October 23, 2014

Creating Your Own Teaching Portfolio

Hello! I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve been able to actually write a post and share something! I’ve officially (almost) finished my first week in preschool and wow, what a game changer it’s been....but a pleasant one!! Three year olds are a different breed than my seven year old second graders but it’s a fun new experience!

Tonight I wanted to quickly share with you all about something that I feel doesn’t get too much attention but is extremely helpful when you find yourself in my position: needing to find your next teaching job! What do you do and what do you need in order to be prepared? How can you stand out? These are a few questions that I’ve asked myself when transitioning from one school to another and I’ve found that keeping a Teaching Portfolio is a fantastic way to showcase your talents and expertise in one convenient binder. 

A Table of Contents is a necessary tool to have in your binder because lets say you’re waiting in the office to be called back for your interview and you give your portfolio to the principal. During this time it can be assumed that they have a moment to look through ALL the wonderful info and documents about you. The best thing is to be super organized so they can find the info they’re looking for quickly because we all know interviews are scheduled and typically last between 15-20 minutes.

This component is important because it summarizes your purpose as an educator. What experiences brought you to teach and what values and beliefs shape your approach to instruction? This is a good place to reflect on your practice and share those experiences and how they’ve shaped you as a teacher today.

Your resume. The most important pieces of paper that somehow has to tell your future employer ALL about you. I mean, I always have difficulty writing my resume only because the longer you teach the more you put into it! However, with that said its good practice to keep your resume up-to-date with the most recent experience, duties performed, start/finish dates, etc. about every employer or position you hold. There’s a lot of different formats to use when writing a resume so take your pick and use something simple and to the point.

One tip: include your volunteerism both in and out of school. This shows your commitment to your school and community!

These are important and every employer is going to ask for them. Have them on hand and not only do you appear professional, you appear prepared! A number of times I’ve been complimented on my portfolio having references included so they can quickly read over their letters. Other times principals will ask for emails or phone numbers. Have those ready in your phone in case they ask. Also, it’s important to promptly respond with that contact information for references. Again, it’s professional but it also kickstarts your process of getting hired ;)

When it comes to references employers also like having a couple of personal references too. This lets them figure you out on a personal level and see if you would be a match to any grade level team. I always include references that could be personal AND professional (those work relationships pay off in more than one way!).

How do you control the chaos?! Every classroom is different and therefore every classroom needs different and differentiated classroom rules and discipline plans. At the beginning of each year I usually give a copy to my parents in their welcome folder so they become familiar with how I run my classroom and how their participation is key to reinforcing the behavior. At the end of the day, a well behaved class gets to spend more time learning! 

It’s a good idea to include your discipline plan in your portfolio because another famous question you’ll be sure to be asked would be about how you would handle a particular behavior situation or to state what classroom management tools you use or would use in your classroom. Be sure to include how you would reward students who are on track and use their example for those little guys who can’t seem to get it.

This is seriously the biggest and most often asked question at an interview: 
How do you use/would you use technology in the classroom?
Most school districts are beginning to get on board with using iPads another devices in the classroom. I remember just a few years ago having to pitch this idea to my principal and him not seeing it as an effective use of school money. Nowadays most classrooms are equipped with at least one iPad, which is awesome to see. 

Anyways, technology is only going to continue to keep advancing and it’s up to teachers to find cool new ways to implement technology into their curriculum. Pinterest alone has a billion cool and interesting ways to use technology!

And this should be a no-brainer but including a couple sample lesson plans is a huge plus to any teaching portfolio. It demonstrates everything you just wrote about and included in your portfolio BUT actually shows it in action! Remember to attach any standards or objectives and PICTURES! I can’t say enough how much principals love, love, love to look at all the pictures of your kids engaged in their learning. It really backs you up!

Walking into an interview can be frazzling especially once the questions start firing, but when you come prepared with your portfolio you’ll not only be ready to share, you’ll have a visual that backs up everything you say :) I’ve done interviews without a portfolio and there’s a huge difference in terms of their impression you. 

These are just the items I have included in mine and I hope you find this helpful. Be sure to post a comment about what you include in yours if it differs from mine! There’s a lot of different things you can put in your portfolio and I’d love to hear about yours!

October 20, 2014

Survived My First Day {Yay!}

Phew....OMG was this a whirlwind day! As many of you know I just started my new job as a preschool aide and it was an overall great experience! There’s definitely something to be said for private schools vs public and I’m seeing a few of those already. This particular school has an amazing group of teachers and the administration is as well. I mean, I’ve never been to a school where you can just tell that the staff climate, and the school as a whole, is positive and genuinely so.

Since I’m coming in once the year has already started, I am assisting in a 3 year old classroom and my lead teacher is awesome. Her and I got along instantly and it was a click. Her teaching style and expectations for the kids is right along with how I ran my classroom- and that’s important since it will help us teach collaboratively. I remember having an aide when I taught kindergarten and now I’m gaining that experience myself and aides are truly a gift to any teacher. So if you’re an aide or you have one...they’re amazing!! :)

I am part time (which puts me at about a 4-5hr work day) but my commute is about an hour (and I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a drive with NO TRAFFIC and along the coast of the Pacific?!). I’m definitely enjoying the no traffic aspect, but in order to make it worth it both with my time and simply the cost of gas for the trip each day to and from, I was interested in working extra hours at the school or tutoring. 

Luckily, as if my admin isn’t already cool enough, my director gave my contact info out to a family looking for extra help with their three kids after school. Today I got to meet them and not only are the kids darling but the parents are the sweetest ever and so flexible with my schedule and responsibilities at home. So, in the end it’s as if I am working full time but I get to spend more one-on-one time with each kid. 

Today was, indeed, a long one but I missed it. and the best part about this is that I get to continue to work with these amazing kids in the classroom and gain new experiences along the way. I wasn’t anticipating everything that has landed in my lap but I am truly grateful. I look forward to the craziness that comes along with this new job of mine but I am finally, once again, feeling fulfilled.

I hope everyone else had as good a Monday as I!!