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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
and Veterans with Class

Volume 1, Issue 15

September 2005




We'd like to welcome our new friends from Mr. Holes' Ed 260 class at Spring Arbor University!  
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Job Finding Skills: The Interview

By Frank Holes, Sr. 

Educational Consultant


This is the last in the series of articles on finding that first job.  Previous articles in this series can be found on our website at http://www.starteaching.com/free.htm

The day has finally arrived for your interview.  There are a few things to keep in mind before you arrive at your destination.  First, make sure you know exactly where you are going and have the telephone number with you.  I remember a candidate who had a flat tire on the way and was able to call and let the school know he would be late.  Always give yourself extra time, I guarantee if you are in a hurry or are running late you will run into road construction.  It is also a good idea to have some information about the school, you can access most of it via their website.  Try to get there a little early in order to relax and look around.  Even in the summer the conditions of the buildings and grounds will speak loudly about the district.  Finally, look like a professional, invest in a set of clothes that are stylish and neat yet somewhat conservative.  Remember, you only have one opportunity to make a first impression, make it count!

Okay, you’ve done all of these things and you check in with the office and someone comes out to meet you – now for the big show!  First round interviews are usually about a half hour to an hour and will most likely be used as a screening process.  There is no set standard for the process and there could be 1 or 2 people or an entire team.  After introductions they will tell you about the position and their time line.  Sit up straight, establish eye contact and don’t be afraid to take some notes.  In your education classes you have an idea about the questions that will be asked and will have participated in a mock interview.  The more interviews you have the more comfortable you will become and you will probably find the questions quite similar from district to district.  Answer each question directly and honestly.  

If you don’t know or are unclear about a question say so, maybe it could be phrased in a different manner.  Take your time and think clearly about your answer.  My suggestion is don’t ramble, however if you can relate your answer to an actual teaching experience or something in your portfolio don’t hesitate to use it.  Remember you are competing against 8 – 10 other people and your goal is to get to the second round.   "Remember, you only have one opportunity to make a first impression, make it count!"

One of the last questions will focus on why you feel you are the best candidate.  Don’t be shy, speak up for yourself, tell them about your talents and what you can bring to their district.  Finish with the statement that you will be the hardest working member on their staff.  It is also a good idea to be ready with a couple of questions of your own.  You could ask about their school improvement plan, parent teacher involvement or staff development.  During the interview it is important to make a connection with each person asking a question.  Be genuine, smile, and look them directly in the eye.  Above all, make sure the standards and ethics that are vital to you come out.  You’ll know when the interview is over, and don’t wait around.  Someone may take you on a tour and that will provide you the opportunity to see their building more closely. 

So, the interview is over, you are escorted out and told someone will contact you.  Now comes the dreaded part, the wait.  It is a good idea to take some time and reflect on just what took place and make written notes while it is fresh.  Do this quickly because there is always an emotional let down after the interview and you might forget some of the questions and your responses.  Also, send a thank you card to the school.

If you are selected for the second round you will be contacted by telephone either the same day or shortly after.  If you didn’t make the cut more than likely you will receive a letter.    The second interview will be more extensive and will definitely be in front of a committee.  You will be told what to bring and in many cases will actually teach a mini lesson and do some writing.  Be ready, have your lesson thoroughly prepared and have copies for everyone.  Again, answer all questions to the best of your ability and by all means be yourself.  If you are selected as a finalist you will be asked to meet the Superintendent and he or she will ask a few questions.  Usually by that stage either candidate can do the job it is just a matter of who might be a better fit with the school.

Some key points to remember:

Don’t be afraid, it’s ok to be nervous, you will sweat and may break out in a rash or hives.  It’s alright to take off your jacket if it is too warm and you can certainly ask for a glass of water.
Make sure all of your references are up to date and let them know they may be contacted.  Also, your references should reflect a broad description about you, not just one area. 
Find some place during the interview where you can talk about the extra things you could do for the district, advising, tutoring, coaching, etc.
Be sincere and honest and you may be the candidate the committee members would like teaching their own children.

 Should you have any questions please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at howiebrowndog@ yahoo.com.

Best of luck!   



Tips for Student Success At School

By Cliff Carbaugh 

Portola Middle School, San Pablo, CA

With the beginning of the new school year coming VERY soon, here are some tips to give us a “heads-up” to start the year off knowing what to do.

Three tips to have your kids Achieve Success At School: 

1.) Turn off the T.V. At our house, we have an understanding that we don’t really have time during the week to watch T.V. (of course, we can be a little flexible if there’s a special, long-awaited educational show on PBS!) 

2.) Be Prepared. Have backpack, pens, pencils, paper, folders, pocket dictionary, planner and anything else that would be useful. (The teacher would be an excellent person to ask.) At night, before getting ready for bed, all backpacks are packed-up with all books, papers, signed items, planner, completed homework, …and placed close to the door ready to be grabbed up in the morning on the way out. 

3.) Follow the Schedule. There’s a daily and weekly schedule in every classroom. In most classrooms, weekly spelling and vocabulary words are given out on Mondays and the Spelling Tests are on Fridays. By simply being aware of the weekly “flow” of the classroom, you’ll come to find that there are few surprises-assemblies, field trips, and guest speakers… 

The kids’ primary concern, (job?) is to study, complete their homework, read, get some exercise and prepare for tomorrow’s school day. That’s it for now. If kids are taught organizational and time-management skills at home, then they’ll find that being a top, honor-roll student is actually quite easy! 

Your can join the community of parents and teachers at: http://www.achievesuccessatschool.com that are working together to give you and your kids a rewarding, successful, enjoyable school experience. 

For more tips, strategies and methods to have your kids be top, honor-roll students please visit: http://www.achievesuccessatschool.com/ 

You can also order the entire AchieveSuccessAtSchool eBook by clicking the above link. 

Mr. Carbaugh is a teacher and a father of 3. He teaches and lives with his family in Northern California.





By Frank Holes, Jr.

Middle School Teacher

In a previous article, we discussed a writing technique called Journal Writing (June #2 and July #2 issues). Freewrites share many of the same traits, but give you and your students yet another different form of writing to use in classes.

A freewrite is again a type of freeflowing, written out braistorming. This is important for students to just write out their ideas and start verbalizing connections between them. There are only a few rules I have for freewrites, but you may as always feel free to adjust this activity to fit your own class.

What do we use frewrites for? In English class, we create topics to use in discussing literature and responding to readings. These may include opinions that must be backed up, or statements which must be supported with details. In our school, classes other than English use freewrites too. Socal studies and science freewrites seek out understanding of text information. Math freewrites ask students to make real-life connections to the subject matter. In all classes, freewrites incorporate personal experiences and provide students with time to practice putting their thoughts into textual words.

You can choose whether you want students to be allowed to use resource materials. Sometimes I let them use their class books, and I always allow dictionaries and thesauri. Freewrites are great when you want students to explore topics and add their own ideas or peronal life experiences. These writings force students to create connetions between ideas and bring all of their brainstorming out onto the paper.

Students are expected to write for either a given time period (I typically use five minutes) or a particular length (I tell them they can stop early if they've written a full page). I remind them this is a writing activity, not a thinking activity, so I expect them to be writing the entire time (unless they've met the length requirement, of course).

We've found that five minutes is usually not enough time for most students, so when time is up, I'll ask if they want an additional two minutes. The answer is almost always an emphatic 'yes', since their grade is figured by the amount written. This is one of the best parts of the writing exercise- there is very little time the teacher needs to spend grading them! Your main assesment is done while you walk around the room reading over the students' shoulders. I will also spot check papers to help keep the students honest.

"freewrites incorporate personal experiences and provide students with time to practice putting their thoughts into textual words" The freewrite differs from the journal write in that you the teacher provide the topic. Give the students room to maneuver within the topic by providing suggestions and guiding questions they can use. I usually include anywhere from four to six ideas that students can choose from. I allow students to answer the questions in their response, and they can change or adjust these suggestions, as long as they keep to the topic.

Following the writing period, we take time to share ideas together. To make the students more comfortable and open, we take volunteers only to read all of their freewrite, read selected parts of it, or just tell about it. Sometimes they will even blend between reading word for word and telling it in their own words. That's ok too.

The freewrite is the cornerstone of brainstorming in our writing classes. We will freewrite several times each week. We also go back and re-visit these writings later on. Students keep their writings in a folder in our class file cabinet, and twice each month we look through them to select a piece for furthur work. Sometimes we clean them up and format them into paragraphs. Other times we put them into article form to use in a project like a magazine, PowerPoint, or class newspaper.

Grading freewrites is easy. After everyone has had the opportunity to share and discuss, I have students fold their papers in half. The crease divides the paper into point regions. If they have written to the line below the crease, they have earned 10 out of 10 points. 5 points are given if they havn't reached the crease. I also give extra credit if they write beyond the front page. 2 points per half page are awarded to students who go above and beyond. I have no problem giving out extra points for extra effort. Generally, your 'all A' students will take advantage of this, and the extra few points aren't going to bring a failing student back to a respectable grade. But it could mean the difference for students whose grades are right on the bubble.

Freewrite topics are easy to create and put in front of your students. You can use and adapt questions from the chapters of your text book, take ideas from class discussions, or come up with them on your own based on where you want to steer the kids. I usually type tem out and copy onto overhead sheets so they can be re-used and I can save myself time and effort later on. I think you'll find them fun and easy to use in any class, and the extra writing practice will be rewarding for your students.

You can see a selection of freewrite topics on our website. Quick click the link below:




"Two Frogs"

Themes on Life

The Power of Words:  Encouragement.

A group of frogs were traveling through the woods, and two of them fell into a deep pit. All the other frogs gathered around the pit.

When they saw how deep the pit was, they told the two frogs that they were as good as dead.

The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump up out of the pit with all of their might. The other frogs kept telling them to stop, that they were as good as dead. Finally, one of the frogs took heed to what the other frogs were saying and gave up. He fell down and died.

The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could. Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and just die.

He jumped even harder and finally made it out. When he got out, the other frogs said, "Did you not hear us?" The frog explained to them that he was deaf. He thought they were encouraging him the entire time.

This story teaches two lessons:

1. There is power of life and death in the tongue.  An encouraging word to someone who is down can lift them up and help them make it through the day.

2. A destructive word to someone who is down can be what it takes to kill them. Speak life to those who cross your path. The power of words....it is sometimes hard to understand that an encouraging word can go such a long way. Anyone can speak words that tend to rob another of the spirit to continue in difficult times.


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In This Week's Issue 

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Job Finding Skills (part 4):
The Interview

Tips for Success at School


Themes on Life:  "Two Frogs"

10 Days of Writing Prompts

Back to School Books for Sale


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10 Days Of


Why are students required to attend school in our country?


Write down FIVE goals you have for yourself this school year.  How will you achieve each goal?


Describe three reasons that education is important to a person's future.


What were the TWO most important things you learned in the first week of school?


Create 10 true/false statements to cover the information we discussed in class today.


Why are natural disasters so destructive to our civilization?


How can the high winds of a hurricane cause damage to towns and cities?  Describe three examples.


What are FIVE ways that people can help out those who are affected by natural disasters?


What type of natural disaster do you think is the most destructive?  Provide three supports for your opinion.


Write a FIVE question quiz to cover the information we covered in class today.


10 days of writing prompts


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Coming Soon:

Preparing Your Room for Returning to School

Technology & Teaching: Setting up for Handhelds


Building Positive Relationships

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