Saturday, September 3, 2011

Looking For a Job? Be Willing to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

As I've mentioned in previous posts, the past two years I went to school online to obtain my Masters in Library Science while tutoring to earn a living. In January I started the process of filling out applications at numerous schools across the country. By April, I had applied to schools in at least 12 states, and had seriously considered applying to one in another country. By March I was starting to feel desperate, and reading all the news stories of teachers and librarians being cut all over, decided to apply to a couple different oil and gas companies. Nothing was panning out. By May and graduation, I had had TWO interviews. One for a school librarian position, and one for a very small oil and gas company.

About at this point I decided that I probably was not going to find a job for this coming school year. So, I talked to the teacher at my local church's school about my putting together a library program for the school on a volunteer basis. I planned to continue my tutoring to support myself, but at least this way I'd be getting some experience to put on my resume. She was enthusiastic about my plan. So I put out a request on the librarian listserve for ideas on how to implement my plan. I received many fantastic responses, but one which stood out was a link to a teacher job site I had not previously found.

When I checked the job site, and filled out my information, one of the first postings immediately caught my eye. It was for a parochial mission school working with Native Americans in New Mexico. I was completely intriqued. The religious affiliation of the school was completely different than mine, and a tradition which is nearly completely foreign to my upbringing. But .. the librarian position did not require the person to be of the same faith - just that you be a Christian.

Several aspects interested me in this position. Working with NA children who are in an area which qualifies as a very low socio-economic area would qualify me for an Americorp education grant. While I don't need to pay back any loans, it could be nice to have money available to go back and get another Master's later if I really want to. :) I also was really interested in the opportunity to learn about another culture (really to be immersed in a very different cuture/area) without even leaving the United States. The pay offered was less than I made my first year of teaching in 1997 (about $7k less), but it did offer free health insurance, free housing /utilities (there is NO housing except what is provided in the area), and two free meals a day at the cafeteria when school is in session.

I spent a lot of time on Google finding out everything I could about the town the school was located in and the surrounding area. I also found out as much as I could about Americorp. My family really was NOT excited about the idea. At all. I was though. So I went ahead and submitted my application. Weeks passed. I thought it was just another fruitless effort. Then towards the end of May I received a phone call from the principal. We talked for about 20 minutes. I thought for sure I'd disqualified myself when she found out I was a vegetarian and and SDA. A few weeks later though, I received an email from her asking if I'd be willing to do a phone interview.

The phone interview went pretty well. She asked me if I'd come out to the school to visit the area and interview. A three day interview! So the third week of June I had the opportunity to visit the school while it was in summer session. I met some of the kids, got to ride a bus with some of the students out onto the reservation, and even went out on a food run (meals on wheels) into the innards of the reservation -- where I had the chance to go into a traditional hogan! Thankfully they liked me too. :D

I've spent most of my life in moderate sized cities up to metropolitan areas. Where I live now, the town has two gas stations, a Family Dollar, two restarants, a video store, a PO Office (only way to get your mail - no home delivery) and a small expensive grocery store. That's it. To get to a town with a movie theater, fast food places, Walmart, etc., it is a 30 minute drive East or West. That's going 75mph (or cough, cough 80...).

Most of my life I have not been the minority person. Some places I lived, I was in the extreme majority (i.e MN) and other places I was somewhat of a minority in a place of many nationalities (i.e. NJ). Here, I am in the extreme minority. Other than the main teachers at the school(s), the vast majority are Native American. There are a few Hispanic and African Americans as well.

Other than with my tutoring students, my teaching experience has been mainly with the lower grades. Mainly first and second grade. Here I am working with students as young as 3 and as old as 16.

Other than my first few years of life, I have always lived in either an apartment or a regular house. Here I live in my very own :D circa 1970's (maybe) mobile home.

I've now been here since the beginning of August. We started school August 17. Am I happy with my choice to step outside of my comfort zone? Am I loving teaching computers and library skills to a wide range of ages (including helping out several teachers)? In a word, YES!! :D :D

Oh, and about the salary. Although it is low, it is more than I made when I was tutoring. My expenses are also quite a bit less. My only bills are my internet, cell, gas, and food. So I will be able to start socking money away again to rebuild my emergency funds, my car replacement fund, and possibly my dream/fun funds. :D I also recently acquired a 4 month old kitten - since I now can afford any vet bills. *See picture at top of post. Isn't she sweet?


Ms Terri September 3, 2011 at 8:40 PM  

Hi, Laura. I'm glad this worked out so well for you! It sounds like an amazing experience that will help you stretch and grow in many ways. Beautiful cat, too!

Laura September 3, 2011 at 8:59 PM  

Thanks Terri :D Yes, I do think this experience will be a real growing and stretching time for me. I look forward to it. :D

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