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Entry date: 11 10 22 - Take This Job and Quit It - Letters to my Friends

Dear Friends,

The great thing about starting these off with the salutation, “Dear Friends,” is that everyone who reads this is either my friend or a family member (and there is nothing wrong with family being friends, too). I appreciate you all who take time out of your day to read the ramblings of my brain. I can see the light at the end of the year long tunnel, but it is getting difficult to keep this thing going.

I know I have stories to finish and also stories to begin. My brain has come up with all kinds of new story ideas. Some will get woven into ones I have already started, and others will need to find their place in line, I suppose. I feel like I have been running low on spare time lately. Apparently, the online teaching job was very cushy.

Today is my last day with the employer I have been with since August of 2019. I realize I am getting out of chronological order here as I have to finish the Televerde story and then write about the jobs in between 2008 and 2019, and I’ll do that, but I have to jump ahead. Consider it like the time jump in the new Game of Thrones thingy. That is, if you watch that sort of thing.

The summer of 2019 was a trying time at the ol’ Casa. Funding was looking grim and I was barely scraping by. I had been using credit cards to fill in the gaps and making money where I could, but the well had pretty much dried up at Slope then, too. It was looking bad and I was stressed and scared.

I hooked up with a small, weird company that taught chess in Valley schools and was training to do that. I had been assigned to about six schools, I think, that I would see during the week and it could have worked with my Casa schedule if I had one, but my heart wasn’t in it. I learned chess from my grandfather, Tom, as a kid, but I hadn’t really played seriously for a long time.

The guy who ran the chess business, though, seemed to like me and figured my experience with kids would be a good thing. He told me on several occasions, “I can teach you the chess, but I can’t teach you what you already know about reaching kids.” He was super bummed when I told him I had gotten a job teaching technology at charter school and couldn’t work for him any longer.

In my desperation, I started looking at the different charter schools for teaching gigs and applied at the place I leave today. Well, not exactly the place I leave today, but another one of their campuses. I went there for an interview and met with one of the assistant principals.

The school was located at a busy corner in West Phoenix and was not designed to be a place for kids. I’m guessing it had been a call center prior to being purchased by the charter school network. It did have an inviting feel, though, and I was cautiously optimistic about it. I signed in for the interview and sat and watched kids walk by while I waited to meet with “the guy.”

I use “the guy” because I can’t remember his name. He made that kind of impression on me. He kind of looked like the actor, John Slattery, but with a weary, “I’ve been teaching way too long” kind of face. We talked about my experience in schools and my experience teaching technology in the women’s prison (again, I will get to that). When I left, I hoped that I had said enough to get me to a second interview with the principal and that he was convinced I could teach first through sixth graders about technology.

The next day, he called and offered me the job. The pay was good, better than I had been getting at Casa, and I accepted. I had a few loose ends to close up with Casa and the chess guy, so I said I could start in about a week and he was happy about that. He said they would send over the contract in the next couple of days for me to sign.

I was a little taken aback by not meeting with the principal but figured that they must’ve been stoked on my Casa experience and what I could bring to the table from a social/emotional angle. In hindsight, I know this was not the case. I was a warm body that was willing to work at one of the toughest schools in town.

My new work home had about 1200 kids, and I would be responsible for about 750 of them learning about technology each week. They needed someone pronto and I was dumb/desperate enough to sign a contract. There was a second tech teacher and I asked if I could shadow him for a day or two and get the lay of the land. “No problem” was their answer and I thought, “This will be okay.”

I show up on August 19, 2019, and another assistant principal (who is the principal I say “Take this job and shove it” to today and a heck of a guy) tells me my first class starts in 15 minutes. I was like, “Wait a minute. I thought I was shadowing for the next couple days.” This was not the case. They didn’t have a substitute for my classes, and I was going to teach all six of my sections for that day, completely unprepared, and I started off with a group of fifth graders.

Having worked for Casa for so long, I was fine with walking into a classroom that was new to me, but I didn’t have my usual curriculum to fall back on. I had to make up this stuff from the get-go and fill fifty minutes.

This is how my journey in the charter school world began.

See you tomorrow.

I saw this colorful map every day when I walked in.

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Nov 10, 2022

Oddly enough, I took the job at Chess Emporium that Tom had almost started and was assigned five of the 6 schools that Tom was originally going to spend time at.

Many might think that teaching chess to a group of kids in an after school position would be easy; it wasn’t. At one school, I had students from Kindergarten through 4th grade in one class. All with varying levels of chess knowledge, and luckily, none who could beat me. Yet.

It wasn’t really about teaching chess as much as it was about getting the parents to “sign-on,” to commit to joining the chess “rank and file” and getting the kids to play in Saturday tournaments, but that’s a whole…

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