Friday, January 11, 2013

It's time to begin, isn't it?

Ten points to you if you can name the song this title comes from - it has been on repeat both on my iPod and in my head for quite some time now (yes, even with all the Christmas music that I flood my stereo with).

As I take gigantic scissor steps out of my comfort zone and into new schools, I'm also working on my "speechin' skills" for interviews.  It's probably a safe assumption that questions and answers one would find in a corporate interview can be quite different from those in the education field, but there will be some overlap.  I'm using the list I was using before, given to me by a principal in a neighboring district, but I've also been perusing an ebook I found about how to answer the 64 most common interview questions.  This book takes a more corporate standpoint, but I think we can all agree that any job you interview for is going to ask the big 3:

1. Tell me about yourself.
2. What are your strengths.
3. What are your weaknesses.

I've said before that I don't interview well.  I also don't meet people well.  I don't make a great first impression - it's not a train wreck or anything, but I think I am an acquired taste.  I lack a lot in social graces, so I tend to clam up when I meet new people and speak as little as possible.  In interviews, where I am being directly questioned, I tend to go into a fugue state, answer the questions from the seat of my pants, and forget everything that happened as soon as I walk out of the office.  This means that A) my answers are not the most well-thought out or presenting me in the best possible light and 2) I am unable to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses and adjust them later.  I can't guarantee that from now on my interviews won't be like an out-of-body experience, where I hear myself talking but I can't control it, but at least the answers I give will hopefully be more meaningful.  Here are some questions I answered from the ebook (and a little commentary):

1. Tell me about yourself.

I studied education at UNT and did my student teaching in Denton ISd at E.P. Rayzor elementary.  For the last 4 years, I've been employed for Denton ISD as an after-school instructor, a substitute, and a childcare giver for the adult ESL classes.  I've worked with kids in an elementary or preschool capacity for 10 years.

2. What are your greatest strengths?

(The book says that you should have a list of your 10 best qualities memorized so you can recite them cold at 2:30 in the morning, so my list is first, followed by my actual answer)
1. Organized and Efficient
2. Creative
3. Enthusiastic
4. Sense of Humor
5. Intelligent
6. Dedicated
7. Ethical
8. Generous
9. Quick thinking on my feet
10. I Genuinely like kids

I am organized and efficient.  Teachers have limited instructional time, and the more time you have to spend searching for materials, or shuffling things around because your construction paper is under a stack of animal books, the less time you get to spend with the class.  Not to mention, all that shuffling and searching leaves you stressed, which rubs off on your kids.  I'm enthusiastic about education, especially reading.  If I can leave one legacy with the kids that I teach, it would be to turn them into voracious readers.  Finally, I think quickly on my feet.  There is no feeling quite so suffocating as being in front of 22 students and realizing that the lesson you planned is not going to work, but you have nothing else prepared.  While I strive to be organized and have all my materials ready, there may come a day when I forget an important tool, or my students simply are not feeling it, and I have to make a change and quickly.
(I put creativity on the list but I don't mention it because 1) it's subjective, and b) you'd need concrete, tangible examples and I'm not going to come into an interview with samples of artwork or lesson plans.  I mention the 3 out of 10 that I think a principal would most want in a competent teacher.) 

What are your greatest weaknesses?

No one is without things they feel they need to work on, but I feel like I have the qualifications and the enthusiasm to motivate me to do well in this position.  I don't always enjoy dealing with parents, they can sometimes feel entitled or feel like teaching is easy and anyone could do it, but I respect the fact that everyday they give me the most precious thing they have and I strive to right by them.   
(Do you know I have had more current and former teachers tell me they hated dealing with parents than any other aspect of the job?  It used to be that a parent and a teacher were on the same side - now when a kid doesn't perform or gets in trouble, the parents seem to think "What did the teacher do wrong?")

Why did you leave your last position?

Extended school day is a great program.  I recommend it as a part-time job to anyone in college who wants to someday work with kids.  But it is that, a part-time job, and I am ready for a full-time, classroom position.

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

I see myself in the classroom, at the same school I was hired at.  I don't mind switching grades if I am needed, but I am a person who puts down roots.  Outside of school, I see myself pursuing either a masters degree in a Language-Arts program or my certification to become a teacher of the Gifted and Talented program.  I say "pursuing" and not "having achieved" because I want to spend at least 2 to 3 years with my classroom being my sole focus.
(Honestly, I spent 9 years in college.  While I want to be the best teacher I can be, even if that means pursuing an advanced degree, it is not going to happen anytime soon because I am so *over* school right now.)

Why do you want to work here?
(I answered this question not with a specific school in mind, but a specific district)

D***** ISD is a wonderful place to work.  According to, out of the 21 elementary campuses, none rate below a 5 out of 10 and 15 campuses rate a 7 or higher.  As of 2009, the turnover rate for teachers in this district was less than 11%, compared to the state average of more than 14%   There are so many great supplementary programs, and I feel like education is a real priority.  While the school district has so many schools and 2 early childhood centers, it feels more like a community and less like a large metropolis.  I am excited to see what Dr. W, the new superintendent has in store.

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