johnstonmr: (Default)
One of my goals has been to obtain the AP certification so I can teach AP English. This goal will be met this summer; my Principal wants to send me to the training this July, with the fees paid by the Gates Foundation Grant. She's already had the funds approved by the grant manager.

She wants me to attend both English courses, but they happen simultaneously at CSUS. She's trying to convince me to take the other course too, in Tahoe, but I'm pretty sure I've got her around to my PoV, which is to do one this summer and another next summer.

The course is a four-day, 8-5 course with breakfast and lunch provided, and not far from my home. I can even bike there if I want to.

johnstonmr: (Default)
I want to write my fracking book.

Thing is... I just run into block after block after block. And it's not just writer's block. Often it's what I like to call "You Have A Life Block."

I mean, if I was independently wealthy, or had sold enough books and rights-to-movies to afford to not work, I'd make myself an office and work all day on the writing. But no, I have to go teach a bunch of teenagers. And anyone who thinks that teachers have lots of time to write, clearly doesn't know much about teaching.

Add in a family that includes a tiny baby, and there's not much time. And yeah, I could write instead of playing Fable 2, sure, but then I've just sat and stared at my computer trying to figure out how Teren (or whatever less-silly name I've given him by now) is going to get out of the latest mess he's in. Because the truth is, I'm not sure that I really can write fiction, at least not of the storytelling kind.

I'm starting to wonder (again) if maybe I ought to be writing RPG flavor-text instead of novels or even short stories. World-building is fun, and not that hard for me. I have something like five alternate Earths in my head, plus T'lar and many of the other member worlds of the T'lari Alliance. I have three superhero worlds, two science fiction universes, and a couple of fantasy worlds in there. Ask me sometime about the Blasted Lands (cliche name, I know, but it fits the genre), or the lost Askaldi Empire and the artifacts they left behind. Ask me about Shy Yen Mountain, and the secret buried there that not even the inquisitive peoples of the Red Nation have uncovered yet. Ask me about the Singers of Te'zan.

But... ask me if I can write the Alex/Maggie stories, and the answer is "Probably not, because without even having read the novels until long after inventing Alex, I tread the same ground that Jim Butcher does. The points of similarity between the Dresden Files and the Alex stories could get me sued, even though I came to that character (along with my co-creator, [ profile] mslulu) totally independently and only discovered the issue later.

Take "Pathfinder," which is either a stand-alone novel or part one of the "The War for Earth" trilogy, depending on the day, my mood, and my faith in my storytelling:

Ask me if I can make Pathfinder make sense anymore; the backstory is so messed up I think it's hopeless. Was Earth lost due to an alien invasion, a catastrophic accident, or what? The original story was that a colony had been settled, and due to a series of mishaps, had lost contact with Earth; the routes through Jumpspace were destabilized or lost and nobody had been there for centuries; the protagonist was one of many who seek to make their fortunes by exploring jump points and trying to find Earth and/or other worlds that will be profitable trade routes. Along the way he was to get caught up in something bigger--but I never could make it gel.

Then I changed it so that Earth was the victim of a cosmic con-job: conquered in the early 21st century, their history overwritten so that they think that they were saved by the aliens (whose name escapes me) and are working off a sort of indentured servitude. The protagonist finds out the truth and begins working on telling others and building a resistance to get out from under the heel of the nasties.

Then it got muddled even further, so that the world was settled by refugees from a conquered world, who rewrote their own history to hide that they were in fact colonists/refugees; the protagonist discovers this and builds a coalition to take back the actual homeworld. A friend poked some holes in that version, and I tend to think he was right.

johnstonmr: (Default)
Something occurred to me today that, I think, finally explains why I've been in the dumps for so long, emotionally.

I miss being a Force.

In Fandom, I used to be a Force. I served two different fan groups at various times as their President, and if I didn't serve the latter time as well as I could have, I did try my best in the face of increasing Fan Apathy (which seems to have reversed itself in Sacramento, so I'm going to start going to clubs again at least semi-regularly). But for a time, I Got Things Done.

At EMH, I was more than an employee, I was a Force. When I began, we had three computers. When I left, we had over fifty, and they worked. I spearheaded the CATI system installation, I trained people, and I learned a HELL of a lot. I was NOT, of course, the best manager, as some on this list can attest to--in the early days, I made a crapload of mistakes, some of which destroyed friendships. But I did learn from them, and by the time I left, I had become a much better department head than I was in the beginning.

In school at Sac State, I was a Force--I belonged to a group of students who worked hard, who Made Things Happen. Not big things, necessarily, but we traded ideas, we worked together, and we grew as students and as humans together.

Now? Now I teach, and that's Good, and Fun (odd capitalization done on purpose, feel free to ask why if it's not obvious), but I don't honestly feel that I'm actually doing anything. I did last year, to an extent, but even then I often felt stopped cold by the administration's attitudes.

I'm currently serving as the contest coordinator for the California Association of Teachers of English Capitol Council, which is the division that includes English teachers from Placer, El Dorado, Yolo, Amador, Alpine, Sacramento, Nevada, Calaveras, Tuolomne, and Mono counties. This is NOT, let me stress, a super-important job. It's really kind of lame, because the Capitol Council is one of the quietest, least-active divisions of CATE.

And that means I have a job to do. See, I can be a Force. I may not succeed, but I've decided to try to make the Capitol Council active again. My favorite professor at Sac State is the Capitol Council president, so I'm working with him to try to energize the local council. CATE can be a useful and helpful force for English teachers, and I intend to spread the word in my area.

I intend to be a Force again.
Sep. 27th, 2007 02:08 pm

Yay me!

johnstonmr: (secher nbiw)
Had an observation today from my program practicum supervisor. It's not as important as the observation I'll have in November from my Principal, but it's still important.

I got high marks. Yay!
johnstonmr: (secher nbiw)
It's official. I am now Mr. Johnston, English Teacher.


Starting MONDAY, I teach 9th Grade English, 11th Grade AP English, and a film class Journalism. (After talking with the VP, we decided that would be better both for the students and for me.


I'm leaving the house now to pick up my curriculum materials and get the keys to my room.
Aug. 8th, 2006 01:33 pm

Well, fuck.

johnstonmr: (secher nbiw)
Heard from that Principal in Davis.

She loved me. She wanted to hire me. She says I'll be a great teacher, and offered herself as a reference. But her HR department has decided they had enough traditionally credentialed applicants, so District Intern Credential applicants were off the table.


Back to the drawing board.
Aug. 5th, 2006 11:02 am


johnstonmr: (secher nbiw)
I'm looking at all this laundry that needs to be done, and I just can't motivate myself to do it. I've been staring at the walls, trying to lose myself in movies... I was up until 4:30am last night, because I couldn't sleep. So I just sat up and tried to lose myself in mindless shit until I finally was able to sleep.

Looking back at the interview I had at Rosemont High, I can see where I fucked it up. I misheard a couple of questions, in that I heard the words, but I interpreted the question differently than I ought to have, and answered a related question. Also, once I went a little far in my answer, and if you don't know me, I'd come off as a dictatorial teacher more concerned with order than respecting my students. Nobody wants to hire that kind of teacher. And it's really too bad, because the more I learned about that school, and after meeting the principal and head of the English department, I really wanted to teach there. Had they hired me, I'd have stayed with them for possibly my entire career.

I know they (the Impact administrators) keep telling us that last year, most of their interns had no position at this time, but I've now interviewed at pretty much every SCUSD school that was looking, and nothing. And the school whose head-of-department told me I was great in the interview, and only not hired because someone else was a better fit for that position, just posted two more openings. If I was as good as they said, wouldn't they consider calling me instead of opening the jobs up and going through interviews again? I don't know, maybe they have to. But it's not fun. And it makes it difficult to stay motivated and not regard the pre-service course as a colossal waste of time and money. My wife has dealt with three months of a problematic financial situation so we could pay for this course, and what's it brought us? A depressed Michael and an Elli at her wits' end.

As for non-SCUSD schools, I can't even to get an interview with anyone else. Well, that's not entirely true; I have a "provisional interview" (whatever the hell that means) on Monday morning in Davis. And while I'd love to get into the Davis school district, and may have a leg up on other applicants to that school because of my business background, I'm not convinced that I agree with the school's philosophy on school reform (it's a public school, but based on a newer form of assessment and management that I'm not entirely sure I believe is a good idea). On the other hand, I really just have to get a job and get through a year at least, and two at most, before I can apply to other schools. (I'm in a two-year program, but I don't have to stay at the same school for two years; often interns aren't re-hired and move to new schools in their second year).

But outside of the Davis interview, the other districts I'm looking at every single day either never post anything, or don't respond to my application. C'est la vie.

I know it's not too late, but I feel like the music is about to stop, and I'm going to be the one guy without a seat. And while I am, in the end, ok with substitute teaching for the next year, the fact is that that will delay my credential at least a year, I won't go through the program with the peers I've come to adore in my cohort, and I just... I hate this. If I have to go through this, and then go back to grad school and just do the traditional program, well, I will, but I won't like it.

Job-searching has never been easy for me, but with this it's different. This is what I've always wanted to do, it's what has driven me for years. Even when I was at EMH, I knew I was just paying off my debts with that job, that as soon as I was out of the financial mess I'd caused myself that I was going back to school. And I did it. I went back to school, I got amazingly good grades, I graduated with the stupid silver cord, and it means nothing. Every principal I interview knows that I'm there because I have the skills and the knowledge; so what about me is lacking? It's very, very hard for me not to take it personally. I'm trying, but I'm not succeeding.

One of the people I interviewed with said there was a shortage of English teachers in the central valley. I'm guessing it can't be that bad a shortage. A couple of the guys in my cohort haven't even gotten interviews.
johnstonmr: (secher nbiw)
So I interviewed today at School X, where I really really really want to teach. I think I did ok in the interview, but of course I'm nervous as all hell. I really liked the principal, and the English teacher (not sure, but I think he's the head of the department) that was in the interview was pretty cool, too -- though we were dressed so alike, it was kind of weird. Same color outifts, the only difference was I had a tie and jacket.

The principal told me that if I don't hear from the district within 24 hours, to call him. Basically, the District may not call because I didn't get the job, or they may just take too long to actually make the call, and he believes it's wrong to keep people hovering and waiting to see if they got it, so if I call him tomorrow afternoon he'll tell me whether or not I got the job.

I almost dread making that call, to be honest. I mean, if it's "Yes, you're the new teacher here," that's great! But if it's another "You were great, but we decided to go with someone else," then I'll be down all weekend.

I'm going to tell you all the same thing, though: Even if I'm hired, I may wait to announce it until I've signed the contract, which will make it real in my head. So if you hear nothing this weekend, don't worry too much for my mental health.

(Who am I kidding? If I get the position, I'll probably announce it milliseconds after I call Elli to tell her)

On the other hand, I do have another interview on Monday morning with a high school in Davis, so all is not lost. But I'd rather get the one I interviewed at today.
johnstonmr: (secher nbiw)
I just scored an interview with my top-choice school (no, not McClatchey*) on Thursday. You know my mantra now, don't you?
Yep. That's right: (Don't fuck it up. Don't fuck it up. Don't fuck it up.)

And no, I'm not going to say which school it is. I'll tell you afterward.

* McClatchey was originally my top choice of schools, but then reality set in and I realized that wasn't likely to happen. It's a top-choice school, and many people with a lot more experience than I have apply there every year. So I set my sights on a good school that has more possibilities. Not to say I wouldn't gladly and eagerly take a job at CKM, but it's very unlikely.
johnstonmr: (secher nbiw)
Bad news:
Four to Five (depending on district) weeks until school starts. I still don't have a contract. I am, therefore, getting very nervous.

Good news: I might have a shot at a job in the Davis school district. That'd be great; it's a hard district to crack. Downside is it's an oddly-run school on a non-traditional model I'm not entirely comfortable with, but I'd be willing to give it a shot. I could always work out my contract and then transfer to another school if it's not a good fit.
johnstonmr: (secher nbiw)
So, my interview may have gone well, but another guy who interviewed after me was offered a position, and I wasn't. I'm probably somewhere behind him, so if he turns it down, I may get the offer. Eh.

Today I'm back on the "Hey, hire me!" grind, visiting a school I'd like to work in to introduce myself. I talked to the woman from my class who already got hired there, and I'm essentially doing what she did. I'm not above name-dropping, either--if they like her, that's good, because she's worked with me on developing lesson plans for our subject and can vouch for my ability.

Last night I got two calls I'll be returning today. The first I won't take an interview with, as it's in Vacaville and pays $4000 less than anything here in Sacramento. The commute would make it hell, and we can't move (not that I'd move to Vacaville anyway). The second is from a school in Lodi, which isn't too far to drive daily, really, and pays almost as well as Sacramento, so it might be worth it for two years, just to get my credential established. Lodi opened a new school last year, and they need a whole slew of teachers to get it moving.

The point, really, is that the interview season is starting with a vengeance here. My friend Mark (from training) got his first interview call yesterday, and so did some others, so I'm not doing too badly -- I've got two down and a bunch to go, hopefully.
johnstonmr: (secher nbiw)
The Path continues. And it is long, and boring.

Module 3 of pre-service training has begun; this one is titled "Creating a Learning Community" and is basically self-explanatory. It's all about setting up an environment conducive to learning. The sad thing is, none of this is stuff I didn't already learn as part of my BA (I took the teacher-preparation concentration).

That's basically what this pre-service coursework has been: survey-depth coverage of material I've already surveyed. I'll have to take it all in more depth once I've got a position and enroll in the two-year program, but at least then I won't feel like it's so incredibly common-sense.

One of my fellow interns continues to amaze me with his utter and complete dismissal of anything the instructors say. They talk about not yelling at students, and his reply is "That might work for you, but it won't cut it in my school." Only it sounds more like "... in my skoo." He's basically of the opinion this is all airy-fairy nonsense, and it shows in his dismissive attitude. The instructor will be talking to him, and he just ignores her and fiddles with his phone, his soda can, his books. He's basically a perfect model of a bored, uninterested student. It's fascinating to watch how they handle him. It's infuriating to be placed in a group with him, though: he disengages completely, and will only speak if he's prompted to. He just sits there silently, maybe makes a snarky comment about how stupid this (where "this" is whatever exercise we're doing at the moment) is, and that's it. Some of us have learned to avoid teaming with him if we can help it. So far we're all friendly with him in general, but wary of him in class. I'm trying not to dislike him, but his presence is so off-putting it's difficult.

Another intern, who I thought had to be no older than 25, revealed to me she's only a year younger than I am. Yeesh. I hate people who look that young. I know I'm not old, but I think I look older than I am. That's partially a function of being overweight, though -- it distorts the face and makes things look worse than they are.

My applications have hit the 45 mark; we're told July is terrible for job-seeking because most Principals go on vacation about this time. SCUSD has openly declared now that we WILL have a chance in their district; apparently there was a lot of confusion about this.

The Path goes ever forward...
johnstonmr: (secher nbiw)
There are job openings for English teachers all over the place, but I can't apply to most of them -- at least, not yet.

See, I'm not a credentialed teacher yet. I'm just some guy with a BA and a lot of pre-service classes in ESL and the like. So for me to apply to district jobs, I have to be able to show that, if hired, I'll be teaching on an Intern credential for two years and supervised/trained. If I get accepted to Pipeline, that's made a little easier; if I receive the "He's one of ours" letter from Impact, it's a little easier; if a miracle happens and SCUSD calls after all (and that's probably about as likely as me spontaneously changing genders), it becomes moot and my search is done.

And if the district doesn't participate in either Pipeline or Impact? Forget it: there is no chance of being hired there. For example, Davis. No alternative credentialing track there, dammit -- they need a bunch of English teachers, and I can't apply for any of the positions.

Until one of those three things happens, I'm just uselessly spinning my wheels. And I have deadlines: If I don't have a secured, signed contract by June 7th, then I'm completely out of Impact (It's possible I could do the classes later in the summer, but unlikely).

I mean, ok, I know I've said that if nothing else pans out I will become a substitute teacher for the year of 2006-2007, and that's still the tertiary plan, but ... it's not what I want. It's a fallback position, a way of salvaging what was supposed to be a fairly easy process and has become instead a nightmare. It isn't really a part of the golden path. But then, the golden path is looking pretty fucking tarnished, right now.
May. 20th, 2006 12:21 pm


johnstonmr: (secher nbiw)
So, the commencement ceremony...

BORing! I wish I'd been playing [ profile] funwithrage's Commencement Drinking Game, but since we didn't have long student speeches I'd have been only partially smashed, not entirely so. The president of the university provoked a laugh among the English majors by pronouncing "attain" as "achain," and the Board Trustee who spoke really could use an advanced comp. class, but eh. It was over in two hours.

I did develop the most fantastic sunburn on my face. The Dorktastic hat (mortarboard) covered my forehead, so from my hairline down two inches or so is fine; after that it's red red red.

But the important thing is, I'm done. I have a BA in English Literature. That feels good. I've passed the CBEST. I've attained the necessary subject matter competency. Now I just have to get myself a teaching position for next year.
johnstonmr: (secher nbiw)
So, the SCUSD program (which is properly known as Project Impact) has been delayed for reasons unknown, but today I got this email from the SCUSD director:
You should be getting a letter from Impact by tomorrow that will hopefully clear things up. I have not read the letter that is being sent, but hopefully if will provide the answers you (and everyone else) have been waiting for.

Oh, dear. Hopefully it won't be "There's no funding and no positions. Sorry. Good luck."

Ah well. I'm turning in my application to Project Pipeline today.
johnstonmr: (secher nbiw)
I turned in my SCUSD intern application yesterday. Now I get to wait until the end of April for my interview. They'd originally said they'd be notifying those accepted to the program by May 10, but yesterday I was told the first interviews will be April 27th, and the last May 12th, so there may be a delay. Ah well. Nothing to be done about it now.
johnstonmr: (secher nbiw)
I went to a teacher's workshop last night on the advice of my reading pedagogy teacher. It was interesting, though of course I, as the sole student attendee, felt somewhat like an interloper -- like I didn't belong. I wasn't treated that way, however, and I appreciated the insight into things I'll probably have to deal with in the next couple of years.

The most amusing part of the evening came when a Sacramento City College teacher made me promise never to teach my students the dreaded and often-maligned five paragraph essay format. "They learn that damned thing in high school, then we have to train it out of them! Don't do it!"

Kara was there, she-who-dislikes-me-intensely, but there were no venomous looks. I'd expected her to ignore me, and I was ok with that (because, really, what choice do I have but to be ok with it? I can't command her to decide I'm not as bad as she thinks I am), but she greeted me politely by name, and that was that.

Edit: Well, frack that. Just on a whim, I decided to go see what, if anything, she said about it. She basically spewed bile and insulted me, ignoring she doesn't know the whole story. Oh well.


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