Friday, August 21, 2009

Bureaucrats' Mecca

Today my girlfriend and I had some errands to run in Brooklyn so I thought I'd stop into the New York City Department of Education Central Office at 65 Court Street in Brooklyn Heights. Most teachers in the city steer clear of this building as it is the cause of endless headaches and frustration. I, on the other hand, think of it fondly, as my first job in New York was at this location.

As mentioned before, my friends and I at the School of Ed in Kansas all had big plans to tackle urban education once we had completed our program, which made a lot of sense considering most of us had spent very little time in urban areas. To me this objective meant finding a job in what I perceived to be the toughest place to teach in the country: New York City- a place I had never been to.

In my infinite post-pubescent wisdom I knew that to simply move there and start teaching would be difficult (in reality it would have been damn near impossible), so I decided to try to land some kind of internship or summer job in the city before I started student-teaching in Kansas that fall (2007). After finding very little online in terms of paid internships for pre-service education students, I stumbled upon an internship opportunity at the central office for NYC public schools. A couple months afterward I received a call from a woman with a thick New York accent- very exciting for a young man in the Midwest- asking, "When are you going to be in Brooklyn so we can interview you?" STOP- "In Brooklyn?" I lived in Kansas. As I found out hauling a moving truck to coast last year, to "swing by" Brooklyn takes about 23 hours from the Land of Oz.

After finding out that it is possible to wink at another person through the phone- indicating that with an interview I was guaranteed the position- I hopped on a plane to New York where I stayed for the day (6.5 hours), spoke with my future boss and secured the position.

That summer I joined 26 other interns, all but one who were born, raised and educated in New York (the other out-of-towner went to college in Manhattan) and the staff of The Office of Recruitment and Selection Operations in hiring thousands of teachers to staff New York public schools. We worked at 65 Court Street, the sometimes cartoonesque building where teachers would come in and be sent to sometimes literally four to five different floors, standing in long lines on each of those floors, until they arrived at an office and were told they did not have the proper form or document with them and would have to come back at a later date.

That internship landed me with connections to the heart of the largest education system in the nation (1.1 million students)- a couple higher-ups in the monstrous bureaucracy that is the NYC DOE and numerous connections that would help me to get into the classroom the following year. The summer proved to be one of the best I've had- both in terms of entertainment value and educational value- and without it I wouldn't have even made it to New York, let alone survived the first year here. From time to time I stop by to say hello to the people there and to say "thanks".

Today's Wine: Montalto Sicilia Nero D'Avola. A friend of mine recently introduced me to the Nero D'Avola grape. Apparently this is a very popular grape variety in Sicily and it makes for smooth drinking. I always wanted to know more about Italian and French varieties.

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