Tell us about yourself.
[No more than 3 sentences. Include where you graduated, what you’re certified to teach, what your teaching and working experiences are, and why you’d love the job.] “Oh, yes, this is the question that is most likely to be asked first. I call it a two minute commercial about yourself. This is a great opportunity to sell yourself to the school district representatives. Keep in mind, if it is the first question asked, it will set the stage for the interview, so it needs to be extremely strong. Don’t be too modest. This will provide an overview, an introduction, to you. You might start by stating, ‘As you can see from my resume….’ and then mention your degrees and certifications and give a quick run down of your relevant experience. The last 1 ½ minutes should be used to communicate your strengths and skills and what you can do to enhance education in their district. In other words, they are asking “Why should we hire you?” Practice this carefully. You need a few sentences that answer that question at the end of your response.
How do you teach to the Utah Core Standards?
I plan my instruction in close correlation with the Utah Core Standards. Using backward design and the grade-level scope and sequence based on the Core Standards, I identify the objectives and then plan my instruction with the learning outcome in mind.
How will you prepare students for standardized assessments/SAGE testing?
Now that the SAGE writing test has replaced the DWA and grades 3-6 take the test instead of fifth grade only, it’s essential to begin writing instruction as soon as possible. Students need exposure to mentor texts, teacher think-alouds, and rubrics. I plan my writing instruction by keeping state and district requirements at the forefront of my mind, and I work hard to make the requirements comprehensible for my students. At the same time, writing is a very sophisticated skill, and students can feel overwhelmed very quickly. That’s why it’s important to create lessons that are high on engagement and quality.
Describe your discipline philosophy.
I use lots of positive reinforcement and specific praise; clear, appropriate expectations; and firm, fast, and logical consequences. It’s never okay to yell at students; yelling is a sign of a loss of control. I have a few core rules, including whole-school rules, and I review them frequently with my students. I also post visual reminders of those rules. I work to establish routines and procedures for transitions and various instructional scenarios. I design my classroom to facilitate learning and create a positive learning environment. Finally, I make sure my lessons are engaging and interesting and use multiple instructional strategies.
How do you meet the needs of a student with an IEP?
First, I read the student’s IEP very carefully, and if I have any questions, I ask the special-education teacher. I take the time to visualize how I will implement the student’s accommodations in my classroom. I follow the instructions in the IEP word for word and make adjustments to my instructional plan wherever and whenever necessary. I attend meetings with the special-education teacher and the student’s parents or family. My goal in implementing the student’s IEP is to make sure the student has whatever she needs to succeed in my class.
How do you communicate with parents/families?
I have a monthly class newsletter that I post on my Google Drive and share with parents. For those with limited Internet access, I mail the newsletter home. I send out brief reminders to parents who subscribe to a texting service, which can be found at remind.com–things like “math test this Friday, check email for more details” or “field trip still going ahead as planned, please dress appropriately.” I send home positive notes as often as possible so parents can share in students’ learning and behavior successes. I respond to parents’ emails and phone calls within 24 hours, sometimes much more quickly.
Let’s pretend it’s almost the first day of school and you’re a sixth-grade teacher. How would you prepare your classroom?
My classroom is in its final stages of transformation from a blank slate to an inviting, curiosity-inducing, learning-enhancing space of knowledge. I’ve arranged the desks in table groups and prepared an activity for the students to name their groups. A welcome sign is hung prominently in the room. I have my nametag decorated and ready to go, along with blank nametags, stickers, and markers for each student to decorate theirs. I’ve put fresh batteries in my camera, and I’m ready to take snapshots of each student to document their exciting first day. (I’ll select a student to take my picture, too!) I’ve already organized and labeled their textbooks, notebooks, and other materials. My grade book is prepared and ready to be used. I’ve sent a letter to each student’s home address to introduce myself and ask each student to bring an artifact or small item that represents something unique about them. At the open house, which was held a few nights ago, I had a chance to meet some of my students and their families, and I can’t wait to get to know them. I know we’re going to have a fantastic year together!
How will you motivate parents to become involved in the classroom and in their child’s education?
Parent and family involvement exert a profound influence on a student’s educational experience and success. I prepare a brief information sheet for families that includes my contact information, a very brief overview of my goals for the school year, and a clear explanation of my expectations for my students. I
Are you a flexible teacher? If so, explain how.
Yes, I am a flexible teacher. I am flexible when I interact with people from different backgrounds from my own. I am flexible in collaboration–I don’t prioritize my own interests and desires above those of other group members and the needs of the group as a whole. I am flexible in my responses to students because I understand that every person has a unique, individual learning style. I plan my instruction flexibly by using a variety of instructional strategies, including inquiry and cooperative learning. I pace my instruction flexibly and responsively as well; I am mindful that when I plan a lesson, I am estimating the amount of time needed to adequately teach it.
What did you find to be the most frustrating aspect of student teaching?
I found two things frustrating. First, I usually only got through about 85% of what I had prepared and wanted to teach during the day. For that reason, I realized it was important to prioritize my instruction and be flexible. Second, I felt frustrated on days when there didn’t seem to be much teaching and learning happening. For example, on Valentine’s Day, between a class party and other activities that were planned by the cooperating teacher and the room mother, very little actual instruction occurred. I prefer the normal, ordinary school days that follow the usual routines; those days are the most satisfying for me.
What ways do you assess and evaluate students?
I use a number of different methods to assess students. Summative assessments can take various forms, including project-based learning and performance-based learning. In my opinion, rubrics are important aspect of summative assessments and help maintain the integrity and authenticity of the assessment. I am passionate about preassessment, either formal or informal. For me it doesn’t make a lot of sense to start teaching until I know what my students already know. Finally, formative assessments are a critical part of teaching. When properly implemented, formative assessments yield valuable information and guide instructional decision-making. Formative assessments can take many forms; a few that come to mind are whiteboard splash, whiteboard show-me, 3-2-1 exit ticket, and self-monitoring survey. (I am currently reading Teach Like a Champion, and it has lots of great information about formative assessments.)
What will you do to modify your teaching to meet the needs of a gifted student?
A gifted student doesn’t need more work; she needs a compacted curriculum with extension activities that examine concepts with greater depth and detail. She doesn’t need to help the teacher teach; she needs to be provided with managed choice and semi-autonomy to stoke the fires of her curiosity with higher-level thinking activities and tasks. More than anything, a gifted student need a teacher who understands that, along with her exceptional academic needs, she is a whole person and also has emotional, social, and cognitive needs.
What would your cooperating teacher say about you?
My cooperating teacher would say that I excel at curriculum development and lesson planning, especially when it comes to engaging students’ minds and stimulating their curiosity. He would also say that I have a unique ability to develop nurturing relationships with students and that I am genuinely interested in each student as a unique person.
What are some of the trends, issues, and methodologies in education that relate to your specific curriculum area or grade level?
I have become fascinated by and passionate about literacy instruction, particularly with regard to nonfiction and intrinsic motivation. Most students prefer fiction over nonfiction, but the Core Standards mandate that literacy instruction for students in the upper elementary grades should be made up of at least 50% nonfiction. I believe students’ intrinsic motivation increases when elements of managed choice, authentic texts and purposes for reading, and interpersonal interaction are incorporated into literacy instruction. I believe technology can be used to enhance student motivation and stimulate lively conversations based on texts. I’m also a proponent of explicit literacy instruction with think-aloud and gradual release of responsibility; reciprocal teaching, where students participate in teaching one another; and teaching specific skills like close reading and making text-to-text connections.
Do you know what is going on in education today? Do you have a passion for the profession? Do you stay current?
I have been astonished by how much I enjoy teaching–the actual process of planning and teaching lessons. I recently subscribed to The Reading Teacher because I had exposure to some of the articles in school and was excited by what they had to offer. I believe that the more we know about how learning takes place and what kinds of conditions enhance learning outcomes, the better we teach and the better our students learn.
Do you enjoy teaching children? If so, how would I know if I observed your class?
During student teaching I had the opportunity to videotape myself teaching and then watch it. I found that, even though I was enjoying teaching the lesson, I didn’t smile as much. I made a goal to smile more during my lessons. I enjoy teaching children very much, and if I am on track to achieving my goal, you would see me smiling, engaging in friendly interactions with students, asking specific, open-ended questions to generate discussion, circulating about the room, and displaying withitness.
How do you differentiate your teaching? Please provide a couple of examples.
Differentiation is so important because there are as many learning styles as there are students. One of my favorite ways to differentiate is incorporate cooperative and collaborative learning wherever I can. Another great way to differentiate is to ability-group students and release one group to work independently and spend more time with another group in extended guided practice.
What can you contribute to our school community/teaching team?
I strongly believe that many heads are better than one, and that applies especially in education. I share with my colleagues what works for me and what hasn’t. When I come up against a problem I try to resolve it on my own at first, but if I am unsuccessful, I consult with my peers and ask if they have had any similar experiences.