Saturday, March 25, 2017

Your Biggest Challenge

Every once in a while you will be thrown a "zinger" - a question out of the blue that you don't expect and is designed to see how well you can think on your feet.  These questions appear more often than you think and are used to determine your flexibility and thinking skills.  If you are asked one of these questions, pat yourself on the back - it means you're a solid contender for a job.  But, be ready for them at any time - how you answer them can make all the difference in the world.  Here's a classic one:

     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 “No Child Left Behind” and “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.
Rule #1:  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.  Be sure to demonstrate how you have addressed an element of that 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.
ANNOUNCEMENT:  Ace Your Teacher Interview ( has just been selected as a finalist in the Foreword Review Indie Awards in the Career category. The winner will be announced at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago on June 24, 2017

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Hidden Facts About Resumes - Part III

In the previous two posts we talked about some of the hidden elements in resumes, including: 1) most principals don't read an entire resume, 2) a resume is not a summary of your life, 3) your resume may be your most important document in any application, and 4) resumes must always engender a positive first impression.  This week's article focuses on one of the least known, yet most critical, facts of resume writing - your ability to tell a story.  Let's take a look.

Good Resumes Tell Stories
From the earliest of times, humans have always enjoyed good stories (remember, these were the times before Facebook and Twitter).  In many civilizations and cultures professional storytellers were revered and praised and it was quite the social event to have one of these professionals wander into a village and share his tales of imaginary animals, great battles, or fantastical kingdoms.  These stories were both compelling and memorable.

Most people make the unfortunate mistake of assuming that a resume is merely a listing of the things one has done in all her or his previous jobs.  Not so!  A good resume is one that tells a story.  After all, would you rather have someone read you a list of all the different pairs of shoes a popular singer has or would you rather hear a story about a day in the life of a popular singer?  So it is with resumes - you can capture (and keep) the attention of a busy school administrator much better with a series of stories than you can with a listing of accomplishments.
In most cases, a typical resume is a bland recitation of standardized phrases and common descriptions - nothing that grabs (and holds) the attention of a reader.  These documents are simple and straightforward listings - there is no representation of the vibrant, exciting, or energetic human being who wrote about those events.  On the other hand, a resume of stories sets you apart from the crowd - it adds personality to your document and makes you memorable.
            Fact:  “Was responsible for teaching social studies lessons and assessing students.”
            Story:  “Designed and taught an inquiry-based/ hands-on social studies unit focused on ‘Time and Timekeeping’ which has now been incorporated into the overall sixth grade curriculum.  End-of-year assessments indicated a 17% improvement over the previous year’s scores in social studies.”

Stories also have the advantage of creating images in the minds of readers or listeners.  It is those images that make a story memorable.  Think about some of your courses.  The ones you enjoyed most were those that offered up stories, anecdotes, or vignettes about various topics.  The courses you liked the least were those that focused, almost entirely, on the memorization of facts, data, and (apparently useless) bits of information.
Do you want to write a resume that captures the attention of a busy administrator, a resume that makes a positive impression every time, and a resume that will get you a job interview?  If you answered "Yes," then you'll want to check out Ace Your Teacher Resume (and Cover Letter) -

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Hidden Facts About Resumes - Part II

This week's posting continues our discussion of some of the hidden elements of teacher resumes.  Since many readers are now in the process of constructing these all-important documents, here are some additional ideas for you to keep in mind:

Principals Don’t Read Every Item on Your Resume.  Every building principal has numerous and non-stop responsibilities.  They must handle a whirlwind of duties, demands, schedules, unexpected events, and last minute chores that strain their patience and their resolve.  It’s like a circus performer who juggles fifteen bowling balls while encouraging a dozen lions to jump through flaming hoops AND walking a tightrope a hundred feet in the air.  And, that’s every day.  To say that principals are overworked and overscheduled would be to understate the obvious.

With their time so precious it is not unusual for many administrators to have developed a series of time-saving techniques and strategies that help them wade through an, oftentimes, towering stack of job applications.  Over the years, they have learned various signs and signals that identify those resumes that are less than professional, as well as those signs and signals that designate resumes that are the “cream of the crop.”  As a result, it is not necessary to read every single item on every single resume to know which ones are outstanding and which ones will be deposited in the nearest “circular file.”  Here are the key factors principals look for: a short, brief objective, action verbs (for Professional Teaching Experiences) in the past tense, statistics that confirm what you've taught, sufficiently high G.P.A., appropriate certification, one page in length, and white space.
Your resume is not a summary of your life.  Here are descriptions written by two separate individuals.  Based solely on these brief overviews, which person do you think principals would be most interested in meeting?

A - “I have been interested in computers ever since I was in third grade.  When I was in high school I was the vice-president of the Cedarville Computer Club.  I learned a lot about computers there.  When I went to college I was able to work on a really cool computer program.  It was a very successful program used by many people on campus.”

B - “Developed and designed an innovative app matching singles across campus.  After a 3-month trial run, assessment data revealed a 23% increase in the number of confirmed dates visiting Murph’s Study Hall (the local student hangout) on Saturday evenings.”

Not surprisingly, most principals would select Person B.  That’s simply because B provides readers with a “product” to sell.  He or she marketed himself or herself by appealing to a basic need.  Person A, on the other hand, just described something about himself or herself.  That individual simply shared some personal information.  He or she was not particularly interested in what the reader wanted or what a principal may have been looking for.  They simply related some events from their past.  In short, not very exciting stuff!

If you'd like additional information that expands and elaborates on those themes, please obtain a copy of Ace Your Teacher Resume (and Cover Letter) -

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Hidden Facts About Resumes - Part I

Over the course of the next three weeks, I'll share some amazing facts about teacher resumes.  Knowing these principles ahead of time can save you from making classic resume blunders and give you a leg up on the competition you will be facing in securing the teaching job of your dreams.

Your Resume is Your Most Important Document.  In conversations with school administrators from around the country one fact became abundantly clear: Of all the documents you might submit to a school or district in response to an advertised job opening, it is the resume that is THE MOST IMPORTANT DOCUMENT.  I purposely capitalized letters in the previous sentence to focus your attention on this critical and essential fact of life.  There is a good chance that all of the other material in your application packet will go unread (initially) and that your resume will be the single document that will determine if you get considered for a future interview.

While the statement above may shock you, it’s part of the reality of the job most administrators face every day.  Selecting a new member of the faculty is just one of a plethora of responsibilities principals have to accomplish…and that’s on top of all the other duties and tasks that take up major portions of their day.  As a result, many principals have developed strategies that help them sort through an (often) enormous stack of applications - strategies that are both time-saving and efficient.  Truth be told, most administrators have, over the term of their career, developed ways to quickly and easily read a resume to see if there is a match between a candidate and a job.
That’s not to say that everything else in your application packet is unimportant.  Those other documents will be used to supplement the information included on your resume.  However, you must pass the “resume test” first.  If you do, then the other items are “value added” documents.  However, if you do not pass the “resume test” the other items are seldom, if ever, reviewed.  Bottom line: Your resume is your most important document!

First Impressions Do Count!  I recently attended a Teacher Recruitment Fair - one held every spring in our local area.  Over five dozen school district recruiters from across the country (in addition to two from Sweden) were there to offer teaching positions to more than 550 soon-to-be college graduates from eleven different colleges.  As I walked around and visited with recruiters, I asked many of them to offer a critical piece of advice every potential teacher should consider when drafting a resume.  Almost every one of them told me something like, “I have a limited amount of time to read resumes, so remember that first impressions count!”

As you will discover in the book Ace Your Teacher Resume (and Cover Letter) [], recruiters devote a very short amount of time with each and every resume.  You can help them get the most information in the shortest amount of time possible by designing your document so that most of it can be read quickly and efficiently.  No one will read your entire resume during an initial screening process so it is vitally important that its design be clear, simple, and clean.  Keep the reader in mind - the question shouldn’t be “How can I present myself in the best way?”, but rather, “How can I help the reader learn why I’m the best qualified for the position - in the most effective way possible?”

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Perfect Resume: Sell, Don't Tell

In my conversations with professional recruiters, school district administrators, and college career counselors throughout the country, one critical piece of advice kept coming up again and again.  Here it is:

A job search is all about marketing.

The bottom line in any job search is that you are trying to sell yourself - more specifically, you are trying to sell someone on the benefits of you and the benefits you will bring to a school or school district.  In short, you are the product.  Just like a flashy new car, the latest and greatest technological innovation, or a newly released drug designed to eradicate specific pain and suffering, you are a product.  Someone could tell me about all the features on that new car, but that wouldn’t inspire me to want to purchase the car.  What they need to do is sell me on all those new features…why do I need those specific features on that specific car?  When they do that they’re trying to sell me the car.
 Professional resume writers will tell you that the single-most important feature they include in every single resume they write is the “Sell, Don’t Tell” strategy.  When you “tell it” you are simply stating basic facts (“I taught fourth grade science.”).  On the other hand, when you “sell it” you are drawing attention to it, you are advertising it, you are promoting it, and you are underlining its importance to the consumer (“Initiated and developed an inquiry-based life science curriculum for fourth grade students - one that resulted in an 11% gain in standardized test scores.”).

Master resume writers will tell you that the “Sell, don’t tell” strategy should be woven into every single item included on a well-written resume.  Ignore it and your resume will sound like every other resume.

Let’s look at the difference:

Tell it
Sell it
“Taught four sections of chemistry during student teaching.”
“Designed and produced a revision to the 10th grade chemistry curriculum that resulted in heighted awareness of chemistry in everyday activities along with a 17% improvement in overall attitudes towards chemistry.”
“Tutored a child.”
“Tutored special needs child in reading and writing resulting in an increased reading level of two grades.”
“Read stories to children at the public library.”
“Set up and ran a Saturday morning read-aloud club at the local library which resulted in a 19% increase in attendance of patrons over the length of the project.”
“Was a volunteer coach for the junior varsity soccer team.”
“Established a physical fitness program for junior varsity soccer players that resulted in a significant decrease in athletic injuries and a heighted awareness of sustained conditioning exercises.”
“Taught high school math.”
“Instructed algebra, geometry, and pre-calculus students in grades 9-11.  Developed and implemented appropriate lesson plans and assessments to meet state standards, resulting in a 93% advanced or proficient rating in 11th grade PSSA.”
“Wrote a new social studies unit.”
“Researched and designed an interactive unit on the Underground Railroad that resulted in improved attitudes about the role of African-Americans in U.S. history along with a statistically significant improvement in student mid-term grades.”
As you review the chart above, you can see that “selling” yourself (as opposed to “telling” yourself) results in slightly longer statements.  Does that mean some more work for you?  You bet!  But, with the “Sell, don’t tell” philosophy you are putting your best features “front and center.”  Any reader will get a clearer picture of just who you are.

Looking for more resume ideas?
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