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: Describe the most challenging student you've experienced and how you dealt with him or her.

A: I'll never forget Dac Kien. He was one of those magical students who influence a teacher's life in a thousand different ways, a student we celebrate long after he or she leaves our classroom.

Dac Kien came into our classroom one damp January day. His family had emigrated from Vietnam, coming to this country to seek a better life. But they had a challenge; none of them could speak English. When Dac Kien arrived in our classroom, he had learned two words—"McDonald's" and "okay." As the student teacher, I was assigned the task of helping him learn English—the school did not have an ESL teacher.

And so we began to learn English. I read stories to Dac Kien, recording each one as I read. He then listened to those stories over and over again as both he and I pointed to each word as it was said. I created some word cards for him, using key words in the stories and printing the letters in large script. At first I selected concrete words like "cat," "house," "car," and "grass." Every day we practiced with those words, and every day we listened to more stories.

I selected some students from the class to become part of a "Distinguished Tutors" group. At various times during the day, each of these students would spend about ten minutes with Dac Kien, helping him learn the words and adding one new word each day.

Day by day Dac Kien's vocabulary increased, and week after week he was able to create simple sentences with his new-found vocabulary. All this was reinforced with some after-school time, during which Dac Kien and I would use some specific VAKT measures to reinforce and solidify his new vocabulary.

By the end of my student teaching experience, Dac Kien was able to speak in complete, although simple, sentences. There was a new confidence in his eyes and a new feeling of success in his life. I'll never forget when he told me, "Thank you; I learn much." It was only after that experience when I learned that "Dac Kien" in Vietnamese means "acquired view or knowledge." I know now that he wasn't the only one who acquired some new knowledge.

This may be the only time you want to "break" the rule about limiting your responses to two minutes or less. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate how you've made a significant impact in a student's life—not just academically, but affectively as well. Don't get overly emotional in relating your story; let the anecdote speak for itself. As with every other question in this book, be sure to do your homework, and plan to bring in a great story about one memorable student.

: How do you motivate reluctant readers?

A: Reluctant readers can benefit enormously from an integrated approach to learning. Some of the strategies I have used include 1) designing and developing activities in which reading and literature can become an inherent part of every curricular area—in short, making reading cross-curricular; 2) integrating the language arts throughout the entire curriculum, providing students with active opportunities to participate in both expressive and interpretive language arts in every subject area; and 3) engaging students in real-world activities: for example, reading different types of literature, writing letters and manuscripts for others to read, communicating with friends and family members, and listening to news broadcasts and public speakers. The value of this approach is that it underscores—particularly for reluctant readers—the competencies they will need long after they leave my classroom.

At the elementary level, the teaching of reading is critical. You can definitely count on several questions related to your views on how to teach reading, what to do about non-readers, and how you plan to deal with the diversity of readers in your classroom. Please go back and re-read the textbook(s) you used in your reading methods course(s). You'll be glad you did.


Some interviewers try to maintain a poker face throughout the interview. Don't be intimidated, and don't assume that an expressionless face is a sign of displeasure. You may not be getting positive messages from the interviewer's body language, but that doesn't mean you should be anything but engaged, joyful, and enthusiastic.

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