Sunday, November 20, 2011

Teaching Job Search Conference

On December 3, the director of Career Development Services (CDC) and I are conducting a "teacher job search conference" for 75 student teachers and their college supervisors.

BRIEF OVERVIEW
Conference Schedule
8:15 - 8:45 AM Check-in
8:45 - 9:00 AM Welcome and Opening Remarks
9:00-10:00 AM Panel Discussion
10:00-10:15 AM Break - Refreshments
10:15 – 11:30 AM Interactive Workshops – Session 1
11:30-11:45 AM Break - Refreshments
11:45-1:00 PM Interactive Workshops – Session 2
1:05-1:15 PM Closing Remarks, Evaluation, Raffle - Win a College Diploma Frame!

The panel discussion includes six panelists (e.g., three employers, three successful job applicants), and a moderator (CDC director). They will share information about current and future market conditions – educator supply and demand; nature of job applications; the hiring process – important selection factors, job postings, time tables, submitting applications, interviewing, demonstration lessons; and advice for winning a full-time teaching job.

Participants select two of four 75-minute interactive workshops. Three staff from the CDC and I will conduct the workshops. There are pre-conference assignments (e.g., develop drafts of resume, cover letter, component of a hiring portfolio, a story to tell for an interview). Participants bring the completed assignments to the conference workshops. My practical book, The Guide to Winning a Teaching Position in Any Job Market assists participants in developing the materials.

Here are the titles of the workshops:
I. Winning Interviews – Talk Your Way Into a Job!
II. Remarkable Résumés
III. Your Cover Letter as Personal Envoy
IV. Hiring Portfolios. It’s More than a Container of Evidence!

If you are reader of this blog, work in a Career Development Center or supervise student teachers, and interested in bringing a similar conference to your college or university, please email me (mkniseley2@gmail.com)! I'd be glad to talk about the design of the conference and share the feedback from my colleagues and student teachers! Also, I can share my experience of teaching a more intensive one-credit course that prepares students for the job search.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Mastering the Demonstration Lesson

Schools and districts use demonstration lessons to judge a job applicant's knowledge of effective teaching, classroom management, and professional behavior. You can win (or lose) a job based on your performance during a demonstration lesson, so careful preparation is key. You can view my article and two brief videos related to planning demonstration lessons and understanding what employers evaluate during a demonstration lesson by clicking on the following url:

http://www.educationdegree.com/


Scroll down to New Teacher Survival Guide.

Click on “Job Hunt” column.

Click on “Planning an effective demo lesson.”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Profile of a Job Seeker: Application and Interviewing

A May 2011 graduate shared her experiences of winning a special education (severe and profound) teaching job in an elementary school. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and teaching concentration in special education.


Here are her responses to questions related to the application and hiring process experience:


What was the application and hiring process?

I submitted an application towards the end of my third student teaching placement (February 2011). The paper application packet included a cover letter, a résumé, transcript, Praxis test scores, three letters of recommendation, and copies of my certifications. The application was not for a specific position or subbing. I wanted to be sure they had my information on file in case a position opened that I was qualified for. I continued to make follow up calls to human resources to keep up with posted openings as well as jobs that may not have been posted. The district invited me to an interview at the end of June. I interviewed on July 5. This was the only interview in the hiring process. The interview did not include written essays, a demonstration lesson or proctored writing sample.


Tell me about the interview for the position.

The interview lasted 45-60 minutes. I interviewed with the assistant special education director and the school principal in the school principal’s office.

The interview began with these questions:

“What are your strengths?”

“What is an area of weakness for you?”

“What experience do you have that qualifies you for this position?”

Since I completed all three of my student teaching experiences in this district, many questions were based on situations encountered during student teaching and included interactions with parents.

Towards the end of the interview, the assistant special education director asked if I had any questions for him. I asked “How will the district work their mentor program with the new State Department of Education induction program where mentors from the state meet with Step 1 teachers? “Will I get a teacher as a mentor from the school department?” Although he did not have an answer for me at that moment, I learned later that I would only have a mentor from the State Department of Education.


Did you use a hiring portfolio during the interview? If so, how did you use it?

Yes, I used my hiring portfolio (printed binder). I referenced my portfolio throughout the interview. The assistant special education director also looked through my portfolio during the interview. Before leaving the interview, I provided each of the interviewers a folder with a CD e-portfolio, my résumé and cover letter.


What worked particularly well for you during the interview or other aspect of the hiring process?

I felt over-prepared. Before the interview, I worked with a teacher from another district who has sat on many teaching job interview committees. We developed questions and detailed answers to typical interview questions. We worked together for almost four hours. We created a study sheet and role-played. She provided feedback on my practice interviews and helped me understand what worked well and what I could improve. Overall, I understood my material and I was up-to-date on current State Department of Education evaluations and policy. I knew specific “buzz” words that pertained to the district. I knew teaching strategies used in the district’s special education program.


Was there anything you wished you had said/done during the interview or other aspect of the hiring process?

No. To show my capabilities, I brought other work samples created for other severe/profound classrooms where I have worked previously. I explained the materials and why they were created for those specific students. I felt confident in my answers, my portfolio and my materials.


What advice do you have for those who are applying for teaching jobs?

Go into an interview feeling over-prepared. I had so much more confidence going into this interview than I felt in previous interviews. Know the position you are applying for so you are able to tailor your portfolio for that position. It is crucial to do your research. Scour the school and district website, know the population, meet with people who may know “inside” information about the district. And, use those “buzz” words throughout your interview. Show what you know about the school and district. It’s not only impressive but also demonstrates that you prepared well and that you did your homework. Also, don’t be afraid to sell yourself. Explain every experience you may have had in your field and use those experiences as examples to demonstrate what you know and what you have learned.


How did the course and guide “Winning a Teaching Position in Any Job Market” help you?

I truly feel the course helped me to win this teaching position and gain more experience in my field. I was able to develop professional materials such as my résumé, cover letter and, hiring portfolio. My physical portfolio (printed binder) wowed every interview committee member with whom I have had the pleasure of meeting. I received quite a few compliments on the CD e-portfolios that I provided to interview committee members before I left the interview.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Hiring Process - Successful Demonstration Lessons

Increasingly, schools and districts use demonstration lessons to judge a job applicant’s knowledge, skills, and dispositions required for the position. A demonstration lesson is simply a planned lesson taught to the interview committee or a group of students. Sometimes, the committee provides time after teaching the lesson to reflect with the committee.


Employers may instruct you to teach a class of students in the school or teach the committee members specific knowledge or a particular skill. Other employers will allow you to devise a lesson on any knowledge or skill for any grade level.


Here are two different types of demonstration lessons used in the hiring process. An interview committee for Blackstone Valley Prep (charter school in Cumberland RI), observes applicants conduct a brief “read aloud” lesson. Next, they observe the applicant teach a 45-60 minute lesson to a class of students. Immediately following the lesson, the applicant reflects with the interview committee about teaching the lesson and students’ learning. And, shortly thereafter, the applicant re-teaches the same lesson to another group of students.


Applicants for teaching positions in Providence RI Public Schools devise a 15-minute lesson for any subject and grade level and teach the lesson to the interview committee. Sometimes a longer lesson is modified to fit the 15-minute time period. Click here to view Providence's guidelines and suggestions for preparing a successful demonstration lesson.


What can interviewers evaluate?


They can judge how well an applicant plans, organizes, and delivers a purposeful lesson, responds to students, manages individual students and the class, and makes adjustments in the moment of teaching. If the demonstration lesson includes time to debrief the lesson, the interview committee can evaluate the applicant’s ability to reflect, think critically, and use assessment information to improve instruction.


Here are ten tips for a successful demonstration lesson.


1. Don’t wing it. Plan the demonstration lesson well.


2. Begin by learning about the school’s mission, students, curriculum, assessment, and initiatives. Understand the employer’s expectations for the demonstration lesson. Carefully review any available guidelines. If there are no guidelines, ask whether there is something they would like you to teach.


3. Visit the school and the classroom where you will teach. Learn about the curriculum and instructional materials. Interview the classroom teacher and ask him/her about the students’ background knowledge, how the students are learning in this classroom, the curriculum, challenges you may encounter while teaching the students, and their various learning needs. Learn about the classroom teacher’s management system so you can apply it while teaching. Ask for a class roster so you can make table tent name cards in advance. Find out what AV and instructional technology is available.


4. Write a formal lesson plan and make copies for each observer. Demonstrate your ability to apply a “backwards design approach” to planning a lesson. The lesson plan should convey a strong sense of purpose, clear learning outcomes aligned with standards, a system for assessing students during the lesson, and a sequence of learning experiences with a time table. Include suggestions for differentiating instruction. Carefully proofread the plan.


5. If possible, teach a lesson that you have taught previously. You’ll feel more confident and more easily anticipate students’ responses. Rehearse. Practice teaching the lesson so you know it well.


6. Start and end the lesson on time. Your interviewers are on a tight schedule.


7. Distribute “table tent” name cards so you can call students by their first names. Before you start teaching the lesson, quickly get to know your students and build rapport. In a minute or two, you can ask several students to share what they’ve been learning recently and tell them a little about you. Then, engage the students in the first part of the planned lesson.


8. Use interactive teaching strategies that you’re comfortable using. Apply techniques to actively engage your learners throughout the lesson. Use instructional technology if know how to use it well and the IT adds value to your teaching and students’ learning. While teaching, focus on the students - not the observers. Convey passion and enthusiasm throughout. Use eye contact and smile a lot!


9. Prepare to debrief the lesson with the interview committee. Demonstrate your ability to think critically and reflect on the lesson. Begin by explaining two or three things that worked well to help students achieve the learning outcome. Refer to the results of informal assessments. Next, explain what you would do to improve student learning. It’s okay to be self-critical. Everyone can improve regardless of one’s stage of development as a teacher. Finally, request feedback from the committee. Bring a notepad and write notes if the committee offers feedback. If possible, relate the feedback to your goals for professional learning. Evidence of constant professional learning is expected and desired.


10. If there is no debriefing following the lesson, include a brief reflection (e.g., what worked well, what you would do to improve instruction if you re-taught the lesson) in your thank you letters to the interview committee members.


Prepare well for your demonstration lesson. Your employers can observe you apply knowledge, skills, and dispositions that are not easily evaluated in traditional interviews, résumés, cover letters, or written essays. Your outstanding performance during the demonstration lesson could be the evidence needed to win the teaching job!




Profile of a Job Seeker: Application and Interviewing

Here is the application and interview experience of a job seeker who applied for a Grade 2 teaching position in a charter school. Below are details applying for the position and responses to my questions:


Submitted Application: July 5, 2011

Selected for the Interview: July 8, 2011

Interviewed for Position: July 13, 2011


What was the application process?

I submitted an electronic application on the school’s web site. I submitted the application, a cover letter, résumé, three letters of reference, a transcript, and certification.


I was invited to a 20-minute interview on June 21. The interview was scheduled on June 29th.


Tell me about the interview for the position.

The interview lasted 45 minutes. I interviewed in a school’s conference room with the principal, vice principal, Grade 4 teacher, and other school personnel (e.g., principal, Grade 2 and Grade 5 teachers) from a neighboring school. This was the only interview. The interview did not include a demonstration lesson or proctored writing sample.


During the interview, I presented some of my materials while explaining some of my answers to the group. I passed out samples of work and items used during a lesson as well as images and worksheets.


What interview questions did the hiring committee ask?

1. What can you bring to the school district?

2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

3. Describe a science lesson that went really well.

4. What types of technology have you used?

5. What would you do if a parent was concerned about how you graded a paper?

6. How would one of your students describe you?

7. How would you teach reading to a classroom?

8. Describe a lesson that did not go as planned.

9. Describe some math techniques you use.

10. What questions do you have?


What would you have done differently during the interview?

To support my understanding of strategies for teaching diverse learners, I wish I had explained more types of students with whom I have worked.


NOTE TO READERS:

Email me (mkniseley@winateachingjob.com) your success story!

Provide the following information:

1. What was the application and hiring process?

2. Tell me about the interview for the position.

3. What interview questions did the hiring committee ask?

4. What advice do you have for those who are applying for teaching jobs?

5. Indicate the title of position (Grade/Content area/specialty) school, district, community, state.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Profile of a Job Seeker: Application and Interviewing

Here is the application and interview experience of a job seeker who applied for a Grade 2 teaching position in Providence Public Schools. Below are details applying for the position and responses to my questions:

Submitted Application: July 4, 2011
Selected for the Interview: July 8, 2011

Scheduled the interview: July 14, 2011

Interviewed for Position: July 18, 2011

What was the application process?

I submitted an electronic application at the Providence Applicants Tracking System (PATS) http://www.providenceschools.org/pats. The written application included a résumé and response to a 500-1000 word essay question focusing on raising student achievement, using data to drive instruction, and continued professional learning.


On July 8th I went to PATS and noticed that I could select an interview time for the school and I was able to choose the time slot for the interview on the July 14th. I scheduled the interview for July 18.


Tell me about the interview for the position.

The interview lasted 30 minutes. I interviewed in the school’s conference room with the principal, reading coach, and kindergarten teacher. This was the only interview. In addition to the interview, I completed a 15 minute demonstration lesson and a proctored writing sample.


What interview questions did the hiring committee ask?

· What challenges have you faced in teaching?

· Describe a time when you had to adapt to a situation. What were some of the challenges and how did you deal with them?

· Tell us about a time when you received constructive criticism and how did you deal with it?

· What would I do if you did not have any books in your library on the first day of school?


Tell me about the proctored writing sample.

I completed a proctored writing sample with the following writing prompt: Parent/Teacher Conferences is coming up. Write a letter to parents informing them of the event, what they should expect, and what you hope to accomplish. Please feel free to invent any details you need to complete the scenario.


HR offers you six writing prompt options on the district website http://www.providenceschools.org/careers/pws.

When you arrive for the interview, they assign you one of the prompts.


Tell me about the demonstration lesson.

For the demonstration lesson, I used my hiring portfolio to explain one of my lessons and showed one of my rubrics. I walked the interviewers through of a lesson. It actually took less than the allotted 15 minutes. Unfortunately, I did not realize that I had to teach an actual lesson to the interviewers with materials for this demonstration lesson. I think they were fine with my walk-through of a lesson.


However I advise job seekers to prepare to teach the lesson just like you would with a group of students. Also, bring materials for teaching and copies of the written lesson plan for each of the interview committee members.


What other advice do you have for Providence job seekers?

Check PATS every day for new postings. Postings are listed only for a week. Also, if you are invited to interview it will be scheduled using PATS. There is no additional notification.


NOTE TO READERS:

Email me (mkniseley@winateachingjob.com) your success story!

Provide the following information:

1. What was the application and hiring process?

2. Tell me about the interview for the position.

3. What interview questions did the hiring committee ask?

4. What advice do you have for those who are applying for teaching jobs?

5. Indicate the title of position (Grade/Content area/specialty) school, district, community, state.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Profile of a Job Seeker: Application and Interviewing

This week I heard great news from the job seeker who was featured in the July 7, 2011 blog post. He turned down one job offer to take his "dream job" in another high school. Congratulations!


Another job seeker wrote and said she interviewed for a Grade 2 teaching position in a charter school. Below are details applying for the position and responses to my questions:

Submitted Application: July 5, 2011
Selected for the Interview: July 8, 2011

Interviewed for Position: July 13, 2011


What was the application process?

I submitted an electronic application on the school’s web site. I submitted the application, a cover letter, résumé, three letters of reference, a transcript, and certification.


Tell me about the interview for the position.

The interview lasted 45 minutes. I interviewed with the school's principal, vice principal, Grade 4 teacher, and school personnel from a neighboring school (principal, Grade 2 teacher and Grade 5 teacher) in the school's conference room. This was the only interview so far. The interview did not include a demonstration lesson or proctored writing sample.

During the interview, I presented some of my materials while explaining some of my answers to the group. I passed out samples of work and items used during a lesson as well as images and worksheets.


What interview questions did the hiring committee ask?

1. What can you bring to the school district?

2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

3. Describe a science lesson that went really well.

4. What types of technology have you used?

5. What would you do if a parent was concerned about how you graded a paper?

6. How would one of your students describe you?

7. How would you teach reading to a classroom?

8. Describe a lesson that did not go as planned.

9. Describe some math techniques you use.

10. What questions do you have?


What would you have done differently during the interview?

To support my understanding of strategies for teaching diverse learners, I wish I had explained more types of students with whom I have worked.


NOTE TO READERS

Email me (mkniseley2@gmail.com) your success story! Provide the following information:

1. What was the application and hiring process?

2. Tell me about the interview for the position.

3. What interview questions did the hiring committee ask?

4. What advice do you have for those who are applying for teaching jobs?

5. Indicate the title of position (grade/content area/specialty) school, district, community, and state.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Interviewing - Tell a Great Story!

Telling a great story about one of your past accomplishments is a powerful method to help interviewers remember you. Good stories engage your listeners and create lasting memories. Story telling helps interviewers visualize you as a future teacher in their school and convinces them that you are a good match for the position.

What are qualities of a great storyteller?

Great storytellers convey passion and enthusiasm while speaking. They use an expressive voice and vary their speed of delivery, including planned pauses.


Great storytelling is great acting. However, be honest and tell the truth (i.e., no tall tales!). It’s possible your interviewers may contact your references and ask them about the story.


Be organized and succinct in your delivery. Use presentation techniques to cue the listeners about the beginning, middle and end of the story. Sprinkle the story with understandable, professional terms. Don’t sound like a textbook. Avoid using acronyms that may be unfamiliar to non-educators.


When can you tell a story during an interview?

Interviewers understand that a job applicant’s past performance accurately predicts future performance. So, interviewers ask questions that cause you to talk about prior experiences. These questions often begin with “Provide us with an example” or “Tell us about a time when” (e.g., “Provide us with an example of how you differentiated instruction for diverse learners." Or “Tell us about a time when a student challenged your authority. How did you handle it?”).


How do you prepare a story for an interview?

Prepare for the interview by mapping out several two - three minute stories around themes that are important to the school district (e.g., collaboration, classroom management, raising achievement of all learners). Prepare stories about past experiences rather than stories about what you would do in the future. Telling a story about a relevant, past accomplishment helps interviewers understand you can meet the school district’s needs in the future. For instance, if the school district’s current need is parent involvement, then tell a story about how you creatively engaged parents during a family math night and what you accomplished through your actions.


You can’t have a story for every question that might be asked during an interview. To select which stories to tell, list three or four personal strengths related to effective teaching – qualities that make you unique. Relate these qualities to the school district’s current needs, issues, or initiatives. You can determine a school district’s needs by reading the job description, reviewing their mission statement, and any other information on their web site.


A great story doesn’t need to have positive results alone. In fact, interviewers may ask you a question “Tell us about a time when you weren’t successful in your teaching. How did you handle it?” You can tell a story about a teaching experience when you had problems applying a specific strategy and then reflected on the negative outcome, researched solutions and made adjustments in your teaching which ultimately created positive results. You are demonstrating how you used reflection to overcome a negative outcome and improve teaching and learning. And, you will convey a disposition of constant professional learning.


Rehearse. Tell the story to a friend or video yourself telling the story. Observe your pacing, tone of voice, facial expressions, smiling, eye contact, body language, and other qualities of effective story telling. You don’t need to memorize the entire story. However, knowing the first and last sentence can help you start and end the story well.


Shortly before the interview, write the theme and the first or last sentence from the story on a notepad. Bring the notepad with the list of sentences to cue your memory during the interview. (e.g., Theme: Parent Involvement – To involve parents in our mathematics curriculum, assessment and standards, I organized a school-wide committee to conduct a family math night.)


How do you develop the story?

Understand that your interviewers are on a time schedule. The entire interview may be only 30-40 minutes. Thus, stories should be purposeful, simple, well organized, and succinct. A rambling, unfocused story can consume valuable time and detract from an otherwise successful interview.


First, write down the purpose of the story. Relate the story to an anticipated interview question, your strengths, a personal accomplishment, and school district’s needs. Organize the story by using a pictorial time line, a story map, or other mind-mapping techniques. A story map depicts the setting, major parts or sequence, and key details.


One framework for responding to behavior questions is called Problem-Action-Result (PAR) developed by Mary Clement. First, provide some background information and clearly state the problem or challenge. Next, explain a set of actions you took to solve the problem. Engage your audience with key, relevant details. Then, explain the results of taking action and even propose possible future actions.


Below is an example of a story using a PAR response to the interview question “Can you provide us with an example of how you integrated technology into your teaching?”


Problem (a challenge or situation)

I’m really excited about tapping the potential of interactive white boards. It’s much more than a multi-media tool to enhance presentations. Early in my teacher education program, I learned about interactive white boards as effective, learning tool. During my final student teaching semester, I discovered an unused Smart Board in the school hallway. I decided to use this technology to enhance student learning of Grade 4 geometry. The problem was I had no clue how to use it effectively.


Set of Actions

I asked the school’s computer teacher to teach me how to use the hardware and software and arrange the classroom furniture so everyone could view it. I prepared several SMART Board files and planned to involve small groups of students at the board at different points during the lessons.


Results

Admittedly, it was a little awkward to use in the beginning. But I discovered that all my students were highly engaged, particularly many low-functioning special needs students. (Expand - Share an anecdote about using the Smart Board with a low-functioning student). The principal was so impressed that she invited me to demonstrate the use of the SMART Board at a faculty meeting. This experience increased my confidence and desire to use other technologies. My next goal is to learn how to use classroom response systems to assess students’ prior knowledge at the beginning of units.


Telling a great story about a significant, past accomplishment can help interviewers remember you. Use story telling as a powerful tool for convincing your interviewers that you are a good fit for the position.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: The Guide includes 30+typical interview questions with responses - what to say, what not to say, common interview practices, common interview mistakes, and what employers are looking for during an interview.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Teaching Abroad - Gain a Global Perspective and Teaching Experience

This week’s question from a reader is “How can I teach abroad?”


Teaching abroad is a great way to launch your career as a teacher. For mid-career and retiring educators teaching overseas offers a change of pace, a new challenge and chance to explore the world. It’s like studying abroad, only you earn a paycheck instead of pay tuition! Teaching abroad can be a time to make a difference in another part of the world. You can gain a global perspective, immerse yourself in the local culture, travel during school breaks, and return home with a stronger teaching job résumé.


International Schools

An international school is a school established in a country for children whose parents have been assigned temporarily to work or live in that country. English is the language of instruction and the curriculum follows the British, American or International Baccalaureate formats. Typically, teachers are contracted for two years. The employer provides airfare to and from the school every year at the start of the school year and when the school term ends for the year. The employer determines housing and other benefits.


Winning an international teaching job can be competitive. However, if you are flexible and willing to consider several countries or regions of the world, you will increase you opportunity. Often, two years of teaching experience is required. Recent graduates who demonstrate strong potential such as earning a teaching certificate are encouraged to apply. Internships are available in some schools.


Several international teacher recruitment organizations [e.g., Council of International Schools (CIS), International School Services (ISS), and Search Associates (SA)] pre-screen job applicants for international schools and invite successful job applicants to teacher recruitment fairs in different cities. Each year CIS schedules a June recruitment fair in Fairfax, VA. Both ISS and SA conduct recruitment fairs in the Boston area in February 2012.


United States Department of State partners with independent non-governmental schools to serve children of Department of State civilian employees. American-sponsored schools overseas contract with private organizations in recruiting teachers. For example, ISS recruits for approximately 200 international American schools worldwide, including community-sponsored, company-sponsored, and proprietary institutions. In most cases, the curriculum is U.S.- oriented and English is the language of instruction. Contracts are for two years.


United States Department of Defense (DoD) schools serve the children of military service members and DoD civilian employees throughout the world. DoD operates nearly 200 public schools in 14 districts located in 12 foreign countries, seven states, Guam, and Puerto Rico.


Teaching English as a Foreign Language

English language teaching opportunities exist throughout the world. Opportunities for teaching depend on where you want to teach, what level you want to teach, and your background and qualifications. You do not need to speak the host country’s language; however, it is beneficial. Teachers of Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) provides information such as general qualifications for teachers planning to teach English to speakers of other languages and an online Career Center for job listings.


Peace Corps

You can teach as a Peace Corps education volunteer in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe, and the Middle East. Education volunteers promote world peace and friendship and teach in a community overseas for 27 months. They introduce innovative teaching methods and integrate health education and environmental awareness into different subject areas. The application process takes 6-12 months.


Expand your horizons and teach abroad. Teach in international schools, teach English as a foreign language, and/or promote peace and friendship through the Peace Corps. Gain valuable teaching experience and enrich your life greatly.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Profile of a Job Seeker - Applications and Interviews

This week I heard from a job seeker who interviewed for two positions: middle school mathematics teacher in one district and high school mathematics teacher position in another district. He graduated in May 2011 with a degree in secondary education and mathematics. He shared his experiences with applying for job and interviewing. And, he provided some helpful advice for other job applicants.

When comparing the experiences, I noticed similarities and differences in the districts' application processes and interviews.

Here are several similarities:
  • Both were non-urban districts.
  • Both hiring committee contained members with similar roles (e.g., principal, vice principal, math curriculum coordinator or department head). There were no parents, community members, or students on the committee.
  • The application requirements were similar: cover letter, résumé, letters of recommendation, and transcript. There were no essay questions, proctored writing samples, or demonstration lessons.
  • Scheduling of interviews occurred about two weeks following submission of application.
  • The committee provided similar opening and closing interview questions.
  • Both committees asked interview questions focusing on classroom management, technology, and parent-guardian communication.
  • Although not required, the job seeker’s printed and electronic hiring portfolios were used.
  • Both interviews lasted ten-minutes longer than originally scheduled.


Here are several differences:

  • The districts were in two different states (Rhode Island and Massachusetts).
  • The districts used different types of applications (Middle School: paper; High School: online-electronic).
  • The districts scheduled different length of interviews. (Middle School: 30 minutes, High School: 40 minutes).
  • The committees asked different interview questions. (Middle School: 7; High School: 11)
  • The committees differed in their interest in the job seeker’s hiring portfolio. (Middle School: committee asked to view his portfolio; High School: committee did not ask to view)


Below are details about the two positions, hiring processes and the job seeker’s responses to my questions:


MIDDLE SCHOOL MATH POSITION

Application Deadline: June 10, 2011
Submitted Application: June 6, 2011
Selected for Interview: June 21, 2011
Interviewed for Position: June 29, 2011
Offered the position: Shortly after June 29, 2011. The offer is contingent upon passing the state teacher exam in July.


What was the application process?

I mailed paper applications to the district office on June 6 (deadline was June 10). I submitted the application, a cover letter, résumé, three letters of reference, and a transcript. I was invited to a 20-minute interview on June 21. The interview was scheduled on June 29th.


Tell me about the interview for the position.

The interview lasted 30 minutes. I interviewed with the principal, vice principal, and mathematics curriculum coordinator in the principal’s office. I met with the department head after the interview for a brief, informal conversation and tour of the building. This was the only interview. The interview did not include a demonstration lesson or proctored writing sample.


The committee asked to view my hiring portfolio and passed it around the table. I also used it multiple times. When I was asked if there was anything I would like to point out, I mentioned the award I won in my undergraduate career. When asked about parent communication and involvement, I opened to my parent/guardian communication section containing specific examples where I communicated with parents during student teaching. I also provided the committee with a CD and a sheet of paper containing a link to my web-based hiring portfolio.


Later, on the phone, the principal told me that she viewed my electronic hiring portfolio and was very impressed.


The smaller, three-person committee made it easier for me to balance the face-to-face interaction with each interviewer. They also really liked the magnets clips with a personal brand (logo) I created to clip together the cover letters and résumés.


What interview questions did the hiring committee ask?

1. Is there anything you'd like to point out in particular on your résumé and why are you a good fit for our school?

2. Describe your strengths and weaknesses as an educator.

3. Discuss methods of discipline and classroom management within a middle school classroom.

4. Discuss how you will involve and communicate with parents and guardians and why this is significant.

5. How do you use and implement technology within your classroom to enhance learning?

6. What questions do you have for us?


What would you have done differently during the interview?

I could have discussed in more detail how educational technology enhanced student learning. My response to question #5 (above) morphed into a list of technology used within the classroom and how it was used. I did not explain how it enhanced student learning. Also, a few of the examples I discussed throughout the interview related to my high school student teaching placement. While I’m sure each employer is interested in my entire educational experience, most of my responses should have been geared towards my middle school experiences and passion.


What advice do you have for those who are applying for teaching jobs?

Letters of Reference

Secure letters before you leave your student teaching placements. You never know what may happen. Your CT’s could go on vacation or have a family emergency.


For this job application, I was forced to wait until the last minute to submit my materials because my middle school cooperating teacher had not yet provided a signed letter of recommendation. Although she submitted a letter of recommendation on SchoolSpring, she did not provide me with a signed printed copy. Since this was a paper-based application for a middle school position, I really needed her recommendation. Unfortunately, I could not contact her. Consequently, I submitted a different letter of recommendation with my application.


Networking

Make connections! I found out about this out-of-state position because the principal at my high school student teaching placement was formerly the principal at this middle school and currently serving on this community’s school board. The principal at my high school student teaching placement observed me twice during student teaching and developed very high level of respect for me. I never imagined he had such powerful connections with another district, especially a district that is really phenomenal and would be a pleasure to work in.


Teacher Exams

Prepare for the job search by taking required state teacher exams in surrounding states before graduating and submitting job applications.


HIGH SCHOOL MATH POSITION

Application Deadline: “Posted Until Filled”
Submitted Application: June 10, 2011
Selected for Interview: June 19, 2011
Interviewed for Position: July 5, 2011
Offered the position: No decision at this time


What was the application process?

I submitted an online application at SchoolSpring.com on June 10. I submitted a customized cover letter, three references, and letters of recommendation included. SchoolSpring showcases your entire profile for the employer, so the high school received my basic information, résumé, transcript, Praxis scores, certifications, languages, and extra-curricular activities. I was invited for a 30-minute interview on June 19. The interview was scheduled on July 5.


Tell me about the interview for the position.

The interview lasted 40 minutes. I interviewed with principal, assistant principal, mathematics department chair, and a mathematics teacher in a conference room. I met with the department head after the interview for a quick informal conversation and tour of the building. This was the only interview so far. There will be one more interview with the Superintendent before a decision is made. The interview did not include a demonstration lesson or onsite proctored writing sample.


The committee did not ask to view my hiring portfolio, but I used it multiple times. When asked how I differentiate instruction, I opened to my unit planning section and discussed the multiple activities to address a variety of learning styles. I also opened to my lesson plan section when asked about technology and shared a graphing calculator activity I taught to my AP Calculus class during student teaching. When asked if there was anything else I would like to share, I opened to my résumé and mentioned the award I won in my undergraduate career. And finally, I provided the committee with a CD and a sheet of paper containing a link to my hiring portfolio.


I used humor as an icebreaker and the committee loved it. They were laughing and having a good time. They also really liked the magnet clips (with personal branding – logo) I created to clip together the cover letters and résumés.


Out of the seven interviews I have been on, this was my best interview. The school had a very relaxed feel to it and the interview committee was in “summer attire” which made it less intimidating. Also, since the school was not at the top of my priority list, this helped lower the stress. The stakes weren’t as high.


What interview questions did the hiring committee ask?

1. Describe a lesson you’re particularly proud of.

2. We don’t use books in our math department, as we prefer to think out and plan units based on core concepts. Have you worked without a book? Explain.

3. Highlight one of the most important things you learned from your student teaching experience.

4. This department is a team. We share resources and expertise. We have teachers that provide business or science expertise or expertise in reaching students who are a little rougher around the edges. What strength would you bring to this team?

5. Give a few examples to illustrate how you have differentiated instruction in the classroom.

6. Give a few examples to explain how you have modified instruction or created lessons for students with ADHD.

7. What technology (e.g., graphing calculators, geometers, sketchpad, internet sites, student island as a follow up) have you used in your teaching experience.

8. Briefly describe your classroom management strategies.

9. What techniques would you use to create or maintain on-going communication with parents?

10. Is there anything else you’d like to share with the panel that was not covered in the questions?

11. Do you have any questions for the panel?


What would you have done differently during the interview?

When I was discussing how I differentiated instruction, I gave only one example and elaborated on it. I could have shortened my response and provided a few additional examples.


What advice do you have for those who are applying for teaching jobs?

Although the committee may not ask you to view your hiring portfolio, there are opportunities during the interview to use it as additional evidence or a concrete example.


NOTE TO READERS

Email me (mkniseley2@gmail.com) your success story! Provide the following information:

1. What was the application and hiring process?

2. Tell me about the interview for the position.

3. What interview questions did the hiring committee ask?

4. What advice do you have for those who are applying for teaching jobs?

5. Indicate the title of position (grade/content area/specialty) school, district, community, and state.