Sunday, November 20, 2016

Your Most Creative Lesson

Most interviewers want to know what your strengths are.  Where do you shine?  What skills would you bring to the school?  What are some positive aspects of your teacher training program?  The following question is designed to showcase your talents - an opportunity to underscore your philosophy...and how you put it into action.

     What’s the most creative or innovative lesson you taught?

     A:   During the fifth week of student teaching I contacted a family friend at Prospect Hill Cemetery.  He provided my fifth grade class with a tour of the Cemetery.  When we got back to the classroom we divided the class into several teams.  One team worked on a PowerPoint presentation, another team created a timeline of important events in the life of the cemetery from the Revolutionary War to the present, another team looked into burial customs from around the world, another team of students developed an annotated bibliography of books about death and dying, and the final team gathered oral histories from some of the docents and volunteers at the Cemetery.  What was originally conceived as a three-week project eventually turned into a two month multi-disciplinary project that combined social studies, art, music, language arts, and reading into a most exciting thematic unit.
This is a grand opportunity to provide a specific and concrete example of how you went “above and beyond” the usual lesson planning for student teaching.  Be sure to provide specific details and any reactions you obtained from supervisors or administrators.  Show, as much as possible, how you are willing to pursue projects that are somewhat out of the ordinary – projects that engage students in creative or innovative ways.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Second Career Choice?

It is not unusual to be asked a "zinger" - a particularly challenging question designed to determine the strength of your philosophy or the intensity of your commitment to teaching.  Here's an example that frequently pops up in many interviews:

     What was your second career choice?

     A:   I’ve never considered anything else but teaching.  I’ve been influenced by many teachers in my life – from elementary school all the way through college.  I know how one teacher can change the life of one student.  Perhaps I was that student – an average individual who was pushed to excel by Mrs. McDonald in sixth grade, challenged to go above and beyond by Mr. Donahoe in tenth grade, and inspired to create a “hands-on, minds-on” curriculum by Dr. Oliver in college.  Teachers have had a profound influence in my life and I would like to make the same kind of difference in the lives of my students.  I can’t think of any other profession, or any other occupation, that would give me the opportunity to change lives – in such a positive way – as teaching.  For me, there is no second career.  I want to teach!
Don’t even think about suggesting an alternate career path.  This is when you must convince the interviewer – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that your life’s mission is teaching.  Demonstrate your singular passion for the field and let it be clear that teaching is in your blood, is an integral part of who you are, and is the singular pursuit of your life.  This is not the time to be wishy-washy – this is the time to be clear, passionate, and compelling about your career choice.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Full Inclusion Classrooms

Here’s a question that frequently arises in teacher interviews, for both elementary and secondary positions.  This is an opportunity for you to show both a breadth and depth of knowledge about special needs students.  If you are “running neck and neck” with another candidate, your detailed and specific response to this question will always tip the scales in your favor.

     What are some teaching methods used in full inclusion classrooms?

     A:   One method is the One Teach One Support method.  With this method students sit in rows in front of the chalkboard and instructing teacher.  As the teacher, I would station myself off to the right or left of the students in order to provide extra help and support as needed. In this model the participants are all following my instruction so that no child is excluded.  I could also use Station Teaching. Using this method my classroom would be divided into two, even three, different sections.  One group of students would be situated facing horizontally toward the blackboard; the second would be arranged vertically facing the right wall.  If a third group is present they would be arranged parallel to their vertically arranged classmates and will be turned to face the opposite wall or the front of the classroom.  Students with special needs will be divided among these groups evenly.  A third method I could use would be Parallel Teaching.  In this case my classroom would be arranged so that students are split into two groups. These two groups would be placed back to back with students from each group facing me.  One group would face me in the front of the classroom, and the other group with face the special education teacher in the rear of the classroom.  Students with special needs would be divided equally between these two groups and their classmates - making sure that one group doesn’t contain all the special needs students.  Of course, these aren’t the only options I could use, but they are some of the most effective in terms of a full inclusion classroom.
If the answer above sounds detailed and specific – that is intentional.  If I was a betting person, I could almost guarantee you that you’ll get a question (or two) regarding inclusion.  Take the time and make the effort to know everything you can about inclusion.


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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Most Challenging Discipline Problem

You can almost “bet the farm” that you’ll get asked one or two discipline-related questions in any interview.  The principal or interviewer wants to know how you handle one of the “constants” in the life of any classroom teacher.  Here's one of the most frequently asked questions: 

     Tell me about your most challenging discipline problem.

     A:   That would be Derek!  In a word, Derek was unmotivated.  He could care less about history and he could care less about life in general.  For Derek, everything was boring.  In a conversation I had with him I discovered that he loved stock cars and probably knew more about stock cars than most of the people who raced them.  One day I brought in a photo of my brother’s stock car and showed it to Derek.  His face lit up like a Christmas tree!  I arranged for Derek and my brother to meet after school one day and the two of them couldn’t stop talking for hours – stock cars, stock cars, stock cars!  From then on I had his attention.  He and I worked out a simple behavior plan – he’d do a certain amount of homework or a class assignment and in return he’d earn some points.  The ultimate reward was the opportunity to work the pits at one of my brother’s races at Williams Grove Speedway.  I never saw a student change so much as Derek.  His final project for the course was on the history of stock car racing.  It was phenomenal!  Nobody had taken the time to find out what Derek was all about…but when we did he was a changed person.
In response to the question, you should provide a specific example and show how you addressed the issue with specific details.  Never talk in generalities on matters of discipline; demonstrate with specific details and specific examples how you dealt with an issue. 
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Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Most Difficult Aspect of Teaching

Principals want to know whether you have a cogent and solid philosophy of teaching.  If your philosophy isn't well-established by the time of an interview, you will be casting considerable doubt on your ability to do the job.  Here's a question (and response) that frequently comes up in many interviews.

     What do you think is the most difficult aspect of being a teacher?

     A:   Patience.  One of the toughest lessons I learned is that change does not come about overnight.  Just because I put together a dynamite lesson plan doesn’t necessarily mean that every student will “get it” the first time around.  Just because I make a sincere effort to involve parents in the affairs of my class doesn’t mean that every parent will come on board.  And just because I reprimand a student for some inappropriate behavior doesn’t mean that he will change right away.  I have to always keep in mind that good teaching, like good gardening, always involves a large measure of patience.  A gardener doesn’t expect all his seeds to sprout at the same time; neither should a good teacher.  I think that if I can keep that concept in mind then I’ll be successful in this profession.
Here’s an opportunity for a large dose of humility and an equally large dose of reality.  Show that you’ve done some self-evaluation and demonstrate that you’ve learned something in the process.  You’ll win a lot of fans that way.
Check it out: