StarTeaching Newsletter Special Reports

StarTeaching Special Report:

Preparing To Enter The Job Market: 
Finding That First Job -

By Dr. Peter Manute., Educational Consultant

This is a first in a series of informational articles focusing on finding that first teaching job. 

Statistics indicate that over 3 million people were employed as public school teachers in the United States in the year 2000. Another 400 thousand were employed as private school teachers. (National Center for Education Statistics, 2001). Retirement is in the near future as many baby-boomers reach the end of their careers. Federal and state reform initiatives are calling for decreased class sizes and as our national population continues to grow, the need for additional teachers has increased. Beginning teachers have a high drop out rate (about 15% the first year, 15% the second and 10% the third) (Croasmun 1999).

Given these statistics one would think the job market is wide open. In many states this is true, in fact some candidates have indicated signing bonuses, paid moving expenses, and other attractive offers. Some states are even granting teaching licenses through a proficiency test. Securing a teaching job in Michigan however, is not an easy task; it takes an enormous amount of preparation, flexibility and perseverance. It certainly is not for the faint of heart! In todayís teaching market, it is not unusual for a Michigan school district to have over a hundred applicants for a single position.

Competition for teaching jobs is very keen, with candidates coming from a variety of sources. First you have the recent graduates from Colleges and Universities, but also those who didnít secure jobs the previous year. In recent years, a trend has emerged that includes older candidates who are choosing teaching as a second career. Many of these individuals have a wealth of knowledge and experience in the real world. Also thrown into the pool are the candidates from other states who want to relocate. And, there is a certain amount of lateral movement within Michigan School Districts.

Face it, Michigan, because of high standards and solid reputation for excellence, combined with competitive salaries and benefit packages, is one of the best places to teach! 

With careful planning and preparation combined with a certain amount of flexibility, a prospective teaching candidate can and will secure that first job.

The second article in this series will focus on planning and preparation and will include key tips that will provide an excellent starting point.


Where to Find that Job!

By Dr. Peter Manute, Educational Consultant 

This article is a second in the sequence of Job Finding articles and will focus on planning and preparation.

The key ingredient in any endeavor is being adequately prepared. In other words develop an action plan. A properly developed plan will help you stay organized and can help deal effectively with a crisis or unforeseen situation.
Chances are you have already invested an enormous amount of money in your education. Now, you are taking the next step Ė expanding your investment to the next level. Once you sign your contract your investment will begin to pay big dividends!

First and foremost, quality time and energy needs to be available to collect and prepare the necessary and appropriate materials that will comprise your professional portfolio. It is amazing how much time this actually takes. The next article in this series will focus on the make-up of your portfolio.

Secondly, knowledge of where jobs are is vital. There are many excellent sources including College and University Placement Offices that publish weekly bulletins that are also available on line. There usually is a charge for these services, around $25.00. There are other sources as you will discover including personal contacts. A good idea is to begin a data base of contacts.

Once you have your materials ready and have actually applied, you will need to be flexible. Openings can occur at any time, even during the school year and often a week before school actually begins. Usually jobs come in waves. Around January and February, retirements are announced and districts begin to plan for the next year. Budgets are developed and positions become available. Job Fairs take place in the spring and provide an excellent opportunity to develop contacts and practice interviewing skills. Many of those contacts lead to jobs immediately or later on. Donít be discouraged about the long lines; be ready when itís your turn.

After the first wave of jobs are filled come the summer openings. Some districts, due to budget constraints, wonít know their financial situation until June or July. In some cases, these schools may choose not to replace retiring teachers in an attempt to save money. And, as stated earlier, some districts wonít be able to make a decision on hiring until August. Donít get discouraged if you are not selected immediately. In many cases you will send out many letters only to receive a rejection letter in reply. The same holds true after an interview when you wait patiently by the telephone or mailbox. In most instances if you make it past the first round of interviews (usually there will be at least 2 and more often 3) you will be called immediately. 

Schools involved in the hiring process usually want to get it completed thoroughly and in a timely manner. During your interview you will be told (if not, it is a good question to ask) about the districtís timelines.

If not contacted within couple of days by telephone, chances are you will not be included in the second round and will be notified by mail. There are some districts, though few who donít respond at all. Donít despair, the contacts you made during your interview can actually lead to other jobs even in the same school!

Part of being flexible means when you get your call you are able to travel. This may involve taking time off work and you will need to have adequate resources. These include transportation, travel money, clothing and other incidentals. Keep in mind these are expenses that are going to be necessary to launch your professional career and will pay off.

Our next article will focus on preparing your portfolio


Job Finding: Part Three

Coming Soon!

by Dr. Peter Manute, Educational Consultant


Coming Soon!


Job Finding: Part Four

Coming Soon!

by Dr. Peter Manute, Educational Consultant

Coming Soon!

StarTeaching Special Report:

Building Positive Relationships Around Your School:

Office Secretaries, Janitorial Staff, Librarians, and Cooks

by Frank Holes, Jr., Middle School Teacher

This SPECIAL REPORT is from a series of articles on building positive relationships in your school. They include building relationships with your office secretaries, janitors, librarians, and cooks.  All of these people are vital to the running of the school, and its in your best interest to 'get in good' with them as soon as possible. 

This first article describes why you should hold your school secretaries in the highest of regards.

Your office secretary is vital to the running of your school. Not only does your secretary handle office duties including answering the phone, typing reports, memos, and newsletters, and keeping & organizing supplies, but also may have responsibility for handling minor discipline problems, watching students in the office, scheduling students & classes, first aid & nursing, attendance, and dealing with parents.

This is the first representative of your school to all visitors, and the secretary essentially sets the attitude of the office. To students, they can be a counselor or advisor; to parents, they can be a welcoming committee. To teachers, the secretary can be a helpful hand.

Your office secretary is the communications hub of the school, responsible in many cases for every detail in running a school. They often set up meetings, make the important phone calls, and schedule events.

It is very important for you as a teacher to develop and keep a positive relationship with your office secretaries.

They keep you up on events and important information around the school. Many times they will do office tasks for you if you ask them nicely.

Most secretaries do far more in a school than they could ever get paid for. They do their job with little thanks, and yet most donít show they like the attention of appreciation. It is very important to remember them on holidays (such as Secretaries Day) and other special occasions.

This is the second section, dealing with your custodial staff. Your school custodians and maintenance department are an important part of the overall functionality of your building. These are people who you should get to know immediately, because they can provide you with a tremendous array of services.

The custodial and maintenance staff isnít just around to sweep the floors, empty the wastebaskets, and clean up messes. They play an important role in the school environment. These people are not only essential to keeping the building and grounds in top shape and presentable to the public, but also keep the various physical systems in the school in working order. These may include heating & cooling, water, plumbing, and electrical systems, and sometimes even technology. They may also put up walls, plow the snow, line the football field, repair the drinking fountains, and put together classroom furniture.

Your custodial and maintenance workers can help you in a number of ways. They certainly can keep your room and hallway in tip-top shape. Many times, custodians will pick up and collect pencils and pens from the halls, and will drop them off in your room if they know you need them. 

And they will often help you out if you have requests. In many schools, their contracts and union will dictate what physical jobs can be done by school personnel other than maintenance/custodial workers. So if youíre having trouble with your room heating unit, your clock is not synchronized with those around the school, or your door is squeaky, you can usually get prompt service if they know you and know you appreciate their time and efforts. If you are well liked by the maintenance staff, your requests may often move up the priority list. And if you want those extra Ďlittle touchesí, such as a shelf put up in your room, or document frames mounted on your walls, such favors are often the reward of your time spent building positive relationships.

Appreciation for their work can be as simple as an honest and genuine Ďthank youí. Often times, including the custodial and maintenance staff in get-togethers and school celebrations goes a long way. Some groups will purchase donuts or treats for the custodians during the year. Other groups put on dinners or cook-outs. If your students bring in any extra treats, be sure to send some down to the maintenance staff.

If you take the time to get to know these hard-working people, and build positive relationships with them, you will definitely reap the rewards. Not only will you have handy people willing to help you out when you need it, but you may even find pleasant, friendly faces in and around your school.

This is the third article describing why you should 'get in good' with your school librarian.

A good librarian, or media specialist as they are being called in many schools, is certainly an asset to your district. 

The traditional librarian role has been changing rapidly, even over the past ten years.  With great changes in technology and communication, a media specialist must readily handle the tremendous variety of computer hardware, software, and all of those 'connective tissues' - the cables, wires, peripherals, and even the controls of every piece of equipment from vcrs to dvds to camcorders.

The internet has revolutionalized the world's communication and the way we research.  Libraries are moving away from thousands of tomes to computer terminals where entire buildings of information and texts can be found.  Many books and periodicals are now found on-line.  E-books, with their low cost and easily-updated versions, are quickly gaining both popularity and a share of the literary market.  Hand-held computers, which utilize E-books and downloadable text books, are being used around the country.

Your librarian / media specialist can help you with projects you may wish to have students do in class.  These can include basic book reports or research papers, or they may be elaborate multi-media presentations using PowerPoint or other computer programs.  In many cases, libraries are also school computer labs, and if you can get in good with your librarian, you may be able to schedule optimal times for your class. Librarians may also be the ones to check out tech materials, such as vcrs, dvds, and cameras. 

All in all, it is worth your time to get to know your local librarian, and build a positive relationship.  They can make your teaching life easier and more productive.



This is the fourth article dealing with cooks and cafeteria workers

This is the fourth in a series of articles on building positive relationships in your school. This article describes why you should 'get in good' with your school food service personnel.

School kitchens are great places to find boxes of all sizes and shapes, which have hundreds of uses in classrooms. We've used boxes simply for storage, for art supplies, for project centers. Cardboard is used in art projects, building sets and backdrops for plays. Large, sturdy boxes can also be useful for moving!

Food service companies typically drop off boxes and crates of bulk food items weekly. If your cooks know you're looking for boxes (or cardboard or cans), and you've developed good relationships with them, they will usually be more than happy to save these items for you.

There will also undoubtedly be times when class celebrations require plastic silverware, paper cups, or foam plates or bowls. Sometimes we know about such events, and other times they occur in relative spontaneity. Now, most kitchens keep a good record of their inventory, and will charge accordingly for the use of consumables. But, with a postive relationship built between you, the food service personnel will usually cut you a deal, or even find enough 'extra' items to help you out in a bind.

Middle school teachers may find their schedules changing at times to accommodate special events or programs. The Middle School Concept tends to do this a lot. Always let your kitchen staff know well ahead of time if your schedule change affects the food service even in the slightest. Most cooks will be accommodating if they have some advance notice. But this is only being polite and professional anyway!



StarTeaching Special Report:

Group Work in Class,
Parts 1 & 2

By Frank Holes, Jr

Middle School English Teacher


This is the first article in a series on using collaborative groups in class.  

The business world tells us that they want people who are good at collaboration. Being that our job is to prepare the students for the future, this skill should become part of what we teach in the classroom.

Planning and preparation are key to getting your groups underway.  The first thing to do as you prepare to use group work as part of the learning process is to setup your groups. Never allow the students to set up the groups; you are only inviting disaster. There are many ways to set up groups. I like to spread the abilities out among the groups. The smartest student isnít always the one who can lead the group through to a conclusion. I also like to mix boys and girls up in the groups. They tackle problems from different ways, so it enhances the learning taking place. Also, change the groups after every section, so they learn to work with different people. This makes it a more real world experience.

"The smartest student isnít always the one who can lead the group through to a conclusion." Size of the group is another part of the equation. A lot depends on the lesson being used. Two person groups are fine for a short term group that lasts one day. If you are

going to have it go longer, the group should be at least three to four students. The reason for this is the fact that what is the group going to do if the next day one of the students isnít there? With three or four students you will at least have a group of two or three to continue on if someone is missing.

As you begin the groups, realize the students may not know how to work in a group. This is something that we as teachers shouldnít take for granted. Talk about using listening skills, the fact that only one person is speaking at a time. Explain that arguing doesnít solve anything. They must learn, when there are differences of opinion, to share why they feel the way they do and support it with reasons. We also talk about the importance that everyone be a participant in the group process. Another thing I tell the groups is that they are not to ask me, the teacher, a question until theyíve talked about it in the group. If the group canít answer the question, then I will gladly help them out as a group. This fosters dependence on their group.

Focus is the most important part of using groups as a tool for learning. If you as a teacher donít provide a structure within the lesson, you will lose the students.  "As you begin the groups, realize the students may not know how to work in a group."

I like to call this the ďDriving QuestionĒ. This is what they are to be focusing on as they work together. Decide what you want them to learn, set the goals, and then communicate to the students your expectations.

In conclusion, from observation and research that collaboration (group work) when used properly can be an excellent learning tool. I hope you will find using this learning tool as stimulating and rewarding as I have, both for the students and yourself.

The second part of this article will detail more of the 'nuts & bolts' of getting your groups underway, and describe a few example projects you can use in class.


This is the second in a series on using collaborative groups in class.  The first article, from our June #2 Issue, gave an overview on setting up the groups and teaching the group process.  This article will give more 'nuts & bolts'.  

Make sure that while the groups are working that you are filtering around the room listening in to what they are doing. This allows you to quickly help a group refocus back on the task at hand if they go astray.

Another important thing to do is to set time limits. If you leave it wide open as to when they need to complete the assignment you will find they take much longer to accomplish the goals. This leads to your frustration which leads to not wanting to use grouping. Set time limits for each part, and then check with the groups to see how they are doing. If you need to make adjustments feel free to, unless you find they are taking advantage of it.

One of the ways I assess how their group functioned is to grade each student on how they worked in the group. At the end of the project, I sit down with each group and have the students grade on a scale of 1-10 how each person participated. Then I average all the input by the students. I found that the students are very fair. Because I filtered through the groups, I already have a good idea how hard each person had worked.

You will find that students will enjoy doing collaboration far better then doing it individually and my observation has been that they learn more. I did some research with my classes on how it affected their learning. I provided questions dealing with a specific chapter and they had to find the answers all on their own with no help. The room was totally quiet. The next day I quizzed them from the paper and established a base point. I then had them meet in groups and answer a set of questions dealing with the next chapter. Both chapters were similar and had similar questions. The next day I quizzed them again and found a marked improvement, by a whole grade, in their learning.

Here are some examples of group projects your students can do in class.  As always, feel free to adjust these to make them fit your curriculum.

Social Studies - Tip of the Mitt Community Research:

This is a social studies project in which student groups research information on a local town, county, area, or region of their state to demonstrate and persuade others that it's a great place to live, work, or visit.  Students use the five themes of geography to find such information as population, demographics, employment, wildlife, environmental interaction, activities and recreation, and local attractions. Once finished, students create visual aides and give a presentation to their classmates.

Mythology - Hercules' Labors:

Student groups are assigned to research one or more of the Hercules' Labors, finding characters, events, places, unusual vocabulary, and major themes for that part of the myth. Then groups plan a re-enactment of the story through acting, storytelling, readers' theater, puppets, etc. Groups must include visual aides and music, and must stay accurate to the story.

Math - Weather

Student groups are responsible for measuring an aspect of local weather, such as temperature, barometric pressure, cloud cover, wind speed/direction, etc. These observations are recorded daily (several times) over the span of a week. Data is tabulated and organized, and graphed. Groups also print out weather forecasts online. They must then make predictions about the upcoming weather observations. These are then presented to the class as 'daily news weather forecasts' and can be video taped.

Science - Outdoors Observations:

Student groups are responsible for observing an area outdoors, making careful notes and sketches on plant and animal species, weather conditions, soil and rocks, and any human-environmental interactions. The group then combines their observations, formulates their results, supplements their data with info and graphics from the internet, and creates a Powerpoint, magazine, or newspaper to describe that natural area. They try to make predictions about what the area will be like in 10, 50, and 100 years.

Drama - Asia fables:

Student groups read various fables from different Asian cultures (Arabian, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Persian, Russian, etc.) and create study guides of vocab and questions for their fellow students. Groups then create a pay script from their fable, including a narrator if necessary, making sure every student in the group has at least one part. They then practice and perform (memorizing their lines) for the class.







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