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re: references enclosed with resume

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crago_at_TeacherArtExchange
Date: Wed Apr 10 2002 - 03:47:07 PDT


 Re: references enclosed with resume

I believe also that honesty is the best policy in these matters. In my
experience in both education and the media (working for newspapers as an arts
critic) trust me there are no secrets in this world, everyone knows someone you
know and I have had people call references "between" my references! What I mean
is, I may list someone in my list of references, and a friend of that person will
be contacted, old boy friends (that was in the case of the Chicago Tribune) and
even people who worked as assistants to my references were and have been
contacted. The questions (when my friends or references share them with me)
really run the gamut as well -- my old friend at The Tribune (who I had dated for
two years when I was in my mid 20's -- I am now in my late 40's) gave an editor
a very formal (typed out) list of pros and cons about hiring me. When I asked
him why (after I had been hired as a freelance critic) he said that if he hadn't
done it that way, his editor would think he was biased -- and as a critic he was
trying to be fair!

Anyway, I digress...at the present time I absolutely love my principal, but am
not crazy about my school -- I told my principal last week that I had decided to
start looking and asked her if I should tell the superintendent -- she said not
to tell the superintendent just yet (he's in charge of 4 schools), but that she
would be happy to give me a good reference. Hence it has been wonderful to be
able to write on teaching applications to prospective schools or agencies that
they may call my present employer. I believe that it's important for most people
in our lives to know our intentions...she knows I am killing myself at the school
-- trying to do the best job I can in every way, but that my intention is to move
on -- I think there's some integrity to that. She also knows I took a 30% pay
cut to come to the school, but that I came primarily because of her reputation as
a pro arts principal (she has a background as music teacher)...She also knows
that she will not be left in the lurch in terms of supplies being ordered, or the
art room being organized, or even my acting as a contact and/or necessarily angel
for whoever takes my place.

My question here is why not ask former references to write a general reference so
that employers can contact them? After all -- it's not as though she's a runaway
slave and the art police are going to pick her up and drag her handcuffed and
gagged back to her old job of 17 years...I don't get it...there must be something
here we don't understand that she hasn't shared.

Intention is important, honesty is important, personal reputation is important,
but one must protect oneself as well...a secretary, parents, an assistant, a co-
teacher on a project -- even someone you exhibited with 20 years ago, or shared a
post on an arts committee, a gallery or whatever all have an input potentially on
your being hired or not. I would also suggest if she has trepidation about
former references to consider contacting teachers with whom she has worked at her
former schools - collegiality is very important as you all know.

I live in Chicago, which is a big cosmopolitan community -- however, the arts
community is small in comparison, and the art education community is smaller
still -- on some level to me it feels like a small town. With the internet and
media and the way schools really do communicate with one another through
professional and informal conferences and meetings -- much has the potential to
be shared and discussed -- and a lot will be shared that is not entirely "legal"
(- something shared in a cafe in Spain over a glass of wine is simply more
information on you) -- and it does happen this way -- nothing exists in a vacuum
here -- everything has the potential to be "outed" and to surface in some way. I
once was an hour late for an in-service I was doing for a group of teachers
because I got lost on the way. I was doing this project for a very important
local arts advocacy group, and the drama and upset of my being late and getting
lost was discussed by the supervisor of the program and someone who had acted as
reference for me (a former professor) in Spain that very afternoon. It was
horribly embarrassing {-- I do use a personal navigation system now in my car
because I have no sense of direction}...I still cringe when I remember this
incident. My relationship with that former professor has never been the same --
and no, she's no longer a reference and probably wouldn't advocate for me if her
life depended on it.

However, just to play devil's advocate for a moment, I am also thinking about
former Chicago public school principals I have had (- and some I wouldn't trust
as far as I could throw them -) I could understand your friend being concerned
about sabotage of her present program in some way, or perhaps information shared
that if not totally negative) would simply raise questions because of it's forced
(read "studied") neutrality ...if that's the case, perhaps there is someone on
the staff -- not the actual principal, but perhaps a curriculum specialist, a co-
teacher, even an assistant principal who would be willing to act as a contact/
advocate. The other idea I have for a contact would be someone with whom your
friend studied under in college as a supervising professor.

Now that I have looked at it both ways, I would also be interested in hearing
what others have to say about references. This is an interesting question. And
of course not everyone with whom I have worked thinks I am the greatest thing
since sliced bread -- but we all need to feel we have a team of references who we
have known for some time, who we can share coffee or lunch or a phone call and
who feel invested in our doing well in life. There are enough people out there
who probably simply don't care what happens to us-- hence we need to have a team
who advocates for us always through good and bad weather.

Best wishes to all,
Carmela
(crago@artic.edu)

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