let me told you a question.


on saturday i went to a job fair for new teachers in san ramon. before the fair we candidates were told that usually 10-25 people each year are offered jobs on the spot. i was hoping to be one of them. i was not. the fair took place at a conference center in san ramon on crow canyon road, and over 35 district representatives were present. as i was signing in, i noticed two individuals looking very much out of place, wearing plain white t-shirts (one buttoned down, the other polo), standing by the doorway. the taller one looked like a mad scientist version of art garfunkel; the other the crackhead from boogie nights. i thought maybe they were the bus boys or caterers.

when i received my schedule, i found that i would be interviewing with manteca at 11:00 am and fairfield-suisun at 1:00 pm. what? why did they want me to arrive at 8 am if my first interview wasn't for another three hours? and where the fuck is manteca? i asked a project pipeline staff member if i could please interview with folsom-cordova, natomas charter, or any other schools in the sacramento area. "four sac reps backed out yesterday," he said. "try asking susan around lunchtime to put you on the waiting list." it turned out that sacramento only had one representative, norm tanaka, for the whole day, and he was completely booked. apparently, everyone wants to work in sacramento.

i still didn't feel like waiting for three hours, doing nothing. any chance i can interview with a district, any district before then? "well, how about west contra costa?" sure. i notice it's the two guys i mistook for caterers manning the west contra costa booth. "would you be willing to take james tan in for an interview at 8:30?" when he asked that, it was 8:29. "yeah, let's do this!" art garfunkel said. "sure," said the crackhead. it turned out their names were kibby and julio, respectively, so i will continue with their actual names from here on out.

let me just get myself situated, i said. "no problem, we got things we need to straighten out, too," kibby said. i placed my portfolio on the table. "oh, great. wonderful," julio said, flipping through my pages very casually. "you got something we can keep, though? like a resume?" yes, i've got one right here. "oh, good! you know, how are we gonna know who you are if you don't have one?" i placed it in front of him. "so," julio began, "you a good teacher, you a bad teacher?" umm, a good one, i hope. "good. good. the kids cuss you out?" i nod my head, yeah, sometimes they would. he laughed. "alright!" then he made a fist, stuck his hand out, as if giving me "mad props."

kibby started asking questions and seemed focused, for the most part, certainly not as jumpy as julio. julio even got up on a number of occasions (while i'm answering questions) to chat with passersby. after the interview, kibby asked, "any questions for us?" what are your demographics like? "about 42% hispanic, 46% african-american. so, you know, your typical black and brown." julio looked at him at this point, as if he'd made a serious faux-paus. julio: "well, you know, you seem competent and we'd love to have you. if you wanna come by, check out the school, do that. we're good to go." can i have your cards, so i know how to contact you? "oh, you know. we should've brought our cards," they said to each other. kibby wrote his name down on the brochure for their school, john f. kennedy high in richmond. "just find us. we'll be around monday and tuesday." okay, i might do that. what subjects do you teach? kibby: "i've taught journalism for 17 years at the school." i turned to julio. and what do you teach? it's the first time he'd put on a straight face. "i'm the principal of the school." i must've looked completely stunned because he smirked when he said it. i shook their hands, i thanked them for the interview. as i walked away, julio called out, "NEXT!"

i had time to sit with other applicants after that first interview. i asked people what they thought of richmond. nobody really knew anything about it. i called dong. "what do you think of me working in richmond?" you do not want to work in richmond, he said. you know the movie coach carter? that movie's based on schools in richmond. it's one of the deadliest cities in the bay. i would seriously fear for your life if you lived in richmond. you're bound to run into some thugs. "alright, i probably won't then."

i interviewed with manteca at 11:00 am. manteca, i discovered, is an hour south of sacramento. the woman asking the questions appeared overly unenthusiastic, and at the end, she simply told me how i could apply. but when she busted out the pay scale, i wished i had swept her off her feet. beginning teachers without a credential begin at $42,000 a year. i could live with that.

the rest of the interviews were horrible. i kept expecting someone to offer me a position, but i was too late. vallejo wouldn't even interview me. we already hired 4 english positions this morning.

i wrote a scathing evaluation to project pipeline, condemning them for booking me so late in the day with school districts i wasn't even interested in. okay, so i liked manteca now, but they still hadn't even considered my preferences.

during lunch i sat with some dudes. i was clearly the youngest of all of them, and i felt slightly out of place, but whatever. i was wearing a tie. i was official. one of the dudes turned out to be my cousin claire's ex-boyfriend's current roommate. he went to jesuit, graduated '97. we talked about alpha males in english classes, mr. trafton showing star wars, having to communicate to these obscure school districts. at one point, pipeline staff member ravinder sat down with us. he talked about ex-basketball player kevin johnson making a mess of things at sac high. here's a brief recap:

"that dipshit is always hiring all his homies, and they're not even qualified. his (KJ) mentality is that anyone who's african-american and can manage a classroom can be a teacher. the guys he sends to me don't have any college, they don't have shit. one guy was so ghetto, he couldn't even talk english. he came up to me, and was like, "yo, let me told you a question." i was like, what? what the fuck are you trying to say? you tellin' me something or are you asking me something? this fool wanted to know if he could join the program, and said he was on his way to earning an undergraduate degree. i was like, well, i can't help you out then. sorry."

this white guy asks, "wait. sac high. is that the school you recommended i interview for?" "yeah," he said. we all laughed. "no, no. don't get me wrong. sac high is a good school. it's a fine school, just so long as superintendent johnson stays out of the picture."

at the end of the day, burnt out from interviews, frustrated with no offer, i picked up three cookies and a brownie. driving back to felton, i ate them all.

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