Tuesday, July 5, 2016

5 Tips to Land the Teaching Job You've Always Wanted

5 Tips to Land the Teaching Job You've Always Wanted
It's the summer shuffle.  Veteran teachers may decide to retire, switch positions, or change districts.  Principals are busy searching through prospective candidates to quickly fill any positions that the summer shuffle leaves open.  So, if you are in the market for a new teaching home...how do you become the perfect candidate for the job?

Here are five tips that just may help you land the teaching job you've always wanted.

Tip 1: Create a Professional Online Presence

What would your social media accounts say about you?  Your social media presence will most likely provide the first impression to potential interviewers.  Make sure that you remove any posts or photographs that might be construed as unprofessional.  My principal always mentioned the "Front Page Test" when it comes to social media - if you wouldn't want your news broadcasted on the front page of the newspaper, then you probably shouldn't post it.

Any public accounts linked to your name should be used to communicate professional information - educational articles, teacher inspiration, classroom ideas, etc.  Your interviewer could get a quick idea of what interests you by just glancing at your nine tile grid on Instagram, so make sure they are good ones!

Do you have an online portfolio?  You may want to think about creating a website or wiki with a professional domain name to include on your resume or online application.  Upload artifacts, such as: documents or handouts you have created, examples of parent communication, a unit plan, a lesson plan, rubrics, and photographs of your lessons in action.  Good documentation with a well-written explanation might just get you a chance to interview face-to-face!

Tip 2: Do Your Homework

You get called to come in for a personal interview - awesome!  Don't forget the details - which position, who will you be interviewing with, and the interview style.  Will it be one-on-one with several different administrators or district representatives at different times?  Could it be a panel interview with several grade level or department representatives plus the principal?  These are all good questions to ask to help you be prepared.  Also, do your absolute best to be available whenever the interview committee has offered the interview - find a baby-sitter or switch shifts with someone.  Make. It. Happen.  A face-to-face interview opportunity is golden!

Once you can envision what the interview might look like, then start researching the school.  Read about the school on its website, twitter account, or blog.  Look into the grade level team's website(s) to see any interesting activities that were conducted during the last school year.  These activities will provide you with some possible talking points during conversation, which shows that you were interested in the district; and it also will allow you to start developing some good questions to ask at the end of your interview about the school and position based on what you found.

Another good resource for school district data is the state report card.  Demographics and test scores can help you have an idea about the make-up of your school and specific challenges students may be having in certain academic areas.  Although, testing might be just a little snippet of the school's reality, it may also be a potential question as to what you may bring to the table to help close any learning gaps, etc.

Tip 3: Be Authentic

It's interview day!  Even if teachers typically do not wear suits on a daily basis, the interview is the one time when you want to dress to impress.  You will definitely stand out in a positive way if you confidently walk into the interview with sharp looking business attire!

Present your authentic self during the interview.  You want to make sure this is a match for you as much as it is for the district.  Answer professionally yet honestly.  The principal will know if you are just reciting some kind of textbook answer.  Use your experience and personality to weave an incredible interview answer that will set you apart from the other candidates!

Tip 4: Showcase your Potential
Teacher Interview Portfolio Dividers - Freebie - Be one step closer to landing the teaching job you've always wanted!
Use your portfolio to help you explain how you might handle a situation or how you have planned a prior unit.  Show photographs and artifacts that can support how you may have incorporated collaborative learning or technology in the classroom.  Be prepared with either a hard copy of your portfolio in a well-organized binder with tabs under the general categories of: classroom management, assessment, differentiation, unit planning, collaboration, technology, policies and
procedures, project-based learning.  This will help you quickly flip to that section, so you may utilize your experiences to visually support your answer.

In lieu of a binder, you may also choose to share your artifacts on an iPad, but you would want to make sure it was not dependent on wireless internet to access your information as that may not be dependable or accessible in all schools - especially during summertime.

Tip 5: Close the Deal

Whew!  The interview is coming to an end, and you should have a good idea of how it went.  Just to make sure you end on a positive note, have some questions ready pertaining to the district - like:
  • What are some ways that the school ensures the community is involved in education?  
  • What are some professional development courses that are offered since I like to grow continuously as an educator?  
  • What kind of technology is available to students and teachers on a daily basis?
  • What is the hiring timeline for this position?
Be prepared for a closing statement.  How would you answer the question: Why should I hire you?  This question may cause you to stumble around a bit if you aren't prepared for it.  But, this is your opportunity to recap all the positives that you would bring to the district (making sure to include anything you specifically touched on during the interview) and how you feel like you are a good fit for the position.  This might be a good question to practice beforehand so you can pull off a smooth and confident, yet modified to fit the situation, response as you exit.

Thank everyone for their time as you shake their hands on the way out.  Make sure to grab a card, if available, or jot down their names as soon as you get in the car so you can handwrite - yes, handwrite! - a formal thank you note once you get home. 

Reflect on your interview.  What went well?  Which area(s) made you feel uncomfortable to address?  Think about how you could research or improve your portfolio for any future interviews.  The wait between the interview and a decision can drive one crazy, so continue to stay positive and patient.  There is always a large number of candidates who apply for any one position, so even making it to the personal interview stage is a huge accomplishment.  Good luck!
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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas STEM Challenge: Jingle All The Way

Christmas STEM Challenge: Students make a new sleigh for Santa for middle school grades 5-8 and upper elementary grades 3-5.You just might have a few days in December where you've finished up a unit but don't want to start a new one.  This is the perfect time to do a STEM Challenge!  Harness all the students' energy into an innovative and productive project.  The kids will have so much fun that they will forget they are practicing math, science, and engineering skills in the process!

This Christmas STEM Challenge called Jingle All The Way asks students to design a new sleigh for Santa out of common household items within a limited amount of time.  The new sleigh must meet Santa's certain specifications and will be tested by adding pennies, which will represent presents.  Students will go through the design process to create Santa's new sleigh that meets his specifications and test the sleigh using pennies to represent the weight of the presents Santa needs to hold in his sleigh.  Students will make improvements to the sleigh after the first trial to yield a stronger sleigh for the second trial.

Your classroom will be buzzing with positive activity throughout this challenge.  Students get excited to sketch and share their ideas with each other to make the strongest sleigh.  The element of limited time also causes the students to have a sense of urgency that keeps this activity at a high energy level!

The middle school kids in grades 5-8 are expected to identify the need, research the problem, design a solution by writing detailed procedures and sketching prototypes, build and test a prototype, and troubleshoot.  The younger students in grades 3-5 are asked to follow the same steps - but in a simpler way.  These kiddos will Ask, Imagine, Create, and Improve.

The most awesome part of facilitating a STEM Challenge, for me, is to witness the extraordinary creativity that your students will exhibit during this type of an activity.  As adults, we have lost a lot of our imagination - so when we see a handful of random household objects listed as materials, we think: What do you do with these???  We think there has to be one certain way to make whatever it is we are being challenged to design. But, the kids will be able to come up with design ideas beyond what we could have ever imagined!  There might be a couple kids that need a few minutes to grease the wheels of innovation, but once they get going there will be no stopping their enthusiasm!

Starting STEM in elementary is a fantastic way for kids to fall in love with science.  The kids learn how to cultivate their thinking by following the STEM Design Process during a time when they already think outside of the box!  These steps will help them create even more advanced prototypes and troubleshoot at a higher analytical level as they get older - hopefully leading them to successful career paths!

Love this activity but don't have the time to design it yourself?  A student handout, corresponding presentation, and detailed lesson plan is available in my TeachersPayTeachers store for grades 3-5 and grades 5-8 in either PowerPoint or SMART Board formats!



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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Thanksgiving STEM Challenge: The Great Turkey Race

Thanksgiving STEM Challenge: The Great Turkey Race - Students make turkey stunt doubles, using the STEM Design Process, that will move fast to prevent the turkey from becoming Thanksgiving Dinner!  Versions available for Middle School Grades 5-8 and Upper Elementary 3-5
What do you do during those few days right before Thanksgiving Break?  Get your kids to collaborate, think critically, and have a ton of fun with a STEM Challenge, of course!

This Thanksgiving STEM Challenge encourages students to help prevent the turkeys from becoming Thanksgiving dinner by building a fast-moving turkey stunt double out of common household items within a limited amount of time.  The students work through the STEM Design Process - building a prototype, testing these turkeys by "racing" them, and then making improvements to make the turkeys faster.

Your classroom will be buzzing with positive activity throughout this challenge.  Students get excited to sketch and share their ideas with each other to make the fastest turkey.  The element of limited time also causes the students to have a sense of urgency that keeps this activity at a high energy level!

The middle school kids in grades 5-8 are expected to identify the need, research the problem, design a solution by writing detailed procedures and sketching prototypes, build and test a prototype, and troubleshoot.  The younger students in grades 3-5 are asked to follow the same steps - but in a simpler way.  These kiddos will Ask, Imagine, Create, and Improve.

The most awesome part of facilitating a STEM Challenge, for me, is to witness the extraordinary creativity that your students will exhibit during this type of an activity.  As adults, we have lost a lot of our imagination - so when we see a handful of random household objects listed as materials, we think: What do you do with these???  We think there has to be one certain way to make whatever it is we are being challenged to design. But, the kids will be able to come up with design ideas beyond what we could have ever imagined!  There might be a couple kids that need a few minutes to grease the wheels of innovation, but once they get going there will be no stopping their enthusiasm!

Starting STEM in elementary is a fantastic way for kids to fall in love with science.  The kids learn how to cultivate their thinking by following the STEM Design Process during a time when they already think outside of the box!  These steps will help them create even more advanced prototypes and troubleshoot at a higher analytical level as they get older - hopefully leading them to successful career paths!

Do you love doing STEM in your classroom?  Check out this free STEM Design Process Poster for elementary science! (Coming Soon to my TpT Store as a freebie!  Follow me on social media or my store to get a notification when it is posted!)





Love this activity but don't have the time to design it yourself?  A student handout, corresponding presentation, and detailed lesson plan is available in my TeachersPayTeachers store for grades 3-5 and grades 5-8 in either PowerPoint or SMART Board formats!
Thanksgiving STEM Challenge: The Great Turkey Race - Students make turkey stunt doubles, using the STEM Design Process, that will move fast to prevent the turkey from becoming Thanksgiving Dinner!  Versions available for Middle School Grades 5-8 and Upper Elementary 3-5

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Monday, November 2, 2015

Veterans Day Class Project: Thank a Veteran FREEBIE


Are you looking for a class project for Veterans Day? I have a fantastic freebie to help get your class started! This project targets veterans who have served in past military conflicts. These veterans sometimes feel like their service and sacrifices have been forgotten. I know that your students' letters would definitely brighten the day of these veterans! Once you collect your students' final drafts, please send to the veterans through Operation Gratitude.

Operation Gratitude annually sends 150,000+ care packages filled with snacks, entertainment, hygiene and hand-made items, plus personal letters of appreciation, to New Recruits, Veterans, First Responders, Wounded Warriors, Care Givers and to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed overseas. Their mission is to lift the spirits and meet the evolving needs of our Active Duty and Veteran communities, and provide volunteer opportunities for all Americans to express their appreciation to members of our Military. Each package contains donated product valued at $75-100 and costs the organization $15 to assemble and ship. Since its inception in 2003, Operation Gratitude volunteers have shipped more than One Million Care Packages.


1. Please make sure your letters will fit in a standard size business envelope; please avoid using greeting cards as they will not fit. ***IF YOUR LETTERS ARE TOO LARGE TO FIT IN A STANDARD ENVELOPE, THEY WILL NOT BE MAILED.***
2. Include your own name and address in the body of the letter.
3. Do not write about politics, religion, death or killing.
4. Please do not use glitter.
5. This is strictly a letter-writing effort to thank Veterans; please do not send any care package items for Veterans.
6. All letters will be screened.
7. Send multiple letters together in one large mailing envelope or box.

Please send as many letters as you would like by regular mail only to:
Thank a Veteran
c/o Penny Alfonso
1970 Rangeview Drive
Glendale, CA 91201

I had the privilege of planning the 8th grade class trip to Washington, D.C. for five years, so I love Veterans Day. It is a chance for teachers who may have experienced the awe-inspiring stories of those brave soldiers and who may have visited the breathtaking war memorials in D.C. to convey those feelings of respect and admiration for our uniformed men and women to a younger generation. My favorite thing about taking the students to D.C. was seeing the transformation that occurred during the trip. Students returned so much more mature with a greater understanding of our country and the sacrifices that our military men and women make for us on a daily basis. Witnessing the Changing of the Guard at The Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery and finding relatives' names on the Vietnam Memorial allowed history to become real for these students.  Veterans Day is a teachable moment that can be really powerful for our students if implemented in a thoughtful manner!

Interested in having your students do this project?  Download this friendly letter template for FREE from my Teachers Pay Teachers store!



You may also be interested in this fun, fast-paced Veterans Day QR Code Trivia Scoot Game also available in my TpT Store! Or, this Veterans Day Bulletin Board Class Project Idea - read about it here!



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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

How to Teach Good Procedure Writing: PB and No J Scientific Method Demonstration

I love teaching the scientific process
to start off the beginning of the year. It's the foundation for all other good scientific work that we will do throughout the entire academic year. I introduce the importance of good procedure writing with a fun and memorable demonstration called PB & No J.

Students are asked to write some steps for how to make a peanut butter sandwich as a type of pre-assessment. I usually walk around the room to observe the different skill levels of the students, since many of my students come to me with various scientific inquiry experiences. Then, I have a few volunteers to participate in the first part of the demonstration. Students experience poorly written procedures when trying to make a peanut butter sandwich. The student trying to make the sandwich in this demonstration automatically adds the unwritten steps since they have probably made a peanut butter sandwich before. It's a lot of fun for the class when the teacher polices this demonstration and calls the student out. "Did the instructions say to do that?" The classmates usually start shouting out ideas for what should be done, but as the teacher and facilitator, you want to get the point across that there is a lot of wiggle room with these procedures. You just
never know what should actually be done and need to do some guessing. That does not make for a clear and consistent procedure. I do allow students to be creative in opening the peanut butter jar and eating the sandwich - as long as it isn't with their hands. Always pick a student for this part of the demonstration who is generally outgoing and boisterous. You will know the perfect kid for each class who will help make this activity memorable.

The second part of the demonstration shows the students an example of well-written procedures. I usually try to over-emphasize on the detail, and then try to tell the kids that their procedures need to be a happy medium between the poor procedures and the extremely detailed procedures. Once the students have experienced both demonstrations, then I have them review the procedures they had written at the beginning of the activity. I ask them to self-assess on a rubric, and then have any super confident junior scientists try their hand at reading their procedure for someone to follow in front of the class. This is a great opening for a few other lab experiences that will provide the opportunity for students to continue refining their procedure writing skills. I can tell a HUGE difference in the student writing when I explicitly teach procedure writing with this activity versus years when I only mentioned how it was important to include detailed steps. PB & No J definitely makes an impression!

Do you love this activity but don't have a ton of time to think about writing all those procedures? Download the handout with a self-assessment rubric and t-chart as well as a corresponding PowerPoint on my TpT store here!


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