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Do Your Homework

Would you really like to put yourself ahead of the competition? There's one thing you can do (that few of the other candidates will even think of) that can earn you an amazing amount of "brownie points." Simply put, do some research on the school or district. Check out the district or school Web site, and learn everything you can about school/ district standards, funding issues, parent involvement, how many students are served, attendance policies, number of schools, size of staff, availability of teacher training programs, results of student achievement tests, description of the facilities, and student support services. Some schools and districts have information packets, brochures, newsletters, blogs, pamphlets, and other informational pieces. Check them out, and learn as much as you can about what makes the school/district unique.

FROM THE PRINCIPAL'S DESK:

"Know as much as you can about my school. Study the Web site. Know why you want to work here and how you can contribute. Do not ask questions about the contract, pay, benefits, etc. It gives the appearance that your primary concern is what you get out of it rather than what you intend to contribute."

One of the best things you can do prior to any interview is to actually visit the school where you will be interviewing. Most administrators will welcome you as a potential teacher candidate. Keep in mind that you are a visitor, and act accordingly. Call the school secretary or building principal and inquire about the possibility of a visit. Ask if it would be possible for you to visit a few classrooms, talk with a few teachers, and see how the school functions on an "average" day. Here are a few items you may wish to note on a visit: the condition of the building, the friendliness of the staff, the enthusiasm of the teachers, the activities of administrators, the ways in which certain lessons are taught, the integration of technology, the noise level in the cafeteria, the behavior management of students, and the emotional climate in selected classrooms.

Whenever possible, try to visit one or more classrooms. If you are allowed, sit in the back of a classroom and casually observe the dynamics taking place. See if you can arrange for an opportunity to informally chat with one or more teachers, either during their planning time or during a lunch break. Tell them that you are a teacher candidate and would like to get some information about the school in advance of an interview. Keep your questions simple and non-direct. Don't ask, "What do you think about those lower-than-average test scores?" Rather, ask something like "What do you like about teaching here?" If the schedule allows, you may be able to casually speak with a few teachers immediately at the end of the school day. As you might imagine, this information will be extremely valuable in your preparations for a forthcoming interview.

If you are able to visit a school, please be sure to send a thank-you letter immediately after the visit (a letter, not an e-mail). Let the principal know how much you appreciate the opportunity, one or two things that impressed you about the school, and the fact that you are looking forward to the forthcoming interview.

As part of the interview, be ready to share something about your visit with the interviewer. For example, "During my visit to Indian Hill Middle School last week, I was delighted to see how Smart Boards are being used in the language arts classes. I developed a unique vocabulary review process using Smart Boards during my student teaching experience and would hope to bring my expertise here next year."

EXTRA CREDIT

Taking the time to research a school or district and taking the time to visit a school in advance of an interview won't necessarily guarantee you a job offer; however, it will put you head and shoulders above all those other candidates who didn't take advantage of this incredible opportunity.

 
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