The Ballerina Mathematician

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 01 2011

Lessons from 7 Hours of Interviewing TFA-ers

Today I spent five hours straight talking to TFA corps members.  Five. straight. hours.  Add two more hours over the past two days and you have seven hours talking to over 40 2011 CMs.  Whew!

To give you some background, I need to back up a bit.  I joined the School Leadership Team at my school at the end of the school year.  I’m optimistic about the prospect of making positive changes in the negative environment that is my school.  We have a new principal, and I love pretty much everything that comes out of his mouth.  My favorite quote is when he told the staff his goal is to make the district regret their decision to shut down our school. Love. it.  So I’m pretty happy about the potential of next year.  I was also told by our Academic Dean that as the math rep on the SLT I will be head of the math department.

Head of the math department???

I have taught for one year.  I have a degree in ballet remember!  And as often as people may tell me I’m a stand out, an amazing teacher, overly responsible, etc…I don’t feel I deserve running a department, even if it is only three other teachers.  Our principal may override and make another choice, so I’m not certain about it.  We’ll see.

Our school is hiring six new positions and held an Open House last night.  The Colorado corps is in Phoenix so they couldn’t attend, and I called our principal to advocate for them.  Somehow I volunteered to talk to each of them for ten minutes as we did for Open House.  After so much “high expectations” and “I have passion” I want to share a few things I learned from my conversations, just from my own perspective.  The question was the simple “what makes you best candidate for the job?”

1. Be content specific!! Tell me why you’re going to be the best math/science/English teacher.  I want to know what makes you a MATH teacher.  Too many people spent their five minutes without one mention of their content, and while I know strategies work across areas, I need some confidence you’ll be great in your specific position.

2. Be careful when talking about challenges.  It’s much more impressive if you follow up with what you’re going to do about it and it makes you sound much more confident and solution-oriented.

3. The law of diminishing returns applies to passion.  It starts out great but once you hit a certain point I no longer want to hear about how much you love kids and how excited you are to teach.  Passion should be one of multiple components you mention, not the only one you talk about for five minutes.

4. Know where you’re applying and be able to speak to specifics.  I understand that everyone is desperate for a job, especially by July, but I remain unimpressed when people don’t mention my school at all.  Especially less impressed when your questions about it reveal your complete lack of any research.

5. I loved the follow-up email notes I got!  I only received four out of the over-forty candidates, and each of them stood out because of it.  It makes a difference!

The Open House was incredibly interesting.  I received some interesting answers to “Tell me why you’re the best candidate for the position in five minutes”.  One man repeatedly told me he was not the best candidate, and that he just really needed a job.  Another talked to me for less than a minute–told me his basic experience and said anything else would be BS and got up and left.  Another older woman talked a lot about her children.  Among these rather odd choices for answers I met some truly amazing candidates I felt embarrassed to be interviewing from my inexperienced position!  Confidence comes across so clearly.

Overall I found all this interviewing a fascinating experience!  I’m excited to see who our principal decides on, and even more excited to find out about all the changes taking place at my school next year.  This year really could be better than last, and I believe it.

One Response

  1. Kurt (Community Manager)

    Congratulations! Your post has been featured on the Teach For Us homepage slider! Keep up the great work.

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a dancer's adventure in teaching math

Middle School

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