Saturday, November 21, 2015

What can you tell me about The Common Core?

     When interviewing for a teaching position, you need to be knowledgeable about "hot topics" and current educational initiatives.  Administrators want to know if you have done your homework and are "up to speed" on what is happening both locally as well as nationally.  The following question is one you are likely to be asked - be prepared to offer an appropriate and succinct answer.

What can you tell me about The Common Core?
A:   The Common Core provides teachers, parents, and students with a set of clear, consistent expectations in math and English language arts throughout all the grades to ensure that all students have the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life upon graduation from high school.  The Common Core focuses on developing the critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills students will need to be academically successful.  The standards also provide a way for teachers to measure student progress throughout the school year and ensure that students are on the road to academic success.  These standards are also aligned to the expectations of colleges, workforce training programs, and employers.  They promote equity by ensuring all students are well prepared to collaborate and compete with their peers throughout the country.
            This question is specifically designed to see if you know your “stuff.”  Show that you’ve done your homework ahead of time and that you are knowledgeable about the role of standards in curriculum design and effective teaching.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Themes - Part IV

     A good interview is one in which the candidate demonstrates several competencies.  These final two themes are those every school administrator looks for in new teachers.  Make these part of your philosophy and resume and you will demonstrate that you have the "chops" to make a difference in the classroom and a difference in the lives of students.

7.  Lesson Planning
            A lesson plan is only a guide.  A well-designed lesson plan is flexible, subject to change, and reflective of the individual needs of each and every student in the classroom.  A good lesson plan provides an outline for the accomplishment of specific tasks, while at the same time allowing for a measure of flexibility in terms of student interests and needs.  You need to demonstrate to any interviewer your familiarity with lesson design as well how you are able to tailor lessons to the specific instructional needs of your students.  Be prepared to be detailed and specific as well as flexible and accommodating.
            Please relate the process you go through when planning a typical lesson.  Please share some ways in which you have assessed students.  What are the essential components of an effective lesson?  Think of a recent lesson you taught and share the steps that you incorporated to deliver the lesson.  Share your process of short and long-term planning for delivering effective instruction.  Think of a lesson that was ineffective or did not meet your expectations – what adaptations did you make to address the lesson?  How do you infuse technology to enhance your instruction?  It’s critical that you provide an interviewer with insight into your lesson planning, lesson delivery, and lesson assessment.  Anecdotes and examples must be critical elements of your responses.

8.  Flexibility
            Can you ‘roll with the punches?”  Can you “go with the flow?”  Can you “change directions in midstream?”  Can you “bend in the wind”?  All these questions have to do with perhaps the most significant attribute of any good teacher – flexibility.  Interviewers want to know that they will get the most “bang for the buck” – that you can handle a wide variety of classroom situations, a wide range of teaching challenges, and a wide array of changes, modifications, or alterations – all at a moment’s notice.  Your willingness and eagerness to present yourself as someone who can adapt without getting flustered or change without getting upset is a key attribute – an attribute that can often “nail” the interview.
            Are you willing to teach at another grade (elementary)?  Are you willing to teach another subject area (secondary)?  How would you handle a fire drill in the middle of your favorite lesson?  What if we brought in a brand new reading series next week, what would you do?  Are you comfortable with change?  Would you be willing to work in an after-school program?  Administrators are always interested in individuals they can use in a variety of situations.  The willingness to be flexible and the desire to quickly adjust to change are both positive characteristics valued in any school.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Know Your Themes - Part III

     We've been talking about the essential themes that show up in every interview.  Knowing those themes ahead of time can put you ahead of the competition and establish you as a teacher candidate worthy of serious consideration.
     Consider these next two themes as critical ones - they can, in many ways, make or break your interview.
5.  Professionalism
            You’re about to get a college education.  Great!  But, that doesn’t mean your learning has ended.  The field of education is changing rapidly – new technology, new standards, new curricula – lots of new stuff.  Your willingness and eagerness to continue your education is a key factor in your “hireability.”  Candidates who assume that just because they have a degree their education is over are those who never succeed in an interview.  Any principal or administrator wants to know that you are a constant learner – that you are willing to keep learning through graduate courses, in-service programs, on-line seminars and webinars, membership in professional organizations, books, magazines and journals, and a host of other professional opportunities that signal your eagerness to keep your education moving forward.
            Where do you see yourself five years from now?  What are your plans for graduate school?  In what area of teaching do you still need some improvement?  Tell me about a book you’ve read recently.  What are the essential traits of a good teacher?  Do you belong to any professional organizations?  One of my lifelong mantras as a teacher has always been: “The best teachers are those who have as much to learn as they do to teach.”  Be prepared to demonstrate how you might embrace this quotation in your everyday activities.
6.  Management and Discipline
            You’ve probably seen classrooms in which students were orderly, work was productive, and a sense of purpose and direction filled the room.  You might also have seen classrooms that were chaotic, disruptive, and seemingly out of control.  Maybe you were even a student in one or both of those classrooms at some time in your educational career.  Principals are vitally interested in how you plan to manage your classroom.  Your management skills and discipline policy will be vitally important in the decision to hire you.  Know that you will be asked more than one question in this area.  Read, research, and review everything you can – your success here will frequently be a major deciding point.
            To establish a positive classroom environment, share what you will do the first few weeks of school with your students.  How do you create and maintain positive rapport with your students?  How would you deal with a student who was always late to class?  Describe your discipline policy in detail.  Describe some classroom rules you would use.  To many administrators nothing is more important than a well-crafted discipline policy and a well-articulated management plan.  Be prepared to share your thoughts on both.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Interview Themes - Part II

     In the last post I shared the first two interview themes that are part of every teacher interview.  In this posting you'll discover the next two significant themes - Likeability and Student Orientation.  These themes are equally significant in setting you apart from many candidates and will help establish you as a future teacher of promise, commitment, and dedication.  Yes, they are THAT important!

3.  Likeability
            Here’s a basic truth you may find difficult to believe.  The most important factor every interviewer is looking for in a candidate is NOT the breadth and depth of her or his skills, education, or talents.  It’s likeability!  In a recent review of more than 100,000 face-to-face interviews there was not one candidate hired who wasn’t, at first, liked by the people doing the interviewing and hiring.  You might think that one’s personality would be of less value than their teaching prowess, but such is not the case.  Simply put, people get hired because they are liked.
            What are your three greatest strengths?  What are some of your hobbies or free time activities?  How do you handle criticism?  How did you handle disagreements with your college supervisor?  What makes you the best teacher for this position?  Who is the greatest influence on your life?  What is the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?  Interestingly, hiring decisions are based more on personality factors than they are on skill factors.  You may be the best qualified candidate, but if you aren’t the best liked, then the position will probably go to someone else. 

4.  Student Orientation
            Several years ago I was part of a team of people interviewing several candidates for a teaching position.  I distinctly remember one young man who spent the entire 45-minute interview talking about his accomplishments, his resume, his background, and his prowess in writing exciting lesson plans.  After he left, I remarked to my colleagues that not once, in those 45 minutes, did he ever refer to students.  Not once did he ever use the word “students.”  It was apparent that he was more interested in presenting himself than he was in teaching students.  Candidates without a strong student orientation are candidates that don’t make it any further in the hiring process.  Without that orientation, without that commitment to student life, and without that desire to work hand-in-hand with youngsters nobody ever gets hired as a classroom teacher.
            How do you motivate an unmotivated student?  How do you assess students?  Tell us about your toughest student – how did you handle him/her?  How do you address cultural diversity in your classroom?  What do you enjoy most about working with kids?  What are some challenges you’ve had in working with kids?  Besides student teaching, what other work have you done with youngsters?  Come to an interview with a strong and sincere student orientation and you may well walk away with a job offer.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

    Every principal or hiring authority wants to know several things about any teacher candidate.  As a result, most teacher interviews revolve around eight basic themes.  Your success in an interview will be based in large measure on how you fulfill each (and all) of these eight themes.  The following two themes head our list:

1.  A Passion for Teaching
            When I interviewed elementary and secondary principals and asked them to identify the single-most important characteristic in a quality teacher candidate, guess what they all told me?  You guessed it – “A Passion for Teaching!”
            Do you have a passion for teaching?  How do you demonstrate that passion?  What activities, projects, or assignments have you engaged in that demonstrate your passion for teaching?  What have you done that shows you are willing to go the extra mile for students?  What have you done that demonstrates your sincere commitment to teaching?  Where have you gone above and beyond?  Did you do something in student teaching beyond the ordinary?  Did you do something during your pre-service years that went above and beyond your college’s requirements for teacher certification?  What truly excites you about teaching?  What “floats your boat”?

2.  Skills and Experience
            One of the first things you need to do in any interview is to establish your ability to do the job.  In a nutshell – Can you teach and can you teach effectively?  In most interviews these will be the initial set of questions you’ll be asked.  Many of these questions will be factual in nature and will provide you with an opportunity to highlight your skills and talents and how they will be used in a classroom setting.  This is when you must offer specific information rather than generalities.  It is also the time to be completely objective about yourself – with confidence and assurance.
           How do you put together a lesson plan?  What do you do when a lesson isn’t working?  Describe one of your best lessons?  What will you bring to the teaching profession?  Why should we hire you?  Why do you want to be a teacher?  What did you learn in student teaching?  Please don’t make the mistake of assuming that these are easy questions – they are not!  They are often asked near the beginning of the interview because they help “set up” the rest of the interview.  Positive answers to these questions help ensure the success of the entire interview.