Monday, September 18, 2017

Never Give Up!

Here's a question I particularly like.  I've used it many times when interviewing teacher candidates and I know it has been used by lots of principals around the country.  Answer this question correctly and you will truly Ace Your Teacher Interview.

     What are you going to do for that kid who just doesn’t get it?

     A:   Never give up!  I believe every child has the right to an education.  Every child should be provided with educational opportunities that are geared to his or her needs, interests, and abilities.  If there’s one thing that the concept of Differentiated Instruction taught me it’s that through assessments and learning profiles I can provide tiered activities that will offer each child a measure of success.  My challenge is to discover what tier the child should be assigned and the best practice strategies that will offer him or her the greatest opportunities to succeed.  But, most important, I will never give up on any child.

Here’s a great opportunity to show your passion and desire to teach.  Keep your response positive and be sure to inject some current research or best practices into your answer.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Single-Most Important Question You Must Always Answer!

Dear Readers:
     At the request of a former student, I'm going to reproduce part of Chapter 6 in the book Ace Your Teacher Interview (  The focus is on the one question that comes up in every single interview situation - a question so critical, that it can determine whether or not you will get a teaching position...particularly in a very competitive job market.  This question is so important that I would like to invite you to share this post (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) with friends and colleagues - you will definitely be helping them out.

Chapter 6
The Single-Most Important Question
You Must Always Answer!

            It’s the one question that is always in the mind of any interviewer.  It doesn’t matter whether you are interviewing for a job stocking shelves at a local grocery store, interviewing for the CEO position at a major company, or interviewing for a position as the manager of a minor league baseball club – every interviewer has this question on his or her mind when they interview candidates for a position.  And here’s why it is important – the question will never be asked in any interview…but it must always be answered.

            The question is this:

  1. How will this person make my job easier?
            You are being interviewed because the interviewer hopes you can bring value, dedication, and expertise to the job.  Those qualities are what any boss wants to see in his or her employees.  Those qualities help the boss (principal) do his or her job better and ensure that a product (education) gets into the hands of the consumer (students).  That single question will never come up in any teacher interview (or any other kind of interview for that matter), but if you can answer the question – several times during the interview - you will put yourself heads and shoulders above the rest of the competition and ensure a very favorable assessment on the interview.

How will this person make my job easier?

            For most bosses – and for every building principal – their responsibilities are numerous and non-stop.  They must handle a whirlwind of responsibilities, demands, schedules, unexpected events, and last minute chores that strain their patience and their resolve.  It’s like a circus performer who juggles 15 bowling balls while encouraging a dozen lions to jump through flaming hoops AND walking a tightrope a hundred feet in the air.  And, that’s every day.  To say that principals are overworked and overscheduled would be to understate the obvious.
            Each of those principals is looking for ways to maximize their performance and minimize their stress.  If you can demonstrate ways in which you will make the principal’s job a little easier…a little less crazy…a little less stressful, then you will be the one he or she remembers when it comes time to make a final decision on who gets hired and who doesn’t.
     An interview is like a sales pitch.  You are trying to sell a product and the interviewer wants to purchase the best product available.  Only in this case you are not trying to sell “YOU.”  Rather you are trying to sell the benefits of “YOU.”  How will “YOU” benefit the school?

            Here’s an example:

            Josh was interviewing for a third grade position at Shady Lane Elementary School.  A week before the interview he read an article in the local paper about how the school’s reading scores were going down.  During the interview the principal asked him, “What will you be able to bring to this position?”

            Josh responded, “During my student teaching experience I worked with another teacher in setting up an after-school tutoring program for students who were below grade level in reading.  We met with the kids twice a week and offered them one-on-one tutoring services in addition to an outreach program for parents on how they can get actively involved in their children’s reading growth and development.  By the end of the tenth week the kids were showing reading gains of 27 to 39 percent.

            ‘I would like to have the opportunity to initiate a similar venture here – giving kids an extra chance in reading and working closely with their parents to promote reading in a very positive way.  I believe my experience and organizational skills can go a long way in helping the program be successful.”

By reading the article, Josh knew that the school was experiencing some challenges in regards to students’ growth and development in reading.  He also surmised (correctly) that this was a concern of the principal, simply because it had been featured in the local paper.  So, Josh wisely decided to address the principal’s concern and answer the question that was in the back of her mind – but one she never asked:

 How will this person make my job easier?
# # # # #
NOTE:  This is just the first part of Chapter 6.  Please feel free to read the rest of the chapter to discover additional ideas and additional interview examples.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Why Did You Apply for This Position?

In writing this blog over the past five years one essential item has surfaced again and again.  In speaking with scores of teacher candidates who have secured jobs - particularly in very competitive school districts - the one fact that has made all the difference in the world is that the most successful applicants took the time to learn something about the school or district.  I spent a great deal of time talking about the importance of this factor in Ace Your Teacher Interview and many people have written me and posted on-line reviews attesting to the success of this strategy in their job search.  Many have told me it was the single-most important item that got them the job of their dreams.

Here's an interview question that comes up quite frequently - one designed to see if you've done your "homework."

     Why did you apply for this position?

     A:   Dinosaur Elementary School has an excellent reputation in the community.  According to your web page your overall reading tests scores are up significantly and your math scores in third and fifth grades show significant improvement over last year.  You obviously have a committed staff and I like to be part of a winning team.  You also have a dynamic and eclectic staff development program for teachers.  In my conversations with some of the teachers they remarked on the variety of workshops that have been offered – workshops geared for their specific needs.  While the emphasis has been on reading instruction, there have been sessions devoted to math and science as well.  I believe every teacher, no matter what their experience, can profit from additional training.  That’s something else that has also impressed me about Dinosaur.
This is an opportunity for you to highlight your special knowledge about the school or district.  It signals to the interviewer that you took the time to do your homework – learning specific details other candidates may not have investigated.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Motivating the Unmotivated

Motivation is a critical factor in how students learn.  Yet, make no mistake about it: you will have unmotivated students in your classroom!  Here's a question that frequently surfaces in many interviews - one designed to see if you have a "handle" on this critical element of the teaching/learning paradigm.

     How would you motivate an unmotivated student?

     A:   I remember Rodney – one of the student’s in Mrs. Rooney’s classroom.  Rodney was a completely unmotivated student – he could care less about learning and he could care less about school.  He was there only because he had to be.  As a student teacher I was assigned to work with Rodney.  My assignment was to motivate him – to get him interested in Life Science specifically and in learning in general.  I went back to all those notes I took in college and developed a plan based on five key elements.  First, I involved Rodney in a combination of both individual and group projects.  Second, I periodically invited him to meet with me and discuss any barriers to his individual learning.  Third, I provided him with numerous opportunities to set his own goals in Life Science.  We made sure those goals were realistic and we started with tiny steps before moving to larger ones.  Fourth, I always modeled my enthusiasm for learning.  I always portrayed myself as an eager and enthusiastic learner.  And, fifth, I provided Rodney with frequent offers of help.  The change wasn’t immediate, but we began to see some improvement in Rodney’s behavior and his academic performance after several weeks on this new program.  Rodney discovered that he had an innate love for Life Science – especially when we focused on wetlands creatures – which he knew a lot about.  I think the whole experience was beneficial for both of us.
Make sure you convey your awareness of the importance of this issue as well as specific ways you plan to deal with it.  Always relate your response to a specific individual or incident you experienced in your pre-service training.

"This nature book is absolutely gorgeous. I love the opening line 'Dear Humans'. Yes, I want to explore this forest. And I want to be friends with all these animals. This rhyming book is a must read. It is inspiring as well as educational." [5-star review on Goodreads]          

Saturday, August 19, 2017

What Are Your Plans?

Here's a question that frequently comes up in many interviews...and one very few candidates prepare for.  Be ready for this one and you can place yourself at the "head of the pack" - a candidate who thinks through all the factors that make for an outstanding classroom teacher.

     What are your plans for graduate school?

     A:   I plan to devote my time and attention to being the best teacher I can for the first two years of my teaching career.  I want to put all my talents and all my efforts to ensure that I’ve mastered the curriculum, the day to day life of a successful classroom teacher, and the academic success of every one of my students.  When I have that down, then I would like to attend Mount Merry University to obtain my master’s in science education.  I want to learn everything I can about the latest research and latest teaching strategies – particularly as they impact on the school’s emphasis on inquiry-based learning.  I plan to spend about two years in obtaining my masters.

Have a plan.  Interviewers want to know that, just like your students, you see yourself as a learner, too.  Consider how a graduate degree will help you improve your teaching effectiveness and make additional contributions to the school.