Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Master Teacher?

Do you know what it takes to be an outstanding teacher?  What qualities or beliefs do excellent teachers share in common?  What distinguishes a great teacher from a good teacher?  these are questions always in the mind of every interviewer.  He or she wants to know if 1) you know what make up a great teachers, and 2) How do you compare with those standards?  Here's a questions that often surfaces in interviews:

     What characteristics make a master teacher?
     A:   I believe there are three qualities every outstanding teacher should have.  First, he or she should be a constant learner.  They should realize that education is as much about the journey as it is the destination.  Continuous learning is an essential ingredient in every teacher’s career.  Second, they need to develop a positive partnership with their students.  They need to create a classroom that is truly a “Community of Learners” – one that supports and encourages learners of very stripe both cognitively and affectively.  And, third, a master teacher must be willing to admit mistakes.  Teaching is never a perfect science and we will all make some mistakes along the way.  Good teachers – just like good students – learn from their mistakes to become stronger, better, and more accomplished.  I believe I have those three qualities.
The interviewer wants to know if you are aware of the qualities of outstanding teachers AND how well you match those qualities.  From your answer the interviewer must be confident that you are keenly aware of the expectations of teachers and must be equally aware that your skills and talents are in line with those abilities and/or philosophy.  If you are not directly asked this question, it would be a good one to use as a wrap-up to the interview – particularly in response to a question like, “Is there anything else you would like to say or add to this interview?”
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How's your resume?
Is it the best it can be?
Does it have everything a principal needs to know?
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Monday, May 15, 2017

Why Weren't Your Grades Better?

Here's a tricky question that frequently comes up in an interview situation - particularly when your GPA isn't as strong as you would like.  Obviously, you don't want to hide from the truth...rather you want to be completely open and honest with the interviewer.  Your honesty will play a large role in the eventual hiring decision.

     Why weren’t your grades better?

     A:   I had a great educational experience.  I learned a lot while in college – not only about the art of teaching, but also about myself.  I learned that if you want to succeed you need to devote yourself 100% all the time.  When I first got to college I was overwhelmed by all the requirements, all the responsibilities, and all the activities on and off campus.  I got involved in lots of clubs, lots of organizations, and lots of extra-curricular activities.  As a result, my grades suffered during my first two years.  It was only when I was enrolled in my teacher-preparation courses that I realized that I would need to buckle down and commit myself 100% to my chosen profession.
Whatever you do – don’t make excuses when answering this question.  Always take responsibility for your actions (or inactions).  Don’t try to bluff your way out of this question – the interviewer probably has seen your transcript and knows exactly what your GPA is.  Own up to your mistakes, take responsibility, and show how you have grown as a result.  Never get defensive or place blame.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Dealing with Different Cultures

In my discussions with principals around the country, there was a question that was quite often asked, in one form or another, in teacher interviews.  Administrators expressed to me the fact that in today’s pluralistic society, teachers need to be aware of the many faces they will see in their classrooms and the ways in which those children can be informed and ways in which they (and their culture) can be celebrated. 

     Describe how you will deal with different cultures in your classroom.

     A:   Good teachers are always sensitive to their students’ cultural backgrounds.  They respect students’ languages, customs, traditions, and beliefs.  They never make fun of students who are different, but rather celebrate these new opportunities for enriching the learning experiences of all children.  One of the most effective ways of doing that, I’ve discovered, is through the use of relevant children’s literature.  Reading books about people from different cultures, developing units about customs and traditions in various parts of the world, and exposing students to the beliefs and ways of immigrants from various parts of the world with literature can be some of the most effective ways of helping students understand and appreciate the multicultural world we live in.  I had the unique opportunity to develop and teach a thematic unit on multicultural literature while in student teaching…and I’ll never forget it!

Demonstrate (with specific details) how you have been part of this process.  Let the interviewer know that you are excited about the possibility of working in a diverse classroom.  You'll be sending a very positive message...one sure to help you rise above the competition.

 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Positive Classroom Environment


Among all the themes of a teacher interview, interviewers want to know most about your philosophy of teaching.  They need to know if you've given sufficient attention to this all important component of pedagogical success and whether you would be a "good fit" for the philosophy of the school or the current faculty.  This is one area you cannot neglect - simply because you will get several "philosophy" questions during the course of any interview.  Here's one of them:

To establish a positive classroom environment, share what you will do the first few days of school.

A:   I know that those initial days of a new school year are critical, as well as anxious – especially for ninth-grade students.  Some of the things I would do would include 1) meeting and greeting my students at the door to my classroom.  I want to shake their hands, call them by name, and welcome them into the room.  2) I want to establish a seating pattern or seating chart early on.  I’d want to assign them to desks alphabetically, at least initially, so I can learn their names quicker.  3) I would want to talk briefly about myself – sharing with students my own education, my family, and especially my philosophy of education in general and English education specifically.  4) I’d want to take attendance each day, making sure I add a positive comment about each student as I begin learning their names and the correct pronunciation of those names.  5)  I would also share an initial set of rules and classroom expectations – no more than five in number – and invite them to help establish additional classroom procedures throughout the year.  Finally, 6) I would inform students about my expectations for each class and each period.  They need to know my expectations about bringing textbooks, note taking, homework assignments, and appropriate behavior.  I know it’s a tall order – but one that will be essential to the eventual success I envision for every student.
Here’s an opportunity to answer two questions in one.  First, what is your philosophy of teaching?  And, two, have you sufficiently thought about and planned out those critical first days of school?  You want the interviewer to know that you have planned ahead, not that you’ve just made up the answer right there on the spot.
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Saturday, April 22, 2017

What Frustrated You?

Most interviewers include questions designed to probe how you react to criticism.  Are you someone who blames everyone else when things don’t go right?  Or, are you someone who takes advice and uses it in a positive way to become a better teacher?  How you answer these questions will determine whether you are a "team player" or someone who blames everyone else for your mistakes or over sights.  Here's a typical question:

     Tell me about a situation that frustrated you during student teaching

     A:   I was frustrated when my college supervisor made me write out my lesson plans for the first ten weeks of student teaching.  Many of my friends only had to write complete lesson plans for the first four weeks and then they went to “block plans.”  However, in talking with my supervisor I learned that it is always advisable to over-plan – that is, write lesson plans that are more detailed and more involved early in the teaching process.  I discovered the advantage of that on two occasions – once when an assembly had to be cancelled and another when a teacher on our social studies team called in sick at the last minute.  I sure was glad to have those extended and expanded lessons – they really came in handy.  I understand now why I was asked to do a lot of over-planning early in my student teaching experience.
This is a grand opportunity for you to show how you turned a negative into a positive.  Notice how the respondent took what could have been an "easy way out" and made it something special.  I can assure you that this is someone a principal definitely wants to hire.
 
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It's now the season for interviews.  Make sure you are ready for this all-important event in your professional career.  Be sure to get your copy of Ace Your Teacher Interview (http://amzn.to/2p2D1Xk).