Interview Q’s and Tips!

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As we enter the last few months of school, doesn’t always seem like the pace suddenly picks up?!  Besides all of the things that happen at the end of a school year, it’s also the season of hiring.  We have found ourselves in many conversations about what makes up a good interview question and what advice do we have for people on both sides of the interview table.

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Here are a few interview questions that make people think and help to reveal more about the kind of educator that is sitting in front of you:

  • Our school is well on our way to being a trauma-informed school. How do you define trauma or what do you know about trauma informed practices?
  • How might past experiences affect a person’s current situation? Describe how this might change your approach to our students.
  • Tell us about a “success story”—a student that you have had a significant role in making a difference in their behavior or academic performance. What were the issues/problems, what were their strengths, and what did you do to make a positive impact?
  • If we were to walk into your classroom, what would we see your students doing
  • Tell us about  “not such a success story”—a student with whom you weren’t able to be successful. What were the issues and what lessons did you apply from the experience?
  • Convince me to put my child in your classroom. (Thanks @BethHouf and @burgess_shelley!)
  • What are you reading to inform your practice? And how have you applied this new learning into your teaching?
  • What does your professional learning network look like?
  • What if your resume listed your failures?  What failure would you want to share with us? (Thanks @O_L_Mayers!)
  • If you could describe yourself as a toy or game, what would it be and why?
  • When was the last time you took a risk?  What happened?
  • Tell me about your best and worst day at work.
  • Take them around the building and see how they interact with the rest of the staff.
  • Have the person teach a lesson to a class or small group.

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Some tips for the interviewer and the interviewee…

  • In one of my admin interviews, the superintendent allowed me to look over the questions and jot down some notes prior to the interview. He said he didn’t want nervous answers, he wanted my best answers. I really appreciated that point of view and started doing this for my teacher interviews.
  • Be you. They aren’t the only one looking for a perfect fit, it’s okay to be picky.
  • Breathe.  Take a minute to think before you speak.  It’s ok to ask them to repeat the question, especially if it’s a two part question and half way through answering, you forgot the second half!
  • When they say, “Do you have any questions for us?”, make sure you ask only a few questions and be sure they are thoughtful and meaningful questions.
  • Follow up your interview with an email to the team, thanking them for their time and saying a few things about your passion for education.
  • As much as possible, answer the question by giving real life examples and experiences that happened to you in your building.  
  • If you are the one conducting interviews, be prepared to give people feedback.  You may interview a lot of candidates, but you will most likely be selecting only one person.  The rest of the candidates will be using the experience as a way to grow and improve.  Give them honest feedback to help them with their next interview opportunity!
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We Learned From The Best

March is National Women’s Month and the Moms As Principals wanted to take a minute to recognize some of the most impactful women that we hold close to our heart and admire.

Kari Nethery Kluckohn (Lindsy)
“What do you think you can do?”
“Well, I actually have no idea. I’ve never done this before.”

I don’t know many women who have walked on to a collegiate level sports team with zero experience and have been welcomed with open arms and a smile. Yet, this is exactly what happened to me my freshman year of college. Over the next four years I hugged, cursed, smiled, and cried with Coach. She put me through workouts that made my immature self want to kick her butt, just so she knew how it felt.  In the time that I ran for her, she became a mom, twice. There was a whisper about her leaving during each pregnancy. I never had an example of a woman in my family who held a career while being a mom and had no doubts that she would move on. Even on the few days when Coach’s son hobbled around the track during practice or she would recruit us to babysit occasionally on the weekend, I still had a feeling it was short lived. I was wrong.

By the time I ran through the finish line of my last 200 meter race as a senior in college I realized I had my first example of a woman who could pull-off “working mom” like a rockstar. I would never forget it.

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Marianne Medley (Liz)
I learned both “carpe diem” and “semper ubi sub ubi” from Magistra Medley, Latin teacher extraordinaire.  Even though I never had her as an official teacher, I still learned everything I need to know about life from her.  She taught me to love life and to definitely get after it every day, hence the “carpe diem” part. And of course she always taught me the less well known, yet equally important lessons, like “semper ubi sub ubi”, or always wear underwear!  There have certainly been many women who have had an influence on me in my life, but Marianne Medley, my mother, has been my favorite teacher. She was my own personal teacher long before she became a Latin teacher, and she continues to be my personal teacher even though she has retired from the classroom.  Long before my mom was a teacher, she was a mom who managed to raise two fiercely independent women and two compassionate and caring men. She was the one who helped me fall in love with books and reading. She was the one who believed in me and taught me to believe in myself. She was the one who modeled her love of learning for me, sometimes sitting in her college classes very pregnant with a young kid (me) in tow.  She was the one who was always so creative and encouraged me to not be afraid to color outside of the lines. Not sure if other kids had the same experience as me, conjugating verbs on a daily basis and always learning the root of every word, but I will be forever grateful that my Latin teacher, my amazing mom, shaped me into the female leader I am today. For you mom: non scholae sed vitae discimus, we do not learn for school, but for life!

Erlyn Madonia (Claire)
“The people who influence you are the people that believe in you.” Growing up I struggled to read, and process information and in third grade I was diagnosed with a specific learning disability. I always knew I was further behind my classmates and it took me three times as long to understand concepts than others, and I spent many nights crying through the struggles of learning. Through all of the struggles and all of the pain, Erlyn Madonia, my mother, was always there fighting and supporting me. She had patience of gold, sitting with me each night teaching me as I struggled, and she never stopped believing in me and my abilities. She was alway positive when I was negative, and she never gave up in me. She taught me so many strategies to overcome my learning difficulties, and believed I could be anything I wanted to be, despite my disability. She fought unconditionally for me to get the services in school that I deserved. She would often say she was not only fighting for me, she was fighting for all the other parents that didn’t know how to fight. When applying to colleges she was my number one cheerleader and believed that I could go anywhere and do anything that I wanted too. She pushes me to do better at my job, and fight for what is best for my own kids.

leadership-quote-1Tamara Konrade (Kelley)
“Your energy introduces you before you even speak” is something that I have always felt describes my mentor and life coach, Tamara Konrade. It is this energy that has introduced me to a women that I not only admire, but I can now call my friend.

When I met Tamara,  she was presenting for ESSDACK in 2008 in front of a packed room.  I wish I could describe to you the energy I felt from her, but I couldn’t do it justice.  In fact, I can’t tell you what a thrill is was to discover that just 8 months later we had both joined Valley Center Schools. It was like as sign from God that I had made a sound decision to join the district and I was being given the opportunity to learn from her every day.

What I admire most about Tamara is that she lives her passion by coaching others to be their most authentic selves while also being a wonderful wife, mother, and friend. She models how to move through life with awareness of your judgments, beliefs and energy. She shifts cultures with simple questions that comes from a place of curiosity instead of judgement. You will never walk away from a tough conversation with her not feeling loved and trusted. She simply helps you find your way by helping you sift through feelings of doubt or frustration.

What I know for certain is that she brings out the very best in me whenever we speak. She acknowledges my worries and helps me dig down deep until I find the real story I’m telling myself. She also finds a way to show me who I am through her eyes and gives me the confidence to pick myself up and keep going. She’s my friend, she’s my mentor and she’s my role model for who I strive to be every day.

Marciala Chalin (Lynn)
When I think about the woman that has influenced me the most I can’t help but think about my grandmother.  While she is no longer with us, I carry with me so many of the traditions and passions she taught me from an early age. My mother and father divorced when I was 5, and it was my grandmother; the school custodian who picked up the pieces to raise me, making sure she guarded my fragile heart.

Chalin taught me to keep a tidy house that would welcome others, she modeled the life of a prayer warrior, and kissed me goodnight until the day I left home to be married. She took time to listen and taught me the value of friendships. In every conversation, she took delight in listening to my accomplishments and failures. She would then tell me stories (some over and over) of how failures combined with prayers turned into some of the best lessons of her life.

One of her greatest qualities was her humbleness.  She was proud of her role as the high school custodian and always reminded me that being humble in life is a non negotiable.  She made family a priority and made every effort to ensure I had the best education. She took a special interest in learning about my struggles and modeled forgiveness in a way I can’t ever replicate.

Chalin never saw me become a teacher.  As a matter of fact, she never saw me graduate from college.  But somehow she knew that I would make it… On the day of my graduation from college, she had left instructions to have my mother gift me a graduation ring in her name. As I look at my work ethic, the way I raise my daughters, and my love for God; I know Chalin has shaped me into the woman I am today.  I hope I can leave that type of legacy for someone one day.

quote.jpegFrederica Gosche (Melissa)
Incredible…..only begins to describe my mother, Frederica. As the youngest of 12 children, she grew up in a large family, with overprotective brothers in a small village outside of Sparta, Greece. As an avid reader, she excelled in her studies, rising to the top of her class. She always valued education, and exhibited a strong work ethic from a young age. Resilient describes how my mother handled the life-altering experience of being uprooted at age 18 and told to immigrate to the United States of America. Not being able to finish her senior year of high school in Greece, my mother was faced with the challenge of settling in a new country, with limited knowledge of the language, and figuring out how to succeed in a classroom in America. My mom was able to graduate from Austin High School in Chicago, obtain a job at a reputable company, and not only excel through the ranks of her company without a college degree, but dedicate 40 years of her life to that same company. Talk about loyalty!  She overcame many struggles and challenges in her personal life, yet she didn’t let those obstacles stand in her way of succeeding and setting an exceptional example for her children. She’s a dedicated, hard-working woman whose thirst for knowledge and work ethic are second to none. Her example showed me the possibility of being a working mother, while still nurturing and caring for a home. She is my biggest cheerleader, and most honest critic. I value her feedback and know that she always wants what’s best for me. She’s selfless and continues to demonstrate her huge heart, as she cares for her aging siblings. My mom continues to be my rock, as she supports my career endeavors and loves my two children each day, while I love the 800 students whose care, safety and education I am charged with as a building leader. I’m forever grateful for the example she set for me, and for her continuous support.

Carmen Vanegas Anderson (Tracey)
“Mija, You can do anything you want, as long as you work hard and believe!” These are the words that still pierce my core when I am doubting my own ability or feeling inadequate in my personal or professional life. I still can’t believe how clearly I can  hear my Grandma Carmen’s loving voice after all of this time.

My grandmother grew up in poverty, dropped out of school in fourth grade, and learned to speak English on her own. Without a formal education to rely on, my grandmother developed a strong work ethic, a desire to push beyond her circumstances at the age of ten and the tenacity to ask for help when needed. I still vividly remember being seven years old and helping her spell numbers or the names of businesses as she filled out checks at the local grocery store. She never seemed embarrassed or too proud to ask for help. In fact, her eyes almost seemed to sparkle with pride as I supported and taught her how to write in English.  She would let out a chuckle and reply to the cashier, “My granddaughter is my teacher. She is going to do great things.”

Growing up, I didn’t realize  the impact that these statements would have on me and how they would shape the learner, mother, teacher, principal, and leader I am today. My desire for ALL kids to know they are loved, worthy of greatness, and are NOT defined by their circumstances stems from my grandmother and the champion she was and continues to be for me!

Who Says We Can’t: MAPS Mantra

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Dear World,

A couple of weeks after I (Kelley)  turned 20 years old, Trisha Yearwood’s song, XXX’s and OOOs, was released. During that summer, I remember driving along and singing at the top of my lungs:

She used to tie her hair up in ribbons and bows

Sign her letters with X’s and O’s

Got a picture of her Momma in heels and pearls

She’s trying to make it in her Daddy’s world

She’s an American girl

An American girl

Two years later, I welcomed my son, Braden, into the world and suddenly knew the full meaning of the song.

While many women work, taking a leadership role is often a balancing act that we aren’t sure we can do well. The guilt we feel is compounded by the messages we sometimes receive from those around us. We wonder if we are doing the right thing. We wonder if we can truly have it all.

Then, we wonder why we can’t.

Here is a list of what the ladies and I have learned about ourselves over the last few years:

  • We can be passionate about our families AND our role as building leaders.
  • We can forgive ourselves for our mom and principal fails. No one is perfect.
  • We can be good mothers while also being instructional leaders.
  • We can be caring, but we can also be tough when necessary.
  • We can overcome obstacles and be successful.
  • We can empower others to do what’s best for kids.
  • We can be vulnerable and strong.
  • We can make a difference in the lives of those at home and at school.
  • We can have an impact on how education looks and feels for our students.
  • We can achieve balance while also knowing it’s important to sometimes make a choice between work and family.
  • We can find a way to laugh through our tears and frustrations.
  • We can love our school students hard while loving our own kids. We don’t need to choose.
  • We can build other women leaders up because it’s not a competition.

We ARE mothers, wives, sisters, friends, and the best leaders we know how to be.

I think I can say that I’m not only making it in my Daddy’s world, I’m killing it.

Love,

Moms As Principals

PS: What could you add to the list?

 

Did I Miss It?

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Rush hour is a misnomer.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I feel like it’s rush 24 hours.  I’m always rushing to get my child dressed, lunch packed, out the door, buckled into the car seat (yes, she has had to remind me sometimes to remember to actually buckle), drop off at daycare, and then maybe make it to the first meeting of the day on time.  After the school day is done, the rush hours continue.  I always feel like I am watching the minutes tick by as I try to navigate my commute, my own personal game of Mario Kart, as I try to strategically maneuver around giant trucks and hybrid cars.  It never fails…I am either pulling into the daycare provider’s driveway exactly at 5:30 or six minutes late.  And then there is more rushing.  Get shoes and coats on, gather toys and stickered, glittered construction paper creations, and scoot out the door, back in the car, heading home.  Once we are home, it’s time to feed the dogs, start dinner (which some nights means find a flyer from a place that delivers), and try not to think about the work that should get done tonight.

And then there is that moment when I finally just sit down on the floor next to my daughter and all in one instant I am exhausted and at the same time I pause and look at this child staring back at me.  What did I miss in all of my rushing today?  Did she do something new with her toys this morning that I completely missed when I was scrambling to get us out the door?  Did she use a new word or phrase that I didn’t hear because I was telling her to go play in the other room while I was trying to pull together dinner at a semi-reasonable time?  And how about everything that she was doing at daycare while I was at school focused on 500 other kids?  What did I miss?  When I start to think about it, I often get overwhelmed with the thought of just how much I have missed.

Then I realize that I am going to miss lots of things in her life.  We have so many days of rushing from one place to the next that will still continue to happen.  As I said earlier, our life is often rush 24 hours.  But I do have the opportunity to stop and not miss certain moments.  We spend our days trying to create special moments for all of the students in our schools.  I need to also remember to stop and create those special moments for my own child.  

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Sorry, we can’t add any more time to the day.  We get 24 hours, no more, no less.  But we do get to have some control over those hours.  We don’t have to always be rushing.  (Although some days it feels like there’s no other choice.)  We can slow down.  We can hit the pause button and take a minute to be in the moment.  My challenge to myself and to all of you out there reading this…shift your thinking.  Don’t think about what you missed after all of the rushing around.  Think about creating those moments that you will be present for and that your kids (and you!) will never forget.

Hit the pause button today.  You won’t regret it!

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The Best Gift Ever

The Holiday Break is around the corner and with all the hustle and bustle it can be easy to forget ourselves. As leaders we are always serving and thinking of others, often forgetting about our own needs.  In order to come back in January, we need to make sure we are intentional about the time we take off.  It does not do us any good to give to others and then come back tired and not ready for the second half of the year.

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“Some of the best gifts can’t be bought”
  • Take a day off from EVERYTHING.  Yes, you read right.  When was the last time you stayed at home and just enjoyed doing nothing?  Grab your favorite movie, cup of coffee or tea, and relax.
  • Stay away from email- Seriously, there are no students at school and if there is an emergency, they will call you. Delete the app for the break and focus on you and your loved ones.
  • Be Present- This time of the year bring many together.  Listen, be in the moment, and enjoy being with those close to you.  Time flies and relationships are strengthened by spending time together.  
  • Try something new- Have you been thinking about eating, learning, or going somewhere different? Go for it.
  • Look at simplifying your life this coming year- Think about some areas of your life where there is clutter. Is it your schedule, closet, commitments?  Commit to remove roadblocks to things you know do not add value to your well being.

It is important to remember that we can’t give our all to our students and family if we do not take care of ourselves first.  So go ahead and give yourself the best gift ever: Focus on YOU.

It’s Lonely

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If only we could count the times we’ve heard our colleagues say, “As a principal, it’s lonely at the top.”

Well, for me, (Onica), I am no longer a part of that lonely tribe. One year ago, my new tribe became #MomsAsPrincipals, and I had no idea how my life, both personally and professionally, was about to change. Change begins with having an open mindset. I was gifted Kids Deserve It by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome, and while reading it, it became overwhelming evident that mindset matters. I read and reread chapter 2, Don’t Live on an Island. Last year, I was embarking on my fourth year of principalship, and yet, I was still on an island. Why was that? In my typical way of doing, as I read the text, I created a list of bulleted action items in the back of the book; bullet number six – What is Voxer?

What if…

What if we never joined #MomsAsPrincipals?

What if we never “met”…

What if we didn’t share our successes and #failforwards…
These are the questions I (Cindy) think about as I reflect on over a year of connecting.

I (Cindy) began this journey of connectedness awkwardly requesting to join a group of moms on “Voxer,” I never thought I would find my educational “soul sister.”  There is something special about Onica Mayers and her journey that captured me the moment she joined our group.  She was everything I valued in education, held my core beliefs, and challenged me to take on risks that would benefit the kiddos at Vero Beach Elementary throughout last year.  From a distant group of moms as principals, I found a mentor and connection that I know has made me a better leader.

I (Onica) saw a tweet from @LindseyStumpenhorst and read her blog. I leaned over and showed my husband, “See I’m not the only one who thinks there’s a small crazy group of people that dare to be both moms and principals.” That sparked the courage to request to join the group #MomsAsPrincipals and I immediately felt connected. As I listened daily, I began to recognize the members’ voices….but there was one voice that stood out! Sometimes, based on the hashtag that introduced a vox, I would skip it because it wasn’t a topic that pertained to me; but whenever I heard, “Good morning moms, it’s EmerSizzle from Vero Beach,” my ears perked up. When she shared something that was happening on her campus, a mom guilt experience juggling the two worlds, an #Eduwin of the day…it always seemed like the same things were happening in my life and listening to and learning along with CIndy for the past year has made me a better leader.

Onica and I joke that we are living in parallel  universes, from Vero Beach, Florida to Houston, Texas.  We could have never known how much we would rely on each other when our schools and communities would need it most.

There was no surprise that the first one to reach out as I (Onica) endured the emotional roller coaster of Hurricane Harvey was EmmaSizzle. Cindy’s words were just what I needed to hear, “You’ve got this and I’m there for you.”

The moment I (Cindy) found out about Hurricane Harvey and the devastation to Houston, I knew Vero Beach Elementary had to help!  Our school wholeheartedly adopted Kirk Elementary.  As I told my students about my far away friend and the connection I have with her, they too felt connected and inspired.  Our staff rallied and promoted and we were able to collect quite a bit considering 92% of our own students are on free and reduced lunch in our Title One School.  

Just days after organizing the event, we discovered that Mother Nature had other plans, and that Vero Beach Elementary was on the direct path for a category 5 hurricane.  Immediately, our efforts shifted. And, as karma would have it, I (Onica)  had the opportunity to pay forward the support Cindy had given to me as I prepared to lead a school community who needed to reconnect after a natural disaster. My daily voxes became, “Let me know you’re safe. You’ve got this. I’m there for you.”  As the eye of Hurricane Irma blasted Florida, I sat on pins and needles when I didn’t hear from her daily. There it was again…parallel lives.  

My (Cindy’s) school community was overwhelmed with the love and support that poured out of Kirk Elementary towards VBE.  We felt that we had others looking out for us, sending us love and positivity over the networks of Twitter and Facebook.  We became more than two Moms connecting… our school communities had become connected families!

It is almost eerie that we share the same values as campus leaders, No Excuses. We share ideas about supporting teachers and struggling students, getting parents more engaged, and inquire about each other’s personal kids. And over the past year, we have both moved our campuses forward… Kirk Elementary was removed from the district’s monitored campus list for showing significant academic growth and Vero Beach Elementary moved from an “F” to a “C” school in just one year.

What if we didn’t connect?

Would our schools have had the successes we experienced?

Would our staff and kiddos felt as supported and valued?

Who would have ever thought that a connection on social media would lead to this?

Are you still on an island? It’s up to you to get off. If you are a leader, teacher, parent, you don’t have to walk the path alone.  We are better together.

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Guest Post Written By:

Onica Mayers
Principal at Kirk Elementary School
Houston, Texas

Cindy Emerson
Principal at Vero Beach Elementary School
Vero Beach, Florida

Relationships Matter

This was a letter to my teachers…

I think sometimes I have one of the best jobs in our school for building relationships with kids. While that may sound strange since I don’t have a classroom, it makes a lot of sense if you think about it. You see, I have lots one-on-one time with many of our students. Sometimes they are in crisis and sometimes they are with me because they made a choice that landed them in my office. Either way, it’s just the two of us building a relationship.

As we spend time together, I get the opportunity to learn more about them and help them try to figure out the why behind their behavior. I also get to teach them better ways to handle their emotions or situations. Sometimes, I have to re-teach those lessons over and over. But, during those lessons, I’m also building trust. They know I care about them….that I believe in them.

While this all sounds positive, there is a downside to all of this. If I’m having those moments, you, the teacher, are not. How often do you get 20 or 30 minutes to work one-on-one with your student during the day? How often are those moments happening when you don’t have 23 other kiddos to teach? The reality is that in order for you to devote that much time to one student, you must be giving up your breaks, lunches, and before or after school. While this is possible, it’s not fair to you. You need balance, too.

My point to all of this? If you ever want me to come in and take over your class while you take what would normally be my time with them to solve an issue, I’d be happy to do that. I’ll come in and teach, read a book, or lead a discussion. I would be happy to give you the time you need if you thought that might make a difference.

Now…please know that I get that sometimes you might not feel ready to help them because of what they might have just done. Sometimes, we are just too frustrated to be effective. I completely understand that. Heck, sometimes I have them sit there awhile because I’m frustrated that they are back for an issue that we have gone over many times. (I call this a Principal time-out at school and a Mommy time-out at home.) I just wanted to give you the opportunity to switch it up.

Now, below you will see an image of a great behavior management tool that may make a huge difference for you. If you have a kiddo that you are struggling with and you decide to try this, I would love to hear how it worked for you!

If you would like to learn more about this method, click here: https://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/the-2×10-strategy-a-miraculous-solution-for-behavior-issues/

Thanks for reading!