Teachers/Admins- help!

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by SoNaoWat?, Apr 20, 2010.

  1. SoNaoWat?

    SoNaoWat? New Member

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    Hi all! I'm hoping I can get some good advice and suggestions from all the teachers here. I just got an interview tomorrow for a teaching job for next year, and I'm basically scared stiff. I have only 1 year's experience, and that year basically sucked and I've really struggled with whether or not I can actually do this. I wasn't sure I was ready to give it another try, but this job posting came up and I just submitted my app because I was tired of feeling like a wimp.

    This job is for a very small, rural school. The person they choose will probably be teaching all grades 7-12. I'm estimating there may be 18-25 kids in each grade.

    I know I can look up teacher interview questions online, but I was hoping some of you more experienced teachers could give me tips on calming my nerves, trying to appear more confident, trying to BE more confident, and how to handle the Why are you not still at your last job? question. (True Answer: I had a hard time with classroom management and my principal told me he thought I should be teaching little kids because they were a little more likely to want to please the teacher, a little more respectful of authority, than high school kids. He said he knew I knew my subject matter, but didn't think I would ever be able to handle discipline at the HS level, that I was too nice, to soft-hearted, too trusting. This school had very little discipline to start with and I felt I was following the culture and my room was no different than any other teacher in the building, but I was a first-year and an outsider in the town.)

    So ok. Please give me what you've got and then pray (if you're so inclined) for me to have confidence! I literally shook for 10 minutes after I got off the phone from scheduling the interview.
     
  2. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    My suggestion is for you to think about what about this small, rural school fits you, and how that compares to your old school. For example: your old principal thought you had difficulties with classroom management. Turn that around into something more positive - your old school wasn't a good fit for you, because it was too large and impersonal. This new school is a better fit because it's smaller, and you feel you'll be able to have more of an impact in such an environment... and then explain why.

    You need to turn your negatives into positives. Get this job, and try to do very well in it. Pick a more experienced teacher to act as your mentor there. Make sure you understand what the expectations are of teachers there, especially in terms of things like classroom management, which you say was difficult for you. Get advice from more experienced teachers, and the principal, when issues come up. Get them on your side from the beginning, if you can, so that when issues do come up, they are willing to help you get through them.

    Start the new year with your old, bad experience as a major influence on how you behave in the classroom. One thing you need to know is that kids (and, IMO, people in general) do best when there are established rules; where they understand, right up front, what is expected of them, and what the repercussions are if they don't do what they need to do, and when there are real consequences. This works for parenting as well. This doesn't indicate that you have to be mean or cruel, and it doesn't mean that there can't be exceptions for unusual circumstances - but you do need to set out your expectations and rules, up front, and then really follow those rules. Otherwise, you're sabotaging yourself, and you're not doing the kids any favors.
     
  3. C_T_T_

    C_T_T_ Well-Known Member

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    Hi! I don't have any advice but I can sympathise- I'm in the same boat! I had an awful awful experience in my first teaching practice and tried to walk away from teaching several times but was convinced to stay. I did leave that school early. My second placement was much better and once I got thorugh the initial 'I really cant cope with this!' I quite liked it. I've been in my current job since Septemeber and went through a while there when I wanted to pack it all in again but I'm sticking it out until the end of the year. I've just applied for a job in a school I know is much 'more me' because if I learnt anything from that awful horrible year it's that every school is completely different. You need to somehow confince yourself that you can have a fresh start in a different setting. I've no interview questions or advice for you but will be happy to have a good moan with you over pm if you want!
     
  4. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

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    That's some very good advice. One key issue facing smaller high schools is that teachers often have to have more than one area of competency: a biology teacher may also have to teach chemistry, because there are only two science teachers at the school. It also means that a teacher is likely to have a lot of preps, while in a larger school a teacher might teach 2 sections of 9th grade English and 3 of 10th grade English. If you had a minor in a different subject, or have passed the PLACE exam in multiple subjects, be sure and let them know. (Have you looked at credentialing requirements in the state where this school is located?)

    You might also get asked about differentiating instruction -- small schools usually don't have the number of students to have honors classes or sheltered English classes -- so one teacher has to do it all. Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom, by Susan Winebrenner is a good starting point. Her book on Teaching Kids with Learning Disabilities in the Regular Classroom is also helpful, particularly so now that RTI is in widespread use.

    There may be a strong desire on the part of the school to find a teacher who can also coach a sport or sponsor several clubs.

    I like the book, See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers,
    by Roxanna Elden, which has a lot of practical advice on classroom management. As was suggested, you ought to think hard about what you experienced in your classroom this year, and read, reflect, and if possible, talk to a master teacher you respect about specific strategies and tactics you are going to employ in your next job. But do remember that you're far from alone -- the first year of teaching is eye-opening for virtually every new teacher, and preparation for actually managing your own classroom is still woefully lacking in our teacher training programs.

    Good luck!
     
  5. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    I just want to tell you to think through whether this is really such a great position. I am leaving teaching after too many years in a small school where I've had four preps in a good year--six last semester. And two classes in one block this semester. I've also been expected to sponsor as many activities as possible. When a young man here who is in his fourth year of teaching went to the principal and asked that his extra duty load be lightened ( he had high school speech team, junior high speech team, competitive one act play, junior high play, high school play and junior high wrestling plus taught a full load with four preps), he was told that asking showed a lack of dedication to the profession. He is quitting instead.

    Also, a small rural school is going to be a gossip factory. Be sure you're prepared to deal with that, too. If you felt like an outsider in a bigger school, it is going to be much worse in a rural setting.
     
  6. PrincessLeppard

    PrincessLeppard Pink Bitch

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    I teach in a medium sized school now, and I've taught in a large school. They have their rewards and drawbacks, and only you can decide which fits you better. Not all small schools are going to kill their teachers with extra duties. And while gossip does run through this school pretty quickly, the teachers are all also supportive of one another. There's too few of us to not be. ;)

    At some point during your interview, ask about the culture of the school. Is it laid back, like your first school? Then it may not be a good fit. (You can use this in saying why you left; the casual atmosphere of the school didn't work for your teaching style. But a good administrator will know that all first year teachers struggle with discipline.)

    I interviewed at a school similar to what you are describing--I would've had six preps--7-12 English and then I would have been allowed to create my own class. As that would've been my first assignment, I turned it down. Now, I think it might not be so difficult, though expect some heavy prep for the first year. Another good thing would be that you would get to know the students really well, especially those you start with as 7th graders. (downside: you are also stuck with that really annoying kid that pops up in every grade. :p)

    If you get nervous in the interview, just channel that energy into excitement.

    Good luck!
     
  7. Debbie S

    Debbie S Well-Known Member

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    I second this, and agree with barbk's comments about teaching expectations in a small school. You should ask in your interview about resource help available. And differentiated instruction - enrichment materials, mentoring on teaching to different levels, etc. And get a feel for the discipline culture - just b/c the school is small doesn't mean the kids are well-behaved - find out what is expected of both students and teachers.

    One problem with a small school is that the culture can be very insular. If the principal has been there a while, he/she is likely very close to the parents and kids, and vice-versa. The parents are probably used to getting one-on-one time and having their voices heard, and generally in these types of places, new people aren't always welcomed. I taught in a small school that had only been in existence for about 8 years - I taught the 2 oldest grades - 6th and 7th. Most of the kids had been there since the beginning and they and their parents felt they owned the school. They didn't like newcomers, and spent a lot of time complaining about me and several other new teachers for doing things like (gasp!) assigning homework or having the kids read a book they didn't like. Oh, the humanity! :rolleyes: Compounding the problem was that the principal had twin daughters in one of the grades I taught and had clear favorites (and dislikes) based on who her kids were friends with (and whose parents she knew well). Some kids could get away with murder and some would get in trouble with her at the drop of a hat. Most of the time kids got away with anything b/c the principal didn't want to offend their parents - a small school needs to maintain and increase its enrollment to survive. Granted, this was a private school where the dynamics might be a little different than a public school, but I suspect most of the 'small-pond' culture was not unique.

    That's not to say that all small schools are bad - but you need to ask questions, take a tour around the school, etc, to make sure it will be a good fit for you.
     
  8. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    Exactly what my experience has been. And it's not confined to public or private. It's a matter of size, I think. I've heard similar stories from college friends who taught in small rural public schools.

    Aside from ten years in an insular, gossip-ridden small private school, I grew up in very small rural towns--one was eight blocks square. Gossip in these places is brutal. And they are incredibly insular. In one town we lived in, there was a couple called "the people from Colorado". They had been living there for nearly 10 years when we arrived. When we left ten years later, they were still "from Colorado" and not accepted as part of the community after 20 years.
     
  9. SoNaoWat?

    SoNaoWat? New Member

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    Hi all. Thanks for the suggestions and advice. I'm not as nervous now about the interview. Right this minute, because my son got in trouble today at his own school, I'm feeling a little despondent about trying to control a roomful of kids when I can't even control my own. Granted, he has ADHD and he takes medicine, and he didn't get his medicine on time today, but I still feel like I've failed to do something right and that's why he's having such a horribly hard time with school.

    Right this minute I feel like calling off the interview because I don't feel enthusiastic about teaching right now- I'm still scared that I can't do it, even though I know (in my head) I can do anything I want to do. I know I was up against a lot of challenges last year, and I know it was my first year, and since I got my certification and I got the vast majority of my students through the year with passing grades, it really wasn't a failure. But that is what it feels like. I'm still worried about the classroom management thing, and the 5 or 6 preps this job is probably going to require. One of the questions I found on an interview prep website was "It's the first day of school, you're writing something on the board with your back to the class and a paperwad hits you in the back. What do you do?" Another one was something about what you'd do if the whole class dropped their pencils at the same time.

    My last school wasn't much bigger than this one will be. My freshmen were the biggest class and there were 55 of them. The senior class had about 25 or so maybe. Soph. and Junior were somewhere in between.

    Anyway, as always, thanks for listening and for the advice and suggestions. I think I'm mostly just needing a lot more confidence and some really, REALLY good planning, and some major consistency, and I'll be fine. Interview's at 10 tomorrow, and I'll probably check this thread again before I leave. The school is probably a good 30-40 minutes from my home. I'll let you know what happens.
     
  10. SoNaoWat?

    SoNaoWat? New Member

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    PS- PDilemma, that young man you mentioned shouldn't quit- he should just find a school where the admin isn't NUTS! In my books, he showed a dedication to his profession by realizing that all the extra activities were keeping him from his primary classroom duties or making it harder for him to perform them effectively, and it should have been obvious that that was what he cared about most. Sad. He was probably a really good teacher whom kids really enjoyed, too.
     
  11. PrincessLeppard

    PrincessLeppard Pink Bitch

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    Both of those actions are trying to get a reaction out of you. What I would do, for the first one, is just act bemused. "A paperwad? Really?" and for the second one, I'd admire their synchronization and move on. This might not work for everyone, but it's how I've handled similar stuff in the past. No reason to freak out. That's what they want. :)

    Go to the interview.
     
  12. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Get off my lawn

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    I'd go, if just for the interview practice. Take a deep breath, keep your enthusiasm up, and ask questions about the school culture. Why is the position open? Did the former teacher retire at a normal retirement age (which might indicate that things have been the same in the school for the last 30 years), move on to another position (which might indicate there are issues with either culture or pay), or leave teaching altogether (which might indicate lack of support.) Notice I said "might", teacher turnover is also part of the ebb and flow. The grass is always greener...
     
  13. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    He also has a young family--a year old baby and number two due in November which is part of the reason he wants to move away from teaching--he doesn't want to spend his life on other people's kids and not really know his own. He hasn't been a very good classroom teacher, but I'm not sure that's his fault. He has been working 16 hour days at school--rehearsals early in the morning for one show, teach all day, and evening rehearsals for the other show. He's exhausted and usually sick.

    This is a typical problem at our school and not much better at most small schools in the area. Teachers are spread too thin and their dedication or passion for the profession is questioned if they don't want to do all of the activities. I quit doing it all and told the principal it was taking too much time from my classroom and my personal life and both of those things were making me a less effective teacher. I also told him that I didn't become a teacher to sponsor activities and direct plays. Since then, he has done everything he can to get me out of the school. There is no tenure, and no real union protection in private school, so he came up with a creative way this spring to "cut" my position and get rid of me.
     
  14. jp1andonly

    jp1andonly Well-Known Member

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    if you show you are scared and come across anything other then confident in what you know and how you do it you won't be successful in getting the job. It's all about BS and you have to pull that stuff out of a hat when needed. The one thing I'm really good at is job interviews. I actually dont mind them and I can talk about something like I'm the most senior candidate even though I'm totally blowing smoke. Strong handshake, smiles and ooze confidence and it'ss yours. Don't be afraid to ask questions especially regarding support for newer teachers, staff environment even leadership style. When you get there go a bit early and check it out. I go with my gut on where I want to tach and so far my gut has told me every job I've turned down hasnt been the right fit.

     
  15. SoNaoWat?

    SoNaoWat? New Member

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    Whew! Interview over! Status- no idea! They said they are interviewing and considering about 7 people, and they should have their decision in a couple of weeks. I was interviewed by the superintendent and the principal (who is principal over the whole school, pre-k thru 12, btw.) They both seemed pretty young and they are both in their first year there, I think! They currently have seven class periods a day, but they want to shorten the length of their classes and go to 8 a day!! I'm thinking "OMG, what can you do in a 45 minute class period!?" And it would definitely be teaching all grades 7-12. They said they are a very poor district, (percentage of free/reduced lunch students in the high 80s) but they have a lot of technology.

    Anyway, I think it went pretty well, but I don't really know exactly what they're looking for. The current teacher is a very young, single girl who wants to move to Dallas and work in a much larger school and get away from home. I'm late 30s and more stable, but it's only going to be my second year teaching, so I don't know how that all balances out. Guess we'll see what happens. Should I call my old principal and tell him to expect a call or do you think they probably called before the interview?
     
  16. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Get off my lawn

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    It might be too late. As a rule, I always call/email my references before I interview to prep them for a potential call. If you haven't called him yet, please do it soon. Let him know you're looking, that the current slot may or may not be a good fit, and that you'll be back in touch should the school system decide to move forward.
     
  17. PrincessLeppard

    PrincessLeppard Pink Bitch

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    We have an eight period day with 45 minutes classes. It's not too bad--just very little down time for the students (not a bad thing in a couple of classes....)
     
  18. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    We do, too. It's harder on students. They don't have down time and have a heavy homework load sometimes. Teachers teach 6 periods and have 2 for prep time.
     
  19. PrincessLeppard

    PrincessLeppard Pink Bitch

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    I teach six periods, have a prep and a study hall.
     
  20. Really

    Really No longer just a "well-known member" Yay!

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    We have 9 39-minute classes a day. Our teachers get 3 prep periods a week. Our first-year science guy is teaching probably 10 different courses, including PE and options. 0.4 of my time is for teacher mentoring and technology support (special tech project), and I teach 6 different courses in the remaining 0.6 of my time. Four of those are math in 2 combined-grade classes. We are a K-9 school and rural. That's just the way it is in small rural schools.
     
  21. SoNaoWat?

    SoNaoWat? New Member

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    Wow- that just seems insane! I guess it's necessary up to a point, but seems like tiny rural schools should just recognize that they can't offer all the electives that the big schools can and not try to kill the teachers! Seriously, how much can you accomplish in a 39 minute class??!
     
  22. Debbie S

    Debbie S Well-Known Member

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    When I was in high school (private, academically challenging school), our class periods were 40 minutes (8 periods a day - 7 plus lunch). We learned quite a bit, a lot more than in the 50-minute periods in the public schools I attended in middle school and 9th grade. If the teacher is good and the students focus and stay on task instead of acting up, you can accomplish a lot. But those are big 'ifs'.
     
  23. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

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    Wow, I don't think that a 39 minute class for a 176 school day year wouldn't accumulate enough seat time to give a full Carnegie unit for the subject in high school in our state.

    With "short" periods of 45 minutes, I think that you have to really optimize use of class time -- not a bad thing, but you just can't afford to waste a minute. The people I really feel sad for are those taking and teaching labs -- I can't imagine juggling a lab in 37 minutes.
     
  24. Debbie S

    Debbie S Well-Known Member

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    At my high school, the extra lab periods were scheduled either right before or right after the regular class meeting time, so lab was really a double period. This seemed to be the case for everyone in my area - public and private schools. For example, if chem class was normally 2nd period, lab would either be 1st or 3rd period, once or twice a week.
     
  25. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Get off my lawn

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    At my high school, AP science labs were a double period. It wreaked havoc on scheduling for anyone who was interested in other things, as the overlap usually prevented us from taking an elective.
     
  26. SoNaoWat?

    SoNaoWat? New Member

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    Sorry to change topic, but I just had a conversation on Facebook with the other English teacher from my old school. She told me that a few of my former students were talking about me in class the other day, about how hard I tried, and that they felt that a lot of what they learned from me last year helped them pass their EOIs this year, and that they miss me. I just cried. So much of last year felt like such a huge failure to me, but I guess most of it wasn't. I just never realized how much I'd love my kids. Many of them drove me bananas, but looking back I really loved them. I saw each of them as beautiful and unique and special. Wish I had the opportunity to watch them grow and mature. Oh well. Maybe the next bunch.

    I asked how the girl who replaced me ended up doing, and she said that the girl got her certification and was rehired. The kids hated her at first, because she was so strict, but I told my former co-worker I assumed they grew to respect the new teacher and she said they were neutral about her. I'm sure they just wished she was as easy to push around as I was. SIGH!

    Anyway.

    Carry on with short class period discussion... :)
     
  27. *Jen*

    *Jen* Well-Known Member

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    Actually, studies have found that people can only concentrate for 40 minutes at a time. I teach at a school where we have 40 minute periods - but normally we'll have 2 of them, so 40 mins, 5 minute break, 40 mins. If the students are doing well, we can just continue without the break.

    I teach mainly adults (at a language school) but my second high school had the exact same thing. That said, it was rare just to have 1 lesson - it was normally 2 or 3 consecutively. Sometime we'd have 1, and we wouldn't learn a lot...but it went fast :p
     
  28. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

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    What studies? Who are the people to which you refer? Most studies I have seen on attention span (the amount of time that a person can concentrate on a task without becoming distracted) show it to be highly variable, based on activity, age, environment, emotional state, and interest. Google 'attention span' and it will bring up many different studies. Psychology, books on education, teaching, ADD, ADHD all say the same - challenging to measure because it's incredibly variable (and there are many types of attention).

    5-year olds most certainly can not concentrate on very many things for 40 minutes, though give them a high interest, low pressure task like watching a movie, or role playing and they can concentrate on the activity at hand for hours. Likewise, many adults can concentrate their attention on video games and movies for more than 2 hours.

    Sustained attention is actually considered to be more like 20 minutes for adults or middle or high school children, but again, a school class can easily be an hour or more long, but involve three 20 minutes tasks or activities, even if they are working on the same general principle or target. Many of my young students march around the table, take a bathroom break or bounce a ball 5 times and then can be refocused to the original task. My older students change tasks completely after 20 minutes unless they are on a roll and want to continue. I've found this the same for students with or without special needs or learning difficulties.

    SoNaoWhat? I wish you luck with your next bunch!
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2010
  29. canbelto

    canbelto Well-Known Member

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    Well first of all, and I've learned this the hard way: I'd hesitate from walking away from a job after only a year. Adjustment to a new school - any new school is difficult, and that first year is the worst. I moved from a tiny, alternative high school to one of the largest high schools in the city, and THERE they wanted things done THEIR WAY, and HERE they want things done THEIR WAY, and this first year has been one of nonstop adjustment. It's been hard. So I'd say that job-hopping as a rule in your first years of teaching is not a good idea.
    I also think that as a rule, administrators tend to be very hard on first-year, newly hired teachers. So ... wherever you will go, expect scrutiny and maybe even heartache. If you are prepared for all of this and still want to teach, then these hard experiences will give you the strength to become an excellent teacher.