Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Zelda's Interview

A few years ago when I was in the mood for reflections on the career, I wrote a number of items about school, both as a student and as a teacher.  I was scrolling through the archives and this one appeared.  Without apology, I repost this item with minor revisions.

We had received a resignation from one of the elementary music teachers. As per standard procedure, the vacancy was first posted within the school system; then the notice of position available was posted at selected colleges and universities.

Several applications and resumes had arrived on my desk.  I had selected four applicants to invite to interviews. In fact, I had already seen two very well qualified applicants when I received a phone call from a young lady who lived in a remote part of the state, 120 or so miles from our school. She had just seen the post at the university of which she was a graduate, and would be delighted to bring her curriculum vitae with her when she came to interview. I told her that the application date had expired, and we were already well into the interview process. She, in her bright and well-educated manner, assured me that she knew for a certainty that she was just the person for the job, and I did not want to miss the opportunity of a lifetime. I relented, granted her an interview date.

Since writing "the young lady" repeatedly would get tedious, I shall call her Zelda.  Zelda arrived exactly two minutes before the appointed time. Good. I like punctuality. I find "too early" to be almost as annoying as "late." My admin assistant ushered her into my office and made the introductions. Zelda, beaming smile in place, stepped forward, offering me her hand. Her handshake was firm, holding on neither too long nor too briefly. Good. I like her already.

As Zelda was seated in the guest chair, I observed that she was dressed professionally, a quite pleasant appearance with nothing out of place. Stylish, too. I'd tell you all about the Louis Vuitton accessories, the Manolos and so on, but I wouldn't recognize any of that if I saw it

As I glanced through her resume, I asked the leading questions, background, training, basis for choice of career. You know, carefully avoiding the questions one is "not allowed to ask." Zelda assured me that she loved children, had been very successful academically and was avidly looking forward to moving into our music program and sharing her expertise with our kids.

I asked Zelda what musical instruments she played. "Oh," she said, "I don't play." "But," I said, "you do play piano, don't you?" Well, no, she doesn't. I asked how, then, would you expect to teach music wherein not only accompaniment to singing is expected, but the basis for an understanding of musical concepts is to be taught? Oh, Zelda brightly assured me, I would use records.

Trust me, I wanted to ask, "Can you play a phonograph?" But I didn't. As suavely as I could and with the use of as little time as necessary, I got her out the door and on her way home. I did offer her a few words of kind professional advice, and I hope she took them to heart. I do hope, as well, that she has had a happy and productive life. Just not teaching music to elementary students.

It is my belief that Zelda's lack of expertise in the field in which
she was applying may well have not been entirely her fault.  I mean, she
was a university graduate with a license to teach.  Sigh.


Shelly said...

Wow- chutzpah must have been her middle name! With that on her side, though, I have no doubt she landed a job somewhere.

And reposts can be a very good thing, as this proves~

Secondary Roads said...

I remember some interesting interviews with applicants for technical positions. Never had one that could match Zelda.

Vee said...

Repeating Shelly, "Wow." I do think that at one time a lot of not very qualified young people were graduates of teacher education programs. In one of the schools where I taught the music teacher played only an auto harp (and not very well at that). I always thought she was there to provide planning time for classroom teachers. Unfortunately, those with "perky" personalities often snag positions whether they are qualified or not.

Thankfully, standards are very high now, both in teacher education programs and in schools.

vanilla said...

Shelly, I like to believe, as Vee suggests, that standards today are set at a higher bar. Truth, though, good looks and gall get some people a long way.

Chuck, interviewing was certainly one of the truly interesting aspect of the job.

Vee, unfortunately, (at least back in the day) many professional staff viewed the fine arts teachers as relief. 'Nuf said.

Sharkbytes said...

Pretty funny! Although sometimes, a teacher does not need to be good at the activity. The best gymnastics coach we ever knew was a woman who was about 6 feet tall, and not fat but hefty. She could not do gymnastics, but knew how to instruct the girls, and they absolutely trusted her spotting.

vanilla said...

Shark, I'll grant the possibility that there are those who are capable of teaching a skill without personal mastery of same. But all other factors being equal, I'd rather have the adept.