Tuesday, October 28, 2008

interview questions

i have been blessed with an unbelievable principal the last 5 years. i admire her and our ap's leadership and most of all appreciate the trust they put in the staff to do our best at what they hired us to do.

i know what it's like to not have a good administration though and know that i never want to repeat that. at times, in grad school or in teacher-circles i hear the horror stories of those micro-managing principals, or the ones without backbones, or the ones who don't know how to control their temper. i plan on never experiencing those, and if i feel that my current principal is the only good one left, well, i'll actually study for those l-sats i've put off all these years.

so, to make sure i never end up at a school with one of those principals i've been composing the list of interview questions that i can ask when i'm interviewing at a school. questions that will let me know if i will be a good fit at that school. these are hard because of course you don't want to say, "walk me through how you micro-manage your teachers" in case they black list you from any school in that district. so you have to figure out a way to pose these questions to be respectful while giving yourself enough information to read between the lines.

1. what is your policy for how the students may access the internet?
if they (like a principal in my class last night) go on and on about how the teacher has to approve any site used in class by the administration, or if they say the teacher must check every link on that website and the links on the links to make sure the students do not end up on something inappropriate... well, moving on.

2. what kind of collaboration goes on at this school? and how do you facilitate collaboration between teachers in your school?
and if they go on and on about plc (professional learning communities) and how their teachers get trained in how to have meetings in order to learn how to communicate with one another, well... no.

3. what expectations do you set on teachers for planning?
i think i may be ok with having lesson plans on my desk for the admin to drop in and see. when i was a classroom teacher i usually had plans for that day, and could have told you the SOL i was meeting, even if i didn't write it down. however, while i plan for monday, tuesday, and wed in depth, thursday and friday always came based on the work i saw from the kids. if they didn't get what i taught on tuesday, well, i wasn't teaching something new on thursday. my wednesday plans were bumped, etc. i usually had detailed lesson plans, i just didn't always put times and dates with them. i want a principal who respects that the flexibility is always student-driven.

4. what sort of reading program do you use?
if the word basal or anthology comes to their lips we're moving on, unless they say, "the basal readers are in the room for you to access, but we encourage teachers to use developmentally appropriate texts based on each individual reader's ability"

5. do your classes have a writing workshop?
i asked this on an interview at a school north carolina years ago. the principal said that if i felt i was having problems with my writing i could show him all my work and he would edit it for me.

then there are the questions i can't figure out how to form nicely, but really want to know:

1. say my best friend elopes with some random guy and gets married in vegas and i have to fly out there to knock sense into her. what kind of warning/leave do i have to give you? is getting a sub and leaving detailed sub plans enough, or will you want to see a death certificate of the 'funeral' i have to lie about.

2.you come into my classroom for an observation and my fabulous lesson has just exploded because johnny ate a kiwi at lunch (whole kiwi- skin and all) and threw it up on my equally fabulous shoes. jenny has taken this opportunity to lecture the class about jesus while i'm on the phone arguing with the office about how a custodian still hasn't come down to clean up the mess so we've sprayed axe (you know, the cologne) on it to get rid of the smell. (true story, minus administrator).
would you a) close the door and leave, b) sing songs to get my class's attention away from jenny and the smelly barf, c) lecture me on how i should have been in the cafeteria to make sure johnny didn't eat the whole kiwi and how i should have had the lesson plans so well laid out that jenny could have followed them instead of giving us a Jesus lecture 6-year-old-style?

3. a parent comes to you accusing me discriminating against their child because he's white and saying i refuse to communicate with them on email every thirty minutes like they have asked. i am able to show you the stacks of emails i've had with this parent, (though not every 30 minutes). will you a) offer your support, sit with me and have a meeting with the parent to discuss these issues b) follow a but in the meeting with the parent yell at me for being racist or c) but a letter in my file because i communicated with a parent in email.

so, i could go on and on but i'm really suppose to be working on a paper for grad school. so, more to come, but i'd love your suggestions on how to phrase questions/ questions to ask on an interview. what is your essential administrator question?


Angela Watson said...

This is a great post. I, too, feel like teachers need to be discerning when choosing an administration to work for (assuming they have some choice in schools). I have a list of questions at http://www.mspowell.com/jobinterview.html.
Hopefully that will give you some more ideas.

Great blog, by the way. I linked mine to yours a few weeks ago and have been enjoying your stories. :-)

organized chaos said...

Thanks for sharing! I love your blog as well, but I'd only checked out the 'cornerstone blog'. I was excited to see your older blog and everything on there!