Saturday, March 26, 2016

Interviewing Tips (Part 2): Brand, Spanking New Teacher

If you haven't read my earlier post on 8 interview tips, make sure to peruse those as well, but these are specific for newbies.  For those of you heading out to your very first teaching job, interviewing may be a little tricky since you have limited experience to draw from.  Below are a list of suggestions to help you up your chances of landing a position.

1. Get your ducks in a row
Ducks, Facebook, Instagram, get the picture (no pun intended).  Unfortunately for young professionals, your choice of what you've shared online can come back to haunt you.  Lock down your social media and be careful who you invite into your inner circle.  What you share provides great insight into your personality and personal choices, and for some it is not something that you want H.R. to get a hold of.  Do schools scan the internet for information about you, in addition to your resume, you betcha!   I've known candidates not to get a job for talking about how they have students as friends on Facebook, and these aren't inexperienced teachers.  I've also seen teachers lose their jobs after inappropriate use of social media.

2.  Put your ego in check
New teachers are so excited to get in the classroom and even more so when they find success with students.  However, regardless of your natural talent as an educator, you should be humble. New teachers are so raw and lack so many experiences; it's not that they aren't good at their craft, it's that there is so much they don't yet know.  When working with preservice and beginning teachers I find that they often times will deflect any critical feedback, and this can make working with them especially challenging the first few years.  If the interview team sees that you come across as arrogant, you have probably lost the job before you walk out the door.  Before leaving, you might ask if you would have a mentor for your first year, or what professional development classes are available to help beginning teachers.  This shows great maturity and that you are open to suggestion and learning new skills.

3.  Letters of recommendation
At the end of the interview you might consider leaving a copy of your updated resume and letters of recommendation with the interview team.  You should get a letter from your cooperating teacher and university advisor.  If possible, collect letters from previous bosses and teammates you may have worked with during student teaching.  Toward the end of your student teaching you may have the school's principal come in and do an observation and provide feedback.  This could be another piece to bring to the interview.

4.  Have questions lined up
It is really important, especially in your first few years, to find a supportive school for you.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  You will need support, period.  I nearly quit teaching after my very year because I didn't have the type of principal beginning teachers need.  She would undermined me with parents and with colleagues until I just couldn't wait for the year to end.  I wasn't effective, I knew it, and I needed out.  Luckily my husband insisted that I give it another year at another school.  My second school ended up being a much better fit.  I felt valued and supported, and as a result grew into a confident professional.

Ask questions about support and mentors, ask questions about the team you will be on and how they operate, ask questions about the resources you will be provided and training you might need.  If there are quite a few teachers leaving, ask why that is.  Don't be afraid of asking the hard questions.  If it doesn't feel right, it's not the place for you.  It's taken me nearly 20 years, but I now understand that although I may be qualified for a job, it might not be the right place or time.  And that's okay.

5.  Show your potential
No one will hold your inexperience against you if you have other "potential" characteristics.  After interviewing new teachers, the team conversation will eventually turn to your inexperience.  Everyone has to start somewhere and so the team looks at your potential.  Our team will ask questions like, "How open does he/she seem to training, mentoring, suggestion, critique?"  "How confident are we that she is well spoken enough to deal with parents?"  "Does she/he seem organized and have a plan to prepare?"  Flexibility, being open, organized, and well spoken are foundational characteristics on which great teachers are built.

As the interview wraps up, don't forget to ask when you might hear from the school regarding the position.  Make sure to thank the interviewing team and follow up with a thank you note, even if you find out you don't get the job.  When the principal calls to tell you that you weren't selected, there is nothing wrong with asking for some feedback or suggestions.  If there was something that prevented you from getting the position, they will let you know.  And if they say inexperience, it may just be that the current team already has that so the school is looking for a veteran to balance things out.  Always be gracious, poised, and professional.  Remember principals talk.  If you were good but not the right fit, your name might be passed along to another school.

Good Luck!!


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