Month: May 2021

Stand Out from Other Applicants

Are you finding that you have re-written your resume and cover letter multiple times over the last year and you applied for every job for which you’re qualified within 40 miles…but still very few interviews? Do the interviews that you do get never advance beyond a screening? What’s wrong? Is it your resume? Do only internal candidates get interviews? Is nepotism at work? Is it that you aren’t well qualified? As a candidate, your goal is to stand out from the rest of the field and be seen as more qualified, competitive and desirable. You need to present yourself as a solid professional who offers valuable knowledge and experience. How do you distinguish yourself?

When you apply for a supervisory job such as an assistant principal, principal, or a department chairperson, you need to demonstrate the following four criteria: (1) significant professional accomplishments; (2) a unique or well-developed skill set and/or knowledge base in line with the qualifications for the position; (3) evidence of leadership potential; and (4) evidence of being highly motivated.

Significant Professional Accomplishments

In your present position, be on the lookout for unique and interesting opportunities. Examples of such opportunities might be piloting a new curriculum, serving on a high profile committee, making a presentation to the Board of Education, field-testing new technologies, participating in a research study, publishing a manuscript in a recognized professional periodical, working in a summer internship or national institute, presenting a paper at a regional or state conference, being recognized and/or honored by a professional educational organization, writing a report, or helping to develop and write a plan to improve school safety or student achievement.

Unique or Well-Developed Skills and Knowledge

The goal is not to have lots of bullets on your resume. The goal is to develop valuable skills and knowledge and present them in the best light on your resume and during your interview. Your prospective principal could always use help in scheduling—master schedule, testing schedules, schedules of professional development activities, and schedules of school-community events. So, take workshops to learn how to use proven technologies and practices in scheduling.

Another key function is student discipline. Learn how experienced professionals handle discipline, volunteer to shadow an administrator. Find an administrator who will allow you to be an unofficial “dean,” and who will supervise you, assign you to routine disciplinary cases, and permit you to assist in supervising lunchrooms and bus duties. 

Leadership

You should consider filling semi-administrative roles such as serving as an administrator in summer school, night school, or alternative school; you will learn supervisory skills and be noticed by your school leaders. Another way to stand out as a leader is by serving on committees. Volunteer to play leadership roles on committees in order to have an impact and get noticed. Volunteer to serve as a committee chairperson, write portions of plans and reports, and present at school board and faculty meetings.

Motivation and Agility

Being an inside candidate is the best and fastest path to advancing as a school leader. Do what you can within your school and district to be visible, cooperative, and useful. Be a team player by voluntarily moving to another grade level and/or school. This also demonstrates your flexibility and cooperation and increases your scope of experience.  

Another avenue for demonstrating your motivation is to take charge of school and community events such as assembly programs, field trips, community service projects, PTA programs, and professional development programs.

Finally, do not be a spectator who stands on the sidelines and expects to be noticed. Be an active presence, make yourself useful, learn all you can, and enhance your skills and knowledge. Get into the game!

Applying for an Assistant Principal Job: What Does the Principal Really Need?

Oftentimes, the entry-level job into school leadership is the assistant principalship. There are more assistant principal jobs than any other leadership roles. In the selection process, the principal is usually the key person in deciding who will get the job. The fact is that the assistant will be the principal’s right arm. What does the principal really need?

In my experience, despite what the job description says, principals need an assistant who can do six things. They are: (1) STUDENT DISCIPLINE; (2) OBSERVATIONS AND EVALUATIONS; (3) LARGE GROUP SUPERVISION (bus duty, cafeteria duty, corridors); (4) PARENT COMPLAINTS; (5) TEACHER SUPERVISION; (6) SCHEDULING. These responsibilities may not be very glamorous, but they are essential in assuring that the school is well organized, safe and orderly.

Of the six responsibilities, STUDENT DISCIPLINE by far is the highest priority. Realistically, the assistant principal’s school day is dominated by dealing with time consuming disciplinary cases, mostly small but sometimes more serious. Therefore, the principal is looking for an assistant principal who exercises good judgement, is thorough, is effective with kids, and knows how to speak with parents in a tactful and respectful manner.

The ability to command respect by just being a presence is vital; some call it “gravitas”. That is the ability to project self-confidence, influence, credibility, and command respect. When you speak, others listen. In order to be an effective supervisor in large group settings, and in dealing with staff or parents, it is a requirement to project gravitas.

You should assume that the reviewer of your resume and your interviewers, and particularly the principal, will be looking for evidence that you have some experience, knowledge and skills in fulfilling most of these six responsibilities. Be aware that these “top six” needs do not include such wants as professional development, curriculum development, personnel or budget management among others, even though these functions might be included in the job description. The principal is going to choose a candidate based on what he/she needs and not what’s wanted.

Your resume should prominently include evidence of performing these six functions, and you should prepare answers to interviewers’ questions pertaining to these areas. Expect “what would you do” scenarios that are aimed at assessing your judgement and practical knowledge of how these various processes work. A few sample questions might be:

  1. Walk us through step-by-step how you would deal with a fight in the corridor?
  2. Role playing the assistant principal who receives a phone call from an irate parent complaining that his child is being treated unfairly by a teacher.
  3. How would you deal with a veteran teacher who is not addressing recommendations you made on his/her observation report?
  4. How would you go about doing a formal teacher observation?

The key to be a successful candidate is preparation. Focus your preparation on the real priorities of the person to whom you’ll be assisting.

LEAVE REPLACEMENT: SHOULD I APPLY?

Should you consider taking a leave replacement position? Like most other complex questions, the answer is, “It depends”. It depends on your set of circumstances. It depends on the conditions related to the leave.

What are your circumstances?

  • Are you trying to start a new career as a teacher? If you have been unsuccessfully seeking a position in teaching, then a leave replacement makes sense. A leave replacement is a far better alternative than substitute teaching or being a teaching assistant. You will be fulfilling all the responsibilities and getting all the experience of a teacher, and the pay is better. You will also have an opportunity to impress supervisors on a daily basis.
  • Are you currently dissatisfied with your teaching job and have not been successful in your new job search? Or are you currently teaching and unsuccessfully seeking a leadership job? Be cautious. Resigning a secure position in order to take a leave replacement job is a risky move. Getting your first leadership job can be a career breakthrough. Leaving a job in which you are unhappy, can seem attractive.
  • Are you currently unemployed, working outside of education, in the process of being laid off, being denied tenure, or ready to quit your present job? If you find yourself in any of these circumstances, then you have a lot more to gain.

What are the conditions of the leave replacement position?

  • Are you an internal candidate for the position and will you be able to return to your present position if and when the incumbent returns or things don’t work out for you? As an internal person who can return to your job, there is little downside and lots of pluses. You will gain experience and acquire new skills, and positively position yourself should the incumbent not return, or a new position opens up.
  • Are you an external candidate and is the incumbent expected to return and, if so, when? Most leave replacements are due to maternity or sick leaves. Most of these folks return to their jobs. You need to find out the reason for and the duration of the leave before accepting the job. If the job does become open, you will have had an opportunity to prove yourself and forge relationships. You will be in a very strong position to get the job.
  • Is the incumbent ambivalent about returning? In most cases incumbents do not announce their intention to return until the contractual deadline. This uncertainty leaves the replacement in a difficult situation. You will need to decide if and when to initiate a new job search. This can be quite nerve racking.

What are the consequences, positive and negative, of taking a leave replacement position? The most dire consequence is winding up on the unemployment line. Needless to say, it is extremely difficult to revitalize a career with a gap in your employment record. Any gap or step backward on your resume will be viewed as red flag and invite interviewers to closely question you about the circumstances of your employment timeline. On the positive side, if things work out, you can propel your career ahead. Taking a leave replacement position needs to be carefully considered before making a decision