, shut up.

“Yes, Yeats is good,” one of the interviewers said, nodding. “Anyone else?”

“Well,” I started, feeling a little more emboldened, “I also like the poets of the Harlem Renaissance.”

“Like Langston Hughes?”

“Yeah.” And here is where I should have stopped. “Yeah! He wrote that poem… uh… what was it called? The one about the rivers. I really like that one!” Shit.

The Negro Speaks of Rivers?” one of the interviewers asked, his eyebrow raised.

“Yeah! That’s the one!” I exclaimed way too loudly and enthuastically.

At this point I was imagining a future in fast food management. Then, a chance at redemption. One of the interviewers asked me what I thought was the most important thing to teach students about writing.

“Oh, the writing process, without a doubt. When I was working in the UMBC Writing Center I saw too many students who…” and blah, blah, blah.

“So,” the interviewer said, “you would take a more rhetorical approach?”

Huh? “Yeah,” I nodded. Why the hell not?

So, then we went through a few more things and they gave me a writing assignment. I was to go to the library, spend about an hour writing on a topic they gave me, and e-mail it back to the chair of Graduate Studies.

I did it, e-mailed it, and then did the two and a half hour drive back to Catonsville, where I got the ultimate comfort food: Chick-fil-a. I even got the largest size meal. A little bit of crap television, and then some comic books. After all, I had to continue to expand my horizons and exercise my brain.


At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, it really doesn't sound that bad to me. I'm sure they were more impressed than you thought.



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