I once lost out on a high school teaching job because, on the lesson plan I submitted prior to the interview, I wrote the word lil’ in the title. “Postcolonial Literature for lil’ 10th graders.” I thought the title was cute. The interview committee did not.
So it goes.
I was never so good at being earnest. Even in job interviews.
I once interviewed for a job at the school where I did my student teaching. This was a suburban high school, north of St. Paul. The final question they asked me was, to my mind, the dumbest I’ve ever heard.
“In one word,” the school’s principal said, “describe your greatest strength and your greatest weakness.”
The question threw me. I could talk about my strengths and weakness until the cows come home. But one word?
My response was not earnest. Or good. Or humble.
“Um,” I said with a smile, “literary genius for my strength and I honestly can’t think of a weakness.”
The interview committee was not amused. I didn’t get the job. Seriously, though, what a bad answer to a dumb question.
Job interviews usually feel disingenuous. Academic jobs, less so maybe. Interviews for tenure-track positions go on for a day or two. You give presentations, meet everybody in the department, and make small talk over dinner. It’s hard to be fake for two days.
I’ve learned that it’s better to be genuine in job interviews. Even if you have the gall to write the word lil’. I want to know if the interviewers hate me before I accept a position. Get it out of the way so I don’t have to find out later during an evaluation or a faculty meeting gone wrong. I’ve learned that it is my job to be true to mine own self in interviews. Polonius and his foolish advice be damned. Come as you are, man.
My job at the moment? Bloggin’. This is the first blog I’ve written up on this new website. I’m getting a feel for it. The text boxes are weird. It’s funny the things that disrupt writing. Or inspire it. I posted two blogs about my memoirs. The books are finished.
Incidentally, I tell better versions of the job interview stories above in Playing with Sharp Objects. Good stories. I’ve accumulated lots of them over the years. Especially in the field of education. As a student. As a high school teacher. As a professor. I’ve seen lots of things that, for better or worse, I’ll never unsee.
Here’s another incidentally. The image I put at the beginning of this blog is a chapter illustration for Playing with Sharp Objects. The images are so wild. They make me laugh. Check out Micheal Swearingen’s work. He’s an artist. A good one.
A former student read Playing with Sharp Objects. He told me that it was honest. Subjective, but honest. That was my goal. Create a telling of my experience in schools.
I’m no capitalist. But I did start blogging as a way to move my work forward as a writer. And I am proud of the three books I’ve published. I’d like folks to read them. I can’t find much inspiration to get strategic with these blogs. A marketing plan. That said, I shared a sample from Playing with Sharp Objects last week. The week before that I shared links for my other books. I intend on sharing samples of the second editions of my first two books here eventually. I don’t get that many views. I’m no social media guru, no entrepreneur. But I can write and share in ways that feel ethical. Ways that feel good whether they get any hits or not. Likes or hearts or dislikes or whatever.
I just keep bloggin’. Keep writing. I have lots of projects that I want to keep moving with. The blog gives me a little context to think about that work.