It started unsuspectingly with a Facebook message from a friend in October. He’s teaching at a large, well established international school, and he knew B and I had taught overseas before. He suggested I apply for the Middle School Principal position that had come open. I showed B, and we laughed it off. We had planned to go teach internationally again, but it was on the far end of a five-year plan. Nothing in the immediate future.
However, curiosity got the best of me, and I googled the school, our interest piqued. We scoured their website. Checked with friends teaching internationally. The school was, by all accounts, amazing. We got excited. And we decided that I’d throw my name in. No harm in doing that. And so I did.
And I waited. And waited. And heard nothing.
But, that started us thinking. We threw a few feelers out there to other schools that we knew we’d like to work at, just to see if there would be any bites. There weren’t. So, we let go. Or mostly let go.
In mid-November I got another message — they hired the Middle School Principal position, but there was a Deputy Principal opening. I resurrected the application I used, tweaked it a bit, and applied again. And waited. Enough time passed that I was certain nothing had come of it. I let go. Mostly.
Then an email in early December – I had been short-listed. A panel interview over Skype with staff and a student representative was scheduled. I was excited! I found out that three people had been short-listed, and two were internal. I was the sole external applicant. I prepared for the interview. I practised answering interview questions. Wrote out anecdotes to reinforce the main points I wanted to make. I stopped sleeping deeply, my mind and heart racing constantly. This was possible again.
The night of the interview came and B sequestered the kids upstairs so I could Skype in peace in the basement. It began with everyone on the panel introducing themselves, and then the director of HR asked me to tell them about myself. I briefly summarized my resume (as I had practised) and made sure to include where I currently was (Regina), and the current weather (Frozen). This drew sympathy from the panel. Poor cold Canadian sap.
From there, each person asked one question. I responded, inserting small stories to illustrate a point where appropriate. At times, I tweaked the story to fit the question. I had a “cheat sheet” near my computer with key words and phrases I wanted to integrate into my answers. I didn’t pay much attention to it, but at the end of the interview, realized I had covered most of the things I wanted to. The interview felt easy. Comfortable. At the 45 minute mark it ended abruptly as I was told another candidate was waiting to interview.
The end caught me off guard. I hadn’t had a chance to ask about the hiring process following the interview. I couldn’t shake a nagging feeling that I was perhaps not being seriously considered. Maybe I was the token external candidate? Maybe they already knew who they wanted and the interview was a formality? If that was the case, I hoped I had at least made their decision more difficult. It was beyond my control.
The next day I received notice that I was a finalist candidate. Down to the final two, I found out. Apparently I had read my audience correctly. Four days later I had an interview with the Superintendent (the equivalent of a Director in Saskatchewan) and other senior admin. This one I did not feel went as well. I was good, at times. But not all the time. I was less decisive than I should have been. I got a bit flustered. Because it was a Skype interview, it was hard to read the faces of the panel. I didn’t notice this during the first interview, but it was very apparent this time. I wasn’t comfortable. I wasn’t myself. The questions caught be off guard. It was a bit painful. I had a sinking feeling that I just made their decision much less difficult.
At the end of the interview, I asked what the process was from this point forward, and was told that if I was selected for the role, a team from the school would come visit my in my current school and talk to parents, students and my staff. At this point it was a good thing that the video connection wasn’t perfect. I had a minor heart attack as I envisioned the central admin team showing up at my inner-city, dilapidated high school two days before Christmas, a time when our students are on edge with the impending holiday. It ended up not mattering, as a mere ten hours later I received an email thanking me for my time, and wishing me all the best. Case closed.
Or so we thought. Then, an opening came up teaching grade 6 English Language Arts and Social Studies. I haven’t taught grade 6 in eight years, but I thought it might be worth sending an email to the incoming Middle School Principal (who had been on both panels) to let her know I was interested. She replied right away, indicating that she wanted to interview me and B for openings. There was no immediate opening for B, but the possibility of a semester 1 mat leave, and daily subbing in a school with 34 English teachers in grades 6-12. It was mid-January and we were back on the roller-coaster.
A week later we interviewed, back to back, with teams from the Middle School (me) and High School (B). It went well. We waited. The Middle School Principal emailed to make sure that I would be willing to accept a teaching position. Hopeful. However, she ended her email with the caveat that there were still many qualified candidates who applied that they were interviewing and we wouldn’t find out until the following week.
Two days later, it was N1’s birthday, and we were at Dairy Queen. My phone buzzed. An email came to me from Human Resources stating that as a formality to being offered a contract, I needed to have another Skype interview with the Superintendent. I replied, indicating the time that would work for me, and received a quick email back thanking me for my promptness and welcoming me to the school. Welcome? I turned to B — I guess we’re moving?
The chat was great — I was very impressed with the passion the Superintendent has for his school, and for doing everything to make sure the school is preparing the students for the future. A really engaged, vibrant person!
We told our families that night, and the next morning we let our respective bosses know. Everyone else followed shortly after that.
Thus, the process of preparing to move began. It included: processing with the kids, meeting with our financial planner, preparing our house for sale, ridding ourselves of 8 years of excess stuff, talking to an international tax accountant, listing the house, selling the house, finding a furnished rental house, continuing to rid ourselves of 8 years of excess stuff, deciding what to ship over, moving to the rental, buying some new stuff to replace our old stuff, and so on.
The school was great to work with, setting us up with the shipping company, a realtor to start looking at properties, enrolling the kids in school (they attend free as part of the package), getting us our email accounts, and answering our many foolish questions with grace and patience.
Then, just the other day, an email came announcing that one of the Middle School Deputy Principals had to leave the school abruptly. Then, two days later, a phone call, asking if I would be a team player and take on the role of Middle School Deputy Principal, the job I applied for a mere six months earlier. I accepted, ecstatic. While the six months preceding were stressful and filled with ups and downs, I couldn’t be happier about the result. We leave in 75 days. Stay tuned.