Summertime means so many things to so many people. To me, it has always reminded me of a break from the chaos of everyday life (especially when I was a kid with no summer job, or a teacher with no summer job). Even though now I'm in a year-round position, the summer still reminds me of easy-living, relaxing by the beach, and eating watermelon on my porch. However, I know how unrealistic that life is, especially to those who are frantically looking for a job for the school year. Between the resume building, Linked-In (or School Spring) networking, and interview mania, it can be easy to slow down and feel prepared for your potentially life-changing experience ahead. That's why I want to ease some anxiety and provide you with some tips for prepping for that dreaded teacher interview.
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1. Get sleep! I know it's hard, especially when a lot is on the line (like the start of the school year is 2 days away), but do your best to get a good night's sleep. You would hate to wake up the next morning looking like a boxer (who lost). There are lots of ways to increase the quality of your sleep using preventative or long-term methods, but for those of you don't have time for that, stick with these tips the night before your interview:
- Power off. Turn off your electronic devices 2 hours before you hit the sheets. Research shows that the lights emitted from our typical electronic devices (cell phones, tablets, TV) overstimulate our senses which make it difficult to relax our brains to prepare for sleep.
- Limit the amount of water you consume before bed to avoid midnight trips to the bathroom. Also, make sure you eat something no less than 2 hours (but no more than 4) before bed to avoid an upset stomach (from either being too stuffed or too hungry).
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon. Depending on your sensitivity to caffeine, you may even consider avoiding it after 11 am, as some studies have found it can continue to alert you up to 10 hours after consumption.
- Go to bed! Turn on your fan or AC (studies show a cool room is conducive to a good night's sleep), crawl into a freshly made bed (I don't know if research supports this, but it always feels good to wrap yourself in clean, fresh sheets), and shut off the lights. Do whatever you typically do before bed to ensure your cycle remains consistent. If your body cannot relax without music, turn it on! If you just HAVE to read a chapter before you turn off the light, do it! Just make sure you get some sleep!
2. Eat breakfast! Not just any breakfast though! Eat a filling breakfast that includes protein and complex carbs. This will help to sustain your energy and keep you full throughout the day (at least through your interview). How embarrassing would it be to yawn during introductions, or hear a loud rumbling in your stomach as you sit in the already awkward silence waiting for the next question. For my favorite filling, complex breakfast, check out my #RunTeacherRun recipe for Mason Jar Steel Cut Oats, in the #RunTeacherRun tab. This is make-ahead so you need to be prepared for that too! Add some almonds to up the protein. *When worse comes to worse, just eat something. If you are not a "breakfast" person, have a piece of fruit, a handful of almonds, or just allow yourself more time in the morning so that you are up and awake long enough for your body to build up an appetite. Breakfast is the key to success my friends!
3. Dress to Impress! There is no such thing as being too conservative (when it comes to your professional attire). Whether you are interviewing for an alternative-learning, creative preschool, or a suburban prep school, dress in business-professional attire. It is much better to over-dress than to under-dress (imagine the horror!). Also, to my female professionals - be mindful of your accessories and make-up. You want to look professional, and sophisticated. Leave the large blingy hoop earrings and deep purple lipstick at home (unless of course, you can pull this out without distracting from your inner awesomeness. I haven't seen it done, but that doesn't mean it's not possible).
4. Print copies of your resume, cover letter, list of references, etc. When you are expecting 1 person in your interview, and you arrive to a conference room with 7 people sitting around the table, questions in hand, it's good to be prepared to provide them ALL with these things (especially the resume part). This simple step makes you look professional and prepared. Or, even better...
5. Create a mini-portfolio! Did you have to create one of these chunkers for your undergrad or graduate course work? You know who wants to look at this? No one. Sorry, but it's the truth. That being said, interviewers want to see your capabilities. They want you to highlight the most important features of your work to showcase. Instead of slamming a 7-pound binder on the table, consider providing them with a thin, condensed version of your work samples. It's inexpensive (requires printing and purchasing portfolio folders) and a offers the interviewer(s) a chance to really examine your work and style. Additionally, this looks great, as it shows you are committed to quality work, organized, and prepared - all great teacher qualities.
6. Do Your Research! Before any job interview, no matter what the job title or organization, you must be prepared to ask and answer specific questions about the position/school/agency, etc. To show you are motivated and eager to fill the position, you should reference the school or organization's mission statement. It's also important to research your future place of employment to prepare for any questions you may have about the position. Imagine asking the common question: "What professional development opportunities do you provide for your employees?" when there is an entire page devoted to this topic on their website. It's even better to use what you've learned on the website to tailor your questions. For example, after doing your research, you notice that a recent initiative has been pushed throughout the school to increase the amount of technology in the classrooms. You may want to ask questions about the specific goals of the initiative, or ask about which types of technology are used and/or encouraged in the classroom. I cannot stress enough about the importance of researching not only your specific position, but the organization and the overall community in which you will (hopefully) be working.
7. Gather all important contact info. Do this before you leave! Few things are more anxiety-provoking than driving to your interview and realizing you don't have the exact address. Or the name of the contact person you are to be meeting with. Or being stuck in traffic behind an accident and having no number to call to let them know. Be prepared by printing off all contact names, numbers, the address, parking info, building info, etc. Sometimes the website will give you a general address, but really, your interview is on the "south campus" and it's best to park on "Cross Street" rather than "Bridge Street" because or "street sweeping" but you don't know this because you didn't print that email the interviewer sent you 3 days ago because you figured you'd just check the website before you go. (I'm not speaking from experience or anything...)
8. Print directions too! Do all those things above, and then make sure you print directions to your location as well. Do this even if you have GPS as GPS can
sometimes often crap out at the most inopportune time. Or GPS Lady will tell you to turn left after you've passed through the intersection. Maybe also have a map in your car, just in case... (I forgot...Gen Ys don't really know how to read maps. Well, have it in there for fun anyways because maps are amazing)
9. Sell yourself by being yourself. Why would you want to accept a job that hired you based on a lie. Be yourself. If you are appropriate for the job and community, it will shine through your behavior, demeanor, and attitude. Don't be shy about your strengths and accomplishments. Don't be embarrassed by your deficits either. Be honest. Be you. (That being said, if you swear like a fisherman like I do, I don't suggest letting that part of your personality shine through)
10. Smile and Breathe. You got a job interview. Congrats! On paper, you look great, which is why they requested an interview. Now, show them how great you really are on the inside too.