Wednesday, October 9, 2013

An open cover letter

Looking for a good addition to your company or organization? Look no further. While my resume has been posted online for some time, and I maintain a LinkedIn profile, there's a lot more to me and my experience than just what is contained there.

Photo credit: Janelle Nutter, Square Root Photography

I can assimilate information quickly
A quick glance at my resume shows that I have had quite a bit of experience as a substitute teacher, so far at four different districts, which includes a total of nearly 20 different school buildings. That means on a given day, I not only have to remember the policies and routines of a particular building, which can vary even within the same school district, but also that of a specific classroom. In most cases, I walk into a classroom with little, if any, previous experience there and have between 10 and 30 minutes to absorb the lesson plans for the day, class rosters, any potential fire or tornado drill instructions, and any other rules or instructions that may have been left. Instructions can be as simple as a few lines ("give students this worksheet and have them complete it") to multiple pages long (such as an elementary school classroom). I have worked in environments where I'm one-on-one with students to environments where I have upwards of 60-70 kids in a room at the same time. There are even days where I spend part of the day at one school, then totally change gears and spend the rest of the day at another school in a totally different class.

So yes, subbing is far more than simply glorified babysitting that anyone with a pulse can do. It often takes quick thinking, staying on your toes, and being able to assimilate all that information quickly so that decisions can be made not only quickly, but carefully, which can be applied in many other workplace situations.

I can troubleshoot
Troubleshooting, of course, doesn't mean I can fix every problem I encounter, but at the very least, I can identify the problem and the best person or solution to fix it if I can't do it on my own. This is anything from troubleshooting simple computer problems (which I have done at home on a regular basis and even at some of the schools I sub for), to physical maintenance problems, to personality issues. This is part of my abilities to solve problems, whether it be a simple physical fix or some sort of compromise between two parties, or even just calming people down and discussing an issue, which plays into my next quality.

I am level-headed
Emotion can be a very powerful tool that drives people to complete tasks they may have otherwise failed at for a variety of reasons. On the same page, though, if not used correctly, emotion can cause people to make rash and illogical decisions. I am someone who can make a quick decision when needed, but can also weigh the evidence, the possibilities, and potential long-term ramifications. That's not to say I lack opinions, but my opinions are based on evidence and are subject to change based on additional evidence that may be brought to light. So, in a heated argument, especially one that is more ideologically-based, I will certainly have my beliefs and opinions, but not to the point of belittling others who disagree or disrespecting an opposing viewpoint. That said, it is also important for me that when I do make decisions, I can logically explain my reasons so that even if you disagree with what I did, at least you understand why I made the decision and that it wasn't made flippantly. I expect the same out of those around me too. It's great to have beliefs, but be prepared to defend them with logic and reason and not a lot of emotion.

I'm detail-oriented
Details are what sets things apart. In my experience as a teacher and presenter, that means going the extra mile in preparing materials for students and guests that help them not only memorize the info, but understand it far better than they did before my class or presentation. In a presentation I did in 2012 about a local historic building, the details I added were photos from old yearbooks, photos from places in the building that few had seen, and going into old newspapers and finding information that had long since been forgotten. I even had tour guides throughout the building pointing out subtle but still visible reminders of changes made in the building to help guests get a feel for its history.

Example of graphic used for a presentation I gave in 2012. Blue numbers indicate where tour guides stood to point out specific features, red arrows were entrances we needed opened by the custodial staff, while the yellow areas indicated to the school district which rooms we needed to use.

As a director of a musical theater production this past summer, my attention to details was manifest in making things on stage like facial expressions, cast members staying out of view of the audience while not on stage, lights being aimed perfectly (and centered if it was required), and annunciation. Outside the stage, it included doing the playbill myself to make sure information was in a logical order for guests, and organizing a photo shoot for the cast and crew to have professional head shots taken for a display.

While I did not personally make this, it was something I made sure happened. Thankfully, I was able to find a photographer (Janelle Nutter of Square Root Photography) who had the same vision and attention to detail I did to make this become a reality

In my personal life, details are in making sure pictures hung on the wall are straight, paint on the wall is even, the lines between the ceiling and walls are straight, and colors are balanced in any kind of decoration. It's also about keeping a daily journal (currently on volume 16), and making sure I use correct punctuation and grammar in all communication. And yes, I am often asked by friends and family to proof writing and even things like posters not only for correct spelling and grammar, but clarity in organization, use of color, and font size. I have used those skills on Wikipedia too, including a Featured Article on Kent, Ohio.

A picture collage I put together at home, making sure the frames were straight and spaced out evenly

I have managerial experience
As I mentioned previously, during the summer of 2013, I directed a local musical theater production. It was my first time ever taking on such an endeavor and it proved to be quite a challenge. Not only did I have to worry about the theatrical aspects of the show (who does what part, where they stand, how they act, etc.), but I had to worry about virtually every aspect of the show from the technical, to the music, down to the programs. That's not to say I did everything because I most certainly didn't. I had one dedicated crew and a group of people who were not only reliable, but bought into my overall vision for the show. Total, I had a cast of about 60 people, over half of which were children and teenagers, plus a full orchestra, and a crew of about 10. We had eight total performances and saw a noted increase in attendance from years prior, on top of a multitude of positive feedback from audience members and former cast members who attended (this was the 10th season of the show).

Early rehearsal, May 2013. Photo credit Lisa Lovato

As a substitute teacher and in my other teaching experience, I have had to tap into my managerial experience as well. When you're responsible not only for the education of children and teenagers but their well-being, that involves managing who is in the room, making sure they're on task, and knowing what to look for and how to motivate. As a sub, obviously that can change radically from day to day, such as managing an elementary gym class compared to a high school Advanced Placement English class.

I'm computer literate
I have been using computers since I was in elementary school and my grandma had an old Commodore 64. We got our first computer in the mid 1990s when I was a freshman in high school, so I have grown up not only using computers, but getting to know the various programs and operating systems. I'm more familiar with Windows than Macs, but that's mostly due to circumstance. I have extensive use and understanding of Microsoft Word, Publisher, and Excel, and even programs that I may not be as familiar with, I can pick up rather quickly with a simple tutorial, doing a web search for help, or just trial and error. I have done tons of scanning for presentations and personal use, and am an avid amateur photographer.

In social media, I have been on Facebook since 2006 and also have a Twitter account that I have started using more frequently. On Facebook, I have experience running and contributing to official pages, including the one for the musical I directed. I already mentioned my LinkedIn profile, plus I have this blog, my history blog, and even a personal blog. I am also a regular Wikipedia editor, and have written articles, edited others, and contributed scores of photos and graphics to use in all sorts of articles there. That alone requires attention to detail, working with others, and understanding policies and norms.

Although I have a teaching license, that shouldn't let any perspective employers shy away from contacting me for opportunities that may be outside the realm of education and/or music. I seek any kind of job opportunity that I can use my skills and feel like I am making an important contribution. I am, however, not interested in any kind of direct sales position, basically a job where my pay is dependent on the choices of others and whether I can convince them to buy some service or product. While I have no problem promoting products and services I have used (I occasionally do that right here on my blog), sales jobs such as selling insurance or cars are not something I would excel at. Even so, I am always open to propositions. Please feel free to contact me using the links on my resume or LinkedIn profile.

Oh, and did I mention I can sing too? Not that it would make a difference in most companies, but you never know. I have done the National Anthem for the Cleveland Indians multiple times (most recently in May 2013 and was scheduled to sing for the tie-breaker game had the Indians needed that at the end of September) and have done other teams like the Toledo Mud Hens, Akron Aeros, and Columbus Clippers, and of course, my hometown and Alma Mater Kent State!

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