Acacia Avenue

One would have thought that after a dozen years running Tutors International that the reaction of candidates to news that their applications were unsuccessful, and the scale of their outbursts when I explain why, would no longer surprise me…that I should have seen it all by now.   Sadly perhaps, reflecting the level of entitlement among more recent graduates, that is not the case.

I recently advertised a job for two tutors to work with an American family who would be spending a year in London with frequent travel elsewhere.  During the year, their three children aged 9 or less, would be applying for and would need to be accepted into, good private schools in the US.  Not only did they need to get into these schools, but they would need to thrive when they started there in the autumn of 2012, and this would mean that the tutors would have to make up any gaps from their attendance at an international school in Europe for several years before.  Neither the job description, nor the three job-specific questions I put to applicants, stated that an American teacher or someone who had plenty of firsthand experience working in US private schools with children of this age, was required.  I didn’t spell it out because I thought it was obvious. How could someone without such experience consider themselves suitable — especially since we state clearly on our web site that applications from people who cannot fulfil all requirements of a particular position will not be considered for the position.

One interested young lady contacted our company before making an application to ask whether all our positions required a qualified teacher. She was told that this is generally the case but that she needed to look closely at each individual job listing to be sure.  In this particular case, because two tutors were required, it was not essential that were both qualified teachers.

She duly applied. When I reviewed her application I found that despite claiming a wealth of school experience, she at no time ever had full class responsibility, she had never worked in US schools or even attended a US school, nor had she worked in or attended a private school either in the US or the UK. Yet she claimed that 7 years as a teaching assistant and a degree in US Studies (at a British university) made her amply qualified, perfect for the role in fact.  It was clear from her application materials that this applicant understood little about the US system in any way.  She did not appreciate, for example, the differences between the vernacular in the two systems and the confusion that could arise from even the most benign details.  For example, the meaning of the word ‘grade’, which we in the UK take to mean ‘score’, and which the Americans take to mean ‘year’, or sometimes ‘score’…  I wrote her a polite email — really, it was polite — to say that I did not feel that the combination she offered matched the job description well enough, and that I would not be inviting her for a preliminary interview.  

It was like a dart hitting an overfilled balloon, unleashing a tirade of abuse from the candidate about me now knowing what I was talking about!

Between the personal slights was an argument, muddled and obfuscated by her need to be rude where possible. Her main point was that the position did not explicitly state that the role required an American. 

My response to this was that it was implied, that the role could only be done by an American (or someone with appropriate experience of the US system at the appropriate grade (meaning year) level (meaning age group rather than progress in a key stage)).  By way of example, I indicated that there were other implied qualities, such as needing someone that could read and write (I should perhaps point out here that this applicant kept writing to me as Dear Tony), which was not explicitly stated; someone who could read and write in English, also not explicitly stated; a human being, also not explicitly stated…  Her ranting extended to coverage of other particulars of the position, specifically the private schools system in general and the writer expressed her feelings that just because she didn’t live on Acacia Avenue was no reason to exclude her from consideration.

This got me thinking…how many Acacia Avenues are there and how appropriate is its metaphor today?

I started with Royal Mail’s postcode finder and found that 218 towns in the UK have an Acacia something, of which 65 towns or cities in the UK alone have an Acacia Avenue.

Next I looked at Wikipedia. The entry there states that Acacia Avenue is a cliché within British culture — a metaphor for an average middle-class suburban street. There are at least sixty Acacia Avenues in the United Kingdom, nine of them within Greater London. The Wiki entry has some interesting “cultural references.”

A Google search revealed 557,000 search results for the phrase Acacia Avenue.  I really didn’t have the will to look through them…

A Bing search revealed 2,240,000 search results for the same phrase…for which I had even less inclination to peruse…

And finally I looked up just Acacia.  There I found that Acacias are also known as  Thorntree, Whistling Thorn or Wattle…

How appropriate.

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