Here’s a question via Twitter from our new EDU Edge friend Elle a senior at Eastern Michigan:
“I’m going to be doing my student teaching next semester … any tips?
Elle- We’re thrilled to try to help. On December 13th our EDU Edge Twitter Tip was: “We cannot stress enough … your search for the job of your dreams starts the first day of student teaching. Take every day seriously!” Your high priority for your student teaching experience is right in line with our thinking. Because our mission is to help aspiring teachers successfully navigate the interview process, let’s focus on the things you can do during your student teaching experience to optimize your MARKETABILITY when you complete your degree in education.
The reason that we feel so strongly about the connection between student teaching and landing a job is because our network of administrators works with dozens and dozens of student teachers every year. Some student teachers maximize this opportunity and some don’t. Those that come to learn, work hard, listen, reflect, and connect with the staff and students in the school, in essence, the ones that do everything they can to go above and beyond and stand out, are the ones that get hired … plain and simple. One of the greatest dangers is to conceptualize student teaching as another task to check off your list and believe once you get to an interview or an actual job you’ll show people what you are made of and define your style. Moreover, we know that your student teaching experience is sooooo important because there are a lot of important “firsts” during this experience. How you handle them when they happen to you (trust us … they will) and how you build upon them matters when it comes time to apply for a job and be successful in the teaching interview.
First #1 – During your student teaching experience, you get your first opportunity to put into practice (with real children for multiple weeks) all the coursework and ideas that you have spent learning in your education program. This is the first time that you will (on a daily basis) build lessons, put them into action, feel the thrill of having spent hours planning a lesson and have it succeed with students learning and enjoying what you have created. It will also be the first time you feel the internal disappointment when one of those well planned lessons falls flat. This is the first time you will really feel a taste of the pressure that comes with being THE teacher. During this journey you begin shaping who you are as a teacher and what you bring to the profession.
First #2 – During your student teaching experience, you will have your first opportunity to develop contacts and get letters of recommendation. Principals are not going to read the letter from the pizza joint you worked at during the summer. At this point in your career you have very limited references that really mean anything to a potential employer. Consequently, your cooperating teacher and your college advisor’s recommendation COUNT! The educational community is a close-knit and people talk. If your cooperating teacher thinks you are stellar, she will let those in other districts know … the same goes for the principal and your college advisor. Their opinion of you and what they say about you matters. Do yourself a favor and do everything possible to ensure that these individuals see you for what you want to be- someone who will do everything they can to become a master teacher and will make a difference in the lives of their students. You want and need their recommendations to reflect this positive outlook (see our comments in Chapter 4 – Resume Advice in The Insider’s Guide to the Teacher Interview audiobook ©2011 – theEDUedge.com).
First #3 – Teacher Interview Portfolio. You get to put First #1 and First #2 into First #3 – your first complete teacher interview portfolio. During student teaching you will be designing lessons and assessments that will actually be implemented with students. When you do, think about your portfolio! Think about your future interview! What we mean is create great lessons, assessment, and tasks. Then take pictures of your students in action in the classroom (with appropriate school and parental permission of course). Keep copies of the lessons, the assessments, and examples of student work. Reflect on what worked and what didn’t work and put in writing what you would do differently in the future. When student teaching is over, you will have beautiful artifacts to add to your portfolio. Visual representations where individuals on interview teams can actually see you as a teacher and see the work that you have done inside the classroom with students goes a long way in the hiring process (see our comments in Chapter 12 – Portfolio Advice in The Insider’s Guide to the Teacher Interview audiobook ©2012 – theEDUedge.com)
Finally, during your student teaching experience you are constructing and framing your answers to future interview questions. You are dealing with difficult students, implementing successful lessons, giving different types of assessments, dealing with and managing parent communication, etc, etc, etc. All of these will give you a base from which to grow as a professional and most importantly a reference point on how to tackle the difficult questions that interview teams will throw at you (see Chapter 8 on how to master hundreds of interview questions through our ‘Umbrella Approach’tm). Keep a written or audio journal each night of the prominent students, events, successes and failures of your experience. Review these prior to each interview experience. Not only is it a great way to grow and reflect from your student teaching experience, when you get interview questions that ask you to reflect upon situations you have encountered in the past, you will not need to hesitate, search your memory or wander in order to find an applicable experience.
Good luck to you Elle! Good luck to all of you following the EDU Edge. Please come back after your student teaching experience and let us know how it went so we can all learn together.
Yours in a Partnership in Learning,
The EDU Edge
(Please feel free to contact us with additional questions. We’ll do our best to respond. The EDU Edge community is growing on Blogger, Twitter, Facebook. You can email us at info@theEDUedge.com. Tell us what interview obstacles you’re dealing with and trying to overcome. We welcome dialogue from others going through the same process.)
GPA Question from a new EDU Edge friend (Mark) in Alabama … “I am at the end of my junior year and haven’t really applied myself. Is my poor GPA going to hurt me when looking for a teaching position?”
Mark – Thanks for contacting the EDU Edge. We would love to make you feel better by telling you that your GPA will not affect your job search, but one of the reasons we have been successful in coaching teaching candidates is by providing the ‘straightforward insider scoop’. Unfortunately, a low GPA will affect two aspects of your job search: (1) how your resume is constructed and (2) how a school district reviewer reacts to your resume in the initial screening process. Let’s take a look at each.
First, when you build your resume or curriculum vitae, you will have the choice of listing experience or education first. For most people like you (right out of college with little teaching experience) the choice will be to list your educational background. In Chapter 3 of the Insider’s Guide to the Teacher Interview – Cover Letter and Resume Advice, (a publication of The EDU Edge) the authors recommend that that you should almost always list your GPA if you are right out of school. The reasoning is simple and straightforward, if you do not list it, employers assume it was disastrous. With very few exceptions, the missing GPA is a door closer. This is just the way it is!
Mark, the good news is that even with a poor GPA, sometimes you can show strength in your area of study by listing the GPA specific to your major alongside your overall GPA. You stated that you are in the end of your junior year. Most of the time you are taking a high concentration of electives specific to your major during this time. Soooo hit the books and get that GPA within your major up!
Remember, if you are searching for a position during your senior year, you are going to have to contend with the GPA you have earned to this point. However, senior year provides you with two entire semesters to raise your GPA. It will help you out even if you do not land a teaching job right out of your undergraduate program. It will also improve your chances of getting into the graduate program of your choice. Do not give up the ship! Keep battling for the highest possible GPA right until graduation. It may mean you have to make some sacrifices you were not making previously amidst you friends letting loose during senior year, but this self-discipline will likely help to avoid years of unemployment or jobs you do not like.
The second reason your low GPA will affect you has to do with the initial screening process that occurs when your resume is being viewed by a district employee assigned to rank and rate resumes and application materials. A low GPA will stick in the reviewer’s mind or disqualify you altogether. For this reason we recommend that if you are still in school, please, please do anything you can to keep your GPA up. It may seem like there is no connection between your GPA and the ability to inspire young minds, but employers use this as a telltale sign of your intellectual ability and work ethic. Whether it is fair or not, in education circles, there is an unspoken assumption that in order to lead students, you need to have been a relatively successful student yourself. Do not underestimate the power of the GPA when it comes to applying for teaching positions.
Good luck to you Mark! Get as focused as possible on your classes and program. Get those grades up before your college career is over and you move on to student teaching. And, good luck to all of you following The EDU Edge. Please come back and let us know how it went so we can all learn together.
Yours in a Partnership in Learning,
The EDU Edge
(Please feel free to contact us with additional questions … we’re on Blogger, Twitter, Facebook and you can email us at info@theEDUedge.com. Tell us what interview obstacles you’re dealing with and trying to overcome. We’ll do our best to respond and we welcome dialogue from others going through the same process.)
Resume Question from @deyoungb – Brian D asks, “As far as resumes go, do you have any recommendations on length, content, etc?”
It would be tough to put a whole chapter here in this blog but let’s see if we can help you with your specific question “resume content, length, etc.” First, you have to decide if you are going to produce a Curriculum Vitae or a Traditional Resume. Resumes are characterized by brevity. They are a one to two page summary of your education, skills and work experience. CV’s are longer and more detailed. They are a minimum of two pages and contain detailed explanations of previous academic and professional work. The CV includes educational and academic background about you as well as teaching, research experience, publications, presentations, awards, honors, affiliations and other details.
Our consortium of administrators at The EDU Edge sees thousands of resumes each year. We find that most K-12 educators (especially ones your age – I’m assuming you are soon to be or have just graduated from college) are using a hybrid of a resume and a CV, which includes most of the structure of the CV listed above, but does not go beyond two pages. It includes an increased level of description, but does not read as a narrative such as collegiate level CV’s. This allows potential employers to quickly make their way through the CV while at the same time understanding the nature of the work or accomplishment in each area. We think using this hybrid approach is advisable. Even if you are newer to the field, a two-page document with a high level of detail on your academic, related professional experiences, presentations, awards and affiliations is a good idea.
Additionally, we recommend that you:
· Start your CV with three to four bullet points that provide the highlights of your qualifications to catch the eye of the reviewer.
· Use a chronological approach as opposed to a functional approach.
· Write simple and specific sentences.
· Be specific about your past work and accomplishments.
· Avoid language that generalizes.
· Do not write in the first or third person.
· And finally, do not write in paragraphs. Reviewers have very limited time to scan these documents and they will skip your CV if it is not efficient to read.
Good luck to you Brian! Consider getting The Insider’s Guide to the Teacher Interview. If you like the advice here, there are many more insider tips in this book. And, good luck to all of you following The EDU Edge. Please come back and let us know how it went so we can all learn together.
Yours in a Partnership in Learning,
The EDU Edge