Professional Development, Teachable Moments, Teaching Tips

8 Tips for Teacher Interviews from a Seasoned Interviewer

As someone who has been a department chair for over 12 years, I have interviewed a lot of different candidates for jobs ranging from 6th -12th grade. I love the interview process because it fills a bit of my teacher bucket, exposes me to new people, and reminds me how lucky I am to work with such incredible people that so many want to be a part of our team! Throughout this process, I have often thought to myself how people prepare and have a few tips from the other side of the table.

  • First, you have to land the interview. I look through every social studies application that comes through our system. I immediately put ones that misspell, forget to capitalize, or leave questions blank in a discard pile. Answer each question! Double check everything! Make sure you have a professional sounding email. (This one gets me every time. I’ve had some pretty awful and unprofessional ones come across my desk. That’s an automatic no, thank you.) Have a professional, easy-to-read resume. Be someone on paper we want to meet in person. And make sure your online profile is something you want your potential employers to see.

 

  • One you land the interview, know the school that you are applying to and why you want to work THERE. This is a question I often ask people. I want to see that your genuine interest is to work at MY school, not in the district or because it’s close to your home. Do your research! Saying, “Because it’s a great school” is like saying that ice cream is good. It’s not the answer your interviewers want to hear. I know I work at a good school.

 

  • Be precise with your answers. DO NOT drone on or lose focus because then we stop listening. Use the jargon you are most comfortable with. Be passionate about your work!

 

  • Vary your answers. I have been in a lot of interviews where the candidate gave me the same answer for a few questions, just formed in different ways.

 

  • Sell yourself. Show them what you have to offer them and what your plan is. If you plan to go get a graduate degree or a National Board Certification, let your interviewers know. It’s key to show that you are willing to continue to grow and adapt to new educational ways of thinking! Don’t be afraid to show them what you can offer and how passionate you are about education! Confidence is key! Don’t be afraid to show who you are as a person and be comfortable with that. Teaching isn’t a profession you perfect, so we want to see that continual strive to be better, no matter how long you’ve been teaching.
    • And on that, dress in something that makes you feel good. That goes a long way in confidence!

 

  • Never, ever say “I don’t know.” If you get stuck, take a deep breath and say, “That’s a good question.” If you don’t understand what they are asking, ask them to repeat,rephrase, or clarify. It’s ok! We work with students all day who need the same thing. I want to make sure you understand the question I am asking you!

 

  • Be prepared for anything. You never know what you are going to be asked, but a cool, calm demeanor can get you far. Things at a education change and I appreciate someone who can go with the flow and do what is best for students. Practice with a colleague,  a friend, or a mentor.

 

  • Ask questions. My favorite part! I LOVE talking about my school, ways to be involved, how great it is to be a part of my department. I feel very turned off if the candidate has no questions. It makes them seem unprepared or uninterested. One of your questions should be about the timeline for hiring.

 

Each situation will be different. Every admin and department chair has what they want, so don’t be discouraged if you aren’t a good fit. I did leave out bringing a teaching portfolio. If you want to bring one, it never hurts. For me, I am more interested in who you are as a person rather than who you are on paper. It tells me more.

Regardless, as we move into the summer and interviews, I wish you the best of luck!

Foundations of American Democracy, Professional Development, Required Documents, Teachable Moments

I {Heart} Thomas Jefferson

This past weekend, I was granted the incredible opportunity to go to Charlottesville, VA for a weekend seminar with Teaching American History on Thomas Jefferson, which included some time at Monticello, my third favorite home of a Founder. It also didn’t hurt that UVA was in the Final Four and won that Saturday!

Let me start off with the fact that my degree is in Early Childhood Development and Education. I got a Masters in Secondary Education with a History Emphasis, but my knowledge of documents, content, and all around history knowledge has come about differently in my 16 years of teaching as opposed to a history major.

I am also a firm believer that before I assign something to my students, I need to have done my homework. It easier when you have experiences like this!

This is my second weekend seminar, the first being a few years ago at Montpelier. You can actually access the readers from the one day or weekend seminars through the site, even if you don’t go!

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Reasons you NEED to apply for these seminars (weekend, one days, etc):

  • You will be exposed to readings you may have not seen before. Not only will you read them, but you will be able to discuss them!
  • Hearing from other teachers. I always think this is the best PD, knowing what other teachers are doing and thinking. This group of teachers was one of the best!
  • The ability to travel to the locations!
  • The professors that facilitate the discussions are amazing. I never feel wrong. I am able to ask questions to truly understand what I’m reading.
  • Because of these seminars, both weekend and one day, I am better at analyzing documents and creating lessons
  • I start to lesson plan in my head, or think of questions to prompt my students to think of other ways to look at documents.
  • I may have started to understand the juxtaposition of Jefferson’s stance on slavery and the fact that he owned slaves. May have being the key word there.

APPLY FOR THESE SEMINARS! I am a better learner and teacher because of them. I’ve gone to some one day seminars here in Phoenix knowing next to nothing about what I’ve read and I always learn so much. Don’t be shy!

 

 

 

 

 

National Board Certification, Professional Development, Teachable Moments

Push Past the Boundaries

If you have ever heard of or considered National Board Certification, I urge you to read the latest blog post from the Standard written by yours truly entitled Push Past the Boundaries.

I cannot overstate how much this process changed me. It let me become the teacher I have always wanted to be by opening doors, both professionally and personally. I have my Master’s, which helped my pedagogy, but this took it to another level.

I highly encourage anyone to look at this process and challenge yourself to become the teacher you’ve always wanted to be.

 

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Foundations of American Democracy, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Political Participation, Professional Development

My favorite podcasts for AP Government

I absolutely love podcasts! I can listen while I’m driving or out for a walk. I love having my students listen to them as well. I often assign them outside of class, but sometimes we will listen to them if they are short and meaningful. It’s also helpful for my auditory learners or for students that just need a bit of extra information to really “get it”. The green are ones I listen to in class or assign for extra knowledge on a subject! The red are for my own personal knowledge and growth. 

Here are my favorite podcasts for AP Government!

  • Constitutional– I use this one in class and for my personal knowledge.
  • We the People– I have to admit, I love Jeffrey Rosen. And when he followed me on Twitter one day, I about died. THIS is a podcast I have my students listen to because it presents both sides from a scholarly view point. It has been especially amazing for the redesign. I highly recommend this! 
  • The Daily– I listen to this daily. Each day on my way to work. Like clockwork. 
  • Teaching American History– with titles such as “How to Read Federalist #10” , many AP teachers jump for joy. Let’s be honest, we all need to brush up on some of our document knowledge. This is a great resource for teachers who don’t want to be caught unaware! 
  • More Perfect I love using this in class. More specifically, they have a great one on Citizen’s United which can be used with my lesson on the required case. There are 3 seasons and I’ve found they are easy listening. 
  • PBS News Hour- quick, easy, informative, and part of my Alexa morning routine. 
  • Ain’t No Free Lunch– I met Danielle at my Street Law summer and really loved listening to her talk. Her and her friend, Taikein look at current/past issues. I appreciate hearing different points of view because it makes me a better teacher and better citizen. Plus, I am working on expanding my resources so that all students feel represented. And my students love the back and forth. 
  • Slow Burn– Nixon’s Watergate. Clinton’s impeachment. So enthralling and something I listen to so I can strengthen my history knowledge. 
  • Up First– The news from NPR in 10 minutes. I recommend to students who want to listen to the news and keep up. They can listen to it on the way to school or work. 
  • The Wilderness– I started to listen to Pod Save America awhile ago on the recommendation of a friend, but soon found it to be not up my alley. I decided to give this a try because of it’s look at what happened to the Democratic Party in the 2016 and what they need to change. It’s like an autopsy and it’s refreshingly honest. This is a podcast I listen to for my own personal knowledge.  From the website: “The Wilderness is a documentary from Crooked Media and Two-Up about the history and future of the Democratic Party. Pod Save America’s Jon Favreau tells the story of a party finding its way out of the political wilderness through conversations with strategists, historians, policy experts, organizers, and voters. In fifteen chapters, the series explores issues like inequality, race, immigration, sexism, foreign policy, media strategy, and how Democrats can build a winning majority that lasts.”

 


Tell me, what are your favorite podcasts and how do you use them?

Interactions Among Branches of Government, Professional Development

Pacificus and Helvidius– or Why Hamilton and Madison broke up.

This year, I’ve had the pleasure of being on the Bill of Rights Teacher Council. It’s a fun gig and I highly recommend working with this organization.

With that being said, I was able to attend a colloquium on Liberty and Executive Power. The group of teachers was amazing and I had such a great time. The best part is, I learned SO MUCH!

I never really knew what made Madison and Hamilton “break up”. I always just brushed over it and figured Jefferson somehow convinced Madison to become a Democratic Republican and they all lived politically ever after.

Enter Washington’s Neutrality Proclamation, April 22, 1793.

Madison was a member of the House at this time, and Hamilton was Treasury Secretary so we can see how this will start out.

To start with this, we will look at the powers vested in the Executive, as well as enumerated in the Legislative. After we have a good read on that, we look at the Neutrality Proclamation and ask “Can he do that? Where does the power to declare neutrality lie?” (Spoiler alert: there’s no straight answer yet)

*Please note that I’ve already gone over Federalist 70 with students and will be asking them to refer back to it

Then, I’ll ask the following {straight from my reader} to keep students focused during their research time:

Does the general grant of executive power in Article II imply more than the enumerated powers that follow in the article? Are Congress’s powers to declare war and its participation in the making of treaties simply exceptions out of the general executive power vested in the President? How does the enumeration of powers in Article II differ from Article I?

The most important part of this is not telling students who did the writing. One group will get Pacificus and the other will get Helvidius. You can use the excerpts from TAH.org and break up the pieces of it. I’ll be honest, Hamilton is WORDY, but what he says matters. Personally, I like reading Madison because he’s much more organized.

This can be done at home or in class, depending on what works best for your class.

And magically, this can turn into argumentative writing!

Defend or refute the claim that the Executive has the power to declare neutrality. Use evidence from the documents to back your thesis. 

What made this so great for me was that I was an actual participant in the learning. I had never read these pieces before, so becoming the student made it more meaningful for me.

The Bill of Rights Institute updates their seminars here and I strongly urge you to check them out AND to take a look the Founder’s Fellowship for next year once it comes out. To keep updated sign up for the Bill of Rights Newsletter here! Don’t miss out!

Interactions Among Branches of Government, Professional Development, Writing for AP Gov

The American Presidency

On August 28, I had the pleasure of attending a Teaching American History Seminar on Executive Powers. I always appreciate going to these because it opens my eyes to new documents to use. (Full Document of Readings)

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These were the readings we were required to complete beforehand. I appreciated this because it forced me to look at documents I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Documents I will use in my AP class:

  • Federalist 70
  • FDR “Fireside Chat Reorganizing the Judiciary” *I will use this to bridge between the Presidency and the Judiciary
  • War Powers Resolution and Nixon’s Veto

I actually came back to school the next day and was just starting the executive powers. This was a great way to start off the roles and powers of the executive. The students read through the War Powers Resolution the day I was gone, and came back and read Nixon’s Veto with me. We had a brief discussion on what the president’s power was and how this evolved through the 20th century to dealing with ideologies as opposed to just countries.

I decided to use these documents for an argumentative essay. I plan to have a Socratic seminar first to really allow students to develop their ideas. I don’t plan to give them the prompt per se, but I will let them know they need to make sure they reference these documents. I often take for granted that my students need help to really develop ideas.  find I get much better writing when

Prompt: Using your knowledge of the War Powers Resolution and Nixon’s Veto, develop an argument that explains the Constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution as it relates to the roles of the Executive and Legislative branches.

In your essay you must:

  • Articulate a defensible claim or thesis that responds to the prompt and establishes a line of reasoning.
  • Support your claim with at least TWO pieces of accurate and relevant information
    • At least ONE piece of evidence must be from one of the following foundational documents:
      • US Constitution
      • Federalist 51
      • Federalist 70
    • Use a second piece of evidence from another foundation document from the list or from your study of the Constitution.
  • Use reasoning to explain why your evidence supports your claim/thesis.
  • Respond to an opposing or alternative perspective using refutation, concession, or rebuttal.

I really enjoy these seminars because it requires me to learn more about the documents and it gives me more insight for my class. I can’t even count how many I’ve been to at this point!

TAH has webinars and explores Documents in Detail. I use these to help my students but also to make me a better teacher!

This year, I will focus on the following:

  • Federalist and Antifederalist (Saturday webinar- September 8)
  • Brutus I (October 24)

There are many others both upcoming and past that are super helpful for our class! Registration is free, and even if you can’t make the time, they will send you a copy of it. There is a podcast as well! Just search Teaching American History.

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You just have to love PD that you can turn around to use in your classroom immediately!

Assessment, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Professional Development

Moot Court Assessments…Beyond Multiple Choice

After I attended the Street Law Institute in 2016, I started to really look at how I assessed my AP Gov kids. Sure, multiple choice is important, as is learning to write FRQ’s but I wanted to really assess what they learned in my class.

Enter Moot Court and changing the way I look at AP.

Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely use multiple choice and writing for assessing. However, I struggled with giving a final exam that didn’t really match what I wanted to see. I wanted to see the application of the knowledge.

This will be my 3rd year doing it, and I’m already excited for it!

First, I pass out the Supreme Court Mock Trials instructions. I use current cases that I get from Street Law. Last year, we used Carpenter v. USNIFLA v. Becerra, and Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. I liked being able to use them in conjunction with the oral arguments because of the news stories in current times. It got the students more involved! Even though the sheet requires the lawyers to write a paper, I let them know it’s more of notes for their oral essay in front of the Court. They don’t actually turn anything in.

I give students a choice as to their role. It has worked out in the past because you have students who do not want to speak, but like the social media aspect. You have students that try new things. {I used this letter for my re-certification for National Boards and it still get me every time. As teachers, we wield a power greater than anything, the power to get kids to believe in themselves}

Throughout the course of the time I allot for this project, we listen to oral arguments {yes, we listen to the full oral argument}. I use oyez.org because as we listen, student can read the transcript and see who is talking. We watch news clips that students find. We immerse ourselves in that world and it covers everything we learned. We look at the Constitution, at the amicus briefs submitted by interest groups, and precedent cases. Each year is a bit different as each class is a bit different.

The day of is always the best. I require students to dress up for Court. I take this very seriously. We do it on a block day to allow for full time. Here is the breakdown of the roles:

Chief Justice: This person runs the show. Just like Chief Justice John Roberts, they are in charge of the introduction, the timing, and reigning in any issues. They also get to use the gavel that I got from the Supreme Court.

Justices: Are responsible for asking questions, knowing their stuff, and making sure the lawyers do too.

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The lawyer present their case in front of the Court. They have to be ready for anything, and after listening to the actual oral arguments, they are. This is the only role that does not require a written paper to be turned in because they are essentially giving an oral essay foe 20-30 minutes. Here is an example of what a lawyer wrote up to start off their case.

Lastly, we have the clerks. There are students who don’t want to speak but still want to be involved. The clerks write a paper, but they also live Tweet during the case. We use our class hashtag as well as #scotusintheclassroom to it’s easy for me to find the information. If you don’t use Twitter, it’s easy to adapt this to writing articles for newspapers. One year, I had a conservative media and liberal media. We had discussed the biases each media had on the particular case and it was their chance to apply it.

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This is my TweetDeck that I keep open during oral arguments for easy grading
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We invited our Accelerated Middle School to witness Carpenter v. US

First semester, we have the luxury of doing two because we have more time. Second semester, with the AP test, means we can only fit in one. This is the primary reason I do Civil Liberties and Civil Rights last in my units.

I have also done this with my on-level classes and my accelerated 8th grade class!

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This year NIFLA v. Becerra, lawyers presenting their case.