Monday, June 30, 2008

Ireland - Part I: Local

It’s been a very local past few days. I arrived happily in one piece last Thursday morning, but because of a text message time stamp gone awry, Mom and Dad picked me up about 2 hours after I’d landed. Mom and Dad bought a car, a very serviceable Fiat, which I think could be packed in one’s luggage, it’s so small and petite. I keep thinking of those old cartoons in which you see little puffs of clouds coming from the rear of the car, going “put put put.”

We’ve been keeping fairly local since I’ve come here; on Saturday Mom and I visited Boyle Abbey – a lot of it was under scaffolding since the OPW is restoring it, but we had a nice look around and poked our noses into some dark corners. We also toured King House, a Georgian mansion that belonged to an English family who took over the region. Yesterday we did a whole lot of nothing, but today Mom, Dad, and I took a mini-road trip and drove to Sligo Abbey, formerly a Dominican friary founded in the mid-13th Century – about an hour away. This was a very neat abbey; there was a lot to it, and a lot to walk around and see. (It’s much larger than the Boyle Abbey and more open to visitors at the moment.) It took us a good hour to walk around and see all that there was to see – various graves and carvings were throughout the abbey, a cloister (filled with more graves), lots of beautifully carved stone masonry, and apparently the “only sculptured 15th Century high altar to survive in any Irish monastic church.” We drove down to the beach afterwards, and had some lunch, and admired the ocean and beach, which was completely covered by not only the high tide but huge, massive rocks that made walking on the beach an impossibility.

Tomorrow we’re heading down to Co. Kerry and Co. Limerick, visiting various cousins and Aunt Mary, before going to attempt to see Skellig Michael. My sense of traveling as it pertains to driving really changes when I’m here; those short one-hour drives take as much out of me as a four-hour+ drive back in the States. The roads are so much curvier here, and narrower, that unless you’re on a highway, it takes total concentration to drive – and that includes being in the back seat. (It gets really bouncy around back there.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

End of Summer School

Just a short post to commemorate my (hopefully and probably) only semester of taking classes as a grad student. My class ends officially this week, but I'm missing the last class (possibly last two classes, if there's that extra class the following Monday) because I'll be off traipsing throughout Ireland with the folks. I'm happy to be going because I could use a vacation, but a vacation isn't really a vacation unless Chris comes along. And I'm horrifically stressed out about my lack of funds and my lack of job and concerned with things like how I'm going to eat in July and August and get back and forth to LIU for the Summer Institute that I'll be taking part in (as an employee, not as a student). But I worked my tail off and wrote a 10-page paper and handed it it so I'm all done.

Now I just get to worry about my grade. And money. Vacation ahoy!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Career Fair & Networking Event

After hearing about them for months, I was finally "selected" by the NYCDOE to attend the Citywide School Career Fair today. I had been issued an official invitation, which I was to print and bring with me, and had been advised that as a "preferred candidate" I would be permitted to arrive at 4 p.m. (the fair was scheduled at a hotel in Brooklyn, about 1/2 mile from LIU - convenient - and was set to last until 8 p.m.) if I were to register within the next 48 hours. I registered within about 10 minutes of receiving my invitation, and got an e-mail telling me to show up at 5 p.m.

It was quite an experience, especially because this is the first career fair I've ever attended, and hadn't any idea what to expect (which made me nervous, because I was unsure how to plan properly). I spent a couple hours on Wednesday evening and night printing my portfolio, which included my CV, a copy of my teaching certificate, and two sample lesson plans. I made about 30 copies, stapled and clipped everything accordingly, and wondered if I should make more. I showed up about half an hour early, cooled off, and eventually decided to just try to sneak in early; I checked in 15 minutes early and circled around for a little while to determine the lay of the land. About 140 schools were in attendance; signs were posted next to each school representative (sometimes there was just one; sometimes two; occasionally three) with the available positions, as well as where the school was located, and the school level (elementary, middle, or high school), although the schools were set up in blocks according to level (and had color-coded balloons as well). 

Lines tended form quickly, though; a lot of schools had multiple openings, and interviews seemed to last 5-15 minutes, at least the ones I went to. One interview lasted perhaps fewer than five minutes; clearly they were looking for someone who speaks Spanish, which is not I; and another school's rep. simply asked for my résumé. Nearly all of the people with whom I interviewed simply said or gave the impression that today was a résumé-collecting day; they would be passed on to principals and discussed in hiring committees for further discussion and call backs would begin in the next few weeks. I stayed much longer than I thought I would, about 2 ½ hours; I only really left because I was already about an hour and a half late to class; it was about 7:15 and a lot of interviewers packing up or gone altogether. I managed to relieve myself of perhaps 10 résumés, but before I left I walked around a bit more and made notes of as many schools where I hadn't interviewed that were in need of an English teacher. Standing in line really took most of the time.

Highlights include one interviewer who checked her Blackberry in the middle of the interview, and the other interviewer whose gaze kept wandering in the same interview. (At least the interviewer who checked her Blackberry seemed genuinely taken surprised - and hopefully impressed - that I had included the state standards on the sample lesson plans I had included. Another interviewer who asked if I were bilingual (to which I would have applied yes), and before I could answer asked if I spoke Spanish. A third school's interviewers glanced at my résumé, and I think were just burned out by the time I got to them, because they seemed to be waiting for me to just launch into an explanation of my background - which I should have done, but all the other interviewers at least asked for a moment to look at my résumé or asked me directly to tell them about my background and experience.

I don't know if the NYCDOE does this purposefully or if this actually happens, but I've noticed occasional wordings that imply immediate hire. For example, after I checked in, I was given a packet of information, which included information about the layout of the event, and a letter that encouraged us to write down names of interviewers and schools with whom we had made contact. (This is good advice.) But another line of this introductory letter congratulated us if we were hired at the career fair, and if not, to follow up with any interviews scheduled. I don't know how many applicants are likely to be hired on the spot, without discussing the applicant with others in the school. I'm also unsure as to how many interviews are scheduled on the spot; this is, after all, the end of the school year, when teachers and administration is at one of its busiest times. Just seeing all the people looking for work, I'd feel better about administration discussing the applicants with their department chairpeople, etc. One teacher applicant with whom I spoke made the good point that she would be reticent to accept a job before seeing the school and meeting other teachers who worked at the school. 

I left feeling a bit disappointed that I hadn't been able to interview at more schools, although really having 8 or 10 interviews in one day isn't too shabby.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Small Stuff

I have officially reached the stage in which I am burned out; I think last semester has finally caught up with me. I started out the summer class really well - reading ahead, staying on top of everything - and now I've fallen behind. (To be fair, I've only fallen behind because I can't afford some of the books. I'm still reading the handouts and the books I had bought for the class.) But a day or two ago I realized that I have a presentation due next Thursday (I'm completely unprepared; I've barely begun the book; I haven't found any video clips to go with it). I want to hole up for a month and not be responsible for anything, although obviously that's not an option. The flip side to this is that I'll be missing the last two classes because I'll be in Ireland, and after that I won't have any classes again until September. In July I'll be doing some work for the English Summer Institute, and hopefully be able to rack up some hours at ARC as well.

I'm "tutoring" five days a week, which is to say that I'm coming to campus five days a week and splitting my time between ARC and the Writing Center, although I have very few students, so most of my time is spent sitting around and being unproductive. (This is not as enticing as it sounds.)

Today has been "one of those days" so far: I really didn't want to get out of bed this morning and found myself trying to think of excuses that could get me out of work (I couldn't think of any); I pulled a muscle in my neck and shoulder while reaching for something in the bathtub; I got a seat on the LIRR this morning, only to have a nice view of the toilet (the bathroom door was open); apparently a debt collector is calling my parents, instead of me, which is just baffling; Chris has been at WWDC this week and is coming home in a few days; and I'm just feeling extremely mentally unstimulated. None of these are major in and of themselves but I'm feeling worn out.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Today's Mass

I went today, as I normally do on the weekend, to Mass; I'm very happy that my church is so close by - really, a 5-minute walk. And as I was being all Eucharistic Minister-like today, I got to thinking of a couple of things during Mass:
  • Even though I've been part of this ministry since last August, I still feel a bit awed when entering the Sanctuary.
  • Today I was at the front of the Church, tabernacle side, distributing the Precious Blood. I wish people wouldn't grab the chalice out of my hands with one hand. It seems to be mostly aging middle-aged (and dare I say, seemingly Italian) men who do this. Somehow, in my mind, it doesn't show much reverence. It's not a beer, people, is what I want to say, but of course I don't.
  • Eddie Izzard has this bit that I find really funny because I think there may be some truth to it: He goes on to say (and I'm paraphrasing and editing for length and to get to the point) that in historically Black churches, or Gospel singing in general, that which has grown out of slavery and oppression, the singing tends to be really happy and joyous and boisterous, really celebrating their religion and their faith and their survival and relationship with God and Jesus, and hallelujah. And in historically White churches - most of the Protestants and the Catholics - the singing was sung by people who were not singing joyfully; there was no really joy there. So here we have the oppressed people singing with all their might, and the other folks who just seemed bored to tears. I was looking around at other folks during Mass today, and was reminded of this because the people in my Church either don't sing, or sing really quietly, or sing like it's painful. We were singing "Amazing Grace" today - during which part of the Mass I'm not even sure - and it just sounded downright dreary. Mass is supposed to be a celebration, and the lack of singing really detracts. I've noticed this throughout the Catholic Masses I've attended.