Sunday, April 15, 2018

Your Professional Goals

Are you a planner?  Do you have goals for the future?  How will you improve as a teacher?  These are all questions in the mind of any interviewer.  Not only are you being hired for your teaching expertise; so too, are you being hired for what you might contribute to the school down the line.  principals want to know if you're in it "for the long haul."  As a result, you can expect a question just like this one:

     What are your professional goals for the next five years?

     A:   First, I want to attend graduate school and get my masters in Curriculum and Instruction.  Beyond that I would like to continue to take graduate courses and in-service courses so that I can stay current in the field.  Second, I would like to attend a number of regional and national conferences so that I can connect with other middle school teachers in addition to staying up-to-date on the latest strategies and techniques for teaching at the middle school level.  Third, I would like to contribute to some professional magazine and journals.  One of my college professors helped me prepare a paper for submission to a student publication and I guess the writing bug really bit me as a result.  I’d like to write some articles and share my ideas and thoughts on teaching social studies.
Have a plan of action – if you don’t, the position will probably be offered to someone else.  Make sure that your plan includes a focus on the school’s needs.  Don’t say that you want a graduate degree because you’ll make more money; rather say that you want to attend grad school in order to stay current and make more of a contribution to the school.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Who Else Are You Interviewing With?

Every so often you'll be asked a "tricky question" - a question that seems to come right "out of the blue."  You need to be prepared and ready for these questions simply because they are often used to separate the good candidates from the great candidates.  Here's one that I've heard used in many teacher interviews - one that frequently trips up applicants simply because they give out too much information.

     Who else are you interviewing with?

     A:   I’ve applied for primary-level teaching positions in four different school districts in Big Bear County.  I currently have two other interviews scheduled and hope to finalize a position within the next few weeks.
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by saying that you are also interviewing as a basketball coach at the local YMCA, a position as a part-time counselor at a day-care facility for mentally-challenged adults, and a couple of school positions.  You want the interviewer to know that you are absolutely and unequivocally committed to teaching (at the advertised grade level or subject area).  Don’t make the mistake of sharing all the jobs and positions available in the area.  Demonstrate that you are focused on and committed to a specific teaching position.  Trying to impress an interviewer with a wide range of possible jobs – both in and out of education – will only backfire on you.  One more thing - when asked this question, keep your answer short…very short.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

What Do You Enjoy Most?

One of the main purposes of an interview is to discover an individual's underlying philosophy.  It doesn't matter whether you're applying for the CEO of a major corporation, a sale clerk at a local department store, or a teaching position.  The interviewer wants to know what you stand for, what you believe, and whether you will be a good "fit" for the organization.  As a result, here is a question certain to arise in almost every interview you have.

     What do you enjoy most about working with young people?

     A:   I particularly enjoy their natural sense of curiosity – the way they ask questions, the way they pose problems, and the ways in which they look at the world.  One of the most powerful books I read recently was “Mindset” by Carol Dweck.  In that book she talks about how everyone has one of two mindsets - “Growth” or “Fixed.”  Her research showed that mindset unfolds in childhood and ultimately drives every aspect of our lives.  In addition, she showed how creative geniuses in all fields - music, literature, science, sports, business - apply the growth mindset - that eternal sense of curiosity - to achieve results.  Even more important, Dweck demonstrated how we can change our mindset at any stage of life to achieve true success and fulfillment.  I want to foster, promote, and stimulate that growth mindset in my classroom – a classroom that promotes, supports, and enhances curiosity ultimately leading to academic and personal success.
Here’s a question where your passion for teaching will come through – either loud and clear…or soft and indistinct.  Let the interviewer know you are in it for the kids…and not for anything else.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Tell Me Something About Yourself

Here's a frequent question that can catch you "off guard" if you're not prepared.  It's one that surfaces quite often and is used to determine how well-prepared you are for the interview as well as how well you can "think on your feet."  Since many resumes often sound very similar to each other, this is an excellent opportunity to your to "separate yourself from the pack."
Tell me something about yourself that I didn’t know from reading your resume.

     A:   You may not know that I’ve been tutoring a young man from Chile who is attempting to learn English so he can get his driver’s license.  I met Juan Carlos through my work at the YMCA and have been working with him for the past seven months.  He’s still struggling with basic English, but I’ve been able to find some good materials through the local literacy center.  Fortunately, I can speak a little bit of Spanish, so we are able to communicate.  It’s been a tough road, but he’s making some great progress now and hopes to take his driver’s exam very soon.

This is not the time to repeat the obvious – that is, what anyone could find on your resume.  Think about a skill, a talent, or an experience that doesn’t quite fit on the resume, but which signals you as someone willing to go the extra mile or do an extra job.  What makes you unique or different from all the other candidates applying for this same position?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Your Most Creative Lesson

You are undoubtedly aware that you are in competition for a teaching position with lots of other applicants.  As a result, you need to stand out from the crowd; you need to distinguish yourself from everyone else.  An administrator wants to know how you are better than all the other applicants.  Why are you the "top dog?"  This is a question frequently posed in an interview that will answer that question.

     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.