Remote Teaching

Middle School Classroom

I had a student message me the other day, asking how I was doing at school and if I was remembering to feed his reindeer pizza, which is apparently his reindeer’s favorite food. He also wanted to ensure that I was keeping a healthy 6 feet social distance from the reindeer as I fed it. (Long story… the reindeer was from an escape room we did before winter break.) The message made me chuckle, as he is just one of many of my sixth graders who believes that I live in my classroom. When I told him that I hadn’t been at school since we all left a few weeks ago, he replied with: “Well, I guess your classroom is your second home.”

That it is, dude. My second home. I missed my second home, my 155 eleven-year-olds, my colleagues. I missed the organizations I was in charge of, writing on my board, and even lunch duty.

Since then, many of my teacher friends have been echoing each other in saying “remote teaching is more exhausting than teaching in person.” It is A LOT more work than it seems… transforming content into digital resources, trying to reach students that have been absent from classwork, helping kids understand the lesson while miles apart. Oh, and did I mention tech issues?

Here in Pennsylvania, our state school system has shut down for the remainder of the year. That means we have 7 more weeks of teaching this way. I just can’t fathom knowing that you might feel down and out that long. So, I wanted to share 3 things I’ve been implementing that have been making teaching remotely a lot better for me.

Continue to Develop Classroom Culture

Classroom culture online?! I haven’t lost my mind, I promise. Even though your classroom is now virtual, you can still continuing learning about students, recognizing them, helping them develop social skills, and making memories together. This is my favorite part of being a teacher! I made a YouTube video for my students all about how this time would bring challenges that we have never before experienced, but that I wanted us to try to focus on something during this remote learning time that was positive as opposed to something negative. My kids know that I’m obsessed with my dogs, so I created a virtual Class Pet idea. We couldn’t have a class pet in school (maybe a fish, but I was honest and told them I have a bad track record with fish), but we can have a class pet in our virtual classroom! In fact, we can have a different one each day! All students were invited to fill out a google form where they uploaded a picture of their pet, their pet’s name and breed, and some fun facts or reasons why they are a good class pet. Then, I upload the Class Pet of the Day to show off the cool animals that the kids have along with continuing to build on our classroom community! The kids have been loving it, and I love continuing to develop this classroom culture.

Students fill out this google form to see their pet be featured as our class pet of the day.

Focus on Fun

In my humble opinion, this is the time to have some fun with the content, while still providing essential skills. Is there a new, fun way to teach some of these essential skills that you’ve never done before? This is the time to take a risk and step out of your comfort zone. We always do a narrative writing unit towards the end of the year, and I realized that the way I traditionally taught it would put a lot of unwarranted stress and work on kids, especially knowing I couldn’t provide them as much support as I traditionally would. So, instead of that, I found an awesome series called Pixar in a Box that Pixar made while partnering with Khan Academy. I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel, as they’ve already made awesome videos for the whole unit, and I could create content to go alongside it. Who could teach story-telling skills better than Pixar?! My kids are still learning what they need to in order to progress to the next grade, but I am taking a risk and the kids are really having a blast with the fun way I am teaching the unit.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Things might not go the way you originally wanted. Technology can be the biggest help and at the same time the biggest hindrance to us. This morning, I had set this week’s work up to be completed in chronological order. This has worked for me in the past, but when I got my 8th email of the morning stating that the module wouldn’t let them move forward, I had to lay aside my stress and frustration and just take it off that preferred setting. Is it perfectly what I wanted? Nope. Am I super happy about it? Nope. But, it isn’t worth my frustration and all my students’ frustration if the setting is bugging out. Do what you can to eliminate these situations for yourself and your kids. Things might not go the way you have exactly planned them, but if the kids are having fun and learning, it will all be okay. Take a deep breath, and move on.

Well, there you have my two-cents worth of remote teaching. I’ve been staying out of your inbox because if you’re anything like me, your inbox is full and you’re probably zoomed-out. Just know that if there is anything I can do for you during this time, feel free to fill out a form on my website to connect with me. I’m here to support you! Please remember to take some time for yourself and your family, and my wishes go out to all of you for health and safety.

Myths about Kids with Challenging Behavior

Middle School Classroom

Oh, dear friend, it’s been awhile since you’ve heard from me, huh? I love my job, but do you want to know a secret? I’ve been very tried, and quite frankly, very uninspired to write, for the past couple of months. This year has been a doozy so far.

Please don’t get me wrong. I adore my career. And, I adore each and every one of my students. But, sometimes, students demonstrating challenging behavior can quickly put a damper on the day.

When I chose teaching as my career, I wasn’t ignorant about the fact that I would have some students with challenging behaviors. What I was ignorant about, though, was thinking that I’d be able to be official Mrs. Super Woman and make these challenging behaviors go away. I thought, sure, a kid might show challenging behavior coming into my classroom, but when they leave, they will be changed! Say sayonara to problems and hello to the new you!

This year has been a bit of a slap in the face to that sweet, yet ignorant, theory. I’m going to share 5 myths about kids with challenging behavior, to help you regain a realistic viewpoint.

Myth #1: I can solve all of my students’ problems. Some students present challenging behavior because of education-related issues, such as being held to a much higher learning-level than they are capable of doing. Usually, we as teachers, are quick to spot these situations and advocate for students to get the supports or accommodations that they need. I will argue, then, that many of the challenging behaviors that continue will be from students who come into your classroom with emotional experience or even some kind of trauma. Some of these students are still going through really hard times at home. You will lay up at night worrying about your kids. And, when you go in the next day, you still might not be able to truly be what they need. Teachers have big hearts, and caring for students goes far beyond the walls of your classroom. On the flip side, our students are also experiencing life that extends beyond the walls of our classroom, too. We can’t expect children to be able to turn off whatever is happening at home during the school day. And as much as we’d give anything to do so, we sometimes can’t solve what is going on at home or what happened in the past.

Myth #2: Tough kids just need a tough behavior management program. I believed that when kids acted up, it was because no one ever “laid down the law,” so to speak. I do really believe that kids need consequences for their actions, and that this will assist in helping them learn, but discipline simply isn’t a cut and paste process. Just like students need differentiation in their learning of core subjects, they need differentiation when they are learning how to behave, too. And, as much as you want to lose it on them in the moment, or impose harsh consequences, not all students will change their behavior just because they sit in lunch detention for one day. Discipline should be one piece of solving a greater problem. Conversations are important. These conversations shouldn’t just be one-way. As adults, we think we know everything and that we can just tell students what to do and how to act. We need to actually hear from the students, though, to understand what is setting them off or what is preventing them from being their best self in order to help them through it.

Myth #3: I will be provided information about my kids’ home lives so I know how to help them. Due to privacy laws, you won’t learn much about the students who are crying out for help. Having good communication with parents and guardians when possible is extremely helpful, as they might provide insight to the home situation, but counselors and administration are usually not allowed to share much, if any, private information. This can be frustrating, as you would like to know these situations to help you in the classroom, but sometimes you just have to do your best for them without knowing many details.

Myth #4: Students will be able to trust me. As much as you think you are trustworthy, some students assume all adults, especially teachers, are out to get them. I attribute this back to a failed #2, because if no one is investing in teaching the kids how to behave, and is instead simply giving them harsh punishments, (or worse, just having meaningless conversations with them and not trying to learn about their take on the situations) kids will continue being referred to the office, or getting negative communication home, and will see you as their enemy. Everyday, I have to work very hard to convince some of my students that I’m on their team, I’m not trying to “get them in trouble,” and that what happened in someone else’s class has no bearing over how I will interact with them today. Saying these things is one thing, but kids are quick to catch on to actions; be sure to show students that this is true. And, as loving and trustworthy as you might be, winning them over might not stick from one day to another. You might have to continually prove this to your students.

Myth #5: I will have control over my classroom, and one student can’t change that. One student can change your entire classroom–for better or for worse. I view myself as a strong, influential teacher, and yet, I will admit, that I have a couple students this year who can really change my classroom environment before I can even blink. I have to work very hard to remain the person that the kids want to follow, as opposed to the student who is acting out. On the flip side, I’ve also had classrooms so incredibly enhanced by a student in a class period, who made the environment better than I could have on my own.

All of these myths can feel extremely overwhelming. There’s not a solution that will work with every kid. But, with time and effort, there are solutions that can greatly impact the child. Each day is a process, and as soon as you think you’re “winning,” you might take 3 steps back again. But, keep trying. We have to do our best for them. We owe it to them. Please don’t think I’m saying that kids that are showing challenging behaviors are doomed by any means, or that you don’t have the ability to affect them. Sweet teacher, you can absolutely change a child’s behaviors, and you can affect their life. We wouldn’t do this career if we couldn’t. I do want to emphasize, though, that not all behaviors can just “poof” out of existence in a day. I used to believe that any child would be happy when they saw my happy smile, greeting them at the door. I’m finding this year that it just isn’t always that easy. It does, in fact, tend to take some time. It takes hard work. It takes caring, building connections with them, and if working in middle school, team work. It takes letting the kids see that you’re a human who cares for them. I found myself yesterday talking with a student about ear piercings, Shaq, and baking. We had a good day! I cross my fingers that we can pick up where we left off tomorrow.

Last note I want to add is to please keep in mind that this article was written about challenging behaviors, not challenging students. Believe in your students, and let them know that you don’t like their behavior. I often tell my kids, “I really like you a lot. I really don’t like the behavior I just saw.” This small change can go a long way for your relationship with that child and their viewpoint of themselves.

The Walkie Talkie

Middle School Classroom

I got a call right before our fire drill, asking me to help with the day’s procedure. I took a deep breath, scared of the responsibility. I’m a principal intern in my building this year, and I’m usually excited to try new things about this role. But, there was something about this one that made me scared.

What if kids didn’t leave when the bell went off? What if there are kids in the bathroom? I pictured kids trying to hide themselves in their lockers, and other kids taking the evacuation of the building as a way to run the halls and do cartwheels.

Sometimes, our minds just think the worst of the situation.

When I got to the office, the worst thing DID happen though. (Okay, I’m being dramatic, but still.) The principals handed me a walkie talkie, and then walked away, figuring out other plans and procedures.

And, I panicked. How was I supposed to walkie-and-talkie if I didn’t know how to use a walkie talkie?

I know it seems silly, but I just didn’t know what buttons to push so that the other people involved could hear my voice. And I needed help. But, I froze up, deer-in-headlights, and couldn’t seem to ask for help. I didn’t want to seem silly for not knowing how to use a walkie talkie. That seemed like such a minor detail, and I figured that the principals didn’t have time to answer my silly, small questions.

It then made me think about my students. Especially in my largest class of 33 kids, there have to be students sitting in my room who don’t speak up when they don’t understand.

So, how can we best help kids?

  1. Obviously, have a welcoming environment where the kids know they can trust you. If kids are afraid that you will demean their question, they certainly won’t ask.
  2. Keep an eye out for the deer-in-the-headlights. Sometimes, kids will show you with their eyes. I know I sure did in the office!
  3. Walk around after you give directions and get them started to ask if they have questions. Sometimes, I ask them how their day is going, and they tend to just blurt out whatever is on their mind.
  4. Have an area in your room where kids can write you notes if they feel uncomfortable talking about it. I have a mailbox where students can submit their questions, ideas, and thoughts.
  5. Create a question procedure so kids know how to ask questions. When we are writing long-form essays, I use my deli counter in order for every kid to have a chance to get help, and my attention doesn’t just go to the same kids who are brave enough to raise their hands. (Use my template below!) https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Deli-Numbers-4521751

What else do you do in your classroom to make students feel comfortable to ask if they are stuck?

The Secret Sauce to 1-1 Learning

Language Arts Resources, Middle School Classroom

This year, our school was nearly jumping out of their seats to get their laptops. The kids finally each have a laptop! But, it quickly became our turn as the teachers to know what to do with them.

And, as I walked down the hallway during my plan period, I realized what teachers were doing with them…having the students keep them closed.

I heard the same thing coming from each room: “Who told you to get out your laptop?” “Why is your laptop open?” “You should know to have that closed!” “Does it say anywhere that you should be on your laptop right now?”

Of course, if you’ve taught middle school for even a hot second, you understand that middle school students have very little self control. So, I joined in with reminding students to close their laptops until otherwise told to open them. And, as I walked down the hallway day after day, I kept hearing the same thing.

So, week #2, I changed the rule. Ah, the sweet victory of secret sauce.

My students came into my classroom, itching to open their laptops. And I told them to do so every single time they entered my room.

Yes, you heard me right. Instead of having the expectation be that their laptops are closed until told otherwise, in my classroom, they are required to have them OPEN.

I’m a big fan of warm-up’s for class, as I believe they help the students focus in from the previous class period as well as the hustle and bustle from the hallway. Previously, I had been having my students journal about different prompts each day on paper, but this year, I have digitized it. I plan to offer these on my TPT store each month, so keep your eye out for that!

When my students enter the room, they see the day’s prompt is up on the board, and they know that the expectation is that they are to have their laptops open, typing about the prompt before I come in from greeting them in the hallway. I’m sneakily getting my kids to write about a paragraph at the start of every class!

Here is an example of one of my peardeck slides. My students go to the website, Pear Deck, and type their response. I can log in later to see what they write.

My district has recently adopted a website called Pear Deck, where teachers can present a lesson via google slides and it enables it to be interactive to anyone who has entered a class code. If you don’t have access to Pear Deck, you could always do this in google classroom, too, and have students submit the lessons by google forms.

I love using this at the beginning of class because my students are “tricked” into working hard, gets them settled for learning, and the urge to use their devices later in the class (if we aren’t using them during the actual lesson that day) goes down. It’s a win-win!

What is your secret sauce to 1-1?

The Ultimate Teacher’s Summer To-Do List

Pep Talks & Positivity

If you’re anything like me, you woke up this morning and realized summer is quickly (serious emphasis on quickly) ticking away. So, with the limited amount of time we have left, I wanted to encourage you to do the following 5 things before the next busy school year starts again!

  1. Catch up on To-Do’s and Appointments– I know that we’re given sick days/personal days for a reason, but I don’t typically use them on just anything. I don’t want to give up my paid time to get a cavity filled if I don’t have to. Plus, the preparation factor and then catch-up after a substitute is quite overwhelming to me. I recommend trying (when possible) to schedule appointments and other not-super-fun-to-do items for the summer. That way, you can leave the appointment thinking “okay, now I have the whole rest of the day to do what I want!” instead of “I wonder if my kids could find the activity in their workbook….what if there was a disaster… what if this student needed me??”
  2. Clean/Organize your Classroom and Digital Accounts– I tend to pile up papers nearly as bad as I allow emails to pile up. Until summer hits, I rarely hit delete on an email. (Trust me, I’m very organized in other ways, but this simply isn’t my strong suit.) I love taking summer to create a blank slate for the next year. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of teaching (besides the awesome kids) is that there’s closure from one “assignment” to the next. Do yourself a favor and don’t start the new year with a full inbox of outdated emails about last year’s faculty meetings.
  3. Professional Development– Because many of us are slammed during the school year outside of our teaching day (coaching, sponsoring clubs, grad school, grading, planning, parent teacher conferences, IEP meetings, etc etc etc) going to a professional development from 4-6 pm often becomes less of an enrichment and more of a burden, regardless of how empowering the information being delivered is. I love completing as much of my required professional development during the summer as I can so that I can actually enjoy it, with a fresh mind. This summer, for example, I am attending workshops on technology in the classroom, youth mental health, and responsive classroom.
  4. Make Goals for Next Year– Take time this summer to reflect on what you did well last year and what you want to change for this next year. Was it how you managed your class? How was that project-based learning assignment? How could you smoothly integrate technology better next year? How can you be sure to challenge your high-achievers better next year? How can you differentiate re-teaching to students who may struggle on that math concept? You can also make personal goals about stress, time you spend grading, reaching out to parents, etc. Write your goals down so you remember them. 🙂
  5. Relax– This is most important of all! Be sure to give yourself time to sleep in, travel, catch up on that good book, and even binge watch some TV shows. Don’t feel guilty for not having a list everyday. It’s healthy to take some time for ourselves, and it prepares our hearts to be more patient, loving, and enthusiastic towards our next crew that will be arriving this upcoming school year.

The Firefly Analogy

Pep Talks & Positivity

I’m going to be honest with you here and tell you that I hate bugs. They scare me. It doesn’t matter how big they are or how small they are, but I will mention that the number of legs definitely doesn’t improve a bug’s cause. Gross.

There is one bug, though, that I actually quite adore. It’s a firefly (or lightning bug, depending on where y’all live!) It’s the only bug I will purposefully catch to say hello to!

Teaching has a lot to do with fireflies. In fact, in my mind, it’s the perfect analogy.

Sometimes, we as educators are doing all that we can to be the best teacher we can be. In our classrooms, we make personal connections, we provide differentiation, and we give formative assessments. We plan projects, we think of creative active learning, and we do all we can to be involved in extra curricular activities too.

Yet, if you’re anything like me, you’ve shut your door at the end of the day, exhausted, and to be honest, didn’t always feel like you were making the difference you wanted to. Sometimes it’s in student learning, building classroom culture, or your involvement in the school as a whole. You didn’t feel it because you couldn’t see your impact at that particular time.

Here comes the analogy. Because fireflies are nocturnal, they rest during the day. But, they’re still there. As it turns to dark, we see the magic. The evening sky reveals a crowd of flashing little nightlights, a glimmer of hope after a long summer day. Their light reminds me that sometimes we can’t always see the impact we make as teachers, yet it’s always there.

When you see a firefly this summer, consider sending off a good wish. A wish for your impact during the next school to be evident to you, regardless in the light or the dark. A wish for your confidence to never cease!

Interview Tips: The Reverse Interview

Middle School Classroom

I’m many things, but a nail-biter isn’t one of the titles I’d give myself. That is, unless it’s before an interview. Then, I chew away. When I began interviewing after college a couple of years ago, I would get so nervous and worked up before I went in. There is truly something frightening about the unknown that exists in the moments to come, and it seems that every word you say is recorded forever and judged so closely!

If you are interviewing now for jobs this upcoming semester, I’m guessing you can feel that your ability to interview is getting stronger. I know that I felt after I had a few interviews complete, I gained a stronger sense of my own beliefs and I could more easily talk about them. Hopefully you are selling yourself better in a way that is more genuinely you. And that’s what it is all about.

But, I encourage you to take another step: the reverse interview. The interview process becomes meaningful whenever you understand the reverse interview aspect. It looks like this:

  1. You do you. You talk about yourself, you act like yourself, and you present yourself as a professional teacher, who is capable of creating engaging, challenging, and technology-based 21st-century applicable lessons all while performing fantastic behavior management and school-to-home communication. You understand you are being critiqued and evaluated by the words that are coming out of your mouth. And you’re fine with it because you’re just doing you.
  2. REVERSE: While you speak, you simultaneously take in observations and evaluate the people who are there to evaluate you.

How does this reverse step change the process? It’s no longer about how good you did. It turns into a mutual fit (or not). Think about dating, for example. You don’t sit across from the table and answer 100 questions and then go home and think “oh goodness, I don’t know if I answered those all right!” Hopefully, you would have engaged a conversation and then also evaluated if that person is a good fit for you to continue pursuing. The same should happen with a school.

Here’s an example I’d love to share with you. You need to know some background, though, in order to fully appreciate my story.

Do you know Guy Fieri, the restaurateur? He has the spiky bleached blonde hair and is well known for driving around in a red convertible, trying food all over the country on his show Diners, Drive-in’s, and Dives. Well, I walked into the interview room, and I blinked several times because this principal standing in front of me looked just like Guy! I’m not sure if you know much about Guy Fieri’s personality, but the two of them also have that in common as well: very talkative. I’m sure Guy is a great cook, and I’m also pretty confident that Mr. Guy-Fieri-Principal-Lookalike is also a very great principal because he was in charge of a building in a nice district. But, he was not a great interviewer, at least not to me.

My husband and I stayed at a hotel the night before the interview, as we lived across the state. I steamed my navy blue suit and I prepared 8 folders with information and examples that I could share to the interview panel. It was one of my first real interviews ever. And, as I mentioned, as I entered the room, I couldn’t help but notice Guy Fieri in principal form. Instead of being great at cooking, though, this principal was just good at talking. Talking over me, that is.

It began on question one, which was simply “tell me about you” and continued on during the rest of the interview. Mr. Guy-Fieri-Principal-Lookalike would ask a question, and as I began answering it, he would turn to the vice principal beside him and begin chatting away. I’m a strong believer in multitasking, but there is no way this principal was listening to a thing that was coming out of my mouth!

I wondered if I said something wrong that had caused him to dismiss me immediately. But then I remembered that in order for him to have picked up on something “wrong” that I had said, he would have had to have heard me say it! 🙂

That’s when my reverse trick began. I maintained my dignity and professionalism during the interview, even if I was just talking to hear myself talk the whole time (since no one was listening). As I answered the questions, I was using my reverse interview skills and was evaluating them, too. I still shook their hands and smiled when I was finished. But, before I even made it back to the car, I was no longer thinking “I wonder if I answered the questions well!” Instead, I was thinking that I would never work for someone would was unwilling to at least hear out my opinion. I decided that even if I did get a call for another round, I wouldn’t accept it. And I stuck to that.

The administration at a school is not everything, but they are very much responsible for setting the climate and culture. As a new teacher, you should hopefully be able to look to those people as a source of education, professional development, mentorship, and growth. For me, I knew that principal would not offer me those opportunities, and for that reason, I decided it wasn’t a good fit. There are of course other factors to consider using the “reverse interview” on. Sometimes the first impression does truly matter! These additional factors are listed below:

  • School building and appearance
  • School location/proximity to amenities
  • Communication with you before the interview process
  • Observances such as posters, signs, students in the hallways
  • Staff you may interact with before/after the interview
  • Questions you are asked in the interview
  • Sense of school pride in the community
  • What you would be expected to do as a teacher
  • Curriculum that is taught
  • School benchmarks/data
  • Potential opportunities for professional growth

Don’t sell yourself short, dear teacher. It’s a two way street! Even if you are just starting out as I was, you still deserve to be in a place that is going to be mutually beneficial. Be sure to utilize the reverse interview trick to see if the school is a match for you, too. Good luck!

A Note to My Tired Teachers

Pep Talks & Positivity

Cheers to you, my tired teacher friend! This message goes out to anyone in the teacher nation, who is now officially on (or close to) summer break. You have made it!

This year was a lot for you. I know that it was. You arrived early. You laminated everything. You graded a stack of papers on your back patio countless times, while simultaneously trying to paint your toenails. You handed out 248 band-aids, and 193 if them were for fingers that “hurt” but weren’t actually bleeding. You spent hundreds of dollars in the seemingly endless abyss that is the Target Dollar Spot. You lived on coffee, flavored water, and an occasional diet coke, which is ironic since you only had 1 bathroom break each day. You told 88 jokes, and for 82 of them, you were the only one who laughed. You jammed the copier 8 times, and 17 dry erase markers dried up because the caps were lost by students who shouldn’t have even been touching them in the first place. You handed out 571 pencils, and you received 11,397 emails. And, as we head into summer, your inbox is still pretty full.

And while that craziness happened, you also did some truly amazing things. You dried a child’s wet eyes 39 times. You lost 6 hours of sleep worrying about the student whose parents are going through a divorce. You gave 271 high fives to kids who needed encouragement. You helped resolve a friendship scuffle 8 times, ensuring no one sat alone at lunch. You skipped your own lunch 67 times to make sure your lessons were polished for your classes so your kids could learn most effectively. You wrote 35 positive notes home, you complimented a cool hair cut 59 times, and most importantly, you made children smile more times than you can count.

And, in return, their smiles put a smile on your very own face.

Whether you’re a veteran teacher, or a brand new one, this year brought new challenges along with new joys. The opportunity to inspire a love of learning in children is a heavy burden to bear, but one that you are happy to do. Some of your class sizes were growing, some of your leadership was unsupportive, and some of your events were understaffed. But you still made it through. And you did it for the kids. You did it for their precious smiles. And some day, I promise–whether it be in 11 years or 11 days–those kids’ smiles that you were responsible for will turn into little, but mighty, weapons to help them succeed. Congratulations on making it through another school year. You are tired, but oh dear teacher, you have done good. Your fatigue proves your success.

Please share with other teachers that you think “did good” this year! 

Teacher Interviews: The Big Day

Middle School Classroom

Get out your suit coat because it’s finally your big day: the interview! Teacher interviews are different in every state and even differ between districts and schools. Most of my experience included a first round over-the-phone screening, followed by an in-person more in depth interview for a second round. Some districts even have you demonstrate a lesson to model how you teach and control a class.

Here is my list of 4 things to be sure to nail during the interview:

1. Be sure to arrive early and greet the staff/students whenever you enter the office. You’d be surprised how much influence a long-standing teacher that passed you by or faithful secretary has in interview situations. Some principals will ask these staff members if you were friendly, seemed interested in the school, and showed up with time to spare. Or, on the contrary, were you running late, glued to your phone, and short with them?

2. Shake hands with everyone in the interview room once you enter. This is professional of you. In addition, making this eye contact gives you a connection with each person and helps you remember their name. I love referring to people by name in interviews, and this is a quality of likable people! Be sure to also thank everyone at the conclusion of the interview.

3. Answer the questions that the interview team asks you TRUTHFULLY, not how you think they would want you to answer them. Interviews are just as much for you as they are for the district. I interviewed at a district where everything they asked me was about flipped classroom; in the moment, I had to do my best to answer these, but I had little to no experience with it at all. When I left, I knew that that school wasn’t right for me! I’m always big on learning and growing, but I could tell that this wasn’t the environment that would best support my teaching philosophy. It’s important to just be yourself and find the right school for you.

4. Have appropriate questions prepared to ask the interviewers as the interview concludes, and record the answers when you get them. Writing down the answers they give shows that you are passionate and that you care. Questions about teacher responsibilities, school growth/challenges, how the school runs, culture, etc are all appropriate. Avoid asking questions surrounding pay, benefits, etc. If the opportunity presents itself down the road, HR can handle any of these concerns for you later.

5. Follow up after the interview with a kind thank you! Thankfulness is like gold. Principals and other supervisors who are taking time to meet with you are very busy, so even simply thanking them for their time is very nice and will help you be looked at favorably. It also makes them think of you once you have left! I’d recommend doing this within 24 hours of the interview.

As I mentioned earlier, the interview is just as much for you as it is for the interview team. I used to get so nervous before interviews, and I felt like I had to give the “perfect” answers so that they would like me! I thought that I had to seem like the perfect fit just so I could get a job. I quickly realized that the questions I was being asked and how the interview experience went allowed me to gauge a lot about whether or not the school would be a good fit for me in return. 

If you are a veteran teacher, what other interview tips do you have to share? If you are in the process of interviewing, what questions or concerns do you have? Comment below! 

Teacher Interviews: Applying

Middle School Classroom

So, you’ve scrolled on every teacher job website four times today searching for new ones to pop up. Your eyes grew large because you see the opportunity. You grew up, watching your teachers, and you couldn’t wait for that to be you. A few years ago, you packed up your life and moved to college, and you studied as hard as you could all for this very moment.

You think about your very own teacher desk, your very own white board, and even your very own door knob. Ah.

Whenever I was first looking at jobs, I also got excited by all of the opportunities. I thought about how I could have my very own things and inspire my very own students.

Ultimately, getting any teaching job not only secures your career, but gives you valuable experience on how to help children learn. This is a technique that can be transferred among many disciplines and ages. I’ve heard many stories, though, of bright-eyed, eager young teachers getting into their position and then “realizing” that “teaching isn’t for them.” I’d argue that many times, it actually is, but maybe the specific position they found themselves in isn’t the right fit.

Imagine needing a new pair of shoes, size 8. Your’s are worn out, they have a hole in the side, and the treads are starting to fall off. You walk into the size 6 aisle and try to shove your feet in several pairs. They won’t fit. Shaking your head, you walk out of the store saying that “maybe I just don’t even need new shoes.” That would be silly, right?! It’s the same concept for fitting into the right job. I believe that moving over to the size 8 aisle would result in many promising options, so, of course, this analogy of teacher success all begins with applying to the right jobs. You’ll never find the right job if you’re not looking in the right aisle!

Here are my 4 main things I think you need to consider when applying for teaching jobs:

1. Is the school in a location that you would enjoy living / are capable of already commuting to? When I first started out with a long term sub job, I was commuting over an hour each way (and making less than $100 a day!). It was a top-notch school and the experience I gained for my resume was well worth it, but I was extremely thankful it was a short assignment. If it is a school district where you will need to move to work at, will you be moving to a place you will enjoy? Take a road trip and check it out, if possible!

2. Does the school offer support/programs/supplies to make your position manageable? I know that there are different levels of needs for teachers everywhere, and I give a major shout out to teachers who make it through with little support, but I think the smartest decision for your career starting out as a teacher would be to set yourself up at a district that will promote and support you, if possible. For example, I was lucky enough to be hired by a district that has a graduate program set up with a local university which provides my Master’s degree.

3. What is the culture like in the school district? You can often gauge this important element just by looking at the district website, their social media pages, or talking to people in the area. Are they displaying proud works of student achievement? Are they announcing fun days for the students which will help the school grow? Sometimes also just driving near the school you are planning to interview can tell you a lot about the community and the impact the school has on it; when I was on my way to my interview where I teach, I saw a bunch of kids wearing jerseys for the sports teams, walking near the track, and parents bringing in supplies. I quickly got the memo that the school was a sense of pride in the community, and that meant a lot to me.

4. Is the position the “right” grade level and subject? I was lenient on adding this to the list because “right” can mean so many different things. Personally, I believe the best teachers are the ones who are in teaching less for the subject and more for just the influence and opportunity to work with kids, but nevertheless it is important that you feel you connect with the grade level you will be assigned and that you have an interest in the subject level. I knew that I wanted to teach middle school, but I’m certified in all subjects. My core subject was language arts, and I knew for sure that I just wouldn’t be the best 7th grade math teacher, although I passed the test. So, I avoided applying for 7th grade math jobs. The more comfortable and confident you can be in your position, the more opportunity you will have to focus on the kids. But, of course, teachers are always learning, so just because you don’t feel 100% mastery with the curriculum your first year doesn’t mean you aren’t any good—we can all always improve and always learn. There just needs to be a passion behind it.

My last piece of advice for applying to jobs is that you can always apply and later turn down an interview. Or, better yet, if it’s possible, apply and gain the experience interviewing and then see if the shoe fits. Sometimes we judge an area or hear rumors about a district that turns us off, when in fact, the school would be a great fit for us. If you don’t go for it, you’d never know. It’s great to take these 4 tips into consideration, but also know that it’s best to put yourself out there and see where not only you fit, but what school fits for you. That will be on my next blog post, so if you are a to-be teacher or know a to-be-teacher, feel free to pass along my blog page so they subscribe to stay up to date on my tips for getting the right job.