What New Teachers Need to Know- The Interview

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You’ve scored an interview, and now the real fun (anxiety) can begin! 

After hours of setting up your resume, applying for jobs, and forming cover letter after cover letter, you’ve finally done it! You heard the words, “We’d like you to come to our central office and interview for the position.” Yay! Your heart bursts with excitement and anticipation until reality sets in: now you have to interview.

 Although the thought of interviewing can send butterflies swarming in your stomach, it doesn’t have to be a nerve-wracking event. The better prepared you are for your interview the more at ease you’ll be, and your confidence will shine through to your future employers. Now the only question is, how do you become prepared?

When I was a new teacher applying for jobs, I anxiously awaited my first interview. At the time, I thought back to my college classes where we held mock interviews. Our professor called in retired principals and school officials to help us learn the skill of interviewing. I quickly learned that interviewing can be a difficult skill to pick up! 

Throughout the last six years I have practiced mock interviews, interviewed at career fairs, have had numerous phone interviews, and at least seven in-person interviews for teaching jobs. This may not be nearly as much as other educators, and I consider myself to be very lucky! However, my experiences have taught me a few valuable lessons when it comes to preparing for a teaching interview. As a new teacher, you may want to consider these tips as well!

Do Your Background Research 

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The few days leading up to the interview, I always started my research by checking out the district’s website. The position I was applying for was where I would direct my search. I would go to the individual school’s page or website and find the grade level. From there, I made note of teachers in the grade, how many there were, and any other information I could glean. Sometimes I would even look them up on Facebook or Google to find more personal information! I wanted to know the team, as well as an outsider, could before stepping foot in the interview. 

Once I had information on the team, I would review the school as a whole. I’d learn about the students, principals, specials, and anything else the website included. If a school decides to share certain information, it’s because they are proud of it! They want to share what amazing staff and students the school has, and as an interviewing teacher, this helped me feel confident that I already knew about the building’s culture. 

I would make note of the types of activities I saw on their websites. If I knew they annually held a particular activity, such as a wax museum, I’d be sure to ask about that or bring it up in one of my answers. I’d then look to the school as a whole and would take note of the schedule, behavior plan, and handbook. 

Searching through the school handbook is a great way to find valuable information before an interview. There you can find facts about the leadership, school rules and expectations, schedules, and other important programming. When new teachers are in the interview, one question that is usually asked is about philosophy on classroom management. If you know the school’s procedures, you can weave this knowledge into your answer.  

Finally, take the time to find the school or district’s mission statement/goals. If the goal is: every child will be respectful and responsible citizens, you can easily incorporate this statement into your discussion. Show that you are passionate about the education this district is providing students and the difference they are making!

Google It

When you go into an interview, it’s normal to be nervous. No matter if I interviewed by phone or in-person, I would be sweating a little (literally and figuratively) by the time it was over. It can be scary when you have no clue what they will ask! 

One tip I have for new teachers (or any teacher applying for a job) is to google sample interview questions! I would look up things like, “interview questions for a  fourth-grade teacher” or “questions during a teaching interview.” By writing them down and practicing my answers I was so much better prepared. And typically the school administration would ask a variation of the questions I had rehearsed!

It also helps to practice with someone else. Share a list of sample questions with your friend or significant other, and have them pretend to interview you. They may even ask questions that you haven’t thought of yet. You’ll get feedback on your answers as well as your body language. Over time, you’ll start to feel comfortable and will really know how to think through things quickly. 

Create a Rocking Portfolio (And Make Copies!)

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For this one, I like to go to my friends at Teachers Pay Teachers. There are so many different examples of portfolios to choose from! I always make multiple copies of my resume, cover letter, and sample lesson plans (my favorite ones). 

When you enter the interview, have enough copies of your portfolio for each person. I like to bring in a professional bag to store these, as well as a notebook to write down the answers to my questions. And on that note, please leave your cellphone in the car! You will not need it, not even while you’re waiting. 

Being prepared with a portfolio not only makes you look professional, but it helps you to stand out in the crowd. You would be surprised by the number of applicants who do not bring these supplemental materials, and it may end up hurting them. This is your time to shine, so come prepared!

Share A Thank You Note

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When I leave the interview, I already have my envelope addressed and stamped. I will write a quick note thanking them for their time and sharing why it would be an honor to work for their district. Within the same day it’s dropped in the mail. 

This is a key point to remember because in a few days all of the initial interviews will be complete. When your card comes in the mail, your name reenters their minds, and this may lead to a second interview. Then again it may not, but sending a thank you will make you look great! It shows that you are thoughtful and considerate of their time, and they may choose you to interview for a position in the future. 

Applying For Jobs: The End?

Hopefully these tips have helped you a little! They definitely have helped me over the years, and I’ll revisit them when I interview in the future. My wish for you is that you rock the interview and get a job on your first try, but even if that doesn’t happen, know that you’re not alone. There are thousands of other teachers in the same boat you’re in, trying to find that perfect job. I hope you stand out from the crowd and shine! 

Question: What are your biggest fears when it comes to interviewing?

Tidying up at Home

Let me tell you, I had big plans for spring break. Huge plans, in fact. Those unorganized cabinets? They’d be decluttered and minimized to the essentials. My dusty bookshelf? It was going to sparkle! And then, COVID-19. Ugh.

I’m truly worried about this, or at least I think I am, because I haven’t had a great night of sleep in weeks. My Fitbit tells me that I’ve been restless, and last night I couldn’t fall asleep to save my life. Things are hard! But I look at my life, and I know I have it so much easier than a majority of my neighbors.

I’m beyond blessed by the Lord to have:

  1. A job (and a paycheck)
  2. A roof over my head, and plenty of food to eat
  3. The health of my friends, family, and myself (and God willing, I pray that it stays that way)

Even though I have so much, it’s been difficult to keep my mind on the positive. I’ll see a news story, and my brain instantly races to the worst case scenario. The only way to combat my overactive thoughts is to keep myself busy. And so I thought:

If I can’t tidy at school, I’ll tidy extra hard at home!

So now I find myself with a goal in mind, extra time, and zero motivation. But a well-rounded box of cleaning supplies instantly fixed that! I went online and finally (and I mean finally- I’ve been looking at Grove for months) ordered my dream box of cleaning supplies.

I first heard of Grove Collaborative from a friend, and decided to use her coupon code to earn a free 5-piece gift. I picked out what I wanted, and added in a few items of my own. After a few days, my order finally arrived! I’m ready for a cleaning spree!

Instead of posting a blog unboxing, I decided to create a vlog unboxing! I’m so not the person who ever wants to be on camera; I much prefer to shoot behind the scenes. But I swallowed my fear, took my box, and filmed a short unveiling of the goodies I received. I can’t wait to share with you!

If you feel inclined, take a look at the video below! And let me know: what are your secret (or not-so-secret) cleaning hacks?

-Amanda-

Click the photo to watch the video!

What New Teachers Need to Know- Applying for Jobs Part 1

Due to everything that’s going on in our world right now (aka: the COVID-19 pandemic) you may think that now is not necessarily the best time to be applying for jobs. What school district is focusing on hiring right now when they have virtual learning to worry about? And at this point, no one knows if schools will be back in session at all in Ohio!

Despite thoughts like these, there is no time like the present to be filling out applications and putting your name out there. There are a few reasons for this:

  • You’ll be ahead of the game, as most schools begin actively interviewing in late April/May
  • There’s an endless amount of time to perfect your resume and cover letter (and send out a bunch of them)
  • Your references will have extra time to prepare letters of recommendation as well
  • Some schools may want to review their options and hire someone now, rather than scramble once the quarantine is over
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Applying for Jobs: What to Know

When applying for jobs, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind as a new educator. It can be confusing and overwhelming filling out applications, and the process may seem never-ending! When I was applying for jobs my first year out of school, there are a few things I wish I would have known and considered.

  1. The grade level you student taught may not be the best fit for you

When I completed my student teaching, I taught grades 7-8 in math and science. I loved the content, especially science. The students were very independent, and their social behaviors kept me on my toes. As an inexperienced, shy and vertically challenged teacher, it became difficult at times to reign in classroom control. But I enjoyed my time with the older kids, and applied for jobs in middle grades.

I ended up applying and interviewing for various jobs, and when all was said and done, I had the privilege of teaching 5th grade math and science. At first I felt unprepared for teaching younger grades, because I had zero experience with this age group. However as time went on, I learned that my skills were valuable and applicable with younger students. And no matter how prepared you are, you’ll always need to learn a few things with each new group of students that passes through your door.

As time went on, I moved down to grade 4. Even going down by one grade level had it’s challenges! But I absolutely adore my fourth graders, especially for their “want to please” attitudes. (At least most of them are this way!) I can’t imagine teaching any other grade level, because I love this age so much.

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2. Think about your goals: where do you want to be in five years?

This is something I hadn’t really considered when taking my first job, which was at a farm school. There was no real “town,” just corn fields and farms nearby, with nothing really going on when school was not in session. While this didn’t bother me at first, I realized it wasn’t ideal for the life I wanted to live.

At the time I lived at home with my parents, but over the years I dreamed of having my own space. I couldn’t afford a house, and nice apartments were hard to come by out in the country. I realized that even if there were apartments locally, my small salary wouldn’t allow me to move out on my own.

You need to consider where you want to be in five years. This first job may not be your forever job, so knowing where you want to go will help drive the choices you make. I knew I wanted to become a certified Gifted Intervention Specialist, and my first school paid half of my tuition in reimbursement. This allowed me to live at home and pay for school (I did have to take out a few loans however). After I had almost completed my degree, I found my dream position at my current school (that paid enough for me to move out)! Keeping your goals in mind will drive your choices.

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3. Apply to everything, even if you don’t want that job

Don’t get me wrong, you don’t want to waste anyone’s time. So please, don’t go applying for jobs that you aren’t certified for. However, I wish someone had told me to apply for everything! Once you have a job, you get out of the interview state of mind. It’s so important to have experience with interviewing.

When you interview with a district, you’ll get to have an inside look at their management from the central office. You get to see how the secretaries, principals, superintendent, and other key figures interact. It’s important to take note of their mannerisms, body language, and how they respond to your questions. Don’t forget this is your chance to get a feel for what the district is like!

You can always decline a job offer if you choose to go another route. But the experience you gain from an interview is invaluable. Take as many interviews as you can get, because you’ll get better and more confident in your answers with each one. Interviews not only help you understand a district, but they help you understand your philosophy as a teacher and how it aligns with that district.

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4. Be honest with yourself

At the end of the day, this is the job you’ve always dreamed of! And if it’s not, that’s okay too. I was absolutely disillusioned during my first year of teaching. My dream of teaching looked like students respectfully listening to every word I said, and teaching lessons so engaging that they never wanted to leave. I was quickly brought to my senses after that first week.

When applying for jobs, be honest with yourself. If you were offered this job, would you take it? Does this district align with your values and beliefs? Is this the age group that you really want to be teaching? Of course, you can change your answers to these questions once you have more experience. And sometimes, you don’t have the luxury of choosing what you want. You may have to work in a position at a school that you don’t like.

But hopefully if you know what you want and believe, you’ll someday get that dream job.

Start Applying

Before applying for jobs, I wish I would have thought through these things a little more. I still adore my first position and the school it was in, and wouldn’t change a thing! I hope that you, new teacher, can find exactly the job you’re looking for. So start now! Look each week, typically on Monday mornings, and start applying.

I’ll soon be posting the next post to this series, which will be about interviews (what to do before and after). There are a few tips and techniques that I learned along the way that will help you stand out! I’m excited to share that with you soon.

Question: If you could have your dream job, what would it be? Leave your answer in the comments below. I can’t wait to see what you think!

-Amanda

New Teachers: The Advice You Need

For Jim

I know, your senior year was cut short. Its ridiculously unfair to you. You won’t finish student teaching, will never say goodbye to your students, and graduation was cut. All of that effort and build-up leading to tossing that cap now has been diminished. You deserve to have your years of struggle and hard work acknowledged.

What now?

You get to look toward your future. Remember why you went through these years of hard work and dedication to your studies. It felt like you’d never finish, would never complete student teaching or pass your teaching exams. But you did it! And now you can look forward to your first job.

This is what you’ve been dreaming about for years, ever since you realized the classroom is where you’re meant to be.

But as an entry level teacher, there are questions you’ll need help answering. Questions you may not even know you have, and wouldn’t realize until you entered the classroom. My first few years of teaching taught me so much, and even now I’m constantly learning new things. I wish I had someone to help me navigate my first year, even before I set foot into a classroom. So I’m writing this for you, to help you see what you need to know.

What every new teacher needs to know.

I’ll be writing blogs in this series that cover topics such as your life goals, interviews with districts, setting up your classroom, Summer to-do’s and don’ts, and starting the year off prepared.

I’m writing this so that you, my reader, can feel a sense of calm as you enter this crazy new phase in your life. I hope these posts bring you a sense of calm with steps you can take to prepare for your first year. These are some of the things I wish I had known before entering the classroom.

Best of luck new teacher. I know you’ve got this.

-Amanda