Sunday, July 15, 2012

Update & More Interview Questions

The thing I love about the school I want to work at is that it's situated in the middle of a big, family friendly neighborhood.  It's one of those "planned communities" with a golf course and walking trails, and it has 5 community pools, one of which is just around the corner from the school.  I've been a nanny for kids in the neighborhood, and we have never gone to the pool and not seen kids that I've had in the after school program, kids that from the classes I student taught in, and kids from the classes I've subbed in.  This past week, we did run into kids, but I also ran into some adults - two moms that were regular substitutes and members of the PTA.  They had some interesting information to share with me - at least 5 of the teachers are not returning for different reasons.  They know that 1 lady who was a teacher's aide last year has gotten hired to fill one of those positions, but there are at least 4 still open, and one of them is in 4th grade (the grade I would love to have more than anything).  I also talked to my old boss from the after school program, and she said that principals would all be back in their offices by Thursday, so I should try emailing the principal again, and also emailing the former principal to see if she would mention me to the new one. 

I feel like I'm getting closer - with principals back in their office, it's time to start interviewing.  Here are a few more practice interview questions.

Q: Have you ever considered publishing a book?
A: I feel like I am called to teach young children and to gain a better education so that I may better teach young children.  I don't have my sights set on becoming any sort of person who trains other elementary teachers - I simply want to do what I do and do it well.  However, I can't discount the idea that when I'm pursuing an advanced degree or other professional development, that I will be collecting data and analyzing it for trends - or lack there of.  In my continuing education, should I come across ideas or action research that I feel could benefit other teachers, I think I could publish a paper or a small book.  From a young child perspective, I have always wanted to write my own children's book.

Q: Some people say you should demand respect. Do you agree or disagree?
A: I would have to disagree.  Respect is earned.  You can demand fear, and it looks a little bit like respect, but it's not the same thing.  I respect someone based on the things that they do and say, and not simply because they frighten me into doing so.  That being said, I think that when a teacher comes into the classroom for the first time, they have to be a little more strict than they normally are, simply to send the message that "I am the teacher, you are my students."  You don't want them to look at you like the substitute from "Ms. Nelson is Missing", but you want to make it very clear that you are an authority figure first, and then an educator, a buddy, and an advocate.  My old boss from the after school program summed it up very well.  She would say, "You can always get nicer."  She meant that you could be strict at first and loosen up down the line, but if you start off by being too permissive, the kids won't respond as well if you try to get more strict.   

Q:  Tell me about yourself.
A: I am at heart, a planner and a little bit of a control freak.  I don't need to control everyone around me, I just need control in my own life.  I need to know what's going on beforehand, I need to make plans so that it goes smoothly, and I need to know that I can control the outcome as much as possible.  I learn everything I can about the people I work with and the processes that I do so that I can reduce the amount of variables in the equation.  I like to make lists, and set goals.  I am always thinking about the future, and how my actions right now can influence the future.  I also look to the past to avoid having history repeat itself.  I'm an autodidact, a self-learner.  I can read a great book where a character has a fascinating medical condition I've never heard of, or travels to an exotic location I'm not familiar with and as soon as I finish the book I'm on the internet finding out everything about it that I can.  I only wish I had an eidetic, or photographic memory so that I could remember every thing I read, ever.  I love to work with the same people everyday and build deep relationships with them.  I dislike small talk with strangers, it's awkward and lacks sincerity.  I like to surround myself with things that are pretty, books, and people I can trust and rely on.  I've had some of these kids at this school since they were kindergarteners, and I could not love them more than if they were my nieces and nephews.  I dislike saying goodbye to people, and dramatic changes that influence my plans and my lists can make me very uncomfortable.  I'm pretty creative, and can usually see a use for or a way of doing something that other people miss.  I think all of these traits together make me a great candidate to teach kids, and I only wish I would have realized it sooner.

Q:  How would you rank these in importance and why? Planning, discipline, methods, evaluation.
A: Well, based on my above answer, it's pretty obvious that I would put planning first.  You can't plan everything, there are always variables, but you can reduce that number of variables to something that is easy to handle.  Not to mention, kids who are on a structured, planned routine and always know the procedures in a given situation are less likely to act up.  Evaluation would be next for me, because that is the tool that lets you know if something is working or not.  You can be taught methods from the greatest educators of our time, but if you don't stop and look at whether your methods work for your particular set of students, you're just that teacher from Charlie Brown saying "Wah wah wah" to a group of students who are not at all engaged.  Methods are next, because you need to know how to teach math and why it's different from reading.  You need to know why you do some things in a kindergarten classroom and other things in a fourth grade classroom.  You need to know how children learn, develop, and make connections.  I see these first three as three strands of a braid, and when you weave them together, you have discipline pretty much covered.  Your kids will know how to act because you will have Planned out the way your classroom is run, you will have Evaluated if what you are doing is working, and you will have learned a variety of Methods to keep kids engaged and on-task so that Discipline cases rarely arise.  When a child does act up, you will know how to handle it as an isolated incident, you can deal with it swiftly and without drawing too much attention, and you will move on. 

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