(Editor's note: Unlike past recessions, the current downturn has taken a significant toll on sectors of the economy virtually unscathed by earlier economic crises. This is the fourth in a series on one family's struggle.)
SKOKIE, Ill., May 11 (UPI) -- With Fred at work all day, I can use both of our computers -- they're old and slow even with broadband, but I can run two job-search projects simultaneously.
I relentlessly pursue high school and junior high teaching jobs. Most public schools and many private ones seem to require long online applications.
I follow up diligently with phone calls, e-mails and snail mails. Networking is crucial; I carefully prevail upon my few contacts. So far, no luck.
Because the teaching market is now glutted due to the economy, schools are deluged with applications. It's difficult to imagine each one is thoroughly examined, and I agonize over what threshold criteria are used to reject applications.
Is my age a problem? If schools see, for example, when I graduated college, but don't go farther to read that I'm a newly certified teacher, they'll think I've been teaching for 25 years and therefore would command too high a salary -- public school teachers' wages are based on non-negotiable criteria.
I'm a second-career teacher with only one year of certified experience and no teaching master's degree. A public school can hire me, a seasoned professional with lots of diverse experience, very inexpensively.
I try to distinguish myself in my cover letter. I tell of my varied background as a teacher, administrator, lawyer and parent. I highlight my certifications and ability to teach English, social studies and/or law, inter-departmentally or as integrated courses. Last year I taught a course in which I integrated all three.
Sometimes I even use a forthright cover letter explaining I'm a good value because of my rich experience, content versatility and low salary command. Is anyone reading my letters?
If it is, in fact, my age, then I have to laugh: I struggle to think of myself as anything but youthful. I'm physically and mentally energetic, vibrant, increasingly creative and educated. My own children and their friends urged me to become a high school teacher -- "You're the best, Mom; heck, you taught us everything we know!" "You'd totally rock as a high school teacher, Harriet!" Many students at my last (and first) certified job confided I was their "go-to" teacher. Will I ever again have the chance to make such a difference in children's lives?
Meanwhile, amidst completing interminable applications and writing installments for this diary, I take small jobs here and there to boost our income. I write brief news stories for United Press International. I take in sewing and mending.
I've done some substitute teaching. There's one school where subs are not merely babysitters and the students say "thank you" as they leave class.
But the school that hires me need not have polite kids -- just kids. Learning happens in my classroom.