Sunday, July 6, 2014

Interview 101: Land that Teaching Job

During the summer, many new (and veteran teachers) are searching earnestly and hopefully for a teaching position. The whole process can be stressful. It begins with waiting to hear something- anything- after you send in a resume. The haunting fear that there was a comma out of place or a period where there shouldn't have been or- horror of horrors!- that you misspelled your own name.

If you're lucky enough to land an interview, that too, can mean epic levels of "holy crap!" So, here's my guide to making it through the interview and landing yourself a job. Some of this advice is ESOL specific, but most of it can be applied to any interview for a teaching position.

1. Take time to think out your answers. Many of the prospective teachers I have interviewed, especially the younger ones, didn't take time to think about their answers before responding. I generally have a list of things that I expect to hear. As an interviewer, I can only consider what you actually say, not what you may have been thinking or forgotten to say. So, before responding, take the time to think about your answer for a few moments so that you can give a well organized, thorough and thoughtful answer rather than a rambling answer. Most interviewers will be happy to give you a few moments to collect your thoughts.

2. Talk specifically about the latest research or best practices and how you implement them. When I'm interviewing someone for an ESOL position, I generally expect to hear them talk about academic language, BICS and CALPS, comprehensible input, and other important research in the area of ESOL education. At the very least, I'm looking for specific ideas, theories, and practices that most educators should know. Find out what the latest research says about the area you are applying for and be prepared to talk about it with the interviewer. Give specific examples of how you implement these theories and practices into your instruction. 

3. Be specific. Talk about what you actually DO in the classroom, rather than what you would do if ____. Give specific examples of successes you've had with students, challenges you've overcome, programs you've implemented, and any special skills or life experiences that help you be the best teacher you can be. 

4. Be cognizant of your weaknesses and think about how you can improve in those areas. Don't be afraid to acknowledge your weaknesses as a teacher in addition to your strengths. This shows that you are a reflective teacher who realizes that there's always room to improve your instructional practice. Many interviewers will ask, so be prepared to give specific examples of ways that you intend to improve in your weakest areas. And don't play that my-weakness-is-actually-a-strength act; I wasn't born yesterday and will see right through that. 

5. Ask questions about the school or district you are interviewing with. Many of the candidates I've interviewed did not have ANY questions, which struck me as unusual. The candidate that stuck out most to me was the only one who did ask questions about what the job would be like, what program model our district uses, etc. 
On the same token, don't ask dumb questions, either. Come up with a list of possible questions to ask beforehand. You don't have to ask them all, but be prepared and ask the most relevant few. 

6. Bring a portfolio or student work samples. If you're just finishing student teaching, photocopy or photograph some student work (or ask student/parent permission to keep it if this is allowed where you do your student teaching). If you are a veteran teacher, dig out some of those student work samples. Summarize how you incorporated the activity into your classroom. Include lesson plans, photographs, any materials you've created or especially engaging activities. Seeing it is worth way more than just hearing about it. If you can create a digital portfolio on a website (google sites is free, so is blogger), then you can leave the web address for your interviewer to check out after you're gone. If you go this route, you can also incorporate video (a clip of your teaching) or audio (you using questioning techniques with a student). 

I hope this advice is helpful, and I wish you the best on your job hunt!

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