Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tell me about one of your lessons that flopped.

     Q:   Tell me about one of your lessons that flopped.
     A:   During my student teaching experience I put together a science lesson on making homemade ice cream in a zip-loc bag.  It was an activity I had learned in my “Teaching Elementary Science” course.  The lesson was designed to demonstrate how liquids change into solids.  I provided my third grade students with all the materials and with a set of printed directions.  It was halfway through the lesson when I realized that I had listed the wrong amount of salt to use to melt the ice.  In short, the ice wasn’t melting and the milk mixture wasn’t turning into ice cream.  In fact, nothing happened.  In hindsight I should have practiced the activity at home before using it with the students.  I explained to the students that scientists make mistakes all the time – in fact, there are many scientific discoveries (penicillin, electric light bulb) that are the result of unintentional mistakes.  I wanted to let them know that even teachers make mistakes and that it’s O.K. to flub up every once in a while.  You could discover something new.  Next time, however, I’ll test any experiment before teaching it.

            Every teacher has had lessons that bombed.  Don’t make the mistake of saying that you haven’t had at least one or more “duds” in your student teaching experience.  The interviewer will know, instantly, that you are trying to con him or her.  By the same token, it’s always a good idea to approach any disappointment or problem from a positive angle.  Never blame anyone (but yourself) and always demonstrate how you were able to turn a potential negative into a positive.  Demonstrate an ability to reflect on your mistakes and use those mistakes as stepping stones to become a more accomplished teacher.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What would you consider to be a good homework assignment?

     Q:  What would you consider to be a good homework assignment?
     A:   Many students think homework is a form of academic punishment.  They will often ask, “What does this have to do with anything?”  Thus, it would be important for me to ensure that there is some kind of connection between the homework I assign such that it will help students connect with the real world.  In short, students need to understand the “why?” in each homework assignment – and the “Why?” is not something like, “Because I told you so.”  In student teaching I tried to help my fourth graders see the relevance of mathematics to their everyday lives.  Examples of homework assignments I used included the following:  1) Find 15 items in your house that are rectangles, 2) Select one of your mother’s favorite recipes and double it, 3) Use a menu from a local restaurant and plan a meal for four people within a budget of $50.00, and 4) Locate a chart or graph in the local newspaper and explain what it means in words.  I discovered that this “real-world” connection was also a great motivational aid, too.

            The interviewer wants to know if you’ve had personal experience in putting all your “book knowledge” into practice.  Plan to answer this question with specific examples and specific anecdotes from your pre-service training.  Let him or her know that you have “walked the walk.”

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What were some of the things you didn’t like about student teaching?

     Q:  What were some of the things you didn’t like about student teaching?
     A:   I was sometimes frustrated about the time schedule.  The periods were all divided into 90-minute time frames.  My students and I would sometimes really get into a topic and then we’d have to end because the bell rung.  I found it upsetting that there wasn’t always sufficient time to cover all the material AND provide students with enough guided practice to put that information into practice.  It sometimes seemed as though we were prisoners to the clock.  But, it did teach me about time management and the fact that I need to provide complete lessons in a designated time frame.  That’s something I continue to work on.

            The best way to answer this question is to respond with something that has absolutely nothing to do with your abilities or your performance.  Identify something that is outside your control – the schedule, the clock, the bus schedule, the constant entrance and exit of students throughout the day, or the lack of adequate classroom computers.  Make sure your response is about something over which you had no control.