March 30, 2012

Under Review

This post is number 4 in a series. The previous posts are below:
Part 1: Six Months Ago
Part 2: To Teach, or Not to Teach
Part 3: Memphis?

I submitted my application and didn't know what to expect. Well, I knew that I would be getting a phone interview because all applicants got one. I just didn't know if it would be more a token interview or if it would be legit. After reviewing the program, I felt that career changer types would be well embraced, as well as possibly family guys, but I just wasn't sure. This was a relatively new program so I didn't know if they'd prefer the normally less-bagged, fresh college graduate.

When I received my call at the appointed time, I was a little nervous. I was quickly put at ease a few minutes after talking to Remi, the Pre-Residency Director of the Memphis Teacher Residency program. She had some basic questions for me involving my background and my desire to be a part of the MTR. When it was my turn to ask questions, I aired all my "dirty laundry" - the fact I was married, had a two year old daughter, my slightly non-typical academic background. I just wanted to be sure that we were both on the same page moving forward, and that none of it would become ultimately limiting factors in the end.

As I waited to hear what she'd have to say, I was anxious. I was expecting to be told, "You're right. We typically don't go for people with that sort of background, but it's definitely not impossible." What actually happened was a onslaught of encouragement and examples of how people who were similar to me have been previously accepted into the program. I was so excited.

And then she told me that she thought I was a great candidate, and while others had to wait for the results of their phone interviews, I could go ahead and make plans to attend the second step of the process. This would involve going down to Memphis for their spring Selection Weekend. This was not at all how I had imagined it would go.

I prepared to go to Memphis, and one thing I had to have for the weekend was a 5-minute teaching sample that I would have to present to some of the other candidates for the Residency as well as a group of other observers. After a science project/lesson gone awry, I decided to teach my lesson on how to calculate elapsed time. I needed to print out a boarding pass for my flight down to Tennessee so I had that on my mind. I decided to use that concept as the activity for the students they'd have a real life example of how to use the lesson that I taught.

So early on March 22nd, my dad picked me up to take me to the airport. The fact it was exactly six months from the day that I left my old job that I was boarding a plane for what was possibly the new one was rather poetic. It was smooth sailing out there, and I got there a day in advance to allow an ease into the jam packed weekend. My boarding pass idea came to me on this travel day, and travelling sans computer, I came up with how I hoped things would appear, took a picture, emailed it to my wife, and she quickly turned it around.

Friday was the day I'd begin my in-person interactions with the MTR program, and after a quick stop over at FedEx Office to print out my lesson boarding passes, I met the masses of applicants, residents, graduates, and faculty. For the next two days, what I knew about the program was greatly illuminated. Actually seeing things in action truly was amazing.

I heard the heart and saw the vision that launched a bunch of ships all travelling together toward a big goal - to truly transform the city of Memphis. I felt that everything about my past and my life experience had set me up to be a part of this. There was just so many random things that I just I couldn't imagine how they might all ever fit together in anything I was going to do in my life. But suddenly they all clicked together.

I thought I did well when I actually had to teach my lesson. I mean, I didn't bungle anything and I finished what I had hope to cover within my strict time limit. I only had boarding pass activities for the students and not the observers, but shortly after everyone in our group had taught, one of my group leaders asked me if I had any extra copies for review, which I was able to provide.

I had two separate interviews, one with a staff member and one with a program graduate. I thought both went well. During my staff member interview with Lisa, the Post-Residency coach, I had a great conversation. It was unlike any other interview I had ever been on. There was something that was just so real about it. She was one of my observers during my teaching sample, and she indicated that she was so impressed with ease I had in teaching a difficult topic and my choice of a boarding pass to put the lesson into practice that she had wanted to make copies of it to share with teachers she knew who needed ideas on how to teach it.

This was truly amazing to me because it clearly was something that I believed God provided. It was a lesson that I had to come up with after what I had previously spent a full day preparing collapsed. Those who have witnessed children's stories I have done at church can testify how this sort of thing happens repeatedly in my life.

That evening, I went to an optional dinner for applicants, and I was joined at my table by David, the director of the program. We had a great conversation over our food. Over the course of the weekend, he had shared with the group so many cool things about the program and a larger, collectively shared mission for the city of Memphis that our dinner was the perfect exclamation mark that capped it all off for me.

As I drove away from the dinner, I left feeling that I had done all that I could do over the course of the weekend in all the various events to give them a sense of who I am. There was nothing I wish had gone any differently. They told us that we had to wait until Tuesday of that following week to find out if we had been selected to be a part of the program.

Up until then, I felt like I had to be picked. Not because I thought I thought I was superior to the other candidates. Rather, it was because it seemed my life had perfectly set me up for this. This was the next logical step in nearly every possible way. I had never experienced anything remotely as similar ever before. If this wasn't going to be it, then the next thing had to be so much more amazing. How that could even be, I had no idea.

All I could do was wait.

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