Sunday, September 25, 2016

Your Special Skills

A teacher interview offers you a wonderful opportunity to highlight skills and talents that may not be evident on your resume.  Here's a question often asked near the end of an interview - a chance for you to highlight your unique talents.

      What special skills or talents will you bring to your classroom?

     A:   I’ve always been interested in theatre.  I was in a number of plays in college and served as a youth director for a production at a local repertory company in town.  I’ve read some books about readers theatre and how valuable it can be as a language arts activity.  I’ve learned how it can help kids become more fluent readers and would like to make it part of my language arts curriculum.  From what I’ve read I think it can be a positive addition to the classroom curriculum and a way to get kids more actively engaged in their own learning.
With this question the interviewer is providing you with an opportunity to demonstrate how well-rounded you are.  Don’t blow this wonderful chance to let your personality and talents show through.  As in all your responses, select examples that can have a connection to what goes on in a classroom or to specific elements of the overall curriculum.  Let your talents and skills shine, but don’t go overboard.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Classroom Management II

If you're looking for a question (or series of question) sure to dominate any interview - you can certainly count on hearing queries about classroom management.  They will come in all sizes and all shapes - but it is as certain as death and taxes that you will be faced with one or more questions.  Be prepared!  Here is another typical one frequently shared in an interview:

What are some things teachers do that create classroom management problems?

     A:   Teachers sometimes, inadvertently, create discipline problems through certain kinds of behaviors.  Professor Lewiston, in his course on “Management, Discipline, and Behavior” shared some of the most common behaviors. These included 1) extreme negativity, 2) an excessive authoritative climate, 3) overreacting, 4) mass punishment, 5) blaming, lack of instructional goals, and not recognizing students’ ability levels.  I learned that avoiding these, and other similar behaviors, can go a long way toward creating a climate of trust and caring that will significantly reduce misbehavior.
Describe your knowledge of the inappropriate behaviors in addition to your own personal reaction to those behaviors.  Let the interviewer know that you are aware of factors that may have a negative influence on students learning and that you are conscious of what you need to do to avoid those behaviors.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

If You Could Change Anything...?

Every once in a while, you'll get a question designed to see how well you can think on your feet.  These questions are often asked to determine your overall attitude - positive or negative - and how that attitude might be revealed in an "off the wall" query.  Be ready for these.

If you could change anything about your teacher preparation program, what would it be?

A:   I wish we would have more field experience hours required in preparation for students teaching. At High Tuition College we were required to complete 150 hours of field experience prior to student teaching.  I’ve always felt that that simply wasn’t enough to prepare us for the demands and challenges of the student teaching experience.  So, on top of that requirement I spent a lot of time over breaks and vacations volunteering at my local elementary school.  I was a guest reader in the school library for the “Readers are Leaders” club, I helped out with the after-school tutoring program, and I coached the junior soccer team.  I wanted to obtain as many experiences with youngsters as possible – even beyond what the college required.  I knew that those experiences would help me be a better teacher in the long run.
Obviously, you don't want to bad-mouth your college or university teacher training program (the interviewer may have graduated from there, too).  Briefly mention one small aspect of the program that may not have met your expectations.  Show how you dealt with that aspect in a positive way, going above and beyond the usual requirements to learn more than was required.  This is a great chance to demonstrate how one of your strengths was used to address a problem or recurring situation.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Classroom Management

Classroom management is one of the most important concerns in schools today.  You should definitely plan on being asked a “management question” at some time during the interview.  Here's a sample:

     What is your philosophy of classroom management?

     A:   I would want to establish a specific set of rules for students to follow.  This set of rules would be designed to create a sense of order and comfort so that teaching and learning can take place.  But, in order for the rules to be effective, I know they need to be built on some very basic principles.  These principles would include 1) Students should have a sense of ownership of the rules – they should be invited to contribute a set of expectations about classroom behavior.  2) Classroom rules should always be framed in positive terms.  Instead of “Don’t hit people,” I would say ‘Respect other people.”  Instead of “No talking when someone else is talking,” I would say, “Take turns talking.”  3) I would make sure all students understand the classroom rules through concrete examples, specific anecdotes, and personal stories.  And, 4) I would make sure my classroom rules were consistent with school rules.  Above all, my classroom management policy would be structured on a set of rules that would be communicated in clearly defined terms and language students understand, provide the specific rationale or reason for a rule, and offer concrete examples of each rule as I would want it practiced.
Your response should be carefully crafted in terms of specificity and purpose.  The more detailed you are in your response the better you will be viewed by the interviewers.  Never talk in generalities when responding to this query.  Be precise!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Using Technology

Most of the administrators I talked with want to know how versed teacher candidates are in technological issues.  Your response to a question such as the following should demonstrate your awareness of and comfortableness with technology as a powerful teaching tool.

How will your students’ overall performance improve as a result of technology?

     A:   I believe my students’ performance will improve in three specific areas.  One, students will have increased opportunities to become more actively engaged in the dynamics of a lesson.  Technology will offer them an array of information available nowhere else.  Second, I believe technology will help me help my students improve their thinking skills as well as their problem-solving abilities.  Through the use of technology, we will be able to focus on higher-level thinking skills that go beyond rote memorization into new worlds of discovery and exploration.  And, third, it will provide me with some incredible opportunities to differentiate my instruction.  I’ll be able to use technological resources to target specific students with specific instructional options.  I was able to incorporate all these concepts into a unique project during my student teaching experience.  The project, which we named “Explorers for Hire” was developed as part of our social studies unit on the exploration of the New World.  Students had to obtain information from the Internet about specific explorers, they had to write personal biographies, they each took on the role of a specific explorer and applied for a selected exploration, they mapped and tracked their routes of exploration, they planned their voyages and the supplies they would need, and they reported the results of their exploration in the form of special documents and records.  It was a great project – one the students embraced enthusiastically and one that generated a new interest in social studies.
 In your response to this question you need to include two things.  One, you must demonstrate your knowledge of technology and its instructional advantages.  And, two, you must provide the interviewer with a specific example of how you put those principles into practice.  In other words, you must be able to “talk the talk and walk the walk.”