Emigration Diary: It Is What It Is
I had an interview in the city the other day. Well, not so much an interview as a four hour observation of my suitability to be a teacher in NYC. It included role plays, a five minute teaching sample, a maths test, a written test and a group presentation. If they do deem me to be built of the right stuff it looks like a very interesting program. After an intensive period of training over the summer, I will be given support to find a teaching position in a high-need school in NYC. I will then simultaneously teach and study for a Masters in Education in a CUNY college. It sounds like it will be hard work with many tough challenges but potentially very rewarding.
It struck me while I was watching the other candidates’ teaching samples that I wasn’t the only one with an accent. Even people who had been brought up in New York had varying accents, some of them with a foreign lilt. It really was a very diverse bunch of people who had decided to apply to this program that has the overall mission of increasing academic achievement within the city’s more disadvantaged schools. Diverse people from diverse backgrounds, many experts in their fields with absolutely no previous teaching experience. What the selectors made very clear they were looking for was potential, idealism and commitment.
Many years ago, back at the turn of the century, in fact, I applied to do a bridging course in Dublin that would allow me adapt my Arts degree to an Education degree which would allow me teach elementary school in Ireland. I was refused admission to this course on the basis that I was one grade short in the Irish language in my leaving certificate. I wrote a carefully worded letter, outlining all my previous experiences with TEFL, school workshops and afterschool projects and relevant courses that I had already taken and even offered to spend two months in the Gaeltacht before the commencement of the course and to sit the Irish exam again. The same day I posted that letter I mailed a response to an ad for teachers in an international school in the Gulf. About two weeks later, at 9am I got a phonecall from a rather rude lady in the college. ‘What are you doing, writing me letters?’ she shrilled ‘You’re not eligible and that’s that.’ Exactly two hours later, I wiped away my tears to answer the phone to a man with an intriguing foreign accent arranging an interview in the Westbury Hotel for the position in Qatar. I hung up the phone and decided then and there that if they were willing to give me a chance and my own country wasn’t, I would go to wherever it was. I wasn’t planning to teach Geography. That was the first time I emigrated out of Ireland.
Here I am now again. My first excursion away was always temporary. It was a two year contract which I extended to three. I could have stayed longer but I really felt it was time for me to leave. I actually wanted to come here to the US then but I knew it would take a while to get a visa and I wanted to come legally. I wasn’t really counting on the ten year wait but I managed to accumulate some people in those years that I insisted on taking with me. They’re all happily in their routines of school and work here now. I haven’t found it as easy as I thought it would be to break into an exciting career. I’m looking at this program as a big chance.
I may get it I may not. I have other interests I’m exploring here that were repeatedly shot down in Ireland too. I certainly did my best on the day. The thing that stays with me though is that they at least gave me the opportunity to prove myself. As they say here quite a bit, ‘It is what it is.’ which I find a whole lot more comforting and easier to take than a dismissive Irish ‘and that’s that.’