July 24, 2014

The Interview

I just walked in from my interview, and I wanted to jump on here to give you all the details.

I don't want to brag, but I feel very confident about my interview skills. In my first teaching interview, I was told that I make it seem like we're two friends chatting about coffee, which, I guess, is a good thing. I think I'm pretty good about being professional yet laid back. I always make the interviewers laugh, and today was no different. 

My favorite Q&A of the day was when they wanted an example of a challenge I overcame in teaching. Immediately, all my charter school stories came flooding to my mind, but I settled on one. I referenced the movie Dangerous Minds (although none of us could think of the title for several minutes). I tried to find a gif of the moment, but this is the only one I could find....

What I referenced, though, was the part in the movie when Ms. Johnson is told that if she wants to reach the class, she has to get Emilio on board. I had that kid, and I knew he was the key to my success in that classroom. I had to find a way to reach him, and I was able to do so through his goal to be a famous rapper (he has a full album on YouTube). I had to convince him that ELA would help him become a better rapper through enhanced vocabulary, the use of literary devices, and by studying poetry. And you know what? It worked! When he saw the value in our lessons, he was engaged. And when he was engaged, the rest of the class was free to learn without distraction.

Most of today's questions focused on content, as I previously answered questions about my teaching style in the phone interview. I was able to provide relevant examples to support each of my answers, which I hope proves I'm a great candidate for this job. 

Ultimately, I wouldn't change any of my answers today, so I hope I said what they were wanting to hear. It gives me peace of mind to know that I represented myself well, and I can rest easy knowing that if I'm not selected, it will be because I'm truly not the best fit, not because I didn't say the right thing. 

And above all, I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to interview. I can't tell you how many years have gone by when I didn't even get a call. It gives me confidence that my resume and application are on the right track!

The principal said he hopes to get back to me by Tuesday, assuming he can reach all the references by then.


July 23, 2014

My Favorite Thing About Teaching

I'm excited to link up with the Big Time Blogging Challenge to share my favorite thing about teaching. This is, hands down, the easiest post for me because I can say, without any hesitation, that my favorite part about teaching is building lasting relationship with my students.

You see these young men and women in my photo? In the past week or so, I've had lunch with each of these kiddos, who are former students of mine. It was SO MUCH FUN to catch up with them and hear their stories. I can hardly imagine it's been FIVE YEARS since they were in my classroom every day.

I pride myself on being a teacher who can connect well with her students. I think my students know I'm genuinely interested in learning about them as people because I spend a lot of time asking them about their interests, preferences, and experiences. I do my best to use that knowledge to make my lessons relatable and engaging for them. 

Those three girls in the bottom picture? I actually bumped into them while out with the boy in the top left photo last week. We definitely made a scene in the middle of Chipotle with all our excitement, but we didn't care. It was SO unexpected and fun to run into them. 

They were telling me, at our lunch today, about how they still talk about my class all the time (to the point that their other friends get annoyed and tell them to shut up). I asked them if it was because it was fun or because they learned things. Immediately, they all three confirmed, "Both!" and went on to list multiple activities we did that year that they loved. In particular, I was beaming with pride to hear them say how much they LOVED my book clubs and that they've never read so much in their lives. They were even able to rattle of a list of books they read that year and recalled how they used to become obsessed with the characters and cry when they died. Proud teacher moment!

I know many districts have policies against befriending students via social media, so this is a major benefit to me since I'm no longer employed by their district. I have my students in a special group on Facebook where I can control what they see (and really... I just have to approve the things my friends post because I never post anything bad). It's allowed me to watch and cheer for them on the sidelines of life, which is a role I treasure. I love that they WANT to keep in touch and tell me about their lives, and I love that I've been able to be a support to a few students who really needed it.  

On an unrelated note, I would LOVE if you would send some good vibes my way tomorrow morning because I have a second interview for a sixth grade ELA job in my town. I debated sharing this here because I'm afraid to jinx myself, but I think I need all the support I can get! 

July 21, 2014

IMWAYR: Okay for Now

Confession: I started this book like 3 weeks ago and had a hard time finishing it. I wanted to LOVE it because my friend Erin at I'm Lovin' Lit told me I would. At first, I was going to tell you that I just found this book to be kinda... meh, but after writing my review, I realized that there were many parts I enjoyed, so I'm changing my review to say that I liked, but didn't LOVE this novel. 

I'm glad I read this because it's on the Rebecca Caudill list for this year, which means many of my students will be reading it. There were definitely parts I enjoyed... actually, as I write this, I'm realizing that I enjoyed many parts of the story. I loved reading about the dynamics of the family and the pieces of US History that are blended into the storyline. I loved the little love story between Doug and Lil, which wasn't too over-the-top to scare away your boy readers. And, just like in The Wednesday Wars, I loved the writing and dialogue. 

The parts that always seemed to lose my interest were when Doug was at the library learning how to draw the Arctic tern with Mr. Powell. Maybe this comes from my own lack of knowledge - I'm not much of a nature person and don't really care for birds - but I didn't pay much attention to his instruction here and was always waiting for the next scene to start. I mean... I still understood the metaphor behind it... I just didn't care as much.

For me, the interesting parts of a novel have to do with the relationships. I enjoyed reading about how his abusive a father led him to be more loving and compassionate toward his mother. 

The teacher in me really appreciated the recurring idea that there's more to people than what first appears. I really appreciated the moment his brother confessed that feels trapped by the label as a misguided trouble-maker and doesn't want to be that way. It made me wonder if that's true for any of our students, which is why I prefer not to know much about my students before they enter my classroom. I don't like having any expectations, especially negative, about my students before I meet them myself. 

This also applied to Doug's "so-called-gym-coach," whom we learn is also a Vietnam vet who is dealing with his own demons. As soon as Doug learns this about Coach Reed, he's able to see him as a person instead of just an evil drill sergeant. Doug shows great empathy and uses that relationship to help his own brother, recently home and injured from the war, come out of his depression. 

I would recommend this book to peers and students alike because I think it lends itself to some great teachable moments. I think, at the end of the day, there is much to be learned from Doug's experiences, especially related to how everyone has their own story to tell.

As a side note, I actually listened to this book on my OverDrive app in the car with Joel, which I think makes this the first novel he's completed since high school. I'd call that #winning!
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