Monday, August 22, 2016

Your Classroom Environment: Different Cultures

In my discussions with principals around the country, this 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.  Demonstrate (with specific details) how you have been part of this process.

     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!
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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Resolving Classroom Conflicts

A principal or interviewer wants to hear, not just about the successes you’ve had, but also how you have dealt with some of the inevitable challenges of day-to-day teaching.  As a result, here's a question you're likely to get:

Describe a time in student teaching when you failed to resolve a classroom conflict.

A:   We had this student in second grade – Matthew – who was very hyperactive.  He was on meds, but his parents always forgot to give him his medication before he came to school.  As a result, one of us had to maintain very close proximity to Matthew throughout the day in order to keep him in check.  In hindsight, I would have worked harder to establish open lines of communication with his parents.  I would have created a more intensive classroom behavior modification program that would have rewarded Matthew for good behavior.  I would have focused more on those times when Matthew exhibited good behavior and would have established a concrete plan of action to record those successes.
In responding, always focus on the positive – never blame a student or his parents.  Show what you learned as a result of this experience and how you might use that experience to address a similar challenge in the future.  Keep the spotlight on the fact that you are vitally interested in improving your teaching skills and that you are always willing to grow and learn.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Are You a Team Player?

One of the essential “ingredients” in every new employee is the ability to work well with others and the ability to be part of a highly functioning team.  The interviewer wants to know how you will become part of the “education team” and that your personality will complement the staff already in place.  Here's a question you're likely to hear (in one form or another) in almost any interview.

    How will you compliment this school?

     A:   I particularly enjoy an environment in which there is a great deal of camaraderie and support.  My two previous visits to Deer Valley High School revealed that teachers here are quite supportive of each other.  There are book discussion groups, teacher-led in-service meetings, and several social events throughout the year.  There is a spirit of cooperation and collegial support throughout the school – a sprit I can embrace and prosper in.
This is an opportunity to assure the interviewer that you are a true “team player.”  You’ll also note that this is a good question to determine whether you have done your homework on the school prior to your interview.

Monday, August 1, 2016

What Sets You Apart?

Here's a most interesting question that pops up every now and again.  If you're not careful, this can be a tricky one (and many people have "stubbed their toe" on this query).  Don’t sound arrogant with your answer to this question; but display a sense of confidence.  This would be a good opportunity to bring in the observations, perceptions, and evaluations of others – particularly those who have observed you during your student teaching experience. 

     What sets you apart from the crowd?

     A:   I guess you could say that I’m success-oriented.  I really like it when my students succeed – not just one or two – but when everyone has the chance to improve in some selected area – whether that is social studies, science, music, or language arts.  I’ve been known to create several different versions of the same lesson plan – my own differentiated curriculum – so that every child has the opportunity to enjoy some measure of success.  My friends would say that success is my passion; my college supervisor would say that it’s really part of who I am.  It’s something I hope will be part of every lesson I create and every child I work with.
Your answer should be short and pithy – never drone on about everything you did during student teaching or in your pre-service field experiences.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Teaching Learning Disabled Students

Here’s a question that frequently arises in teacher interviews, for both elementary and secondary positions.  This is a grand opportunity for you to show both a breadth and depth of knowledge about special needs students
What are some strategies you plan on using to teach learning disabled students?
     A:   I am aware that learning disabled students will present me with some unique and distinctive challenges.  Therefore, it is important for me to remember that LD students are not students who are incapacitated or unable to learn; rather, they need differentiated instruction tailored to their distinctive learning abilities.  Some of the strategies I plan to use include, 1) I plan to provide learning disabled students with frequent progress checks.  I want them to know how well they are progressing toward an individual or class goal.  2) I plan to give immediate feedback to my learning disabled students.  They need to see quickly the relationship between what was taught and what was learned.  3) Whenever possible, I need to make my activities concise and short.  Long, drawn-out projects are particularly frustrating for a learning disabled child.  And, 4) I know that learning disabled children need and should get lots of multisensory experiences.  A multisensory approach will help these students learn to the best of their abilities.  I’m confident I can address the specific needs of the learning disabled students in my classroom.
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.