In my search for a teaching position after I obtained my California Teacher’s Credential I interviewed with three school principals. The first was with the principal of Lincoln Elementary. I must have made a favorable impression because he offered me a job on the spot but in touring the school I just couldn’t see myself teaching in a classroom without windows. I know that may seem trivial but I just couldn’t bring myself to work in an environment that felt more like a prison cell than a classroom. Reflecting upon that decision the thought just occurred to me that the room must have reminded me of the 2,000 hours I’d spent strapped to an ejection seat on the windowless lower deck of a B-52.
The second interview didn’t go so well at least from the presiding principal’s perspective. Things seemed to be proceeding on track until at the end of the interview the principal asked me if I had any questions. I only had one.
“Let’s assume that I’ve made a commitment to tutor two students after school and you decide that you want to have an impromptu faculty meeting at the same time. Which would take precedence?” I asked.
Taken somewhat off guard, she made it abundantly clear that she was the principal and, as such, if she called a meeting everyone would be expected to attend.
“Well, I guess that settles that,” I said and I immediately stood up, thanked her for her time, and walked out of her office.
The third interview was at Hyatt Elementary with Eloise Brooks, the principal, and Bob Valenchek, the school’s 6th grade teacher. At the close of that interview, Eloise also asked me if I had any questions and I posed the same question to her that I had asked earlier in the week.
“The kids, of course,” she said giving me a look of disbelief. “I can always let you know if you missed anything. Do you have any other questions?” she asked.
“No, can’t think of a thing,” I responded.
Eloise rose from her desk with a smile on her face, reached out to shake my hand, as did Bob, and I responded in kind thanking them both for taking time to meet with me.
I arrived home a half hour later and soon, thereafter, the phone rang. It was Eloise calling to offer me the job.
When I arrived on campus the first day, Eloise asked me to meet her in her office. After giving me the keys to my classroom she told me that she felt compelled to let me know that my reputation had preceded me. She confided that she had gotten a telephone call from the second principal telling her about my impertinence, and once she had heard what had happened in my previous interview, she just had to meet me. As it turns out, she, too, didn’t much care for principals who were more interested in asserting their authority than educating their charges.
Eloise had a district wide reputation as a no nonsense, nose to the grindstone sort of administrator and, in fact, was eventually awarded a full scholarship to Harvard to get her PhD. She closed out her career in 2008 retiring from the San Francisco Unified School District as an Assistant Superintendent.