May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

What Should I Do? Part 2 – Preparing for the Interview

Posted: Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

by Rick Pomeroy

The phone rings, you don’t recognize the number, but it’s job search time and you take the call. “Hello, this is Pat Admin, and we would like to interview you for a science opening at Purfect High School in the Adreem Unified School District.”

So what should you do? If you are interested in Purfect High School (PHS), thank them very nicely, say yes, and begin preparing for the interview.

Prior to applying to Adreem Unified School District (AUSD), you should already have done some background work. Based on that work, you should have a good sense about PHS, for example, how many science teachers they have in the department and a sense of the classes that they offer. You should know a little bit about student activities and the demographics of the school. You might even know a little bit about parent and community involvement. If possible, read the school’s on-line bulletins and announcements the week before your interview. This will give you a sense of the most recent events on campus.

Prepare an interview portfolio that you can leave with the interviewers. This is not your large, fifty-page compendium of your work as a student teacher – no interviewer will have time to review such a massive tome. Instead, prepare a short, five to seven page interview portfolio that highlights some of the key things you want them to know about you and you will leave it with the interview team at the conclusion of the interview. There are many different thoughts about what it should contain. My list includes:

  • An updated resume, specific to the position you are interviewing for.
  • A sample set of lesson plans where you engage your students in active learning. It should be aligned with NGSS with clear connections to how you would implement it. Pay particular attention to the Science and Engineering Practices, as these are possibly the biggest changes that schools will be grappling with.
  • A succinct description of your teaching and management philosophy. Administrators understand that you are still an emerging professional so it is good to be able to explain in detail what your beliefs are and how you have handled a difficult situation.
  • Samples of formative and summative assessment you have used. If possible, include one or two student work samples (with names redacted). The artifacts you include should be examples of your best work and might stand alone if someone were to scan the portfolio after your interview. More importantly, these are things that you should be able to refer to in your interview as you answer some of the typical questions that they will ask.

Next, think about the interview questions. You can review lists of the most popular questions for science teachers simply by searching for them online; anticipate that you will be asked at least some of these, and think through your answers in detail well before your interview. Find someone to randomly ask you some of the questions so that you can practice articulating your answers clearly. Remember, most interviews are about 30 minutes in length and will probably include approximately 10 questions. You should practice your answers enough to appear prepared and knowledgeable, but no so many times that you sound rehearsed. You should not memorize your answers.

On the day of the actual interview, don’t eat a big meal before your appointment. Arrive in the community early. Plan for any traffic, weather, or travel glitches that might cause a delay and leave early enough to arrive with plenty of time to relax and compose yourself. When you arrive, it is best to check-in about fifteen minutes before your interview time (unless the interviewers have given you other specific instructions). Introduce yourself to the receptionist. Remember, your informal interview starts the minute you walk in the door –the receptionist will definitely form an opinion of you from your first interactions. Though not part of the formal interview, the interview team might later ask those opinions, for example, to give context to your formal interview responses.

Choosing what to wear is also an important part of preparing. I recommend that you talk to the teachers in the science department where you are student teaching to ask what they recommend. You might also schedule an appointment with your school administrator to get some background on their views of the interview process and appropriate attire. If all else fails, you want to be dressed professionally. Be sure that your clothes are clean and neat and that your shoes are appropriate for the rest of your attire.

At the end of the interview, when the interview team asks if you have any questions, make sure that you have something to ask. Do not ask about salary or benefits. Think of something from your school research that will show the interviewers that you’ve done your homework and that you are truly interested in this as an opportunity. Before leaving, thank each of the members of the panel.

On the same day, after the interview, be sure to follow up with a hand-written and hand-addressed thank you card. It is OK to include your cell phone number in that card as a way of indicating that you are very interested in the job. If you do, make sure that when a future employer calls, your voicemail message is professional and adult. You may have enjoyed a fun and fanciful voicemail greeting while you were in school but now, you want to present an image of an emerging professional. Be sure to return calls as soon as you can and by all means, don’t say yes to an offer if you are not sure that it is what you want.

The interview is the second major step in the getting a job process. Be sure to allow yourself sufficient time to prepare. Time spent now preparing will pay off when that interview phone call comes.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis.

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.