Blueprint for Success – Preparing for the Job Interview

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

New or Prospective Music Teachers – Reviewing the Situation

By now, I hope you have had the opportunity to revisit and reflect on my past blogs about marketing professionalism, pre-interview preparation, tips and techniques on interviewing, development of storytelling skills, and the criteria for selection of the “ideal” school teacher candidate. Please peruse these articles at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/category/marketing-professionalism/. I recommend starting “at the bottom” of the page with the oldest blog (July 1, 2015) and progressing towards the present.

Pay particular attention to the outline posted on July 8: https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/07/08/overview-strategies-for-landing-a-music-teacher-job/. In summary, it is important for you to complete the following steps:

  1. Complete a thorough self-assessment.
  2. Assemble artifacts of your professional activities.
  3. Formulate a philosophy of music education.
  4. Familiarize yourself with current educational jargon.
  5. Compile a set of detailed professional anecdotes based on your positive attributes.
  6. Create/revise your résumé, interview handouts, electronic portfolio, and employment website.
  7. Research the school district, music program, job opening, and unique local curricular innovations.
  8. Develop appropriate and insightful questions to ask the interviewer.

empty-interview-1180616Next, the purpose of this blog is to provide the “nitty-gritty” for you to practice and drill answering common interview questions. This material is suitable for individual prepping or group mock interview sessions, and to assist in the formation of meaningful stories/anecdotes that would support a specific candidate’s mastery of each “core teacher standard.”

Music educators have experience in “music performance.” All aspects of excellent delivery of responses to these sample questions should be explored… good vocal tone, clear diction, clarity and organization of thoughts, a calm but engaging attitude, poise, professionalism, and self-confidence in front of an audience, and demonstrations of competency, critical thinking and problem solving towards a smooth, well-practiced interview – the most important “performance” of your career.

What to Expect – Types of Interview Questions

According to Alison Doyle at http://jobsearch.about.com/od/interviewsnetworking/tp/types-of-interview-questions.htm, “You’ll be asked about your employment history, your ability to work on a team, your leadership skills, your motivation, as well as other interview questions related to your skills and abilities.”

As a music teacher, expect inquiries from these general categories:

Special Interviews and Screening Procedures

NAfME published an online article “Music Education Interviews” and shared the following. Click here for an excerpt of the 2014 article (no longer available on their website): NAfME – Music Education – Interviews

nafmeSome schools are utilizing special techniques to pre-screen applicants. For example, the Gallup Teacher Insight Assessment is an online interview subscription tool for school districts. It uses a combination of question types that includes multiple choice scales (strongly agree, strongly disagree, etc.) and open-ended essays. A computer scores the essays by looking for “keywords” and then compares the scores on all questions to the scores of outstanding teachers, before sending the results to the school. Sample questions include:

  • How would you plan a lesson to reach both auditory and visual learners?
  • How would you incorporate different cultures in your classroom?
  • Why did you want to become a teacher?
  • After school, you come across a student whom you know who is crying. He’s 16 years old. You ask him what is the matter, and he says he was caught cheating. What would you do?
  • One member of a team working on a curriculum project isn’t pulling his or her weight. What would you do?
  • How would your co-workers describe you?

Other similar tools are available for administrators to use to determine various aspects of your personality and philosophy of teaching. These tools, similar to the Gallup Assessment, look for keywords in your responses and provide the administrator with a “pass” or “fail” rating scale for each question….

In rare cases, savvy administrators may ask you to “audition” for a position. This could include having you teach a sample class, conducting an ensemble, sight-reading a musical selection on an instrument, or playing the piano. You may also find yourself being interviewed by a committee of music students and parents. Be prepared.

One Evaluative Rubric

Job_interview_0001From the Assessment Criteria for Teacher Candidates (developed by Upper St. Clair School District Superintendent Dr. William Pope, Human Resource Director Ms. Jean Toner, and other staff), specific skills/behaviors/”core teaching standards” may be assessed at an interview, soliciting ratings of “Unsatisfactory,” “Satisfactory,” “Good,” or “Superior.” To see a sample of the rubric, click here: 7000.1 Professional Rating Form

Instructional

  • A. Educational Philosophy
  • B. Knowledge/Experience
  • C. Classroom Management
  • D. Technology
  • E. Oral Expression
  • F. Written Communications

Professional

  • G. Leadership
  • H. Teamwork
  • I. Judgment
  • J. Problem Solving
  • K. Planning & Organizing
  • L. Innovation

Personal

  • M. Initiative
  • N. Dependability
  • O. Adaptability
  • P. Self-Insight and Development
  • Q Energy and Enthusiasm
  • R. Appearance

Sample Music Teacher Employment Questions

6028366401_90f47624db_b(for study and practice, listed by core teaching standard, above USC criteria A through Q or “most popular”)

Most Popular

  • 1. Who had the greatest influence on you to become a music teacher and why?
  • 2.  What are the most important qualities of an outstanding educator?
  • 3.  What is your personal philosophy of student discipline?
  • 4.  How would you assess the learning in your classroom/rehearsal?
  • 5.  What purpose does music education serve in the public schools?
  • 6.  What is the importance of professional development and how will you apply it to your career?
  • 7.  What are your personal goals? Where do you see yourself in ten years?
  • 8.  How do you recruit students to “grow” a music program?

A – Educational Philosophy

  • A1.  Concerning music education, what is your philosophy and mission?
  • A2.  What is your view of the teacher’s role in the classroom?
  • A3.  What is most important to you (and why): music content, outcome, or process?

B – Knowledge/Education

  • B1. Describe a successful lesson plan you have developed.
  • B2.  What units would you plan for __th grade general music?
  • B3.  List a few selections you might program on a choral (or band or string) concert.
  • B4.  What steps would you take to teach someone how to improvise?
  • B5.  How do you get a child to match pitch?

C – Classroom Management

  • C1.  What rules and expectations would you establish in your classroom?
  • C2.  How will you control behavior in large ensembles?
  • C3.  How would you deal with a difficult student who has gotten off-task?

D – Technology

  • D1.  How will you incorporate the use of technology in your classroom?
  • D2.  How have you utilized technology to assist in instructional preparation?
  • D3.  Summarize a list of software programs and other technology you have mastered.

E – Oral Expression

  • E1.  Describe your strengths in oral communications and public relations.
  • E2.  How would you disseminate information to the students in support of your daily lesson targets?
  • E3.  Provide sample announcements you could make at an a) open house or b) public performance?

F – Written Expression

  • F1.   Discuss your strengths in writing and/or written communications.
  • F2.   What role does the Common Core have in general music (or music ensembles)?
  • F3.   Describe your last or favorite college essay or article on music or curriculum.

G – Leadership

  • G1.  Describe your leadership style.
  • G2.  What actions would you take to get a group of peers refocused on the task at hand?
  • G3.  Illustrate your role in a group project or collaborative assignment.

H – Teamwork

  • H1.  How would you involve students in the decision-making or planning of your classes/ensembles?
  • H2.  How would you involve parents in your music program?

I – Judgment

  • I1.    How would your musical peers describe you?
  • I2.    How do you typically model professionalism and judgment dealing with conflict?

J – Problem Solving

  • J1.    How do you differentiate and teach to diverse levels of achievement in your music classes?
  • J2.    Describe a difficult decision you had to make and how you arrived at your decision.
  • J3.    How will you accommodate students who want to participate in both music and sports?

K – Planning and Organization

  • K1. How do you insure that long-term plans and music objectives are met?
  • K2. Illustrate a typical musical (or marching band or ensemble) production schedule.

L – Innovation

  • L1.   How would you structure a general music (or ensemble rehearsal) classroom of the future?
  • L2.   Share an anecdote about a new or innovative teaching technique you have used in music.

M – Initiative

  • M1. Describe a project you initiated (or would initiate) in your teaching or extra-curricular activity.
  • M2. What motivates you to try new things?
  • M3. How much time outside the school day should a music teacher be expected to work?

N – Dependability

  • N1.  How would you define professional commitment in terms of music education?
  • N2.  What after-school activities do you plan to become involved?

O – Adaptability

  • O1.  How do you cope with stress?
  • O2.  How do you manage shifting priorities or changing deadlines?

P – Self-Insight/Development

  • P1.  Why did you choose to become a music teacher?
  • P2.  In your own music-making or teaching, of which are you most proud (and why)?
  • P3.  If you could write a book, what would the title be?

Q – Energy/Enthusiasm

  • Q1.  What hobbies or special skills do you have which may influence your future activities?
  • Q2.  In what extra-curricular activities did you participate at the HS and college level?

Now, it’s up to you. How do you improve your interviewing skills? How do you better your chances of getting a job? Practice, practice, practice!

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox

Overview – Strategies for Landing a Music Teacher Job

“Without ambition, one starts nothing. Without work, one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In a challenging job market with limited openings for public/private school music educators in many geographical areas of the country, there is great competition in the screening and evaluation of the applicants. I am happy to offer some tips and techniques towards successful career preparation, employment searches, interviewing, and promotion of your image and record of past performance, experiences, achievements, behaviors, knowledge, skills, and abilities that are job-related.

The concept of marketing oneself for employment is based on several skill sets:

  • Knowing the territory
  • Making connections
  • Branding yourself
  • Storytelling about the challenges and triumphs you faced in life
  • Proving that you have “what it takes” and your skills/experiences would be a “good fit” to the needs, goals, and values of the institution, employer, and position to which you are applying
  • Being persistent and well-organized

Here is my outline of general targets for marketing professionalism and a successful job hunt. Many of these subjects have been/will be shared in current or future blogs on this site.

  1. Develop and model your skills as a “professional.” (Read my July 1, 2015 blog “The Meaning of Pro.”)
  2. Complete a self-assessment of your content knowledge, teaching skills, musicianship, and personality traits. (Prepare in advance so that you will be able to share your “best” attributes.) One model for evaluation of prospective and current educators is Charlotte Danielson’s “Four Domains” from The Framework for Teaching. (To research these, see http://danielsongroup.org/framework/).
    • Planning and Preparation
    • Classroom Environment
    • Instruction
    • Professional Responsibilities
  3. Seek out avenues (while in college or around your music education peers) to practice and improve your weakest skill areas (less familiar band/string instruments, improvement in piano accompaniment, jazz improvisation, or singing)
  4. Assemble artifacts of your professional activities, the precursor for the development of a comprehensive résumé and portfolio.
    • Bulleted list of specific academic and music accomplishments with dates
    • College assessments and transcripts
    • Scholarships and other awards
    • Education experiences (e.g. lists, photos, and/or audio/video recordings of student teaching, observations, and other field assignments, private teaching, substitute teaching, other employment in the private and public schools, conducting or performing in community ensembles, summer camps, sports, scouts, church programs, marching band sectionals or field assistance, choral accompaniment or vocal/drama/dance coachings, etc.)
    • Sample solo recital and chamber/large group concert programs
    • Sample lesson plans, learning targets, rubrics, and other student assessments
    • Original compositions and arrangements
    • Congratulatory notes and letters of reference
  5. Create a philosophy of music education. Be ready to answer the key essential questions “What is your personal mission?” and “What is the role of music in a child’s education?” (To define a broad-based vision for becoming the ultimate “total music educator,” avoiding any prejudice to, limitations in, and restrictions of a particular music specialty, see my July 4, 2015 blog “Marketing Yourself and Your K-12 Music Certification.”)
  6. Familiarize yourself with current educational jargon, terminology, trends, and acronyms, possible topics administrators may check for understanding at a future interview. If you do not know the meaning of terms like The Common Core, formative/summative assessments, or 21st Century Learning Skills, look them up. (See my July 18, 2015 blog “The Alphabet Soup of Educational Acronyms.”)
  7. Compile a set of detailed professional anecdotes based on your positive attributes (see #2 above), artifacts (#4), and examples of your professionalism (#1) – the most important successes you have had in your education, career and personal life. Metaphors, analogies, and humorous anecdotes are the foundation for excellent storytelling at interviews. (See my August 2, 2015 blog “When It Comes to to Getting a Job, ‘S’ is for Successful Storytelling.”)
  8. Pre-interview preparation
    • Creation or revision of your résumé, interview handouts, electronic portfolio, and employment website
    • Practice and drill on answering common interview questions (including self-assessments of video samples) – see examples of interview questions from the 2013 Pennsylvania Music Educators Association In-Service Conference: http://www.uscsd.k12.pa.us/Page/6361
    • Research of the school district, music program, job opening, and unique local curricular innovations
    • Development of appropriate and meaningful questions to ask the interviewer
    • Trial run (know exactly where you are going, time needed, traffic patterns, etc.)
  9. Positive interview techniques (future blog)
  10. Post interview (debriefing yourself) and organization of the job search process (another future blog)

As they say in the theater, “break a leg” at your job interview!

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Albert Einstein

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox