My parents were always emphatic about school before work so until I turned 20 and was in my last semester of Hunter College, any talk of working part-time was dismissed by two very opinionated Colombians. Since I was granted a Thomas Hunter scholarship for my duration at Hunter College, I was advised to apply for the CUNYCAP (college assistant program) during my last semester by a professor I had met during one of the endless alumni dinners I had to attend because of my scholarship funding. The process was parallel to applying to my Master’s program at Brooklyn College. The process included filling out an application, two letters of recommendation, resume outlining work experience, proof of undergraduate graduation, and a copy of acceptance letter to graduate school for the interview. The process was a seamless process through my undergraduate to graduate academic career. The CUNY central office recommended several positions at different CUNY campuses which would contact me via email and by my second interview, I was offered the position.
I was not prepared for my job search after I graduated from Brooklyn College with my masters in English/Secondary Education when I was 22. The advisor was mainly concerned with the sequencing of courses I had to take to finish my degree. I was never given a course or instructions on how to search for teaching positions. The other students in my program were in their late 20s/30s and seemed to have job prospects lined up for them which only made me more concerned I had somehow missed the memo on how to find a position. I honestly don’t know how to apply for teaching positions in a public school and I would hope that I could go back as an alum to ask for assistance in the process.
If it wasn’t for my time in the CUNYCAP position at LaGuardia Community college where I was working 20 hours a week, I wouldn’t have the position I currently hold as an adjunct for the Humanities Department at LaGCC. I worked at the student help desk of the financial aid office where I met and helped train the Assistant Registrar at the time. When I received a call from him in his position as Registrar three year later offering me a personal recommendation for a position teaching Critical Thinking on campus, I jumped at the opportunity to teach again since I had been working at a temp agency doing data entry at the time.
College was never a moment for me to decide what my passion was. It was a place for me to learn and engage with other educators, see what strategies were best as an instructor, learn to manage my own schedule, and make a lot of mistakes on the way to where I am now. I never second guessed my path to teaching and CUNY allowed me to get there. Yet, if I was still in my search to teach high school English in a public school, I’d probably have little pedagogical practice between the time I graduated and the time the hiring freeze was lifted. I was never explained during my 4 years in an undergraduate or graduate studies what a charter school was; how to work as a paraprofessional; what the process of becoming a substitute teacher was; or any alternative routes to working in a public school beyond taking courses and hoping for a hail mary by the time I graduated. The CUNYCAP program and my engagement with students and staff at a financial aid office got me farther in my working career than my education CUNY. I suppose that’s the price you pay sometimes when you have a clear goal at a CUNY, but CUNY may have other plans for you.