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May 15, 2014

Teacher Togetherness, Interview Style

Whether you’re straight out of college or graduate school, or shifting to a different district, it’s that time of year again: interview time.

A recent conversation with Alexa M., a soon-to-be-principal in Denver, got me thinking about how to demonstrate Togetherness in an interview. I’m going to make a few assumptions in this post: 1) You are Together – or at least have demonstrated some effort toward being so and 2) Your potential employer values Togetherness as a key teacher skill.

1. Be on time—or early. This is kind of a no-brainer, and my husband and I have a running disagreement where he thinks on time is well, on time, and I think on time is 15 minutes early. Anyone want to come over and serve as arbiter for us? But seriously, do your homework on this. Taking public transportation? Allow PLENTY of time! Driving? Scope out the parking situation in advance. Have quarters on hand. And it never hurts to confirm the interview on the day prior.

2. Prepare all materials—in advance. Many interviews now require guest lessons and/or ask you to send in videos of your classroom instruction. Bring an extra copy of your video and at least five copies of your resume. If you’re teaching a demo lesson, show up with all materials, copies, and charts already prepared. Alexa shared how impressed she was when a recent candidate showed up with an entire supply cart ready to go!

3. Do your homework. Read up on the school district, parent views about the school, and past results. See if you can figure out if teachers are happy at the school and why. Outside of regular reading on the official websites, try to find community opinions, board notes, and parent forums. It will inform your opinion and guide you to shape meaningful questions that will both impress your interviewer and provide you with rich information. And for goodness sake, bring written out questions already prepared!

4. Take notes. As the principal or interviewer talks, or maybe even gives you feedback on a lesson, take notes in an organized manner—NOT scribbled on the side of your resume copy or randomly in the back of a notebook. Use one of our note-taking templates found here! And if you are a digital note-taker, make sure to check that doing so is acceptable (you don’t need anyone assuming you are playing Candy Crush). See my thoughts on iPads in interviews here!

5. Share your systems—for you and your students. I hope you are asked how you manage your time and to-do’s. If you are not, try to find a way to work it into your answers. Do have your organization system ON you, whether in your backpack, briefcase, or tote bag. Do not say, “I always have a To-Do list,” and then NOT have a To-Do list. Interview fail! Bring your planner, or your Flexy, or your app-ed out/super-synched iPad, and discuss how you use your preparation periods and maximize instructional time. Extra credit: Go a step further and share pictures of your organized classroom, procedures charts, and student schedules!

And remember—all interviews are a two-way street. While they’re checking you out, you should also be assessing the school’s level of Togetherness as well. Not exactly sure what to look for? Read my 10 Signs of a Together School list over here.

Principals and hiring managers, what else do you look for when evaluating a candidate’s Togetherness? Teachers, what would you add?