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Building Our Staff

Since we launched the FCEA, I’ve gotten emails from people aspiring to become tutors in the school at the rate of about one per week. I’ve even gotten a few painful ones – follow-ups from people who were hurt or angry because they hadn’t been selected. 

I am a great fan of total transparency at least until it bumps up against people’s right to privacy, so what I want to write about in this edition of our newsletter is my experience of the tutor selection process. I underscore the words “my experience” for a lot of reasons, the main one being that actually training the tutors is really in the able hands of our Dean, Dr. Catie Cadge. Once someone is a tutor, they are in her territory. In this newsletter, I want to be careful not to trespass there. If you have questions about tutoring, Catie is the person to ask.

Loudly and clearly, let me say that we make no claim that our tutor selection process has been completely fair. We like fairness! But there really wasn’t time for it – in truth, there still isn’t. Launching the FCEA has been an absolutely monumental undertaking, as I’m sure you can all appreciate. Creating the educational contents, learning to work with Moodle, enrolling students, designing the website, jumping through all the legal and technical hoops – that’s a whole lot of work for just three people, even if two of them are Capricorns and the other one has a Sun-Saturn conjunction. We’re all  worker bees, for sure, but Jeff, Catie and I have been pushed to our edges with this project for the past two years. It’s been worth the effort and it’s been a big success – but the process has often involved difficult choices, especially about how best to use our most precious resource, which naturally is time itself.

Early on, we realized that we were already in desperate need of a few tutors. Jeff, Catie, and I  were juggling more balls than we could keep track of – but on top of all those pressing distractions, we knew that we had to get cracking on the tutor issue anyway. Some of that urgency was because we knew that tutor training would be a lengthy process, so we had to plan ahead.

You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world…but it requires people to make the dream a reality.

– Walt Disney

At least no one on our initial list of possible candidates would need to “learn astrology” – but they would need to learn how the FCEA program itself worked. That meant they had to figure out Moodle, understand the courses, learn the material in my books inside out, and so on. They also had to “shadow” classes that Jeff and Catie were teaching and listen in on my big Zoom calls. Getting them up to speed that way was going to take a long time, so we really needed to get tutor training started – even though many other hungry crocodiles were crawling up our legs at the same time.

On top of all of those practical issues, while a crystal-clear understanding of evolutionary astrology was an obvious requirement for a tutor, it was far from the only one. An FCEA tutor needed to be a person of good character, someone we respected spiritually as well as intellectually. They had to be reliable and responsible. Astrology, when misused, can really hurt people. We could not let that happen in our school. 

Making matters worse, none of us had time for lengthy interviews with a long line of candidates. Given all of these constraints and challenges, there was only one way forward that Catie, Jeff, and I could see: to make these kinds of character judgements, we needed some history of personal relationship with the possible applicants. We had to actually know them.

So here’s how it worked. Jeff, Catie, and I each independently came up with a short,  count-them-on-one-hand, list of possibilities. All of them had to have had a long involvement with my old Apprenticeship Programs – that ensured that all the candidates were likely to have the requisite technical astrological knowledge. 

The trouble was that over the years, a couple thousand people had attended various APs around the world – too many for any single one of us to really have gotten to know all of them personally. Still, in the normal social course of things, the three of us had all built genuine friendships in the program. These were people for whom we could vouch personally in terms of character, values, and general affability, as well as in terms of their technical expertise. 

And that’s how we made our initial list of candidates. 

When we contacted them, several turned out to be busy with other things and demurred. We whittled the list down to six people. They soon learned that the training was rigorous, time-consuming, as well as unpaid. 

No surprise – three of our initial six tutors-in-training dropped out.

That left us with Marie O’Neill, Joey Paynter, and Teal Rowe: the survivors! And our three treasures. There are so many ways that our selection process could have crashed and burned. God is good – it didn’t. We are so fortunate to have these three fine human beings on the FCEA team.

We’re on our second round of tutors-in-training now. They are all promising. We’ll see how many of them stick with it. I’m not going to name names yet out of respect for their privacy. This time around, we did a better job of approximating fairness. For this second cycle of potential trainees, we opened up an application process. We didn’t advertise it in a big way, but it was announced in Catie’s “Dean’s Corner” newsletter for the month of May 2021. I immediately want to point out that we are not currently soliciting new tutors since we’re not sure we will need them. For the sake of archiving FCEA history, here’s the link: – Expanding the Herd

How many tutors will we eventually want? That of course boils down to the question of how large the FCEA will grow. Naturally, we have no idea.

Again, my aim in writing this newsletter is simply to be as honest, open, and transparent as I can possibly be about how we’ve selected our candidate tutors. Even though the results have been blessedly perfect so far, the process itself has admittedly been imperfect. Obviously “who you know” (namely, Catie, Jeff, or me) has been a big factor in it, and that’s ultimately not fair to anyone. My only excuse is that the system was cobbled together under extreme pressure and we did the best we could. And we are getting better at it. The pressure still remains though – Catie, Jeff, and I continue to be grievously over-extended, teaching, creating material, administering, and all the while putting out the inevitable brush fires as best we can. Because of all that, in order to move ahead as efficiently as possible, I ask any of you who are interested in possibly tutoring to please refrain from contacting any of us informally – for example via social media – and instead just check the FCEA newsletter for any future tutor searches down the road. We’ll announce them, just as we did last time.

The long-term solution? 

The FCEA is becoming more solvent, and we anticipate hiring some much-needed technical and administrative help very soon. That will make a big difference – but that’s Jeff’s department, so I’ll let him make those announcements when the time comes.  

Until then, it is onward through the fog. As my friends in the tech world often say, “Perfect is the enemy of good enough.” We’re doing our best, I’m proud of what we have accomplished – and I promise that the best is yet to come.