I’m still a bit overwhelmed by all the attention I got through Freshly Pressed the other day. There’s still lots of comments I need to respond to and I might even get around to it later this afternoon. I taught this morning and now I’m home – debating how motivated I am to tackle my to-do list. (The answer? Not very.)
Anywho – since I talked about Group Interviews a few days ago, I thought I would talk about how in this day and age it’s really important to find a way to make yourself memorable. Now in a group interview situation it usually boils down to making sure you talk a lot. However, if all you do is talk without really saying anything special, you still aren’t making yourself memorable. Even in individual interviews – how does one stand out? And what other areas of life do you want to make yourself stand out and how do you do that? I tend to interview fairly well I think and I tend to excel situations where I can talk about stuff I’ve done, given that I have some unique experiences in my life.
When you’re a substitute teacher, you need to make yourself memorable to a variety of people so that you can get more work in that same school. A lot of boards let their teachers pre-arrange their own supplies so your work as a sub often depends on how shameless you are when it comes to networking. Number one is meet teachers in the department(s) you want to work in. They may even recommend you to other teachers without having never met you if you do well in their class. You also want to try and meet admin where possible – though this is more for if you get an interview for a long term position in that school. The other group of people who can get you more work? The students. If the regular teacher comes back and the right students are telling the teacher how awesome you were, you’ll get called again and the teacher knows they can trust you with their class. Now when I say “right students” I mean kids that the teacher is likely to trust. The pothead in the corner is not your best bet. They’re a nice bonus. You want to win over a variety of kids – if you can win over both the kids that are the teacher’s pet and the kids from the other end of the spectrum and in the middle – you’re going to get a call to come back. So how does one do that exactly? Some of these will apply to other areas of life – not just substitute teaching.
Have something to say – I read the paper in the morning before I leave usually so I get a brief overview of the current world events. Now, a lot of kids won’t know what’s going on in world politics but you know what they do know about? Sports and Pop Culture. I may not watch hockey, but I can have a conversation about the debate about head shots and concussions that’s happening right now. I may not watch Jersey Shore – but I know the names of the main characters and I understand the basic references. Also – don’t be afraid to take a strong opinion on something they’re discussing in class. If it’s an English class reading Hamlet talk about how The Lion King is essentially the Disney version of Hamlet.
Be relatable – This comes easily to me. I’m not that much older than my students usually and the key seems to be the way in which I talk with them. They way in which I speak is similar to the way they speak. Do I always talk like that? Of course not! I slip into a role and stick with it. If I’m interviewing with a principal, my language will be more formal. When I talk with high school students, my language is more informal and closer to the way in which I talk to my friends. I let them see how I’m similar to them, while still maintaining a distance as befits a teacher/student relationship. Don’t be afraid to let them know what tv shows you watch and what music you listen to. Talk about your life as a high school student. When you’re explaining something, use references they’re going to understand. As I said above – comparing Hamlet to the Lion King.
Use Humour – Humour is a huge weapon when it comes to dealing with teenagers. If I don’t make at least one witty remark in an interview I tend to consider it a failure. However, that’s the type of person I am – I’m witty (I think). I don’t take life too seriously and I know that when it comes to teenagers the best way to disarm them and then win them over is to make a joke right off the bat and use sarcasm. A lot of teachers just talk at students so when you have someone who comes in and engages in a conversation and is able to joke around with students to boot, it’s a bonus. Students will also be talking about how funny you were after – I had a student come in yesterday I had never had before, but knew about me from someone else who had had me 2 weeks previously. She put 2 and 2 together in about 5 minutes based simply on how I acted.
Make a Statement with Clothes – Now this can go one of two ways. You have to dress to impress and for the job. If you’re teaching phys ed. don’t show up in heels. Bad idea. If you wear something interesting (without being over the top) you’re also likely to win over some of your female students. I discovered yesterday I’m known as the substitute teacher with the colourful shoes at one of the schools I teach in. Apparently all the girls really liked my red heels in particular.
Share Your Experiences – Talk about what you’ve done, but be selective. Give one story at a time – especially if you think you might be subbing in that school/class on a regular basis. Parcel out little stories. Students will learn that if they do their work, you’ll be more likely to tell funny stories about how you got lost in a Russian museum and couldn’t find your tour group. Or about that time you had your audition and totally forgot your monologue.
Stay Calm Under Pressure – There will always be kids who want to fluster you. Depending on the situation, I usually react one of two ways. If I’m sitting down and I know they can hear me, I barely raise my voice and don’t even move from my seat. I’ll raise an eyebrow and give them a “look.” If it’s a noisy drama classroom I will move across the room so as to avoid raising my voice. If kids are locking themselves in prop closets and curtains, I wait and make a sarcastic remark. I roll my eyes and carry on. I ignore them or I wait in silence for them to finish. Never underestimate the power of silence to get a group’s attention.
Those are my main five points though. Do you have anything else to add to it? And what have you found works for you? Do you think that it’s harder to stand out from the crowd in a positive light in the modern world?