Pro-Tips: How to Nail the Teaching Interview



I graduated in college in 2010, right on the cusp of when many schools were not hiring or furloughing. As a consequence, I’ve been on MANY interviews, and had a lot of experience tweaking what I do to get immediate, better results. Here are a few of the things I learned.

1). Research the job beforehand.

When I was going in to interview for a position, it’s not enough to just know ‘music teacher’ or ‘science instructor’. I would dig into the district’s school board meeting minutes and see if there were any recent retirements, resignations, etc. Finding out the exact subject you will teach (general music 6-8 or pre-algebra 8th grade) helps you dramatically alter the way you interview, as well as tailor your interview lesson to what the committee is looking for.

2). Research the district beforehand.

Is it rural? Suburban? Title I? Knowing the community of the school you are interviewing in is integral; not only so you can interview well, but so you can determine if you are a right fit for the school. If you’re just trying to get any job no matter what, keep an open mind.

3). Always go around the room and shake EVERY interviewer’s hand.

Simple, yet important. And if you’re the only one to do that, you’ll be that much more memorable in the minds of the interviewers. Unless you have some sort of communicable disease that day.

4). Ask questions.

When an interview is over, the question “Do you have any questions for us?” is almost always asked. USE THIS TIME TO DISTINGUISH YOURSELF! Ask the interviewers what THEY love so much about community, the school, etc. Give them the task of trying to sell their district to you.

5). Send a follow-up note/email.

After the interview, send a note or an email to all of the interviewers thanking them for their time. Even if you don’t get the job, they still picked you out of a huge pile of people for consideration! Sometimes, the interviewers are willing to discuss how you can improve if you are not chosen.

6) Tailor your portfolio to the job.

Once you find out (through the diligent research you did) what the position actually is, you can detail all cover letters, resumes, and actual work in your portfolio to better fit this position. When I first started interviewing, I would bring in a binder that held my portfolio along with examples of student work. Towards the end of my interviewing days, I had upped my game by bringing in an Ipad which was already loaded to my professional teaching website. This allowed the interviewers something neat to peruse whiling interviewing me that wasn’t cumbersome (like a giant binder) and also showed off my technological skills. I made the website easily through

7.) Dress appropriately.

Duh, right? Apparently not. Come on folks, do the simple stuff. Guys, wear slacks and a jacket with a tie. Ladies, get a second opinion on your business wear. Just because it’s hanging in the fancy side of Charlotte Ruse doesn’t necessarily mean it’s appropriate, or what your interviewers may think is appropriate. True story; the guy who was interviewing for a job before me went in wearing sandals, khaki pants, and was unshaven. Does it make him a bad person? Of course not! But you will probably hurt your chances at scoring the job.

We’re starting to get deep into the teacher-hiring season. Good luck to everyone out there!


How I was offered a job while hospitalized.

Nope, it’s not click-bait; it actually happened.

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about the agony of years of fruitless interviews and relentless job searching.  During this post, I’ll tell the story of how I was offered my second full-time teaching job…while in the hospital.

A year prior, I had been offered a job (over the phone) to teach in Southern Maryland. I’ll talk more about those experiences in another post.

I accepted immediately, and the spouse and I uprooted our lives to move 5 hours to a new state to begin my teaching career.

It was a tough gig; I taught Pre-K through 5th grade general music, in addition to beginning and advanced band classes.  I had an average of 6-7 classes per day, ranging from 18-26 students.  The students were different than anyone I had ever taught.  The population was a cross between the large naval base community, those who had lived in the rural area since the 1700s, and those who escaped Baltimore and migrated more south.  The elementary building was built for 350 students, and we had 750. Trailers spread out from the main school building almost like a refugee camp; in this district they literally cannot build new schools fast enough for the exploding population.

In this job, I was sworn at, hit, kicked, and threatened on a daily basis by students who didn’t even come up to my knee.  It was challenging, back-breaking work that left me in tears many days.  After a few days I drove 7 hours to meet my parents in North Carolina for some R & R time.  After my first full week teaching I drove 5 hours back home for a local fair and I bawled the entire drive, wondering how I was going to survive an entire year of this.

And survive I did, thanks to some amazing people I met along the way.

The other music teacher at my school was also new, though a bit younger than me and fresh out of college.  Unlike most new graduates, Cat was extremely grounded and didn’t have any grand illusions of what teaching would be like.  Together we stayed up way too late brainstorming, writing lesson plans, and just trying to survive.  Our mentor teacher was also fantastic.  I owe everything I know about classroom management to her.  She is an amazing teacher who has huge successes in one of the supposed ‘worst’ elementary schools in that district.  I wish there were more teachers like her out there, because she is the single reason I made it through that first year.

I’ll be sharing some of her resources and lesson plans in later lessons.

Continuing on, I made it through the year with some crash courses in classroom management and walked away with some useful skills.  In September of that year, my spouse and I were thrilled when we discovered I was pregnant, and due to deliver a few days after school let out.

While I was teaching here, my spouse and I made the commitment that though we were managing in this new life, we missed our hometown and would like to return to the area.  Where we lived was alright, but we were unused to living among a large population and the challenges that it entailed (like taking 45 minutes to get to Wal-Mart despite it being 2 miles away, and then when you get there the shelves are bare and the check-out line is 12 people deep).

We decided to come home whenever either of us got a job offer.  I was applying for positions back in my home state, and he was hoping for an opening at his old office.  I applied for a few things, while enjoying my pregnancy and still teaching during the day.

In the beginning of May, I received an interview for a Band Director position in a school only 40 minutes from our old home.  Both my spouse and I took a personal day from work, and drove up the night before.

I was extremely nervous about interviewing while pregnant; would they discriminate because I was about to be a new mom? Though it’s not legal, they could still make up any other reason they wanted.  I wore a black dress and tried not to present a sideview…surely at 7 months pregnant they wouldn’t notice… right?

Well, I never heard back from them, despite a “we’ll call you” (if only I had a nickel…).  I even followed the board meeting minutes and deflated when I saw they hired someone else.   I moved on, and packed my room up on Friday, June 14th.

On Saturday morning at 6am, I went into labor.  On Sunday (ironically Father’s Day) I gave birth to my daughter, and our first child.


Two days later while in recovery, I noticed I had a missed call and a voicemail on my cell phone.  I listened to it while in the hospital bathroom.

In the message, the superintendent from the school talked for a good five minutes, but the gist was that the person they had hired back in May hadn’t worked out, and that I had been the second choice, and would I be interested in taking the job?

I immediately start bawling (tears of joy!) and shaking uncontrollably (damn those postpartum hormones).  My spouse is immediately terrified since he thinks something terrible must have happened (he initially thought my parents were in a car wreck, since they had just left the hospital after visiting).

I called the superintendent back (who was with the principal also), and accepted the position.  It was then they informed me that the marching band was expected to be in a parade at the end of July (in about a month). I could totally have the band ready for that, right?

Well, clutching my newborn to my chest, I did what anyone desperate to get what they want would do: “Yes sir, I’ll absolutely be there.”

So, my husband and I had two weeks to find a place to live, pack up, resign our jobs, and move back home. With a baby.  I had essentially no maternity leave; I had to start marching band rehearsals immediately in July to ensure the band was ready, and I began my job once school started in August.

Anytime I find myself overwhelmed by life, I think back to that time.  If I could get through that, I could handle everything.

So can you.

And that’s the story of how I was offered a job in the hospital.




Life…Version 2.0


I thought I had lost access to this blog forever, considering that last post was 4 years ago.  I was extremely pleased when I saw that wasn’t the case.

So much can happen in a year, let alone 4.

I’ve moved several times across state lines, I’ve had two beautiful children, and yes; I finally achieved my goal of being hired as a full time teacher.

In fact, I’m on my 2nd full-time gig, which I’m going into my 4th year of teaching.  Previously, I taught for a year at a school in another state before being offered this job, which is much closer to family.

Expect to continue to see more frequent updates, discussing how to interview, lessons, and education in general.  My next update will be the story of how I was offered my first full-time job…in the hospital!

Stay fresh.



Moving Out…and On

Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted.

There are reasons for that, and they’re quite varied in what they are and how legitimate.

I didn’t get the job that the last post was about. As in typical fashion, they hired someone with experience who had been fired due to furloughs at the end of the last school year.  How pathetically recurring.

The good news? I’ve decided to let it all go.  God has something planned, and I need to quit stressing about it.  It’s like anything else; the moment you stop trying, it’ll happen. Right?

Well, either way it’s made me a happier person.


Possible shakeup coming in my home district, with a definite 1 position open and a possibility of 3. Perhaps I’ll do better this time around. I’m hoping to pull an A in my grad class, so I can claim a 4.0 GPA when I apply. At least then they should interview me. Sigh.

Speaking of the grad class, it’s going O.K.  Last week I pulled it close to the wire completing my assignment (it turned out to be WAY harder than anticipated) and all 43 pages of analysis it warranted. Then to make things better, the online system crashed and I was unable to upload my documents. So, it’s midnight and I’m sending frantic emails to my professors, only to have the system figure itself out 15 minutes later.  Then came the second round of apologetic, embarrassing emails asserting how stupid and idiotic I am, and please PLEASE forgive me for clogging your inbox.

We’ll see what happens.


Agony…No Frustration More Keen.

Yes, this post’s subject posted is lovingly borrowed from Stephen’s Sondheim’s Into the Woods. If you have no clue what that is, here is your slice of culture for the day.  It’s a musical about your favorite story book characters, but with a creepy, adult edge. You’re welcome.

So, what’s the deal?

The interview came and went, and as with most interviews, I feel it went really well.  I’m pretty aware of the fact that I stink at quite a few things, but let me just say that I’m boss when it comes to interviews.

This one was a little upsetting because it was one of my shortest yet; only 15-20 minutes.  I tried not to let that deter me, because they were seeing a lot of people that day, had their questions pre-selected, etc. Plus there were only 3 people interviewing me.

Despite the amount of time, I felt like they were really engaged in what I had to say.  They seemed especially interested in my experiences with another tiny, rural school district like theirs.  They also seemed to like my follow-up question. “What would YOU say is the best quality about this district?”

They concluded with telling me that they would call ‘in a few days’ for second round interviews, which would take place next Wednesday (tomorrow). At this second round, I would be faced with the entire school board, who would make the decision on the spot, approve me, then I would start work this Thursday.  The guy looked me in the eye and said “Is that something you’d be ok with?”

Hell yes, Mr. Principal. Bring it on.

The kicker comes in that a friend of mine who also interviewed got a rejection letter last Saturday. I didn’t receive any such letter. That’s a good thing, you would think.  However, it’s the day before the second round interviews, and I haven’t had a call yet saying I made it either.

If you’re trying to mind-%$^@ me school district, you’re succeeding.

I’m going to give them most of today to call. If they don’t, I’ll call them around 3pm to DEMAND (ask nicely and probably a little pathetically) what’s going on.

So there’s that.

THEN, yesterday I see a facebook status from one of my childhood friends. The company she is working for is hiring.  The job is only a town over from where the spouse and I are moving, and it would be to create and maintain an ebay store for the company (they sell lighting fixtures). I submitted my resume on a whim (I do that a lot) and not only does the friend say she can probably get me a job, but the boss already emailed me back and I could have an interview at the end of the week.

Talk about things that I can’t deal with right now.

It’s not teaching, but it’s $$. No, I don’t know how much yet.  I just don’t know if I can bring myself to get out of teaching. Despite being literally whipped and beaten by the system, I can’t help but feel like it would be giving up to switch careers.

Yep, these are the heavy-hitting issues of my life.

Also, spouse and I are supposed to begin the moving process soon. It would a LOT easier if I got a job, so we could actually go out and….buy curtains. Or something.

I’ve also been roped into doing another musical at the charter school I work at.  Last year I took over the drama program halfway through the year, and forced against her will asked my one friend to help.  We put on Beauty & the Beast Jr. with a group of kids who had never acted or sang before, and it wasn’t too shabby. Here are some pics: (credit for photos goes to the the father-in-law.


You get the idea.

So, I busted my butt to come up with $$ to actually buy the rights, get scripts, music, and you know, be legal about it. This time around I’m not in charge (fine by me!) and the kids want to do a recent movie that isn’t actually a play.

Long story short, it’s even more work than last year. However, that’s not why I’m royally PO’ed.

We thought casting would be pretty easy, since most kids put exactly what they wanted, and it was pretty spread out and evenly distributed. After we posted the cast list, we got “BUT I DIDN’T WAAAANT THAT PART”.

It says right here on the sheet you did.

“Well I’m disappointed in my part so I’m quitting.”

Now, I’m understandably a little upset at this. In a public school drama program if you pull that crap, next time a show comes around you won’t be cast at all due to your bad attitude. However, when this happens at this school, excuses are made. “Oh, well the kids are just fickle and they’re always changing their minds. They don’t know what they want. They’re young.”

Ok, but they’re not stupid.  And teaching them that their actions have absolutely no consequences is not the way I’m running a drama program.

So I might not be participating in the show this time around.

Well, I know it was a long post, but that’s my life.  Hopefully I’ll have an update on the interview status, and we’ll take it from there. If you’ve made it this far, congrats! You’re the proud winner of another silly cat photo. Enjoy.