I have started to receive emails from school districts in my state of Florida warning me that my online applications are about to expire. Almost a year ago, I was busy writing cover letters and filling in tedious online applications. It seems like it is that time of the year again, so I thought that I would share what I learned. Obviously, the interviewing process is different within each state and school district, but this is what I encountered in Florida.
1. Be open. Pick a general area where you would be willing to work, even if it is not your ideal location. I found a wonderful job in a town that I had never heard of, but I love it here. Everything has worked out, and I feel like I have found my home. I knew what kind of environment would make me happy (smaller, rural), and it has.
2. Don’t have your heart set on one job because there is a very good chance that you won’t get it. You many not even get an interview. Jobs in the best school districts and in more populated areas are very competitive. Most are filled internally, so chances are, they may never even look at your application.
3. Most jobs are posted in May and June, and by June they are interviewing and filling them (at least in Florida). There are also some last minute jobs posted in August, so don’t give up hope if you are still looking very late into the summer.
4. Bring your portfolio. You don’t know how many people bring a single sheet of paper or NOTHING to an interview. Show them who you are by bringing photographs of your students, you teaching, and samples of work. I brought a binder with lesson plans (grades K-12), philosophy of education, classroom management plan, Teacher Work Sample (the big project that I did while student teaching), student work, samples of my artwork, resume, and other activities such as the art camp I worked at and the elementary/ middle school art show I helped to put on during my internship. The portfolio is organized and professional, not cutesy or scrapbook-like. Some principals sat and wanted to look through the entire thing, others asked for me to highlight my favorite parts. I also tailored my portfolio to where I was interviewing. If I was at a middle school, I changed my philosophy of education to the one that pertained more to that age group. Elementary, I switched it to another one.
5. Bring a paper and a pen to write down the answers to the questions you ask the person or people interviewing you. And then prepare a few questions to ask, because they will ask you. My questions were usually: what is the AP program like at the school, what kind of growth are they looking for in the arts, what is the daily schedule, how many students attend the school, what resources does the school have for the arts (is there a kiln), etc.
6. During the interview, ask to see the classroom. As an art teacher, I think that seeing the space is very important as they vary greatly. I’m sure that regular classrooms do, as well. If you do get the job, you can start planning. Seeing the space beforehand can be helpful especially if the school is far from where you live and you can’t make it back there until August.
7. No one will look at your online portfolio. Or at least no one did for me or does for anyone in my state. Even though I spent an entire class working on it in college and had to have it approved to graduate, nothing came of it. No principal or AP is going to take the time to find the website and look through your lessons. Honestly, this was not a surprise to me.
8. Know the salaries and benefits. Each county varies, and all of that information can be found on the county websites (or at least in the state where I live). It is good to know what you are getting into.
9. Dig out those old notebooks. During interviews, I got some strange questions about things that I studied only as a freshman and a sophomore. It’s good to look back on your notes.
10. I wouldn’t drop by schools and expect to talk with the administration. They are busy doing their jobs and don’t have the time to think about filling positions when they are dealing with angry parents, late buses, and grade level meetings. Unless you are a local and people at the school already know you, it seems kind of strange. Just send a nice email with your cover letter and resume. They’ll actually be able to look at it on their own time.
11. Be confident and professional. You are a professional and this is what you have worked to be able to do. In the 20 or so minute interview, really try to show the principal and other teachers who you are and what you have to offer their school. Before you drive to your interview, ask yourself why you would be the perfect fit. They may even ask you that same question.
Best of luck!
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