Week 5.1: Interviewing – Between the Lines

Week 5.1: Interviewing – Between the Lines

If you are looking for your first teaching job, you have probably found lists of practice interview questions on the Internet, heard the advice of everyone from your college professor to your student teaching supervisor to your parents, and bought your perfect interview outfit. So we’re not going to talk about that.

We’re going to talk about personality, finding the “right fit,” and how to read between the lines in interviews. Do school administrators lie during interviews – yes, they do. But they don’t call it lying, they call it “putting the best face on the situation.” But it’s more like lying. So, first bit of advice that you may take or leave: Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions.

If you have the nerve, don’t ask about salary, benefits, and moving expenses. As a teacher, quality of life in the classroom is way more important than that extra thousand dollars a year. (Yeah, teachers don’t make enough money. That’s a given.) So ask about the other members of the department who you will be working with, ask about the school’s record of teacher longevity, ask about the level of parental involvement in the school. You can ask about your department budget; but even better, ask about available funding for field trips, new technology, and new books. Ask about the school’s discipline policy (hey, you’re equally in trouble if they have one or if they don’t, but at least you know if you agree with whatever policy they do have.) Finally, try to get a vibe about experimentation – do you have the freedom to change how teaching is done in the classroom, and try new methods of teaching? Or are you restricted in curriculum, by policy, by parental expectations, and by the head teacher in your department? It’s worth knowing.

I could hear the despair when you read that sentence about an extra thousand dollars a year. Benefits and salary are important, especially if you have the spouse and kids. But finding the “right fit” job for you has nothing to do with money. Hopefully no one reading this became a teacher because you thought you’d be raking it in. Even before your first interview, you have developed strong reasons for how and why you want to teach. Keep that sense of purpose in your mind as you interview – finding the right fit is about understanding the students more than the administrator and policies. They are the people you will be trying to form working relationships with on a daily basis – so see if you can observe or teach a class as part of your interview. A few schools already do this, and it’s GREAT.

In typical “Miss Teacher” fashion, I have presented you with contradictory statements in this post. Money both matters and doesn’t matter, the personality of your administrator both matters and doesn’t matter. You’re a professional and should be able to work with any other adult professional, but that doesn’t change the simple fact that you will simply mesh better with some people than others. It is worth it to keep interviewing until you find those people. Administrators do lie, but keep looking until you find one you can work with and feel comfortable with – similar to previous posts about “mentors.”

I feel like a guru at this point, staring at you and saying in a deep, portentous tone, “KNOW Thyself.” Do that, but hey, the best thing to do is to go to multiple interviews and analyze them before making any decisions. Get out there! Good luck.


Extra resources: Please refer to paragraph 1 of this post.
Next week: What Do We Take Seriously?  

Week 3.4: The Power of Reflection

Week 3.4: The Power of Reflection

It is time to celebrate the end of the first three months of this blog, Teaching is Mad Hard. Luckily, the title still applies. But we’re going to celebrate by reflecting, not on the last three months, but on the power of reflection!

I still remember being a teacher aid in high school, spending a class period making copies, organizing files, or whatever else for my favorite high school teacher. I happily blame him now for being the inspiration behind my own career choice – oh, if I had only known! Anyway, one day I went in the teacher’s office to put something away, and he looked up from his computer and said, “You know, everything we do is about perspective.” I had NO IDEA what he was talking about, or why he was talking about it. It was a completely out-of-the-blue statement. He was apparently having that kind of day.

But now I get it.

I get that a teacher can choose to be positive or negative. I get that you never really know what a person means through an email. I get that every action you make depends on how you see yourself, how you see other people, and how you see your job. And finally, I get that hindsight is 20/20.

Everything we do is about perspective!


Through reflection, teachers can develop their perspective. That is why there are so many resources and teacher development classes that talk about videotaping yourself, as we mentioned in last week’s post, and keeping a teacher diary. In fact, some of most valuable advice I have received came from a college teacher who encouraged the use of a journal. Basically, you just write a little bit about teaching every week in your journal. The benefit to keeping a job diary is a bit different than when you kept your first diary at age 12 or so. Because instead of talking about the middle school Valentine’s Day Dance, now you’re thinking about other ways to handle parent situations in the future. Or maybe you’re still talking about the dance, and how nasty it is to see eighth graders kissing. Thank goodness you’re mature now!

The perspective that journal reflection provides is a time-warping, honest kind of reflection. How many times growing up did you tell yourself that you were going to remember what it is like to be in middle school? And how much have you forgotten? Or, thinking relevantly, how many times have you told yourself that you were going to try a new technique in class, and then were too busy to do it? Reflection can lead to useful change in the classroom; and perspective makes you a better teacher whether you are knowingly changing or not.

So, good luck digging through all of your experiences up to now. Remember, everything we do is about perspective. But just know that if you say that to your students, they won’t really understand you until they become teachers.

Share your tips about reflection by commenting below or emailing teachingismadhard@gmail.com.

Why no extra resources this week? Because, your years of experience are the best reflection resources out there!


Next week: Interviewing!

Classroom Holiday Party?

This is a short post because of all the gift-wrapping, cookie-baking, and home-cleaning we all need to do. And all that besides trying to keep students on task when there is snow outside to play with and every classroom and their mom has plopped them down in front of the Grinch movie?

So, I only have one recommendation for your classroom at holiday time. Use the time, no matter what short class schedule, hectic all-school celebration, or other drama you have at your school, to do an activity that emphasizes the good things people do at this time of the year. It could be connecting a Trans-Siberian Orchestra winter show video with how music is used to raise funds and awareness of a global issue, as they did for Sarajevo. It could be promoting knowledge of other cultures by playing a game about the different holiday traditions around the world. It could be an Apples-to-Apples type game that matches the gift with the student who plans to give it to their family member (or the fictional gift the student would like to give if you don’t want to be so personal).

The options for sharing stories of kindness are endless! Don’t show Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, not agaaaaiiin…

Happy Holidays! Wishing you the best for a Happy New Year.