September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

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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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. 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.