Pro-Tips: How to Nail the Teaching Interview

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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 weebly.com

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!

-therottedapple-

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.

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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.

-therottedapple-

 

 

Luckily for me, There are Worse Things.

Subtitled “Quit being a whiny little young person, because your father-in-law reads this blog.”

Ok, so my last post was a liiiiiiiiiittle emo.

Sorry.

When my mom and dad were my age, they were living in an uncle’s basement (a mean uncle), working 3-4 jobs each, and barely seeing each other.  My dad used to tell stories about working the night shift, since there were after all 24 hours in a day.  Why waste 8-10 of them sleeping?  He worked at a gas station, and would talk about the hookers (yes hookers) who would come into the store at 3am to escape their pimps.  They would clean for my dad, dust, mop, do anything really to just pass the time and forget.

Stories like that make me feel pretty stupid.

Yeah, things are rough. No, I don’t have the job or amount of money that I’d like.  So what, some people my age do. Not everyone is that lucky from the gate, and so many more people are worse off.  In fact, I have absolutely nothing to complain about.

Ways life resolved itself in one day after the last post: (ie God was irritated with my whining)

1) We found someone who wants to sublet our apt starting asap.

2) My car is  not dead after all. My dad felt bad when he heard we would cash our savings bonds to fix it, so one of his guys is putting the labor in and trying to make it work. (Side note, I was unaware of the extreme emotional attachment I had to my car until it was almost taken away.)

3) I literally JUST got called for an interview next week.

So… yeah.

More about this interview. (Because I started this draft JUST after getting called, and am finishing the draft after the interview).

Remember the last interview I had where I didn’t get the job? Well, this interview is for a position at the district of the person who got the job. (If that makes any sense.). Her getting the other job means she’s leaving this job. Anyway.

It was my shortest interview to date; 15-20 minutes. I didn’t like that.

They only asked a few questions, but I felt like they were really on board with the few answers I did give. They seemed to really connect with me through my previous experiences at my marching band’s school, since it is small and rural like this district.

Regardless, they said they would call “in a few days” to inform me if I made the second round. Here’s the fun part.  The second round would take place Feb 8th, at 6:45pm. Why? So you can interview in front of the entire school board, they will make a decision on the spot, approve you at the 7pm meeting, and oh, by the way? You start work the next day.

Yikes.

(raises hand slightly)

I’ll do it!

Crazy.

 

-therottedapple-

That Special Time of Year…

As I was lying in bed last night, I came to the startling revelation that I had completely forgotten about this blog.

WHAT?

The only explanation that I could come up with is that when life well.. improves, you tend to spend more time out in it, and less in your own little cyber-world.

To put it simply, the interview I had went extremely well.   They said they would be calling either tonight (Thursday) or the next day (Friday). After spending the few obligatory days in terror, fear, and self-loathing, the principal called me back at 5pm on Friday to give me the good news.

I made it through to the second round!

I had just arrived at the charter school I teach part-time at, so when the phone rang I probably looked like an idiot as I dashed in a circle a few times before darting into an unused classroom.  As the man talked to me, I paced crazily around the round tables, trying to take in what he was saying while not tripping over extension cords.

About 6-7 individuals were interviewed for the first round, and 2-3 are moving on to the next.  This second round will take place on December 14th, which is next Wednesday.  It will be in front of the school board members, and apparently they are just asking us questions.  This seems a little odd, so I’m not sure what to expect.

Usually, a first round interview consists of your standards questions, and if they like you enough, you move onto the second round to teach a demo lesson The decision is made from there.

However, in this case it seems like the opposite is happening. So I don’t know.  I’ll be asking my colleagues for advice on this unique situation.

Here’s the timeline: Interview on the 14th, the school has two days to make their decision and notify the individual. The 18th (Sunday) I have a Christmas party at my gram’s. (This is important to note). The 19th (Monday) is when the individual will be approved as an employee by the school board. This gives the new person 5 days to shadow the current teacher until he leaves FOREVER.

Not the best timeline, giving the new person only a week. Oh well, I’ll do what I can. 😉

SOOO excited, but a little frustrated at the delay. There’s only so much studying you can do for the standard interview questions.

Wish me luck.

ALSO, on the same day I was called for a second interview, I was accepted into grad school. Yes, Friday was a good day indeed.

-therottedapple-

 

Thanksgiving

I was going to wait until tomorrow (actual Thanksgiving) to post this, but I’m home alone and let’s face it, tomorrow I’ll be too busy and sick in the stomach to actually follow through.

Good, great, wonderful news: I have an interview.

I’ve known about this opening since October, but  I try not to make a big deal out of it so that I’m not completely crushed when it falls through. (See the post from last summer, if you forget.)  I’ve made a few friends within this district, talked to others, and I’m thrilled to be one of 5-7 people interviewing for this job.  In exactly a week, I’m to teach a 10 minute lesson to a panel of music teachers and administrators.

Eager to get started, I settled on a recorder lesson. I called a colleague of mine, who is the assistant director of one of the bands I work for.

“An interview! That’s great! What are you going to teach?”

“Recorders.”

*awkward pause*

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m EXTREMELY thankful for her advice, and am VERY glad she gently pushed me away from that particular lesson, and pointed me in the direction of one better suited for an interview scenario. After playing around with a few things, she gave me something that I think would work great.

I will nail this.

My friends and husband will be forced to sit through my lesson as I practice. That’s the hard thing about doing a demo-lesson: treating the panel like your students. It’s one thing if you’re teaching them math or how to write a paragraph.  I’m going to be telling them to sit in a circle on the floor, singing and dancing with me. That’s a little tougher to do with older people wearing suits.

Regardless, I’m very excited and thankful for the opportunity.  The school is about an hour from where I live, but I NEED this job. Husband and I have no savings now, and we’re just living within our means currently. When summer hits (and there is no more sub work) I’m going to be either be A) screwed or B) bagging groceries. If I’m super lucky it could be C) All of the above.

 

Got it!

I’m currently reading into the theory of proactive teaching versus reactive teaching. To prepare for next Thursday’s interview, I’m writing a classroom management plan.  When I’m done I’ll share, but for now, I’ll post my lesson plan here for the interview.  At the very least, I can reflect in a week about what worked, and what didn’t.

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In anticipation of the holiday season, I leave you with photos of our Merry Christmas last year. (Though mostly of our cats.)

This is our quaint little tree from last year. It’s pretty sweet.

This is Happy Cat, discovering the joy of Christmas. He was only 6 months old at the time.

And here is Snape Cat, hating everything joyous and pretty sure that the tree is a defeatable enemy.

I am thankful to have my husband, my family, and my health, regardless of the fact that there are other things in my life that still aren’t perfect.

Happy Thanksgiving!

-therottedapple-