I returned to civilian life in 1985. Rising to the rank of Captain I had gained a solid reputation and spent the final five years of my career working as a staff officer at HQ 15 Air Force at March AFB. Having moved the family from Ohio to North Dakota and finally Southern California, I just couldn’t imagine returning to a B-52 cockpit or deal with the idea that the family would have to relocate to some remote base in northern Michigan (K.I Sawyer AFB) or, worse yet, Maine (Loring). Looking back that was probably the dumbest decision I made in my life.
Soon after my departure, I returned to college to obtain a Clear California Teaching Credential. Attending the University of Redlands I developed friendships with two professors in the Education Department — Bill Doll, the department head, and Sam Crowell, a senior professor. Bill and Sam ended up working with me on the development of an experimental mathematics program when I taught at Hyatt. They also became close friends, accompanying me to Long Beach occasionally to sail a 30 sailboat moored at Pacific Sailing.
Nearing the completion of the credentialing program I attended a career training session designed to teach graduates how to conduct themselves when they interviewed for jobs with school principals. I’ll never forget that session because Sam had invited an administrator from the Redlands School District to assist in presenting and critiquing a mock interview or two. She was dressed to the hilt in a bright red suit, silk scarf, and jewelry that had it been real would have befit a princess.
After a brief introduction one of the male students volunteered to participate and stepped to the front of the room to seat himself at the end of a table where the principal was already seated. She didn’t stand to greet him, just pointed to the chair and he sat down. The interview seemed to be going well. She asked a few simple questions and then some philosophical ones before standing to bring the interview to a close and to thank him for his time.
When he returned to his seat the critique began and the first comment to come from her mouth was that while the interview was okay, the interviewee had failed to take notice (of all things) her body language which she contended was conveying to him on several occasions that “I’d heard enough.” It was then that I raised my hand to not only take issue with her attitude but to reject her obvious perception of the interview process.
“I take issue with your condescending tone. How dare you suggest that he attend to your bloody body language. This is a negotiation, not a country club initiation where applicants get on their knees to gain admittance,” I said indignantly.
“I didn’t mean to suggest that,” she responded red faced and not just a little flustered.
Ignoring her obvious attempt to backstep, I did my best to drive my point home speaking directly to the students in the room who were all half my age. “As fully qualified teachers you need to walk into these interviews looking for a position that is going to suit you, not the individual you’re being interviewed by. There are hundreds of opportunities that are going to be available to you and you needn’t cowtow to anyone.
“I understand that interviews are a give and take process but if you approach this task with hat in hand you’ll find yourself being treated as subjects rather than professionals, a designation that you have, incidentally, earned not been granted,” I went on to say placing emphasis on the word “granted.”
The principal apologized rather profusely and then Sam suggested we all take a break.
She didn’t bother to return.
* * *
I received a comment on this particular anecdote suggesting that I was out of line taking this administrator to task. Really?
For those (like the angry female who made comment) who might take exception to the manner in which I took her to task, — perhaps even going to the extreme to conclude that I am a misogynist — please consider who I eventually went to work for and why I went to work for her. The contrast between Eloise Brooks and the pompous administrator I admonished couldn’t be more stark.
If upon reading about Eloise one continues to maintain that I hate women, then by the same logic one would have to conclude that I am a racist as well because Eloise is black. Imagine that — I not only hate women but have an even greater, irrational distain for white women.
The bottom line is simple. If one thinks I would have treated a pompous male administrator any differently, he/she doesn’t have a clue.