Posts Tagged ‘interviews’

Living under observation

June 10, 2010 Leave a comment

The principal walked into my classroom unannounced today and settled down at the back table. Luckily I’m still in student teacher mode and am used to everything I do being observed. Also luckily, the kids were excited about the lesson she walked in on – I had them prepping readers theatre performances, including making props and costumes.  The kids weren’t perfect, but they were very creative and generally on task, and the principal seemed to like what she saw.  Since I’m still technically a job applicant at the school, it’s a relief to have an observation go well.  I suspect that I’ll have a lot more drop-in visits throughout my teaching career.  Given that, it seems like a good idea to stay in student teacher mode even once I’m full-time – always expect to be observed, always be ready for someone to walk in.  Or as mom always told me when I worked in daycare, always act as though someone is watching.

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June 1, 2010 Leave a comment

I had my first full day in an upper elementary school classroom today. Also, my first day in charge of an upper elementary school classroom. It was not awesome.

In fairness to everyone involved, this isn’t a fun time for the kids. It’s June, their real teacher just left, their room looks completely different, they’re totally over school, and they have a new teacher who doesn’t know any of the things that make them happy – just the rules that make them sad. So they’re not bringing their best.

And in some ways, I’m not bringing my best either, or at least I wasn’t today. Their teacher left me with a lot of “fun worksheets,” and while we did some of those today, the kids’ response made clear what I already knew – worksheets aren’t fun. I’m going to have to step it up and come up with some actually fun activities or risk battling the kids all day, every day, for the next four weeks.

In addition to the kids’ fairly reasonable reactions to change and boredom, there’s also a heaping dose of moodiness at play in the classroom. In fact, I’ve experienced this moodiness in every upper elementary classroom I’ve been in. If a six-year-old sits in stony silence it’s a sign that something’s wrong. If an 11-year-old does the same thing, it’s just Tuesday. All the upper elementary teachers I know say “be hard on them,” or “tough love is the only way to get through,” and while that’s all well and good, I find no joy in it. I prefer nurturing love for learning and enthusiasm for school, not trying to salvage it from the wreckage of hormones, social stress and academic insecurity. Good realizations to keep in mind as I continue interviewing for teaching jobs.

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Details, details

May 24, 2010 Leave a comment

When interviewing, it’s best to support grand statements of philosophy with concrete examples of implementation. It’s one thing to say you think differentiated instruction is swell and another thing to talk about how you’ve integrated it into your planning.

I know this, but sometimes I still forget to provide these examples – it’s one of the interviewing skills I simply haven’t mastered. I think part of the reason I forget to illustrate my points is because I find it difficult to come up with examples on the spot – like many people, I am far more likely to remember the perfect supporting story on the drive home than I am sitting across from an interviewer. And sometimes I leave out examples because my internal interviewer clock (honed through years of admissions work) warns me, “you’re taking too long. Wrap this answer up, NOW.” So I weigh the risk of being too vague against the risk of rambling and almost always choose vague as the lesser evil. Once I’m driving home, however, I care less about the timing of my responses and more about the substance of them, so I make a mental list of all of the stories I could have shared but didn’t and I wonder if the interviewer got a good sense of my abilities based on the limited information I provided.

I try not to obsess about this, though. No interview is long enough to cover all of the things that I – or any other candidate – believes or can do. In the end, we hire on first impressions, best guesses, and a leap of faith. My job is to share myself as honestly and fully as possible in the time allowed. Hopefully that will be enough for the interviewer, but if it’s not, I can take what I learned from that interview and try to do better – giving more examples, illustrating more ideas – in my next one.

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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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