Okay, so here’s how I got my first job and how I dealt with the stress/anxiety/craziness.
I got my Master’s Degree in May 2012, and started applying for teaching jobs even before that. I easily applied for probably about 50 jobs just in Orange County (Florida), and only got three call backs. My roommate, who was getting her Elementary Education Master’s degree at the time, was also applying for jobs and having similar bad luck. And this is with a Master’s Degree! Ridiculous.
My first interview was for a high school in a rougher part of town. I live in a major metropolitan area, so there are definitely parts of the city that are less than savory. The school itself had just been rebuilt, but as I was driving to the interview, I was certainly getting nervous about the surrounding area. Like, I was not feeling safe.
I actually used to live near this area at one point, and it was the worst area I’ve ever lived in. I would not go out to the store or to the gas station by myself if it was dark out. There were regular reports of shootings and stabbings in the area. Overall, it was not good.
So, when I arrive at the school itself, it is beautiful and I’m actually sort of excited to have the opportunity to teach somewhere where I’ll be “most needed.” As a new teacher, I knew the probability of me getting hired at a “rougher” school was pretty high, and I looked at it as though it was sort of my duty, or just dues I would have to pay as a new teacher.
This principal, though. Oh, this principal. First of all, she looked like she was out of a 90s rock music video. Bedazzled jeans and giant belt, high black boots, hair frizzed out to there. Apparently, she was a new principle, and she had a very specific view of who she wanted to hire. She went on to pretty much scare the crap out of me about working there — talking about how police and security have to regularly use tazers to break up fights, and how students are forced to the ground and arrested from campus on a daily basis. Then, she basically admitted that she was looking for a bulky, male teacher. That she didn’t think I looked like I could handle it.
Well, after that description, I wasn’t so sure myself. In fact, my boyfriend forbid me from taking the job, even if they offered it to me. He would rather work an extra job than have me working at that school.
Looking back, I’m even more annoyed by this experience, because I have since met a teacher who used to work there. According to her, the kids were really great and she said she wouldn’t consider it any “worse” than the school we currently teach out.
Obviously, I did not get hired.
My second interview was for a slightly nicer school, in a suburb of the city. The buildings themselves looked older, but the school had a better reputation and has even produced some major professional athletes over the last couple of years. This interview process was a much better experience.
The principle was very professional and lovely, and actually seemed like she at least had some intention of maybe hiring me. She interviewed me with other social studies/history teachers present, which I loved because I could then talk freely, using all of the jargon and terms I’d learned in my Social Studies classes at school. This also let me show my enthusiasm for the subject a bit more and showed that I actually knew what I was talking about, which I could tell impressed the principle.
The interview team wanted to know how I viewed education as a whole, what I would bring to the team, and how I would run my individual classroom. I knew that I had to mention some key terms here: words like “differentiated instruction,” higher-order thinking skills,” “critical thinking,” cooperative learning,” “scaffolding,” etc, etc.
Overall, I think the interview went really well, and I think I was definitely in the running to get hired. The principle called me herself to let me know that she had selected a more experienced teacher, but that she was sure I would get hired elsewhere.
The third interview would be the charm. And to make it even more impressive, it was only a phone interview. I was in St. Augustine, celebrating my birthday with my family, when I got the email to come in for an interview. At this point, pre-planning is only a week away. I had pretty much given up hope of getting hired for the start of the school year. But, this assistant principle wanted to interview me ASAP.
So, I explained to her that I was away on vacation, but if necessary, I would drive back for the interview. She was incredibly awesome about this and suggested we just do a phone interview instead, so that I would not have to leave my family. This only made me nervous because I think one of my strengths is my ability to interact well with people, and obviously, that works better in person than over the phone. So, we set a time for the next day.
The woman I spoke to was actually an Assistant Principle, newly hired herself. She would be the AP over the Social Studies department, so the Admin team decided to let her hire her own staff. Another AP also sat in on the interview and the two tag-teamed questions for me. Again, because I was talking to a Social Studies person, I was able to talk more specifically about my vision for my classroom.
They asked similar questions to the last interview, but also wanted to do what kind of behavior plan I would have in my classroom and how I would effectively communicate with parents. Then they asked me an awesome question: If someone were to walk and take snapshot of my classroom, what would they see? I LOVED that question, because my answer could say so much about my teaching style — what I envision the physical setup looking like, what kinds of activities or assignments I’d have them doing, what I think my role as a teacher would be. I basically said that the students would probably be engaged in a higher-level cooperative activity, probably a Document-Based Question, Gallery Walk, or Debate, and that I would be serving more of a supervisory role, moving from group to group, helping as needed, but mostly letting them do most of the “thinking.” After all, the teacher should not be working harder than the students. Or at least that’s what they told us in college.
The last question they asked was about the last book I read. Honestly, the last book I’d read was probably Harry Potter for like the 10th time, so I had to come up with something better than that. So instead, I said Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my mother almost have a heart attack at this response (yes, she was sitting and listening to the whole conversation). In fact, afterward, she’d convinced me that I had probably blown the whole interview with that response. But, hear me out.
I explained that I liked how the book was based in historical fact — a lot of the events that happened in the book actually happened in real life. They were just fictionalized to include the vampire stuff. I went on that I love the idea of historical fiction because it gets kids interested in a topic, and they don’t even realize that they’re actually learning stuff about history.
Aaaaaanyway. The interview ended and I though it went very well, despite my apparent faux-pas at the end. I got a call back the very next day, on my birthday to be exact, offering me the position for 10th Grade World History, without even meeting me in person. To put it mildly, I was ecstatic.
Pre-planning was starting the very next week. So, I had very little time to prepare. My roommate ended up getting hired about a week later, losing most of her pre-planning time, which proved to be very hectic on all of us.
My next post will be about those first couple of weeks and how my sister and mother rallied to get me and my classroom ready on time for students.
Here’s a list of the interview questions that I can remember being asked:
How do you view education as a whole? What is the purpose?
What would you bring to the team? (Either the staff as a whole or your particular subject area.)
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
How will you manage inappropriate behavior in your class? OR, What kind of behavior management plan would you implement in your classroom?
How will you communicate with parents and keep them involved?
How will you keep students engaged and interested?
How will you adapt your instruction for individual student needs?
What would a snapshot of your classroom look like? OR, What would a normal day in your classroom consist of?
What was the last book/movie you read/saw?