Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In the Art Room: Top 5 Tips to getting the art teacherin job of your dreams

It's that time of year: Art Teacherin' Interview Season. I'm here today to share with you just how I landed the art teacherin' job of my dreams...which just might help y'all do the same.

Now, art teacherin' jobs aren't exactly a dime a dozen, what with only one to two positions available per school. So many desperate folk are often inclined to take the first job that looks at 'em sideways and asks if they wanna get Netflix and chill. Well, I'm here today to tell ya just how not to fall into that trap, find the school you really dig and land that gig!

1. Do your homework. First things first, you gotta get your foot in the door and land that interview. But how? It's called the World Wide Webbiecakes, y'all.

Story Time: If you are willing to relocate for a job, you'll have many more options. When I returned from my student teaching gig in Ireland, I found that my parents had sent out 52 job applications all over the country (like, as far away as Alaska!). I didn't have any ties binding me to my native Indiana so when I got the interview in Nashville, I loaded up my chain-smoking grandma and hit the road. The rest is history!
Google search the area you are interested in for school districts. Then, take a lil time to do some digging about that district. Are they on social media? If so, what kind of things are they sharing? Check out what teachers, parents and even students are saying about the schools within the district. Did they make the news for something fabulous or are they notoriously in the news for unfabulousness.

2. Land an Interview. When you find some schools that pique your interest, visit those district websites to find out about their online application process. I know that my school district won't even chat with you unless you've taken the time to fill that out. Even if the district you are looking into does not have an opening, don't let that stop you from applying! You never know what turn of events might lead to a job popping up. And when it does, you'll be on the list! Once you hit submit and your application is in their system, see which schools have art openings. Those are the ones to start calling. 
When you call, ask to speak with the administration. If/when you can get one on the line (those are some seriously busy folks who are often hard to track down), make sure you speak confidently. Let them know you are a seriously awesome art educator that would love to have the opportunity to meet them, interview and see their school. Practice this phone chat, write it down if you gotta. It's what is gonna get you in the door. 
3. Dress for Success. Now. Let's be clear. You want an art teacherin' job, right? Well, all that stuff they say about first impressions is for-realzies. Take it from a person who prides herself in her wacky attire: DRESS PROFESSIONALLY. In short, I would not recommend wearing the following: 
Look, an interview is not the time to express your wild wardrobe side. When I landed the interview at my current job, I totally hid what a weirdo I was from my administration (haha, suckahs!). In fact, I wore the same cornflower blue, Barbara Bush-wannabe dress I wore when el hubbo and I got hitched at the court house. I was all-pro from head to toe. If you do wanna get a lil colorful, just tone it down some. A good rule of thumb: WWGS (What Would Grandma Say)? I would also recommend No Cleavage, No Bare Legs, No Exposed Feets and FOR THE LOVE No Bra Straps. PSA #1, over and out.
4. Be Early, Be Prepared. Whatever you do, DO NOT BE LATE! Go to bed early the night before, set 5 alarm clocks, give yourself 30 minutes more than you normally would, whatever it takes. Do not show up with a latte. Do not have gum in your mouth. Get there at least 5 - 10 minutes early with your portfolio of lessons, student and teacher examples and photos neatly organized and placed on your lap. 

Oh, let's chat about that portfolio for a hot minute, shall we? Because it needs to be good freakishly fantastic. I put clay projects in their hands and got all STEAM-y with the connections the projects made. I passed around fiber arts projects and went on and on about how kids need to be working with their hands MORE in this overly techie age we live in. Then I shared a binder full of photos of my art room, my management system, my routines, you get the idea. Also in my binder were newspaper clippings featuring me and my students, notes/cards from parents, students and administration, on and on. It's your version of a Look Book so make it memorable, y'all. 

And, for the love, LEAVE YOUR CELL PHONE IN YOUR CAR. Seriously. The world is not gonna end if you don't look at your phone for 45 minutes. Do NOT sit in the waiting area scrolling through your phone, do NOT have your phone ring/beep/jingle during the interview and do NOT look at it, even if to check the time. Nothing says unprofessional and disrespectful like a person who cannot detach from their phone for a short amount of time. So, in case you are tempted, just leave it in the car. Now, can someone please help me down from this cell-phone-hater soapbox?

5. Interview Questions and their Translation. There's a good chance your interviewers have been at this interviewing thing for days, maybe weeks. They are more than likely gonna ask you something along the following lines (so, just like your phone call, have a prepared answer and rehearse it, this time, in front of a mirror). So here are some of their potential questions (and what they are really asking):
"How do you handle classroom disruptions?"
TRANSLATION: "Are you planning to send half your class to the office? Because we ain't got time for that."
ANSWER: Be honest. How do you deal with classroom disruptions or disrespectful students? Do you give a warning, have a time-out area, have consequences set in place? If you've never taught before then you might wanna do a lil internet searching on classroom management because, trust me, this question is gonna come up.

"How do you incorporate other subject matter into your art room?"
TRANSLATION: "Our students are being tested to death and our classroom teachers need all the help they can get. How are you gonna supplement your art curriculum with math, language arts, science, social studies and all that jazz?"
ANSWER: Education is not piecemeal but one continuum. All of the subjects have the ability to feed into and off of one another. Site some examples of projects that do just that. For example, weaving incorporates history, culture, math and, read 'em a book, and you got literacy. This is when you bust out your shiny student examples. No student examples? Then bring your teacher created ones. 

"Are you willing to coach track; lead marching band; create the yearbook; work on the school website; teach English {yeah, I got asked that one} and basically do a bunch a stuff that no one wants to do for very little money, if any?"
TRANSLATION: "Just how desperate are you, anyway?"
ANSWER: That's your call. I teach elementary so a lotta that stuff would not be asked of me. I value my free time. If you do as well, don't feel obligated to say yes just for the job. Be honest. 
PSA #2: Whatever you do, for the love, keep those answers short, sweet and concise. These people are only mildly interested in what you have to say. They are more than likely thinking about what restaurant they are all gonna head to when you finally shut up and leave. Impress them with what you have to say...but don't depress them with awkward and long winded life stories. If you do, you'll just give them something to talk about at Chili's over cheese fries. 
"Do You Have Any Questions for Us?" 
TRANSLATION: "Are we about done here?"
ANSWER: Yes, thank you so much for asking, I do have some questions {and here's what you need to know, so write down what they say}:

1. "What is the art budget?" Ideally, you should be looking at about $3 per student. If you get more than that, sweetness.

2. "How often do the students have art? How long is each art class?" In a perfect world, you'd see all of your students for an hour, once a week...well, except for kindergarten. They are best in smaller doses, I have found. 

3. "If I do have to send a disruptive student to the office, how will that situation be handled?" Here's what you are really asking: Are you just gonna send them back to art in 3 minutes with a weak apology and a kiss-my-behind look on their face? CUZ that ain't gonna work. 

4. "Is there an art room? Is there a chance the art room will ever be taken away and used as a classroom? May I see the art room?" Okay, the reasoning behind those questions lead me to my next tale...

Story Time: I've only taught at two schools. The first job I got in Nashville, I taught in what the administration referred to as a "portable" which I soon learned was fancy talk for a trailer. Let's not get above our raising, Nashville, a metal rectangle on wheels is a trailer. That being said, it was a great space to start my teaching career cuz at least it was a space. Two years later, a new school was built and I had a beautiful art room, complete with a storage closet, a kiln room and shelving like you wouldn't believe. The catch? Every summer, my principal would say, "Don't decorate your art room...we might be taking it from you." Do you know what a crap way that is to spend each summer? Stressing that I may be on a cart and rethinking my curriculum because of it? I started to open my mind to relocating. 

Then, one fall, I was attending my local state conference. We were doing that annoying thing where everyone goes around the table, introduces themselves and shares a bit. It was then that a woman said, "I teach at a wonderful school, in a terrific school district and I'm retiring in two years if anyone is interested." Y'ALL.BETTER.BELIEVE. I was all over her like hot fudge. We swapped digits and I literally spent the two years stalking her. I observed her teaching, visited her art room, was introduced to her faculty and staff, attended her art shows. I'm surprised she didn't take out a restraining order (thank you, Margo!). So, needless to say, when it came time to interview, it was like sitting down with acquaintances. They'd seen my face and knew just how interested I was. 

Moral of the Story: It's really all about who you get to know. Attend your state conferences, chat with folks, make friends which lead to connections. Send emails to peeps who are in the districts you are interested in (my buddy Jennifer emailed me last fall...and I gave her some tips on how to get her foot in the door with my district. Her shining personality got her the job but I like to think I helped a touch). Make it so that when you walk into that interview, you have a connection with someone. It just might get you the job.

In other news: that school in Nashville? They've never taken away the art room. Personally, I think they were trying to get rid of me...and it worked! 
We're So Sorry, But... So, story time: I went on many a job interviews when I was Fresh Prince outta College and got many a rejection. The reason? Lack of experience. Well, that's a catch 22, ain't it? Just how do you get art teacherin experience to bulk up that resume? Call you local art museums and enquire about possible jobs or volunteer positions, especially ones that will put you in contact with kids. Reach out to recreational centers to see if they need anyone to lead arts and crafts classes. If you start subbing, you'll get your face seen around the district you are interested in. And lead art lessons! See if you can rent a church space for cheap and tack some flyers up at your local coffee house. This will give you a lil income and some kid-friendly experience.

What tips and tricks do you art teachers have out there for getting hired at your dream art teacherin' job? 

What are some of the wildest job interview stories do you have? 

Newbies, I wanna hear from you too! Lemme know if you have any questions and please drop me a line and fill me in on how those interviews go. GOOD LUCK!  
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  1. Anonymous4/27/2016

    Been trying to land an art teacher job for a complaint so far is that I feel I have always prepared myself perfectly only to find the interviwers not asking me anything I ever expected. I got some questions like "in regards to art and life, what does balance mean to you?" or something else very vague and confusing. And every interview is soooo different! I try to learn from each one but now I can't ever feel prepared because I don't know what to expect. Another thing is how do you really stand out, especially when we have so much competition for art teaching positions? Did your school tell you any ways you stood out from others and thus got the job? Thank you, love your blog!

    1. thing I did to "stand out" was have a super beefy portfolio of unique things: photos of my overly decorated art room, newspaper articles both me and my students had been featured in, notes from students, parents, former admin. AND lots of student artwork. Give them too much, blow their minds and knock them off their feet! Good luck!!

  2. Great post--I just finished my Masters in December and am all revved up and ready for hiring season myself. I spent a great deal of time over the past few years volunteering in the schools and communities I wanted to teach in, observing any teacher I could, subbing and such and I'm hoping that is going to work in my favor. I'm also a member of the NH Art Educator's Association and have started doing their newsletter--I think the more people you know, the better. I'm working on my art teacher portfolio now--I went to a great session at the NAEA conference and have been trying to revamp mine. I'd love to hear your thoughts (and anyone else's on that)...Thanks for all you do--great post as usual! Mrs. P

    1. Yes, a great portfolio is key. Also, bring in student clay projects, weavings, etc. so they can see you don't just "color" in your art room but go beyond the paper and pencil. I still have my three ring binder full of photos of my former, overly decorated art room, management system, etc. I also like bringing three dimensional objects for them to touch and hold. All of it adds up!

    2. Do you have a post on your management system? I'm going for an interview on Monday. I'm just a tad nervous.

    3. I don't...yet. However, in the meantime, I did share a simple system I use that works for me,here: I also have a "time out" spot (although you might want to call it the "reflection area". My buddy the guidance counselor has a "think about it" chair that works for her). Whatever you do, make sure you let them know that you are confident that you can resolve all issues in your art room and that sending kids to the administration is THE LAST RESORT. Best of luck!!

  3. I am in my first year of art teaching and it has been quite the experience. I honestly got extremely lucky and landed a talented art teaching position in a fantastic school. I grew up in the area and was looking for a way to get my foot in the door. I was applying for a substitute position and happened to ask if they had any positions available. What do you know they had the perfect job just waiting for me. I think that meeting people and net working like Ms.Stephens says is an extremely useful tool. Good luck!

    1. That is awesome!! See, it was good you were working...subbing is a great way to be seen, my husband got his teaching job that way as well (before he "retired" after 5 years!). Congrats~

  4. This is great advice! I definitely recommend having both student and personal art examples, and even better lesson plans and even a suggested curriculum (yes, I did that, and landed the job). Also have prepared questions and before you leave ask what they're looking for in an ideal candidate and then list all the reasons why you're that person. Oh, and be super positive and peppy and have an espresso before the interview!

    1. GREAT advice! Especially the espresso! ;)

  5. You are my hero! OK, briefly,(yeah sure) I'm an art educated folk,turned professional stand up comedian 'Straight Outta College', turned paraprofessional, turned aftercare director,turned o.k. o.k. Ill be an art teacher now...quit yer yappn', student loan lenders, kinda gal.
    I follow your posts plenty as I cant help but screach on the breaks when I all of a sudden see cool art stuff and "oh wait, this chicks hysterical" kind of advice. I have lots to chew your Van Gogh(Tyson)off about, all things art, but my numb thumbs on this cell phone post here are about over. So Ill just stick to your post topic. One question ill just ask for now, as I see some similarities in us...Do ya bring your funny to the table in that interview? Do ya?
    Ya know, not your favorite "Two impressionists walk into a bar" bit or Picasso oneliners or full on Bob Ross impersonation or anything but do you take advantage and use that gift to stand out and seal the deal? Even just a little? Please say yes...

    1. Well, honestly, I try to curb my humor. I can seriously slip into uncouth in a hot minute and with my current administration, that's totes cool. Tis the reason I love them. However, with my past admin, that wouldn't have gotten me hired. So I think it's best to read your audience. If they come across as lack, you can unwind a bit. If they are on the uptight side of life, you better keep your game face on. For me, I usually just keep my smiling game face one...otherwise I might say something totes off color!

  6. I found interviewers did not ask to see the portfolio. You have to push the portfolio when answering questions. When they ask about cross curricular connections, show those lesson plans, student pieces and teacher examples. Keep the lesson plans clean, and in an outline format so they are easy to skim! When they ask how you communicate with families, show those examples. And when they ask why they should hire you, show those letters from parents and administrators! I also created a digital portfolio and emailed the interview team members the link to the portfolio before the start of the interview (I called a secretary and asked who would be on the interview team that day). At the end of the interview, I asked them to be sure to check their email and refer to my webpage as they consider me as their ideal art teacher. I also love paper crafting. I developed beautiful thank you notes in the district colors with elegant calligraphy. Before walking out the door, I asked the secretary to place the thank you cards in the respective mailboxes.

  7. Anonymous4/29/2016


    This is one of the most well-written posts (and you have many) that I have seen on your blog! You give the true formula, AND NEWBIES MUST READ TO THE END, for how to secure the best employment for yourself. Every educator is unique, and so is each workplace. This article addresses how both parties can clearly know they are a great match! Also, just as a side-note, any school not wanting this level of conversation and presentation by their future art educator might not have a high value for that role, which could reflect in the treatment and expectations of the hired teacher.

    Dream jobs ARE out there, keep looking and be prepared to show your best to get the position!

    Love in art, Kelly

    1. Aw, thank you, Kelly!! That means a lot. I agree with you...if they don't have "the time" to look at your portfolio, professionally field your questions or show you the art room, etc, then they are doing a lil something called foreshadowing. and it's only gonna get worse! xo!

  8. Awesome post! This is my first year back in the art room after a two year "sabbatical" and then a year as a classroom teacher (private school...). When I interviewed for my now-job, I showed a digital portfolio through Keynote and the interviewers were all impressed by my use of technology and the idea that I would be willing to incorporate some techie stuff with the kiddos (which definitely is NOT my thing). I definitely had to stress the projects and lessons and SHOW them what I had done, but using the iPad seemed super impressive. So that's my advice. Come with a TON of examples, be it yours, kids, friends ideas you might want to use (if they say its okay!) and maybe incorporate some technology, so you can be all STEAM-Y ;)

  9. Cassie, would you like to write a version of this for SchoolArts? I would like to use in in the Sept issue so would need it by June 1. Just let me know!

  10. I am very much interesting in artworks but it never came to mind that I wanted to teach though. I never studied more in arts, but Engineering Technology. I am only having freehand sketch at home and/or freehand drawing. Giving basic tutorials would be nice also, right? I don't have to be very formal to the class. Your tips might help me when I wanted to become a true teacher, the portfolio thing.

  11. What would you suggest for a demo interview lesson? 30 minutes.

    1. If it here me, I'd do this:

  12. What would you suggest for a 10 minute lesson?

  13. Hi Cassie - so I just landed my first gig as an art teacher!! However, and of course there is no art room so I have to teach from a cart. Would you happen to have any advice on art cart teaching? Thank you!!


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