Posts Tagged ‘first-person’

Interviews aren’t so scary

May 6, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m killing time until a phone interview at 12:30 with a school in Morocco. I haven’t done a ton of research on the school and I have no idea what kinds of questions they’ll ask me, but I’m not all that nervous about it. In fact, I’m almost never nervous about interviews. Here are a few of the reasons why:

1) Experience

I’ve been part of literally thousands of interviews, either as the interviewer or the interviewee.  It’s just a conversation.  And if it’s not just a conversation – if it’s a grilling – it’s probably not a place you want to work.  Or at least, it’s not a place I want to work.

2) Perspective

Based on my experience, I see the interviewer as having the harder role.  He or she is trying to figure out what questions to ask so as to get the most important information about the interviewee so as to make the right hiring decision.  Although it may not feel like it in a bad economy, I still think it’s easier to find a new job than to fire and replace an employee who isn’t working out.

3) Empathy

Interviewers get nervous too.  They’re trying to balance selling their organization with asking good questions, making you feel comfortable, taking notes…they have a lot going on and they often don’t have a lot of experience doing it.  The calmer and more confident I am, the more comfortable I make the interviewer, which tends to lead to more positive interviews.

4) Familiarity

Most interviewers ask us about things we already know very well – ourselves and our experiences.  I could see being nervous interviewing for a job in a field that I knew nothing about, but I’m not interviewing for those positions.  I’m happy to talk endlessly about education; happily, that’s what most school recruiters want to ask me about.

In the end though, perhaps the best thing I do to take the stress out of interviews is to ensure that they need me more than I need them.  I always make sure I know what my best alternative is if the interview doesn’t work out and I don’t get the position – and that I’m comfortable with that alternative.  Once I know this, I can go into the interviews with nothing to lose.  If they like me, great!, but if they don’t, it’s okay.  I have other things I can do.

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This I Believe

March 2, 2010 3 comments

In my classroom I offer regular praise for close observation and good thinking.  Over time, this creates an environment in which students are eager to make observations, share their ways of solving problems, and hear how other people solved the same problem.  In learning about math, for instance, our first grade class regularly referred to the pattern Anthony noticed, or the way Amber explained odd numbers.  In this way, we built a classroom culture that valued students’ ideas and encouraged other students to share their ways of thinking about problems.  One of my favorite moments was when I first asked the students to lead our daily calendar activities.  They asked each other interesting questions about the calendar, but most exciting to me was that the student leaders regularly followed up on a correct answer by asking “why do you think that?”   The class learned to ask about the process of getting to the answer rather than simply accepting the result.

This critical thinking – this asking of “why” – is at the heart of my teaching.  The learned habit of questioning transforms a student from a passive recipient of knowledge to an active analyzer of information and constructor of knowledge.  It gives students who at times control so little in their lives the power to make sense of their worlds and begin to chart their own courses.  It helps students see beyond the binary of right and wrong, good and bad, dumb and smart, and start seeing that what is under the surface can matter, too.  I hope that in learning to value the process of discovery and problem-solving, my students will become more confident and competent, both inside and outside of the classroom.  My goal is give them the skills to feel in control of their futures – to be respected employees, knowledgeable citizens, and valued friends and family members.  By teaching them to look beyond the surface, I want to help them see the nuances of the people and situations around them and become comfortable solving complex problems.

I help students take what they learn about others and use it to improve how they work together.  No matter what our personality or preferences, we all must deal with other people to survive.  I have worked with many highly educated people who never learned how to see a situation from another person’s point of view, negotiate roles within a group, or otherwise make the small adjustments that allow people to co-exist peacefully.  These co-workers have had many strengths, but they have also been difficult to manage or work alongside.  Their struggle to get along with others makes life less enjoyable for everyone – including themselves.  Knowing that we all need to coexist, I think one of the critical roles of education is to teach us how to do that.  To me, this process of getting along is tightly tied to the creation of critical thinkers.  People who get along with others are able to think about situations from the perspective of another person or with a view of the group as a whole.  They know what they want and need and what they are willing to give up to keep the larger group functioning.  This takes a lot of self-awareness, and self-awareness comes from digging below the surface of one’s experiences and asking a lot of questions.

In the end, I believe the goal of education is to help children become independent, critical thinkers who are capable of working well with others, because I believe this will allow them to be happier, healthier adults who enrich the people and organizations around them.  And this, I believe, is the ultimate goal of education.

Categories: Reflection Tags: ,

Coming to school: three perspectives

February 17, 2010 1 comment

Abraham says:
“I like coming to school because sometimes there’s fun bits but sometimes it’s just so boring to just sit and be quiet.  I have lots of ideas in my head and I like telling them to my friends because they’re so cool but I always just get yelled at for chatting.  I try to do my work at my table but it can be really hard because sometimes I just want to chat and sometimes I don’t really want to do it so I try to just finish real quick like and sometimes it’s just like there are monkeys in my brain.  I wish we could chat more in school so that I don’t have to be so bored and I don’t get yelled at and school’s more fun.  I like the times that we get to move around and chat – like when we did the jumping thing, that was the best bit.”

Tiffany says:
“I like all the things we do in school, but sometimes I get so sad about my dad, yeah, or my mom makes me walk and I’m late and I get yelled at, or Jenny makes a mean face at me and I just get in such a bad mood and I can’t do anything right, and I don’t want to be nice to anybody.  When we do reading or writing or math I get sad and a little mad and scared because I’m trying real hard, yeah, but I just can’t get it right.  I like it when I get to talk just to the teacher and she listens to me, or when I pretend to be the teacher and I get to tell other people what to do.  I have fun when we get to talk and I have lots of ideas, but when they tell me to write them down I just feel stupid and mad like.”

Emily says:
“I almost always know the answer when the teacher asks a question but she never calls on me first unless we’re really busy – she always asks someone else first, even when I was the first one to raise my hand.  I’m much better at reading and writing than the other kids in the class – I can read almost anything, just like my big sister can, and I write stories all the time – really long ones, in really good handwriting.  When we have math class I almost always know the answer, even when other kids mess up.  I like working with the other kids sometimes because it’s fun to talk to people, but it’s so hard sometimes when I know what to do and they don’t.  I keep telling them over and over what to do but they just say no or they grab the clay and they don’t listen.  I told the teacher that it’s hard to work in groups but she keeps making us do it.  Sometimes she comes over though when we’re in groups and tells me what a great job I’m doing, and she lets me stay in the classroom sometimes to just chat with her.”

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