30 July 2013

NAILED IT wrap up


Be confident, but not cocky. Bring material to show of your skillz, but not everything you've ever made/done/written. Be honest, but don't highlight your flaws. Go to every interview you get, but don't settle. Basically, just be the very best version of YOU and you're golden.

Then, come back here and comment to share how your interview went! What did you do to prep? Did you take any NAILED IT suggestions? Do you have any of your own to add? 

{P.S. While following these steps, my main girl Al (who I mentioned here, and here) got an offer for her dream job! Congrats, girl! So incredibly proud of you!}

27 July 2013

NAILED IT part 4: interview questions

pin this to share a little info with your amigos

Ok, you've got a marvelous portfolio, a professionally adorable outfit, and you've done some research. Now what?

PREPLAN YOUR ANSWERS to interview questions. Talk OUT LOUD or write your answers down. But really probably talk out loud. Al and I did this for each other days prior to the interviews. There is nothing more delightful than having perfect wonderful, interesting, logical, cohesive thoughts dancing around in your brain and then not being able to string them into a series of even moderately eloquent sentences. Trust me, it happens.

At a minimum, I'd say you definitely need to know: 


Unacceptable answers: 
"It just feels right" 
"I love making a difference" 
"I've always wanted to be a teacher" 
and mother of mercy, please never ever "because I love children"*

*Y'all, lots of people can say that they love children, but lots of those people are also wildly unqualified to be a teacher (ex: kidnappers). What makes you different? Surely there is something to help ya stand out! (:

Acceptable answer: 
"[insert specific, seemingly life changing incident here] happened, and I realized that I want to be a teacher because [insert 1-2 concrete reasons here] You can even add some of the aforementioned unacceptable phrases as long as you've given some personal specific statements prior.

For example, my girl Al gave a brief explanation of how she struggled with ADHD and a diagnosed math learning disability in school. Then, she mentioned learning about SO many tools and strategies to help students who learn differently in classes at SU, and how that inspired her to want to help kids who felt discouraged by their previous academic performances because she had an understanding of what they were going through 


Unacceptable answers: 
or anything boring of the sort. 

Acceptable answers: 
"team player"
or anything else TRUE, followed by BECAUSE [insert reason you think your strength will make you a better teacher]. 

Don't forget to be honest- it would be crazy embarrassing for an interviewer to ask you to elaborate on a strength that you really don't have!

For example, Al said here that she thinks one of her strengths is creativity and it helps her become a better teacher because she is often able to think up with ways to teach something in a alternate way (explaining fractions with food instead of a worksheet, for example!) and colorful, personalized tools that make kids want to get involved in hands-on learning experiences (when making personal connections to text, she had students create their own version of A Very Hungry Caterpillar with their favorite foods).


This is admittedly a really tricky question. I personally would say that unacceptable answers include: 
"I work too hard" or "I care too much" Don't be that obnoxious bullshitter. Someone could tear that answer down in a matter of seconds. Be honest. If you have a true weakness, be frank BUT have ideas for how you will improve your situation, and specifically outline the ways you think the school/district will play a role in your improvement. 

First year teachers, email me. I have the besteverinamillionyears weakness for you, as well as your improvement plan. It is pure gold I tell ya. Pure 14K gold.

After you've nailed down some answers to the above basic questions and TALKED OUT LOUD about them, go online and look up some potential interview questions. There are quite a few lists out there. I found them in my slightly unsuccessful Google search. And then, TALK OUT LOUD about answers to questions you might be asked in an interview. 

Recently one of my favorite new blogs, A Special Sparkle, featured a post from Sarah with a lot of thought-provoking interview questions. Read through and TALK OUT LOUD about those questions here! Al got asked at least half of these questions in her recent interviews AND was able to answer them because we'd talked through the answers and she had anecdotes & info to go with them.

Veteran teachers, what are some questions you've been asked in interviews? Most importantly, what is your weakness?!

26 July 2013

My Favorite Things: Foodies

Y'all. There is no other way to say this...

I love to eat.

I am a mediocre chef at best and I try to eat fairly healthily... but sometimes a little of my sweet southern grandma gets into me and I smother my one slice of 100% whole-wheat toast in Mayhaw jelly.

My favorite go-to foods: 

Chiobani and/or egg whites with turkey bacon


Turkey, swiss, and avocados sandwhiches (or really anything with avocado!)

Grilled chicken & veggies (our HEB has delish sweet chile marinated chicken breasts, so you best believe we eat them at least once a week)

I often get bored with eating the same things over and over, so I rely on my BFF, Pinterest, for most of my kitchen-inspiration. I spend lots of time drooling over my boards, but I occasionally actually make something!

My favorite recipes that I've actually tried:

And finally, my all time favorite places to eat:

1. Trudy's is a delicious Austin restaurant. I love their migas & fajitas, stuffed avocado, and Mexican Martinis. Do not go to Austin without stopping by one of their locations!

2. Chick Fil A. And my closest one is two hours away now. It has been a really tough adjustment for me (...and I'm sure equally as tough for the Georgetown location. I mean, I probably dropped by for 5+ visits a week)

3. Nothing Bundt Cakes. Awwww yeah. Red Velvet Cake.

I'm still on the hunt for a favorite place in my current home. We have shockingly low quality Mexican food considering that we are literally right on the border with that foreign nation...

Shoutout again to Halle for hosting such a fun summer linkup- could not have come up with a better way to introduce myself to the blogging world!

25 July 2013

NAILED IT part 3: love yourself, love your district


You've got a marvelous portfolio, a professionally adorable outfit. Now what? 

Two important next steps:

RESEARCH the district that you'll be interviewing with. Scour their website(s), look them up on greatschools, etc. Stalk 'em real good.

And then, have questions prepared. A good question is one that shows your research annnnd offers the interviewer(s) an opportunity to dazzle you with their offerings and programs and such. For example:

Good question: "I know your district uses the [insert whatever behavior management plan/learning model]. Can you tell me a little more about how that plays into the day to day routine in a classroom?"

Bad question: "How many days off do I get?" Haha, but really, anything that is clearly visible on their website is not a great question, nor is anything that makes you look unenthusiastic. 


SPEND SOME QUALITY "I LOVE ME" TIME a couple times before the interview. Do you have old papers and projects, letters, evaluations from cooperating teachers or professors? Read them. They will help you cultivate answers to our next step annnnd make you feel pretty darn confident! I mean, you are really really cool. You might just need some help coming up with concrete reasons why. (:

While you are feeling confident and sassy, CLEAN UP YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES. I'm sure this is painfully obvious and maybe you don't even have this issue... but don't you dare have any photos that are revealing a lot of shenanigans or a lot of skin or a lot of alcohol (ok, actually just no alcohol). Keep your prof pics classy, and your profiles super private. Sign out of all of them and then look at them to see what prospective employers might see. And think twice about friending/following anyone at your hopefully future school, at least for the time being- gotta keep a nice, professional persona rockin!

Check back SATURDAY for the last step in your interview prep process!

Veteran teachers, holler! What do you think prospective teachers should know about a school going into an interview? What makes you feel good about yourself prior to an interview? Where would you draw the line on social media?

23 July 2013

NAILED IT part 2: attire

* you can even do this before you even begin officially applying*

You've got reference letters and a marvelous portfolio. Now what?

PLAN YOUR ATTIRE. You want to wear something that you are comfortable in, but definitely still look professional. Shoot me if you want, but I would say that does not include a sundress or any kind of sundress/cardigan/sandal combo. 

I am certainly no fashionista, but I think Whitney from Along the Lines of Style is one of the best teacher style bloggers I've ever come across. Her outfits are professional and still reflect her young personality. They are also reasonably priced- sista shops on a teacher's budget! She recommends 10 pieces every teacher should own (which you could totes wear to an interview and then get more use out of), but my faves for potential interview ensembles are:

[1]  [2]  [3]  [4]

[I also enjoy this lady's blog for teacher clothing ideas]

BASICALLY, cover your goodies, wear comfy shoes (I went on a campus-wide walking tour during my interview!), and look like someone you'd want to hire.

Veteran Teachers, help me out here! What did you wear to your interview? What would you recommend?

20 July 2013

NAILED IT part 1: the portfolio

* you can even do this before you even begin officially applying*

Alright, you've got a nice stack of fan mail reference letters. But where to put them...?

CREATE A PORTFOLIO. Not a scrapbook, not a autobiography, definitely not anything much thicker than a 1/2 inch binder. With all due respect, these people probably don't care about you that much yet, so they probably aren't going to want to read more than about a page at a time. You want a couple of things that really describe who you are as a teacher and highlight the skills that make you stand out! I'd recommend that the contents of your portfolio include:

  • a cover letter (addressed to the principal/school you are applying to)
  • a resume
  • 2-3 reference letters
  • 2-3 artifacts (lesson plans, pictures of bulletin boards, student work) 

There are some tutorials and examples of resumes for teachers here and here, and similar resources for teacher cover letter layouts here and here. We talked about reference letters in the last post. The artifacts should be something you are proud of, something that shows skills that relate to your educational philosophy, and something that is unique to you, but aren't super lengthy

For example, my girl, Al had pictures of student work created in lessons that she lead directly during student teaching, and copies of parent contact forms that she created. She also took a fun 1.5 page lesson plan for 2nd grade that integrated diversity, bullying prevention, and reading/writing strategies. It showcased her ability to
  • write a plan in the Madeline Hunter style 
  • teach in whole group and small group settings
  • align TEKS, lesson objectives, and lesson assessments together in a logical fashion
If you have runner-up artifacts, additional info that could help your case, etc. I would make a note of that in your portfolio by stating "additional [whatever you have] upon request". A great way to do this is to create an online portfolio. I have one that highlights my strengths as experiences as related to the INTASC standards, and left the link to it on my cover letter.

Finally, I'm sure this is painfully obvious, but you should know your portfolio VERY WELL and be able to discuss the items in it at length if necessary. You might practice this discussion out loud when you practice your questions!

Here's a bummer of a secret- the interview committee may not even want to see your portfolio. But in Al's initial interview, they did. And in the chance that they do for you, it's great to be prepared and provides a way for all of your job hunt materials to be organized.

So now you have a portfolio... Check back on Tuesday to find out what to do next!

Veteran Teachers, please weigh in! What did you bring to your interview? What would you recommend? 

19 July 2013

My Favorite Things: Feels Like Home

linking up with Halle again this week!
This past November, my then-fiancé and I officially found out where we'd be living for the next 3+ years. Though we had some other options, we decided that buying a house would be a great option because [insert financial wisdom from the husband here]. I was all on board! We did a quick search, toured some homes, and officially purchased this little beauty in January.
(this is not her most flattering angle, so I tried to jazz it up with my new A Beautiful Mess app!)
R signed the dotted line and then skiddadled off to five months of training elsewhere, so the red house was inhabited by a few of his sweet friends (I promise it was a far less sketchy deal than it sounds... more of an extended house sitter situation!), and then we FINALLY officially moved in two weeks after we got married. 

...of course, two weeks after that, he promptly left for another month of training, and I decided to go on a month-long road trip/vacation, soooo the moving in process is happening slowly, but surely. If you're interested, you'll probably see more about the red house on my personal blog, A Couple of Beans.

Things that are making me love my house currently are:

Magnolia Scented Candles- I love these by Circle C (which are thankfully sold at our local Ace Hardware), but my mama also found some at Wally World recently for a steal!
Yellow Kitchen Aid- Christmas present from Santa this year. He knows me too well. (:
My lovely Kuerig- a morning just isn't the same without a cup of coffee!

My great-grandparents' dining room set that my sweet dad drove to Florida and back in 3 days to get

And, inspired by my Red House pin board, these are some purchases/projects I want to get on ASAP:

Our new leather couches feel like buttah, but are a little boring...

Our entry way is literally just a big blank wall. I think something like this would be delightful!

Truth: I'm not really in love with the whole "home is where the air force sends you" decor... but I think this expresses how I feel quite nicely!

18 July 2013

NAILED IT: how to interview like a champ

Hey y'all! With interview season quickly upon us, Resource Thursdays is going to take a little different look... Welcome to my first {short} blog series!

you can pin this! crazy, right? so fancy
As I was beginning to think about interviewing for jobs last spring, I googled "teacher interview tips". There were lonnng lists of questions and a few fairly vague pieces of advice. So, I looked around, gave up, and took what I knew from previous job interviews and hiring sessions into my first interview two days after graduation and was offered a job right on the spot. 

This following series of posts are steps that I took as I interviewed, and then recommended to my bestie, Al, as she is trying to navigate the interview process in a big city. I'll be using Al as an example often throughout the series. It's clear that I'm definitely not an expert in this realm, but I have:
  • interviewed for a variety of education and non-education related jobs
  • actively participated on interview committees for a youth pastor at my home church, the head swim and dive team coach at my university, and for multiple staffing positions for the mentoring program I worked for in college
  • attended multiple teacher interview prep sessions with local HR representatives and interview committee members at my little university
Trust me a little? Figure it can't hurt to get some extra tips?

Great! Let's get started! Your first step is simple:

Getcha REFERENCE LETTERS, STAT. Give your admirers professional references a deadline. My peeps (collaborating teachers, college professors, current/recent employers) usually accepted a two week time frame. I gave them casual reminders as the time drew nearer. I also specified why I needed the letters (but that's not always necessary- it's great to have a few general letters that could apply to any job application situation). If you don't get letters, move on after a few polite reminders. 

Check back on Saturday for the next step!

12 July 2013

Favorite Things: Vacation Essentials

Linking up again with Halle to share some of my vacation essentials!

I definitely need a good carry-on bag. The sweet girls on my swim team got me this Vera for my bridal shower. I try to always carry-on when we fly and this is the PERFECT size for a couple of outfits, shoes, and a makeup bag. Love it!

I have recently discovered the joys of a wristlet. No need for my giant purse, AND the strap means I have a lower chance of sitting it down and leaving it (let's not ask R how many times I've left my wallet sitting in a restaurant)
Because I try to pack light, I also like to bring versatile items. I have 40-50 pairs of shoes at home (don't tell R!), but when I travel I like to bring a good pair of sandals I can wear with just about anything. For some reason I could only find these boys on eBay...

A comfy black dress. It can basically be worn anywhere, so if we spend the day walking around or go out for a nice dinner, I can dress it up or down. I have one similar to this:

water cup. I have an embarrassing amount of drinking vessels. I love to bring my big Starbucks tumbler or my Tervis in my carry-on, and my Bubba is the bomb.com for beach/river float trips. 
I love to read, and vacations are always an awesome time to catch up on the long list of books I keep. So far on this trip, I've read Summer Sisters, Freakanomics, and some Miss Julia books I snagged from my grandma's library. While in Nashville, I picked up Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not? I chose it more for sentimental reasons, but I'm planning on reading it anyway! (:

I like to always have my iPhone for maps, restaurant suggestions, quick hotel bookings, etc. As my precious lil grandma Ada would say, "Technology these days is just amazing!"

P.S. I'm currently on vacation and my ipad is not the best blogger tool, so I apologize for the horrid post layout and potential crazy links. A sista can only do so much from the hotel! ;)

10 July 2013

Resource Thursday: Manageable Worksheets

This cool idea was one of my favorite Pinterest finds of the summer. It linked me back to this blog.

Though I have some, my experience with students older than 2nd grade is minimal. This seems like a great idea to provide a visually sectioned off work for any grade. My sweet friend from college commented on the pin, saying, "We did this in my class to help kids with note taking!" Ding ding ding, genius!

I love that this tool can be used throughout a students entire education at any grade level or subject area. You can use it to help students who are distracted and/or overwhelmed by seeing large amounts of work. It can be a tool so students can have a sheet broken into guided practice and independent sections or having a teacher check a section before they move on to working independently.

It is also on that could be visually and easily changed to be easier or harder. Start with skinny strips (less work) and then either make thicker strips (more work) or tape them together. Students can work up to doing more at a time if the work is a consistent number of problems/questions or they folders could be adjusted to each specific assignment.

But y'all, the best part is...


Can I get a hallelujah? 

Dry Erase Circles

I have been on vacation for the last couple of weeks, so I haven't purchased any circles yet but I did find a bunch of options for them on Amazon here:


04 July 2013

Resource Thursday: Dry Erase Circles

Happy 4th, y'all! I'm spending some quality time with my family, but I set this little guy up to post while we're floating in the pool and eating BBQ! Hope you're enjoying good food with even better company!

I found this idea on Pinterest, and it linked me back to Kinder Keri's blog.

This idea is straight genius. I try to avoid having lots of extra distractions, and moving white boards can be pretty distracting. Also, if they're mushed on the table, I can see EXACTLY what my nugs are writing (tell me I'm not the only one whose students practice their character drawing and fancy signatures when they're supposed to be involved in guided reading)!

I plan to use them in my small group lessons (which is all of my teaching), but I'm also thinking I could come up with some fun review games where students rotate to solve problems on each circle or something. Or, they could be good defined workspaces for some of my students that need a little extra visual support.

Any ideas about where I can get these circles? I've seen them at Target, but would it be cheaper to find them in bulk online?

Update on my Data Tracking:
I haven't tried this on actual parents/teachers/students, but I did send it to my girl Al to test, and I tested it myself. Loving the way it keeps all my data lined up and organized. I'm definitely gonna be making more Google Forms!

03 July 2013

Currently: July

Linking up with Farley for the first time ever! Par-tay!

We've been visiting my sweet grandparents this week. I was pumped to get a nice tan out in their pool, but it looks like the Big Man had other intentions for this trip. Summer storms have kept us inside almost everyday, but it's been nice to spend time just talking and hanging out.

Y'all, I could boast about Shelley's skillz everyday for the rest of my life. We just got some snippets of our wedding photos and they are MAGNIFICENT. Seriously, if you need a photographer for anything ever in the Austin area, get in contact with her. She is my main boo.

After some time at the farm, the farm and I are headed to Nashville. We're going to tour Vandy and hopefully go up to the Bobby Bones show for my birthday morning. Other than that, any suggestions for things to do? We lovelovelove country music and good food. (:

Y'all, we are doing some college visits with my sister and I am wildly jealous. I loved college, I love learning, I love school (maybe I picked the right profession...?) and I can't wait to go get my masters in a few years!

Lesson planning is going to be upon me quickly and I know it could take a while for a planner to get to me, so I need to pick soon-ish! 

I'm obviously not a long-time blogger, but my best advice is to be yourself! All of my favorite blogs are hilarious and enjoyable to read because they have distinct personality and voice. I try to be real and not stress about blogging. I mean, it's supposed to be fun, right?!

01 July 2013

Classroom Clean Out

Just a few shots from the ol classroom...

Best believe I won't need to be buying any paper or card stock this year!

Binders on binders on binders. And that yummy neon wall.

A floor, people. I have a floor. Stark contrast from where I started.

Interesting divider wall. It's got a space about a foot wide behind it. The real question, though: what cute stuff would you do with those five rectangle shaped spaces above the bulletin boards?