Thursday, December 23, 2010

Your Most Challenging Discipline Problem

     Q:   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.

            You can almost “bet the farm” that you’ll get asked one or two discipline-related questions.  Count on it!  The principal or interviewer wants to know how you handle one of the “constants” in the life of any classroom teacher.  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. 

     Before the interview, identify two or three specific discipline “problems” you encountered during student teaching.  Write each of those out on an index cards (don’t use actual names) and detail how you handled each one in a positive way.  Make sure that you do not over-emphasize the “negatives” of the situation, but rather the “positives” (what you learned, how the students(s) improved, etc.).  Keep those cards with you and review them periodically before any scheduled interview.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What is Your Greatest Weakness?

     Q.  What is your greatest weakness?
     A:   People sometimes tell me that I come up with too many creative ideas.  I’m always trying to think “outside the box” when I design lesson plans, units, or extended projects.  I always want to include more activities and more projects in my lessons and sometimes find my self getting impatient when I don’t have enough time to do them all.  I’m still learning how to be more patient with my creativity.

           This is one of the best questions in any interview – for both the interviewers and the respondent.  Always be ready for this one!  This is not the time to be negative and to rant and rave about all your imperfections or, even worse, the imperfections of others.  Don’t ever admit to a weakness in teaching a particular subject, or in classroom management, or disciplining students.  Select one or two personality attributes that are more general than specific.  For example, trying to do too much, being a perfectionist, running out of time, not getting to everything on a “To Do” list.  These are “imperfections” we all have and that we all wrestle with.  This is the only time you don’t want to be too specific.  Select an “innocent” weakness and frame it in positive terms.  Above all, keep your response short and sweet.