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.
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Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Biggest Challenge for Teachers

Be sure you are up to date on the latest educational theories, initiatives, “hot topics,” and issues.  You will, sometime during the interview, be asked about your opinion or your experience in dealing with one of these concerns.  Here's a typical question: 

     What do you think is the biggest challenge teachers face today?

     A:   Teachers are challenged from all sides – the media, parents, government officials, elected leaders, and communities.  We are in the proverbial spotlight – constantly.  That’s why I think that one of the greatest challenges we face is that of assessment.  That is, are students learning to the best of their potential and are teachers providing their students with the best quality education possible.  Educational initiatives such as “Race to the Top” have put educational assessment on the front burner, so to speak, of educational reform.  Are we teaching what we should be teaching and are students achieving as they should be achieving?  During my student teaching experience I was able to fully integrate assessment throughout all my lesson plans – from beginning to end.  For that, I can thank Dr. Cranshaw, who showed me how to effectively integrate assessment throughout any lesson, any unit.  I certainly don’t have all the answers regarding assessment, but I’ve received some excellent training and excellent experiences I can use throughout my career.
 Be sure to demonstrate how you have addressed an element of an issue sometime in your pre-service training.  If you don’t you will be sending a very powerful message to the interviewer that you don’t stay up to date and that you are unaware of what is happening outside the classroom.  This is a mistake you can’t afford to make.
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Saturday, October 1, 2016

What Do You Like Best About Teaching?

Interviewers want to know about your philosophy.  They want to know if you have a solid philosophy or whether you've just developed your philosophy in the last 24 hours or so.  Your philosophy reveals a lot about who you are as a teacher; it also gives an interviewer solid information about where you stand on critical issues.  Here's a typical query:

     What do you like best about teaching?  What do you like least?
     A:   For me, teaching is an incredibly rewarding career!  It offers unlimited possibilities to influence generations of students, imparting to them the excitement of learning, the passion of discovery, and the magic of an inquisitive mind.  I believe that teaching is both a science and an art.  It is also a way of making a difference in the lives of others.  It is the shaping of minds and the shaping of futures.                       
            What I like least would probably be the fact that I have a limited amount of time to work with my students.  I have only 180 school days and seven-and-a-half hours in each of those days to share with them all the wonderful things they can learn.  While I can’t change the time I have available, I can change students’ lives.  I can’t think of anything more exciting.
 Don’t select controversial topics for your response.  You won’t know where the interviewer stands on those topics and you don’t want to upset her or him.  Select topics that are non-controversial or non-confrontational.
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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.