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: How will you involve the community in your classroom?

A: I would want to recruit lots of classroom volunteers. I would use the telephone, informal surveys, questionnaires, and face-to-face contacts to solicit parent volunteers. I would schedule a special orientation meeting to provide potential volunteers with a set of responsibilities and expectations. I'd give parents opportunities to observe the actual skills I would like them to perform, including marking papers, creating art materials, arranging community field trips, supervising small-group work, carrying out remedial tasks, creating bulletin boards, and duplicating classroom materials. I would also want to create a support system for parent volunteers. Parents need to feel they are working under a trained professional, and to do that I would schedule a series of round-table conferences so they could be up to date and feel part of a larger group. It would be challenging, I know, but it would all be worth it in the long run.

Among all the tasks you will face as a classroom teacher, one of the most challenging and also one of the most beneficial is how you will invite parents and the community to be part of the educational experiences happening in your classroom. (Secondary teachers, take note!) The interviewer wants to know if you are willing (and able) to go above and beyond the usual demands of teaching, and your answer to this question will provide a most appropriate response.

4 EXTRA CREDIT

Avoid the use of vocalized pauses. Stay away from "ah" and "uhm." Lots of "ahs" and "uhms" distract the interviewer from what you are saying and set up a negative impression about the strength of your knowledge. A brief moment of silence is more preferable to a long series of "ahs."

: What are some ways to let parents know about the positive things going on in your classroom?

A: I like "The Two-Minute Note." Each morning, I would write a short (two to four sentence) note about a positive event or accomplishment for a single student and invite the student to take the note home. I would start alphabetically with a student at the top of my grade book and then, each day, select the next student on my class list until I got to the bottom. Then I would start again at the top. That way, every student would take home one "two-minute note" each month. Not only would this method give me an opportunity to focus on the good things students do, but it also would notify parents about those positive events.

Give an example of how you keep parents informed about the activities taking place in your classroom. Provide a specific example, and convey your enthusiasm as you share the anecdote with the interviewer.

: How would you involve parents in the affairs of your classroom?

A: There are a number of things I would do, on a regular basis, to get parents actively involved in the overall curriculum. Here are just a few: 1) I would encourage parents to participate continuously throughout the entire school year. 2) I would use students as "recruiters" to get their own parents involved.

I would reward and/or recognize parents for their efforts, however small.

I would strive to be friendly, down to earth, and truly interested in parents and their children. And 5) I would continuously communicate to parents the fact that their involvement is ultimately for the benefit of their children.

Demonstrate that you have a plan—not just a vague idea. Show that you know what is involved and how it will become part of your overall program. Show your sincerity and eagerness to partner with your students' parents.

: What will you do if a parent challenges you?

A: Parents often challenge teachers when they don't have all the information or when they have the wrong information. Consequently, it would be important for me to put my "listening ears" on. I'd schedule a meeting with the parent either before or after school. I would provide the parent with an opportunity to vent his or her frustration and try to determine where that frustration came from. I would demonstrate some active listening. For example, if the parent said, "You're always giving my kid way too much homework!" I might respond with something like, "It seems like you're upset about the amount of homework Jillian is getting each night." I would never try to shout down a parent or do anything that would negatively impact his or her self-esteem. I want to work with the parent in reaching a mutually satisfactory solution.

You'll get angry parents. Be sure you know how to deal with them. Again, here's another opportunity to take "the high road" and show how you can turn a negative event into a positive one.

 
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