Friday, June 26, 2015

Interview Questions, Tips and A Picture Portfolio


When I moved to Michigan two years ago I had no idea how difficult it was to get a job in a public school.  I had to get serious!  I looked a tons of blogs to get ideas and am hoping to pay that back as the advice of others helped me so much in my own job search. I'm now at a public school in Michigan with an amazing principal and colleagues I very much enjoy. Hooray!
Phone Interview:
Although talking on the phone isn't as ideal as talking in person, one nice thing about these is you can do the interview with no makeup in your jammies!  You can pace around and have notes in front of you the entire time.  I always have highly specific notes I keep in front of me for phone interviews and my laptop handy to type the questions as they are given.  These questions are great for reference, not only for this interview, but also as you prepare for interviews in the future.  All of the interview questions I've mentioned below are ones I've typed during or written down after an interview.    
My interview notes are divided into a number of sections:
*Introduce self - Personally and professionally
*Why am I interested in this school?
*Teaching Philosophy
*Classroom Management
*Difficult child - what do you do?
*Professional reading and development (include specific titles of books and presentations)
*Strengths and weaknesses
*Good reading instruction - what does it look like?
*Good math instruction - what does it look like in your classroom?
*RTI and assessment experience
*Parent involvement
*What sets you apart from other candidates?
*What can you add to your team?
For a phone interview I had that was a final interview as it was out of state, I sent a picture through their online application system as an attachment.  I like to visualize who I'm talking to and figured they would as well.  I learned after I got the job that they had my picture up as I interviewed, so this worked for me.  I've heard arguments against this as well, but I wasn't attempting to send a Glamour Shot.  I just wanted them to have some idea who they were talking to.  For the record, I would NOT send a Glamour Shot.  :)
In Person Interview:
For every question that deals with the classroom, think of a student you have had in the past that demonstrates that particular part of teaching.  For example, instead of simply talking about working with struggling readers generally, say something about your classroom practices and then add the student example like: "One example from my own classroom was when I helped Terra who was unable to find motivating just right books by doing some emergent publishing.  We spent 15 minutes a day during the literacy block typing up her own stories as she told them to me aloud.  She loved her personalized stories and used these as a supplement to her just right texts.  She also used them during our writer's workshop block. This was one way I've tried to individualize instruction for one of my struggling readers."
Try to frame your answers using the question at the beginning and end of your response.  I have a super hard time doing this, but I know from friends who have been on a crazy amount of interview committees that this is one thing that sets candidates apart when they have a number of qualified applicants.  An articulate speaker is someone you hire! I always try to use the question or part of it as I begin and finish the answer to every interview question.  Using something like "In short, those are a few examples of how I organize the math block in my classroom." as the end to a response helps your interviewers to know you're done rather than waiting for you to trail off and then look at them awkwardly as a signal you're finished rambling.    
Possible Interview Questions:
*Tell us a little about yourself  (this is not a question) :)
*What could you bring to the position?  What sets you apart from other candidates?
*Tell us about your teaching experience as it pertains to the position.
*What is your background as it relates to classroom management?
*What is the most recent professional development you've participated in?
*What is a professional development book you've found useful in your classroom, and give examples of how you've integrated what you've learned into your classroom instruction.
*Give an example of one of your favorite children's books and how you'd use this for instructional purposes in your own classroom.
*Describe a lesson in your classroom that went well and how you knew it went well.
*Describe a lesson in your classroom that did not go well, how you knew it did not go well, and what you did after the lesson.
*How do you differentiate for students on different academic levels?
*What assessments are you familiar with?  
*How do you know that your students are learning?
*You notice a student crying at his/her desk – what would you do?
*You notice your whole class is not engaged in a lesson – what would you do?
*How do your students know they can depend on you?
*Do you do anything outside of school to further your learning?
*Do you consider yourself a reflective teacher?
*Your whole class fails an assessment – what would you do?
*Why did you decide to become a teacher?
*What would you be if you weren’t a teacher?
*How do you involve parents in your classroom?
*How do you effectively communicate with parents?
*Have you ever changed course due to the needs of a teammate?
*Have you ever gone above and beyond for a student?
*What are your strengths and weaknesses as an educator?
*Why do you want to teach at this particular school/district?
*Do you have any questions for us?
What to Take:
These are the items I always take to interviews:
Resume (5-6 copies) 
Picture Portfolio (3-5 copies of stapled packets)
Letters of Recommendation (5-6 copies of stapled packets) 
My iPad (to show how I used Class Dojo and the Confer app if asked)
My interview notes (pictures of pages shown above)

A Word About Portfolios:
I do not like the giant binder portfolios.  I find them cumbersome and don't want to wade through them as part of an interview committee.  There's always only one which means you don't have time to pass it around and it's awkward to have someone leave a copy since it usually gets shoved in a desk or sits with the secretary while the job candidate slinks back to retrieve it three days later.
I do like to show as much personality as possible and have something extra to set me apart.  I am a super visual person and have tons of pictures of my classroom due to the blog, so I decided a picture portfolio with some fast facts about me would do the trick.  I always make at least 3 color copies of my picture portfolio to take and leave at interviews. If I am super excited about a position I also e-mail these as a PDF to the principal/contact person when the job is listed.  This is one thing that could set you apart.  Not everyone will like it, but you only need one person to find it engaging and call you back.  Another plus about having this with you at the interview is you can work it in to the curriculum questions you are given.  I used the writing page to show my current principal/interview committee when I was asked a question about what I would change about their current writing curriculum.  I was so happy I had the pictures to back up my thoughts
The second page of my picture portfolio includes Fast Facts I want to make sure the interview committee knows about me, plus it's a nice way to show a little personality.  It's always a bummer when you leave an interview realizing you wish you had said something, but forgot or didn't have an opportunity.  The Fast Fact page is a good way to get the basics in you are hoping to say, plus since it's short, there's a better chance the interview committee will actually look at it
I make all of the picture pages in PowerPoint and then save them as a PDF before I print them.  If you save them as a PDF then the document can be easily sent by e-mail.  
I hope some of this info is helpful to you job seekers out there.  When on the hunt for a job, there is so much you can't control, but one thing you can control is your degree of preparation.  I always figure I'll prepare as well as I can and whatever happens happens.  

If you're looking for more job hunt resources, here are some I found useful last summer. Enjoy!
So You Want to be a Teacher? Interview Tips from Beyond the Worksheet
Top 10 Tips for Landing a Teaching Job from Luckeyfrog's Lilypad
A+ Teacher Interview from Primary Punch
Teacher Interview Questions from Extra Special Teachingl
Job Interview Tips from The Cornerstone for Teachers

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer Stuff #8 Collecting Mentor Texts for Writing

Holy cow I've been a slacker blogger!  I was so excited to get a new job last summer that I spent a whole lot of time working in my new classroom and hardly any time blogging.

But now it's SUMMER and I'm back to blogging and being a productive member of teacher-blogging society.  I have goals to be a much more prolific blogger during the 2015-16 school year.  I learned tons of things in my new classroom so I have lots of fresh ideas for blogging!

One of the first things I'm doing this summer is collecting new mentor texts for writing for next year.  If you fabulous teachers out there have more ideas I would love to hear them in the comments!  Here are a few I'm either buying or dusting off for next year.

love, love, love the book Me . . . Jane.  This is a excellent text to whip out during a nonfiction/biography unit.  The pictures are beautifully done and my kids love the ending where the author moves from illustrations to a photograph.  The combination of picture book story with nonfiction information at the end is so well done and is a great example for students of mixing genres, getting story inspiration from real people, as well as zooming in on a single event - like Jane's relationship with her stuffed monkey Jubilee.  This is a book we read and reread over and over again because the kids request it!

The S.O.S. File is great for emergency stories and/or scar stories!  If you read this during a personal narrative unit you can try doing a genre switch (using students' personal narratives as inspiration for a fictional story).
The Day I Lost my Class Hamster is a excellent text to model personal narrative and school stories.  I always read the Miss Cucumber chapter and then talk about bathroom accident school stories.  My third graders always find it thrilling to learn that Mrs. Smith had many-a-bathroom-accident by the end of second grade.  I had a very sensitive stomach.  :)  
I love 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny.  It's perfect for for a quick summer teacher read. I've also used it as a personal narrative mentor text in the classroom.  Try the chapter where he gets his tie stuck in the laminator. I also try to read the Picture Day chapter on (you guessed it) picture day.  Fantastic!
Be warned: He uses the word H-E-L-L so for sensitive/over-reactive students don't read it under the doc camera. I learned this lesson the hard way so you don't have to.


If you're interested in more of my Summer Stuff Series, focused on easy items to make or think about implementing in your classroom next year, check out these posts:
Summer Stuff #1 - The Birthday Committee
Summer Stuff #2 - The Service Station Freebie
Summer Stuff #3 - The Tooth Fairy
Summer Stuff #4 - Freebie Sanitizer Bathroom Passes
Summer Stuff #5 - Books for Back to School
Summer Stuff #6 - Award Awesome Students with The C.H.I.P. Award
Summer Stuff #7 - Crazy Easy Differentiation Folders

Monday, April 20, 2015

Testing Tips Posters

I feel pretty lucky that my Michigan kidlets don't have to take the dreaded MSTEP and NWEA until May - That's right - May!  This is way better than Colorado, where my third graders started standardized testing in February.  Gah!
If you need to make your room a testing haven, making Testing Tips Posters is a simple activity you can do to make your room a little more test friendly.  Students can hang up their testing poster around the room throughout your testing window and then testing best practices are all around them.  
I tell them the purpose of the poster is to motivate them, remind them of a testing tip, or relax them.  I always draw a giant beach with a sunset and tell them that when I'm stressed I like to visualize being at the beach, so my testing poster will help me relax if I'm stressed.
Here are some pics from years past.  We'll see what the little ones come up with this year.  Something cute I'm sure!
Happy testing season!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Happy New Year - No Prep Art/Team Building for First Day Back

See how I'm blogging instead of showering?  Gah!  Completely horrible, but tonight is the night people might actually need an easy idea to get them pumped (or at the very least keep them from being horribly depressed) about going back to the classroom tomorrow. We all love children, but we also love sleeping in and sipping our coffee leisurely, all while going to the bathroom anytime we want for two whole weeks! Sometimes that first day back can be brutal.
Here's a super simple project you can do anytime during the first day/week back - word clouds.  All you need is paper (Easy!), pencils (You can do this!), and some crayons or colored pencils (Everything will be just fine. You will go to the bathroom at 4 pm.)
1. Have students think about all the things they did during the break and brainstorm this as a list of words (this step is optional, but makes the project take longer - you might need this sort of project tomorrow).
2. Have students share the 3-5 most important or exciting words from their list.
3. Now pass out the paper (I like white) and have the kidlets write those 3-5 words nice and big in PENCIL.
4. After the big words, have students fill in the rest of the page with the other words on their list.
5. Have students cut out around the words and voila!  They have a word cloud!
6. Now they can trace their many words in color and even color the background or draw a cloud shape around their words.
7.  Wanna get fancy?  Have students share their word clouds with partners around the room.
DONE!  An easy, as time consuming as you want it to be, art/teambuilding activity you can use first thing tomorrow with almost zero prep needed.  Another thing I LOVE about this project is it's a way for students to tell their many break stories to students around the room (instead of to me) and display them for all to see.  They love, love, love telling their holiday break stories and I love, love, love having an easy activity for when I need a breather (or even a bathroom break) that first day back!
Good luck tomorrow!  We can do it!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Favorite Things Blog Hop

Welcome to I Want to be a Super Teacher!  I'm so excited to be participating in this AMAZING blog hop!
Here are just a few of my favorite things.
Classroom Supply Fave
One of my teaching favorites and absolute must haves are Paper Mate felt pens for correcting.  I am not a fan of red inking everything up and hate pens that leak, so these beautiful multi-colored babies are perfect for me.  I have them in every teaching bag, mug, and basket from school to home so one is always at my fingertips. I'm also a sucker for colored Expo markers.  I just need colors other than red, black, and green so the multi-packs (pink! baby blue!) are an absolute necessity.
Beauty Fave
This year one of my sweeties said, "Mrs. Smith, I was going to get you makeup for your birthday, but then noticed you never wear any."  I chose to take this as a compliment that my makeup application is so flawless that eight-year-old girls can't even tell I'm wearing it, rather than taking it as my face looks so awful I couldn't possibly be wearing foundation let alone lipstick.  :)

Despite opinions to the contrary, I do actually wear makeup and Neutrogena is my favorite!  I used to use Clinique when I was living off of my parents, but Neutrogena is everywhere, recommended by my dermatologist, and much cheaper than the former.  I'm currently loving their Moisturizing Color Sticks. They're way better than regular lipstick and keep my lips nice and soft even through these freezing cold Michigan winters.
Restaurant (Movie Theater/Drafthouse) Fave 
We absolutely LOVE the Alamo Drafthouse in downtown Kalamazoo.  It's an amazing movie theater with yummy food, great beer, and all the indie movies you could ask for.  There's nowhere else in town you can have a raspberry ale, followed by an arugula pizza, all while watching a Sixteen Candles quote-a-long (I heart Jake Ryan!).
Favorite Thing to Do During the Holidays
Hanging out with these two during the holidays is, hands down, the best thing ever!
Mix and match any three from this list and it's been a perfect day {sleep in, make pancakes, sip coffee leisurely, cuddle Lily the minpin, Facetime with family, go out to brunch, go to a movie, watch an HBO show, sit and watch snow, cook a crockpot meal, watch an old favorite holiday DVD, make a mid-day cup of tea, wrap up in a blanket, take a nap, hang out with my hubby, go out to a yummy dinner, shop online, listen to music while cooking a warm dinner}

(and yes, my dog is wearing a fluffy fur coat - Michigan winters are freezing!)
Favorite Store
I am a crazy online shopper!  The only things I buy at an actual store are jeans and swimsuits (Ugh!). Amazon is by far my favorite online site.  From classroom books, to dog treats, to paper towels, I buy pretty much everything from them.  So for my favorite things prize I'm donating an Amazon Gift Card!  The lucky winner of my prize pack will get a $25 Amazon gift card from me, along with a lot of other exciting "favorite" gifts from other bloggers, so make sure you enter below.    


In addition to the amazing prize packs, all the bloggers participating in the blog hop will be putting select TpT items from their stores for 50% off.  You can search #myfavoritethings2014 on TpT to find all the items or look for the featured products in each store. 

Because we value our followers and wanted to treat you to our favorite things Oprah style, we have put together the best giveaway of the season! My bloggy friends and I welcome you to the best, biggest, most cheerful event of the season:


7 winners for 7 prize packs!






Come and enter the giveaway and check out my bloggy friends' favorite things:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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