All my kids are in school now and my financial adviser said frankly, “Rachel, it’s time to get a job.” I want to be with my kids when they are off school. My background is education, so I got a job as a paraprofessional in a neighboring public school district preschool.
Some people’s first impressions of me have included, but are not limited to: mean girl (You always look so mean); thug (I thought you were going to beat me up); Canadian (Aren’t you from Ontario?); drug addict (You look like the kinda person who does drugs); atheist (Why do you have a Bible, I thought you were an atheist?); and mad girl (Are you mad at me?).
Needless to say, anytime I meet someone new or interview for a potential job, I have to consciously do my best not to look like an unbelieving, volatile drug lord from Toronto, especially when interviewing for positions involving working with children. It takes a lot of mental and physical effort, which usually results in me looking constipated, and strangely happy about it.
My first serious job interview (way back in 1998) ended well, but for some reason that I can’t remember, I cried during it, making the interviewer stop to search for tissues. In many of my past interviews I came to the table suffering with sinus infections. (Blowing your nose throughout an interview is never good.) Another interview that I thought went well (because I got the job), I was told later, we really wanted to hire the other teacher but she couldn’t start right away, so we hired you.
Before I took my current job, I also interviewed for a full-time language arts para position that I really wanted. That interview was hands-down, one of the worst of my life.
I walked into the conference room and found four (or was it five?) educational professionals with clipboards staring back at me. Not what I was expecting for a para position interview. I flopped down into the provided chair that was closer to the ground than I expected and had wheels – thus, the flop and a bit of an unexpected roll-back.
Because the chair was so low to the ground, it meant the table awkwardly came up to my chest. For someone who is very concerned about her first impressions, things were off to a rocky (or should I say, rolly) start.
Fortunately I was wearing my white blouse (the rally shirt). It’s the same lucky shirt I have worn to my last four interviews. But as I sat there hoping the white shirt would remind my interviewers of an angel, I began to wonder if I had ever washed “rally shirt”.
I looked around at the fancy educators, who were definitely wearing clean clothes. They seemed to have taller chairs (or maybe they were all over six feet tall, or maybe my chair was just weirdly short). I tried to look like a casual, confident professional, and not like a Canadian drug addict with anger management issues.
Even though I was completely educated for the job, I had trouble mustering up my confidence. I am pushing forty with non-traditional educational experiences and a neon “stay-at-home mom” sign plastered over my forehead. Not to mentioned unlaundered clothes.
As I started answering interview questions, I saw one man stifling a yawn. As I answered the fourth and fifth questions, I felt like my interviewers pretty much had stopped taking notes. And then in less than 20-minutes, the interview was over.
Stunned, I stood up to leave. Someone was politely holding the door for me and I stopped, with what little dignity I had left and went back, and grabbed my complimentary water off the table, saying, I’ll just take this. And that was it.
At least I got my free water.
I cried the whole way home from that interview. I know. It’s ridiculous. It was no big deal. You were probably waiting to hear that “rally shirt” had been on backwards or that I had fallen outta my chair, or that I ended up punching the dean of students while singing O Canada on my way out. No such story.
It wasn’t actually as horrible of an interview as I thought. A week later, they ended up miraculously offering me the job, but I chose the preschool position instead. (Another story for another time.)
For the last two weeks, I have been back to square one – getting to know new people. With a building full of new coworkers, children, and parents whom I have never met me before, I am nervously making a lot of first impressions. But hopefully, no one will be surprised to find out that I know how to teach, am good with kids, am easy to work with, and will not be angrily offering them a smoke, eh?