Jamal is my Youtube-turned-real-life friend! He’s cool people, so I’m pumped that he agreed to share his story with The Post College Life. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Texas A&M Commerce in 2010, hit a couple roadblocks trying to get certified as a teacher, and is currently working in retail. I caught him in this “in-between” stage in his post-college life, but no doubt he’s working toward his goal and will soon be teaching the kiddies! Sending good vibes your way, Jamal. Now let’s get into the interview…
Where are you in your post-college life right now?
I’m in the mid-20s crisis right now. I’m 25. I have my degree. But nothing’s working. Nobody envisions themselves being out of college for a year and not being in their field yet. You think you’ll get your degree, get interviews, and get the job. And most of that happened – degree, interviews…but no job. Because I didn’t have my certification yet. Thus enters Target. The bane of my existence.
Yup. The red shirt and errrthang.
So tell us about that certification process.
After completing your education degree, you are required by TEA (Texas Educators Association) to take 2 certification tests (TExES) One of which being for your specific content area, and the other is the PPR (Pedagogy and Professional Responsibility) Each of these cost $120.
My final semester in college, I took my music content test and I missed it by 2 points so that was $120 down the drain. I didn’t have the money to retake them at the time, so I had to start working at Target.
But as of February 1, I passed the music and the general teaching test, so I’m a fully certified teacher…with no teaching job right now.
My last day at the elementary, they all knew I was about to leave. I saw my favorite 3rd grade class outside. 3rd graders are awesome, by the way. And I went to talk to their teacher and say bye. They all screamed “Don’t leave! Don’t leave!” and I had to man up because they almost made me cry, hahahaha. My professor and the principal were there and everything so it was cool that they got to see that too.
For my high school teaching, I taught them songs from start to finish – like, seeing what I’ve done, the things that I’ve prepared, and they’re getting it and learning music!
What keeps me going is just knowing from the little time I was student teaching, that I had an impact on the students. One of the high school students I keep up with actually went to A&M commerce and keeps me up to date.
Target is very draining emotionally I’m not in the mood to make videos as much anymore. So other than that, just the hope that I’ll get something and me putting in my applications. BUT IT’S GON’ WORK OUT.
How’s the teaching application process going for you?
Oh it’s worse now. It wasn’t as hard last year when I was applying. A lot more systems to put information to. Sometimes multiple schools have the same system to send one application to many schools, but some you have to start all over from the beginning — it’s tough. These applications also pretty much make applying for anything as inhuman as possible. You’re just a name on a computer, so it makes it hard for you to stand out enough to get an interview. You just try your hardest and think “oh well ok, I really hope they like what they see.”
So is this “in-between” time typical for education majors, in your opinion? For those of us who don’t know what it’s like to start in this field…
Well, if you’re going to be a teacher, don’t graduate in December like I did. Getting a job is tough in the middle of the school year. I had the chance to fill my friend’s position, though.
He passed away.
That was my best friend in college, so that was a lot of guilt and I just couldn’t do it…
And in different interviews that I had (4 or 5), the biggest thing that they said was that they didn’t want to bring in a new teacher in the middle of the school year because students are already used to a certain teacher. So actually yeah, I think it’s typical for someone who graduated in the fall semester like me, but things are looking up.
So what’s your support system like?
My mom’s a teacher, not the same subject though, and she’s ready for me to start and she just wants me to have a job better than Target. She’s been suggesting different government jobs, but I just feel like… This is just the first time that I’ve been fully certified. At least give me until August, you know? If I don’t find anything by then,yeah I’ll do other stuff, but I don’t want to do anything that’s out of my field. I’m just trusting that I’ll get a position for the next school year.
My parents are extremely supportive yet a little frustrated at times, you know living at home is part of that mid 20s crisis. Especially coming from college, I want my freedom and I’m living at home.
Okay so take us all the way back–did you always want to be a teacher?
I went to Townview Science and Engineering Magnet. I wanted to be an electrical engineer or a computer science person. Program or build stuff. But while I was in high school, I took compsci and hated it. Just gimme that floppy disk (yes that’s how old I am) and let me copy the program. In 2005, they changed the electrical engineering class to TAKS prep, so I never got to experience that. I ended up taking choir freshman year. My senior year, our choir teacher tried to make me go to this choir competition and I never wanted to go other years, but finally said yes.
I couldn’t even read music at the time. In the first round, I was in the top 16. Second round, I was top 10. And then I became the first alternate to go to State. And if I had done that earlier and got my stubborn behind to read music, I would have been much better! When I saw that my teacher pulled that out of me and noticed something in me, I realized I wanted to do that for somebody else. Bring out the passion for music in somebody like she did for me.
What’s it like being so young and teaching?
I think the hard part is realizing that I’m actually a professional and not just Jamal. I was the cool teacher. Kind of how Dari was saying with her class. They always hung out in the choir room in the morning and stayed during lunch.
I didn’t have any problems getting them to respect me, but they’re nosy! A few of the guys were like “oh Mr. got swag I bet he got all the girls” — I think they were just trying to gauge college life and see what it was like. They would see the stuff on my iPod and when they see the similarities they’re like “whoa!” because I teach classical music.
But I don’t want to start with high school. I want to wait until I get a little bit older.
So what’s your ultimate goal?
GOAL: get a job teaching somewhere. Haha. I’ve been focused on elementary because I’ve been doubting my piano skills. But my certification is for EC-12 grade, so I shouldn’t limit myself…I can teach however I want to, so I can focus on ear teaching and work on my piano skills.
I want to get started! I want to start my career in August. It has to happen. 2012. It’s goin’ down. Anywhere in Dallas ISD, Irving, the Desoto/Duncanville/Cedar Hill area. Richardson? I’m really not picky right now. And wherever I get a job will determine where I live because I’m NOT going to be living at home for too much longer.
Drop some wisdom on us, Jamal. Advice?
A year ago, I was really discouraged and depressed: no money to do my certification, and I was going to try to settle for something else. But if it’s your passion, don’t settle for anything less. Working in retail for a year now has shown me that there’s somethings I just don’t want to do. But you can tell by talking to me that I really love teaching and using all the skills that I got from college.
MAKE MOVES. DON’T SETTLE. AND DON’T SULK. If you don’t make that first interview, takes notes. Write down what you can do next time. GET BETTER. Everything is a learning experience.
And if you’re like me right now waiting for said career to start, when you do something for a certain amount of time, you think “maybe I can get used to this.” Not Target, but you know, doing something else. It crosses your mind, because you think what if it’s so much harder by myself and without a mentor teacher. What if I can’t really do this…
Screw the doubts and go for your passion, because in everything you do, you’re going to start off new and you’re going to make mistakes. Just gotta do it.
AMEN! You’ll make a groovy music teacher. You’ll do it. So promise us an update interview, okay? Good. I’ll cap off the interview with a video of Jamal conducting the freshman choir: