Monday, August 12, 2013

It is mid-August and you are still looking for a teaching what?

You are feeling frustrated, disappointed, and maybe a little angry, that you finished your schooling to pursue your dream of teaching and you have been unable to land a position. It is a tough time in the economy for school districts, with budget cuts, most are increasing class sizes and reigning in. So now what for you?

1. Get registered for a substitute teaching certificate. Depending on where you are, that could be a Regional Office of Education, or at the local district level. That will include some paperwork, a fee for the sub certificate and a background check.

Sub everywhere and every day!! No you won't have a consistent salary or benefits, but this is a way to get into the schools and get to know the teachers and principals. If you do a great job, teachers start to request you for their classroom when they are out and this is how you get noticed and show your stuff!! This also helps you see where you want to be teaching...Believe it or not, there are about 500 applicants for every K-5 position, and it is beneficial to get to know the teachers and principals in the schools where you are subbing. Subbing gives you experience in a variety of grade levels, in a variety of content areas, and can provide learning for your improvement. You will know quickly what your real strengths are and what you need to work on.

Look for long term sub position or maternity leaves. These really get you interacting with teams of teachers as well as school activities. These subbing experience give you experience with classroom management, unit planning, assessment, use of student data, professional development offered in your schools...these are invaluable, and if you hear of one, APPLY!!!

2. Network, network, network....find ways to network. In the fall, there are several teacher job fairs, find them and go! Get your face and your resume out there! Take every opportunity to find ways to connect with teachers and principals. Reach out to those that can help you and don't be afraid to ask for advice. While LINKEDIN is not big for teachers, get a page and there are education discussion groups that you can participate in.

3. Continue learning and building your teaching repertoire. Get online and read about the common core, the Danielson framework for effective teaching, John Hattie's work on Visible Teaching, Professional Learning Communities, common formative and summative goes on and on. On my Facebook Page, The Teacher Guru, I post articles daily that can easily support your continuous learning, so check it out. This continuous learning builds your knowledge base and then apply to your subbing position.

4. Keep your resume updated and fresh. Make sure that your resume outlines your teaching experiences to date. Principals are looking for entry level teachers that have had experiences with the Common Core, are collaborative, have looked at data to guide their instruction. If you have those experiences, get them on your resume. While the summer jobs you have listed on your resume show your work ethic or perhaps work with children, those jobs really mean nothing if you don't have the teaching experiences that catch the principal's eye.

5. Spend time every day looking for a teaching position. Check the vacancy list every day, people resign, people are let go, people have family issues and may need to take a leave, so don't be left behind!! Create a list to link quickly to all your websites that you check, so that you can check all of them in a few minutes.

6. Keep practicing those interview questions. As you sub, you will have greater clarity on your teaching and skills. When approaching a question, it is best to begin with effective teaching research and then embed your personal experiences into the response. For example, when asked about differentiation, explain the principles of good differentiation practices (high expectations, individual student needs, differentiate by content, process, produce and learning environment) and then how you have or will differentiate. Teacher candidates often just discuss what they did in student teaching or give an example of what they did in a unit while student teaching. Practicing your responses using this approach will allow your principal to see that you understand the best practices, AND can give concrete examples. This also helps teacher candidates not get lost in their responses and ramble on. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.


What about taking a teacher aide position? Taking an aide position can help you network, work in the school system and become acclimated to working with teachers, parents, students and principals. It gives you a salary and benefits and can be very fulfilling. Look at what your skills are and make sure you have a match; most of the time, these are special education positions.

I have been looking for a job for two years, do I give up and try something else? I know how hard this is if you have not yet found a job. I would say, DO NOT GIVE UP. Things are tough out there with funding and what is going on with federal and state mandates. If teaching is your passion, continue to work on the areas above. If you have found a job outside of education because you need a salary and benefits to live (and most of you do need those!!), find a way to connect to education someway. See if you can volunteer somewhere for a literacy volunteer at the local library or a community educational activity. The longer you are away, the harder it will be to get those connections back and to stay current.

Feel free to email me at for advice, a question, or just for moral support.

Friday, July 5, 2013


Have you ever wanted something so bad, and it just is not happening for you? You feel discouraged and disappointed that all of your efforts have not panned out. You wonder if you are doing the right thing? You wonder if you made the right career choice? You wonder if you “shoulda, coulda, woulda?”

Persevering in difficult situations means that you need to continue your efforts to achieve something despite difficulties, failure or opposition. You need to try to stay the course.

Positive thinking is really important during a challenging time. The research shows the benefits of staying positive:

• People who were pessimistic had a nearly 20 percent higher risk of dying over a 30-year period than those who
were optimistic.
• People who kept track of their gratitude once a week were more upbeat and had fewer physical complaints than
• People who obsessively repeated negative thoughts and behaviors were able to change their unhealthy patterns
and their brain activity actually changed too.

By staying positive, one can look at the situation differently. How have I grown from this? What have I learned? Have I developed new skills?

Appreciating the positive things going on in our lives can also help put things into perspective. Being grateful for what we have is one way to practice being positive. Several years ago during a particularly challenging time in my job, I began a gratitude journal on my IPhone. Every day for about 2 months, I wrote what I was grateful for…sometimes it was just that I got out of bed!!! I still keep the journal today; After practicing gratitude for a while it becomes a part of your thinking.

Laughing decreases pain, it may help your heart and lungs, promotes muscle relaxation and can reduce anxiety. It helps defuse a tense situation. I can attest to this!! The other night at about 1:00 a.m., we had a bat get into our bedroom and my husband was chasing it around our room trying to swipe it down…I was freaked at the time, but we laughed for hours, which I think was a message to us to chill out!

When we focus on clearly defined goals, know what we want to accomplish and have an action plan, we are able to persist.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Preparing for your Interview Questions

While working with my clients, I like them to prepare for a variety of questions that might be asked in the first or second interview. When interviewing, remember, the interviewer(s) wants to know YOUR responses, answers, thoughts, about YOUR perspective on teaching and learning.

When preparing for an interview, ALWAYS review the district and school website-- know their mission, their values, what is included in the school improvement plan, how the students perform on state assessments, etc.; this will separate you out as someone that has done their homework, rather than just one of 400 applicants for that one position. Also make sure that this district or school is a match for you as a teacher.

When formulating your responses, think about what YOU really believe, value, your successes about teaching and learning; not what you did in your student teaching or what your cooperating teacher did. For example, when asked, "What Classroom Management Structure Would You Implement?" be prepared to answer that question based on best practices, the grade level that you are applying for and your teaching experiences. Responses for this question might include:

1. Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport-- developing relationships with students
2. High Expectations for all students - value in the work of students, perseverance, challenging work
3. Procedures and Routines - student engagement, seamless transitions, effective use of instructional groups
4. Managing Student Behavior - clear expectations, monitor student behavior, response to student behavior
5. Set up of the Learning Environment - physical arrangement, safe, use of resources

Do these 5 items look familiar? They are from the Danielson Framework for Teaching, they are research based on WHAT highly effective teachers do in their classroom. It is KEY that you include researched based practices in your responses, and then of course, add a story, a scenario, or specific example from your experiences to personalize your response.

Prepare your responses for major teaching and learning issues such as assessment, instruction, Common Core, Differentiation, RtI, balanced literacy, etc. with researched based practices with your stories and experiences woven into your answers.

Now... practice, practice, practice, so that it becomes automatic. Practice in the car, in the shower, on your run! This will make you more confident and comfortable in your responses. You will be less likely to get "lost" in a response, when you have a framework for your response and then examples to support the framework!!!

Friday, June 7, 2013

End of the Year Reflections.... A MUST!!!

It is the end of the year!! The students are gone for the summer, you have cleaned your room, had your end of the year celebrations and now what?

End of the year reflection on your teaching is the NOW WHAT! Reflecting on what worked, what didn’t work, strategies, approaches, relationships, are some areas that you can start with. Effective teachers reflect to provide insight into their practices and then make changes if necessary.

You could start a teaching journal that outlines these reflections at the end of the year and then add your goals at the beginning of the next year! This will provide a “story” of your journey.

Some guiding questions might be:
What worked well?
What bombed?
What did I learn?
Did I meet my goals?
What was my Aha moment?
What would I do differently?
What did my data show and what did I do differently as a result of looking at it?
How did I grow as a teacher?
How did I get along with my teammates?
How did I communicate with parents?
What did I struggle with?

Posing these questions to other colleagues about each other can help with the reflective process. You might start next year by sharing your reflections, or better yet, get together over the summer and share your reflections. That will allow you to start the school year after you have thought about your discussions.

Check out this teachers reflection and begin yours today!!

“It is when you lose sight of yourself, that you lose your way. To keep your truth in sight you must keep yourself in sight and the world to you should be a mirror to reflect to you your image; the world should be a mirror that you reflect upon.” C. JoyBell C.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lessons beyond the Boston Marathon...Mr. Rogers' Words of Wisdom

I have been mesmerized by the stories about the Boston Marathon bombing. And as a result, who is being quoted on how to help children, Mister Fred Rogers. I love Mister Rogers!! I remember when my daughter was young and watching the operas, the plays, the stories, with her. In fact, in 2003, I bought my principals his book, The World According to Mister Rogers, Important Things to Remember. The book had various quotes and stories by Mister Rogers that I think are inspiring for educational leaders to think about as they lead their teachers and students.

"Some days, doing the 'best we can' may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn't perfect--on any front-- and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else."

"I'm proud of you for the times you came in second, third, or fourth, but what you did was the best you had ever done."

A few years later, I bought his second book for my adult children, Life's Journeys According to Mister Rogers, Things to Remember Along the Way. Quotes that make us think!!

"It's really easy to fall into the trap of believing that what we DO is more important that what we ARE. Of course, it's the opposite that's true: What we ARE ultimately determines what we DO!"

What great advice from a wise man! What a great way to comfort our children....and ourselves. I think the news has done a great job of highlighting the heroes and the helpers, focusing on those attending to the hurt, carrying people away from dangers, people hugging another person in distress...helping others!

As educators we will be faced with questions and comments from the elementary, middle and high school students about this event. How do we begin to explain this event.....share what Mister Rogers has to say about scary events.

Thanks Mister Rogers for reminding us "You Are Special."

Monday, April 8, 2013

What Do I Want to Happen in My Life? Vision Board or ACTION board?

You have been looking for a teaching job now for a year (or maybe longer?). You are frustrated, disillusioned, disappointed and are starting to wonder if you should continue to pursue your dream, your goal of being a teacher.
As you have been job searching, what has your process been? How have you approached the search? Do you have a weekly plan or monthly plan for applying and communicating with school districts?

I recently have met a new friend, Carol, who has been diagnosed with Stage IV lymphoma and began her treatment last week. While I have only known her about a month, Carol is very headstrong, has a good sense of humor, seems to be a fighter and trying to be optimistic about her prognosis. Carol recently told me about a session that she was going to attend on developing a vision board.

According to Christine Kane (,
“A vision board (also called a Treasure Map or a Visual Explorer or Creativity Collage) is typically a poster board on which you paste or collage images that you’ve torn out from various magazines. The idea behind this is that when you surround yourself with images of who you want to become, what you want to have, where you want to live, or where you want to vacation, your life changes to match those images and those desires.”

I started to think that this process would be good for aspiring teachers to go through, so I did some research and found an article, “Throw Away Your Vision Board,” by Neil Farber. M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Farber suggests that just visualizing what you want does not necessarily materialize, however this process might help one organize and more clearly delineate your goals.

Dr. Farber suggests instead, develop an ACTION board. An ACTION board helps you transform you dreams into reality. Think about it, dream about it but then MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Try some of these descriptors to use for your ACTION:

1. What is your ultimate goal? Clarify where you are going. What do you want?
2. Prioritize: what is your top priority? Look at what you need to do and simply prioritize what it is you need
to take action on.
3. Put together a schedule or plan. Simplify what you need to be doing: daily, weekly and monthly.
4. What do you need to get to your ultimate goal? What help do you need, who can help you, what do you need to
learn, what do you need to work on? Break things down in what you need to do in order to get to where you
need to go.
5. Get support: who can help you with this? Network with a variety of people who can support you and keep you
on track. Having someone hold you accountable is a good thing.

Some quotes to think about:

"Do it, and then you will feel motivated to do it." - Zig Ziglar
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” – Leonardo da Vinci
“Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with Vision is making a positive difference.” - Joel Barker

Check out the APP store to see if you can find something to get started on! You don't need to use this process for pursuing a teaching position, think about how it applies to any goals in your life. You might be retiring from teaching and trying to figure out the next steps. MAKE IT HAPPEN!!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Needing Some Down Time Soon?

About this time of the school year, you are beginning to feel fatigued, ready for spring and in need of a break. Most states conduct their state assessments in the spring in March/April, so from the beginning of second semester until spring break, is a great period of time for heavy duty instruction without a lot of holiday breaks. So to make it until spring break here are some ideas that can keep you fully charged:

1. Get plenty of sleep. Adults need 7-9 hours a sleep per night. With our jobs so busy throughout the day and then family commitments when we get home from school, many times teachers are burning the midnight oil to get done everything they have to do. Sleep deprived people have a greater risk for high blood pressure and also raises your risk for obesity, diabetes, depression and directly affects areas of the brain that deal with mood and concentration. Try to establish a routine each night as you are preparing for bed, such as taking a warm bath, reading, and avoid coffee, eating and alcohol before bed.

2. Exercise!! Even 20 minutes a day of exercise can be beneficial. Whether you exercise in the morning, take a walk at lunch or go to the gym after work, try to get exercise daily. Short bursts of exercise promote oxygen to the brain as well as are beneficial for your heart. Grab a friend to exercise with or get a group to exercise after school to help you stay the course.

3. De-stress. Daily exercise can help you de-stress. Take a time out at your desk and stretch, reach up and side to side and then down to your feet. Stand up in a doorway and push your arms into the doorway to stretch and release your chest muscles and back muscles. Can you say "Om?" Yoga poses can help you de-stress and offers you healing benefits. Meditation for just 60 seconds of focused quiet can reduce anxiety and nervousness. Start by slowly relaxing muscle groups in your body, take a few deep breaths, focus your attention on your breathing, if your thoughts wander, refocus on your breathing (this takes practice with our running thoughts!) then bring your awareness back to your body, wiggle your toes or fingers and then back to your work! Keep a gratitude journal, rather than focusing on the things that stress us out, focus on the things in your life that you are grateful for! Taking a warm bath with lavender or chamomile can also help de-stress after a long day.

4. Eat properly. Breakfast is critical to get your day started, so if you have to get up a few minutes earlier, do so to eat breakfast. Your body needs fuel in the morning, and without breakfast you are vulnerable to cravings and other bad eating choices. Eating well throughout the day can help promote energy- fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and water for hydration are critical for a well rounded diet.

Hold on, spring break is just around the corner!! Hoping you can get away someplace warm, sunny and with NO SNOW!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Four Agreements

About 10 years ago, I read the book, The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. It was an amazing, introspective book that is to support love and happiness in your life. Think of how we express ourselves and what comes "flying out of our mouths" sometimes. The author, Don Miguel, says by practicing the Four Agreements, we will face challenges, yet find happiness in our lives. I wanted to share the Four Agreements with you!

The Four Agreements are:

1. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

Think about it!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Staying Committed!!

Well I have been away for has been hectic! I lost my focus, my commitment, for a bit, but back at it now! I am committed to providing some educational insights for you that might benefit you in your teaching AND in your life.

The Webster dictionary defines commit as "to put in charge or trust," "to carry into action deliberately," "obligate, bind" and "to pledge or assign to some particular course or use." That is a pretty heavy duty word!!!

In our lives we are committed to our partners, to our kids, to our family, to our community, to our work, to our colleagues....we have SO many commitments, it is easy to become overwhelmed in our lives. And all of these commitments are made at different levels, focusing on one or more, all at once, or focusing on them at different times dependent on what is going on in our lives. Being committed is doing whatever is necessary to fulfill or accomplish something.

In our jobs, we have to focus on the purpose of our work in order to be committed. What is it that we do that drives us? What is it that we do that gives us meaning? What is it that we do that makes a difference?

Sometimes staying committed in our teaching jobs can cause conflicts with others and within ourselves. We work hard, do our best, and yet in this economy, our jobs may be on the line every day. But if we believe in what we are doing, we have to stay the course, no matter what! Continue to grow and enhance your professional skills.

If you are a new graduate and/or have not been able to find a teaching position after being out of school for a few years, are you still committed to the field of teaching and finding a job? What does that commitment look like? Looking at the job search as a challenge rather than a roadblock to your career might help you continue your pursuit. Be determined to keep looking for that first job! Develop an action plan that can guide you on this quest.

Commitment means ACTION. What actions are you taking?