At work I occasionally receive unsolicited e-mails inquiring whether my school has any job openings. My usual course of action is to print them out, give them to my boss, and then place them unread in a large filing cabinet full of overloaded hanging folders.
Usually the resumes are from people well-established in their teaching careers, but one came from a recent college graduate. She was interested in counseling and social work, and currently working an unpaid internship at another school far away from where she lived. She was looking for a two-day-a-week counseling job to supplement her internship, and wanted to be paid for doing what she loved.
I read her cover letter several times and decided it would be worthwhile to ask the principal whether we had a place for this girl, even an unpaid one, for there was no money in the budget to compensate her. I rehearsed the manner of introduction that would portray her in the most positive way possible. She has solid experience. She’s good with kids. She’d be willing to work for free.
I was very busy that week (with kids needing to go home sick, forgotten musical instruments to be delivered, announcements to be read, substitute teachers to call, and report cards to file), so I did not find the time to explain these things to the principal, who was also busy. The girl’s e-mail fell behind others of more immediate importance, and after two weeks it seemed silly to follow up on something so late.
I felt bad for neglecting her, and thought back to all the resumes I’d sent out during my job-searching days. Nothing hurt more than not getting a response back, and facing the agony of waiting. In a faceless world indifferent to the sufferings of young people, this girl deserved to know that someone had been thinking about her. I was overstepping my bounds here, because only the principal can decide who gets hired and who doesn’t. This would be my act of subversion—to restore humanity to the job-searching process. I would write her a genuine response, and maybe even allude to my own difficulties finding a job that suited me. But keep at it, I would say, because the only real failure is submitting to less than your ideal. That thought might give her hope in a difficult world.
But I was very busy the next week too, and didn’t write the e-mail. Instead I threw her message away.