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WHAT’S GOIN’ ON?

I’ll be finishing up on my work as the Interim Superintendent of North Babylon Schools on March 3rd (very proud of my leadership team for what we’ve accomplished over the last 6 months). Laurie and I will be traveling for the 2nd and 3rd weeks in March. My new and expanded book “GETTING YOUR SCHOOL LEADERSHIP JOB” will be published in the Spring. And I will continue coaching educators, as I have been doing for the last 12 years. LIFE IS GOOD!!

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Understanding the Politics and Power of School Leadership

We all know that local education is fueled by politics and the use of power, but we seldom talk about power publicly. To understand the dynamics of politics and power is to be empowered. What goes to the heart of these dynamics are: (1) the more power that’s exercised, the weaker it becomes; (2) the most potent form of power is perceived power; (3) the most outspoken critics  are imposters; and (4) the real power resides with the students and their parents. Let us analyze these dynamics.

More Is Less. Mr. Smith threatens his students that if they continue to misbehave, he will send them to the office. Johnny steps over the line and is sent to the office. A lesson in power, right?  Not so fast. Thirty minutes later, Johnny returns with a smirk on his face. Then Mary acts out and she’s sent to the office. She returns in 20 minutes. Okay, Mr. Smith, what’s happening to your authority? Lessons learneddo not make threats that you cannot uphold; and the more you exercise your power, the more it will be tested and the faster it will erode.

Perceived Power. If you are perceived to hold power, then you have power. If your constituents believe that you can get things done, and that you can influence other powerful players, then that perception gives you power. Proportionately, the greater and more widespread the perception, the greater the power is. Be careful. If you exercise that power and you are ineffective, the power dissipates and erodes exponentially. Therefore, use your influence prudently—do not over-reach.

Imposters. An angry parent calls you regarding a routine and justifiable policy change you have just made. After failing to convince you of the unreasonableness of your action, the parent threatens to call your supervisor, get the PTA involved, and call all of his friends and storm the next Board of Education meeting if you do not immediately cave in. It sounds like you are really drawing fire from a powerful person. Remember that you cannot reason with an unreasonable person, but you can disagree agreeably. Now, I am not an advocate of poking anyone in the eye, hanging up the phone, or telling him where to go. Never exacerbate an already bad situation by being rude, because you will be accused of unprofessional behavior which will then become the issue. However, do not cower to a bully. Most decent people have been bullied, know bullies when they see them, and do not like bullies. My advice is to say, “Well, I see we disagree. Of course, it’s your prerogative to do what you please. Would you like the phone number of my supervisor?” Offering a phone number signals that you are not intimidated. Then get a quick message to your supervisor and the President of the PTA to explain why they may be getting a call. Remember: whoever gets the message out first usually is in a stronger position. Let the bully do his thing. He ultimately will not get the power he is craving.

The Real Power. Many years ago, a veteran principal gave me one of the best advice I ever got. He said, “Take good care of the kids. If the kids like you, they’ll go home and tell their parents how wonderful you are, and then the parents will like you. If the kids and the parents like you, then nobody can harm you.”

Dr. Aronstein is a job coach who helps aspiring and new school leaders prepare for job interviews, and prepare their resumes and cover letters. Get his new e-book: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-inside-secrets-to-getting-your-leadership-position-with-larry-aronstein-tickets-10362222687. You can contact him at larryaronstein@yahoo.com.

HOW TO ANSWER KILLER INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

I have been coaching school leaders and aspiring leaders in preparation for their interviews for more than 12 years. My clients frequently ask me how to answer questions that they struggle with. Here’s a sampling of a few of those questions, my strategies as to how to answer, and my suggested answers:

1. “What would your direct supervisor say about you if I called her?” (You think you might not get a positive recommendation from her/him)

Analysis: You can’t criticize your supervisor, and you can’t say that she/he might say something negative about you. What you can do is to speak to your boss; let her/him know that a reference call might be coming; and ask for a positive recommendation that emphasizes the positive things that you’ve done. You might even consider making a list of a few of your accomplishments. Most supervisors are not out to destroy your career. Who knows, this might be seen by your boss as an opportunity for you to leave, and motivate her/him to give you a positive recommendation?

Answer: “I think she will say that I have great relationships with our students and their parents, that I’m always well prepared, and that I’m always willing to give extra time and attention to assist my students.”

2. “If you get this position, how long do you plan on staying in it?”

Analysis: You probably don’t know how long you’ll stay or how things will work out. Your new supervisors probably don’t want to go through additional transitions in the short run. However, you won’t be credible if you say you’ll stay for the remainder of your career. Employers seek leaders who are honest. Your answer needs to offer a reasonable rationale that supports your response.

Answer: “Assuming that things will work out well, I think five to seven years would make sense. The literature says that it takes at least five years to implement and sustain structural improvements. I’m committed to see my work through to positive outcomes.”

3. “You’re a certified school leader with very little leadership experience, why should we hire you over more experienced candidates?”

Analysis: Your aim is to present yourself as a self-confident, “can do” person who will grow on the job. Your selling points are your accomplishments as a teacher, your potential and willingness to embrace being mentored and molded into the culture of your new school and district, and your raw undeveloped talent and energy.

Answer: “I may not be your most experienced candidate, but I can assure you that no one will be more eager to grow and learn, and work harder than I. I believe my colleagues will tell you that I’m a teacher leader who has played leading roles in some of our most important school improvements. My resume outlines some of these projects. Let me add that as a high school and college athlete I was often chosen as team captain. I’ve been told that I’m a “natural born leader.”

4. “I see on your resume that you live more than an hour away. Is that going to be a problem?”

Analysis: Never hesitate to “shoot down” any obstacle that might diminish your value. You should provide evidence that any of their concerns have been overcome or resolved in the past. Employers want to be assured.

Answer: “I take full responsibility for my attendance and timeliness. Although my present place of work is 15 miles less of a commute, my time in traffic commuting here would be about the same. It is fair to say that I’m never late and usually one of the first people to arrive. It’s not a problem.”

5. “As an experienced school leader, tell us about a failure you experienced, and more importantly, what lesson did you learn from it?”

Analysis: This is similar to the often-asked question, “What is your greatest weakness?” The worst answer is, “I really can’t think of one”. Being humble and self-reflective are very desirable characteristics. The example you provide should be designed to resonate with the interviewers’ experiences and evoke their empathy.Answer: “As an inexperienced leader years ago, I made decisions based on gut feelings. What I’ve learned over the years was to put more trust in evaluating the evidence and results; to slow down… to listen to people I trust and respect even when they have divergent opinions. I’ve learned what I call, “watch the movie”. In other words, listen, suspend judgement, slow down, and decide on what is in the best interests of my students. The example that comes to mind was when I was a superintendent. I had a strong desire to initiate an International Bachelorette Program. As we debated the merits of the program, I became more inclined to start the program. However, I encountered some strong opposition from a segment in the community and from the teachers’ union. My gut told me that it would be divisive, and I backed away from moving ahead. I regret not listening to my leadership team who advised me of the merits of the program for our students.”

What Does Career Coaching Involve?

Have you thought about being coached to improve your resume and your performance during an interview and what it entailed? As a successful coach of 100’s and 100’s of educators for over ten years, let me give you a brief overview of my approach: (1) review of your resume and cover letter; (2) free 10 minute telephone in-take conversation; (3) schedule and conduct virtual one-hour, one-on-one coaching sessions depending on client’s needs. The following is a brief summary of what takes place:

1. Review of Your Resume (no charge)         

2. 10-minute In-Take Conversation (no charge)

   a. What position(s) are you seeking?

   b. How long have you been applying for jobs? How many jobs have you applied for?

   c. How many first-round interviews have you had? Second-round? Beyond second-round?

   d. What do you think the problem might be in not moving on in the process?

   e. Provide information regarding fee; scheduling; brief feedback on resume; answer additional questions

3. Coaching Sessions (clients determine their needs and how many sessions they want)

  • Review and revise resume and cover letter; how to prepare for an interview; and begin analyzing and crafting response to “Tell Us About Yourself”
  • Send my attachment: “My 20 Favorite Interview Questions”
  • Finalize and practice response to “Tell Us About Yourself”; strategize answers to 10 to 20 of the most frequently asked questions.
  • Analyze what your future supervisor is really looking for.
  • Mutually create your narrative that emphasizes your strengths and neutralizes any potential weakness.
  • Do mock interviews and get constructive feedback.
  • Learn strategies and tactics on “how to close the deal” and negotiate salary.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, EMAIL: larryaronstein@yahoo.com  or call 516-423-0240.

Visit: www.larryaronstein.com

ARE YOU PREPARED TO BE A COMPETITIVE CANDIDATE?

Assume that you are a well-qualified applicant who is applying for a mid-level leadership position and are 1 out of a total of 150 applicants. Assume that there are at least 15 other candidates who are equally qualified. Why do you need to be well prepared for a job search? What must you know and do so you don’t sound like the rest of the candidates? Consider the following:

  1. Do you know how to strategically organize and design a resume that gets the reviewers’ attention?
  2. Do you know how to differentiate yourself in your response to the inevitable question, “Tell us about yourself”?
  3. Do you know the best order in which to be interviewed and how to get that “post position”?
  4. Do you know when to stop talking in response to a question?
  5. Do you know how to read the “body language” of the interviewers?
  6. Do you know what questions to ask at the conclusion of your interview?
  7. Do you know how to frame a final statement at the conclusion of an interview?
  8. Do you know how to present yourself as someone who is likeable and a good fit?
  9. Do you know how to adjust your interviewing approach as you move from screening to committee to leadership to Board interviews?
  10. Do you know how to “close the deal” if you are a finalist”?
  11. Do you know how to negotiate the best deal for yourself if you’re offered the job?
  12. Do you how to make a good impression during your first 100 days?

There are many other things that you must know in order to be a highly competitive candidate. I have coached 100’s of my clients get their dream jobs. Let me help you, too.

Lessons I Have Learned Over My 80 Years of Life

The greatest blessing is to wake up every morning, do your life’s work, and then, at the end of the day, to return home to a loving family

The greatest satisfaction comes from mentoring those who seek to learn and grow

Believe in the power of “yes”. The word “yes” opens up every possibility

Being a grown up means that you don’t blame others, particularly your parents, for your own short comings

Don’t worry about things that you can’t do anything about

Take good care of your teeth. After elephants lose their teeth they die

There is no greater pleasure than eating a great Italian meal. However, avoid restaurants that have a sharing charge

Never be motivated out of feelings of guilt. Guilt is worthless

Making mistakes is okay as long as you learn from them. No one mistake will ruin you

If a shoe shine man gives you a stock tip, it’s time to get out of the stock market

Believe in Einstein’s definition of insanity: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get a different result”

Don’t let your opponents know that you do your homework. You are then prepared to out play them

“Survival of the fittest” does not mean being the strongest or the smartest; it means being the most adaptable

Don’t expect anything in return when you do a good deed. Doing someone a favor should never be a transaction

Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. This means that if do a good deed, keep it to yourself

It’s much more fun to tell a bad joke than a good one

Live your life, and ignore your age

Do something silly every day so you can laugh at yourself

Multi-tasking is exaggerated. If you’re driving a car and kissing a pretty girl, it means you aren’t doing a good job with the kiss

Slow down. Life’s true joys are even more enjoyable at a leisurely pace

There is nothing more joyful than being surrounded by a loving family and loyal friends

When Should You Begin Preparing for a Job Search?

Most candidates don’t get serious about their search early enough. They procrastinate right up until the “prime seasons” for job postings. In general, Superintendent searches happen from December through March, Central Office from February to April, Principals from April to May, and all other supervisory jobs from March through June. Serious job search preparation includes up-dating and revising your resume and cover letter, and prepping for interviews. Think of job search preparation as Spring Training. In baseball, Spring Training starts in January in preparation for the regular season that starts in April. The practice of getting ready early makes sense for several reasons.

  1. The odds are in your favor during the “off season”—Jobs are posted all year round. Incumbents leave their positions for variety of reasons, such as retirement, childbirth, taking another position, illness and death, relocating, and the necessity of childcare or caring of a loved one. Whereas the number of applicants routinely exceed 100 during prime season, there may be only 20 applicants during off season. That’s a 500% advantage. Preparing early means you’ll be ready for off season job postings.
  2. Fine tuning your resume and cover letter takes time — Crafting your resume requires a series of edits over time. The role of the resume is to tell your story in an appealing manner which will distinguish you in a positive way from the rest of the field. To produce a truly effective resume demands meticulous attention to every detail.
  3. The ability to perform an outstanding interview is the result of internalizing thoughtful responses to a range of topics – I have identified “The 20 Most Asked Interview Questions”. The answers to these and possible other questions cannot and should not be subjected to memorization. A successful candidate needs to create an appealing narrative, and to internalize a powerful set of guiding principles that go to the core of the issues. It takes time to marinate a fine steak. Similarly, it takes time to internalize thoughtful answers to interviewers’ questions, answer with an authentic voice, and respond efficiently and effectively.

If you are a serious candidate, then take my advice: it is never too soon to prepare yourself. Don’t rush the process. Here are a few things you should do to get going: read how to books; find and meet with a job coach; attend workshops; develop drafts of your resume and cover letter. In summary, preparing early affords you the time to internalize, absorb, develop deeper insights, and marinate your resume and effectively respond to interviewers’ questions.

Interviewing: Scenarios and Role Playing

Role playing with a candidate during an interview has become a more frequently used exercise. Usually, a more senior member of the interviewing committee will pose a scenario with a common problem. The intention of this approach is to determine the candidate’s judgment and ability to think on his or her feet. Role playing requires at about five minutes of interaction. A role play scenario may appear to be simple and routine. However, like most real life situations, it has nuance. Typical scenarios might take the form of how to handle a fight between students, a complaint about a teacher from a parent, or a rumor about a dangerous situation. As the candidate talks through the first steps, the interviewer might introduce additional information.

Role playing is designed to reveal the critical qualities of (1) the ability to investigate and analyze a situation, (2) judgment, (3) resourcefulness, (4) creativity, (5) the ability to de-escalate a situation, (6) the ability to utilize resources and resource people, (7) communication skills, and (8) follow up. The skillfulness of the candidate to demonstrate these qualities can often be a make or break moment in the interview.

Here is a scenario that I’ve often used when interviewing teachers:

Norberto, a student who is known to be a little restless but has not been a discipline problem, while working on an independent assignment, walks over to the waste paper basket to throw away a piece of paper. From your peripheral line of vision, you think you see him hold up his middle finger in your direction. Several students who are seated near him begin to laugh. You have Norberto step outside the classroom and confront him with what you saw. To which, he seems shocked and denies that he did anything except throw away a piece of paper. What would you do?

I suggest that the interviewee might respond this way: “I believe I saw Norberto’s finger from the corner of my eye, but it did happen quickly; so I might not be 100% certain about what I saw. This behavior, in my experience, is out of character for this child. I cannot pursue this conversation at this time with my class inside the classroom door. While I might feel a offended, there is no emergency, and I believe I can, at this point in time, handle the situation by myself. I have some free time later in the day. I’d have a private one-on-one conversation with Norberto. I would also independently ask the three students who laughed what they saw and why they were laughing. I also need to be mindful of the importance of speaking with Norbert’s parents to inform them that I was investigating regarding what I believe I observed, and that I’d be back to them as soon as I concluded my investigation.  Being new to the school, I would also speak with Norberto’s guidance counselor to find out if Norberto has any history of exhibiting this kind of behavior. Finally, I would let the assistant principal know what I was doing and perhaps get additional direction.”

The interviewer interrupts, “Let’s say that the three kids independently report that Norberto looked at them and made a funny face, and they laughed.” I would still ask each of the students, “Did you see what Norberto did with his hands?” If they answered, “No”, I’d conclude there’s no evidence that Norberto flipped his finger at me. I’d believe that the students’ laughter incited me and it distorted my observation. The interviewer presses on, “What would you do as a follow-up?”  I would meet with Norberto and tell him that I misunderstood the situation and apologize to him. I would call his parents and review my conclusions and apologize for causing them any anxiety. I would also review my findings with the guidance counselor and the assistant principal.

I believe that the candidate’s response demonstrated that the he or she: thoroughly investigated the case; deferred on jumping to conclusions until there was more information; did not over-react as to the urgency of the situation; conferred with colleagues to gain context and get advice; acted sensitively by letting the parents know what was happening; and, was professional by offering apologies for the misunderstanding and the anxiety they may have felt.

Dr. Aronstein provides coaching for interview and resume preparation. Contact him at Larryaronstein@yahoo.com. He is the author of “YOU’RE HIRED: THE INSIDE SECRETS TO LANDING YOUR SCHOOL LEADERSHIP JOB” and “YOU’RE HIRED: INSIDE SECRETS TO LANDING YOUR TEACHING JOB”. FIND ON AMAZON.

YOUR CANDIDACY: WHAT ARE THEY REALLY LOOKING FOR AND HOW DO YOU PRESENT YOURSELF?

As a candidate, everything you write and say contribute to building your narrative; the story you tell about yourself. This includes your resume and cover letter, how you present yourself in person or virtually, your answers to the interviewers’ questions, the questions you ask, your letters of reference, and what your references say about you. It’s about developing a picture of yourself, creating a chemistry, demonstrating you are a good match, an easy good fit for what they’re really looking for, and what their community wants.

Creating an attractive narrative requires many strategies for each unique position. However, the commonalities out-weigh the differences. Before describing some of the strategies that go into building your narrative, we first must understand what the interviewers are really looking for.

What They Really Want

  1. They want to know who you are, and what you’ve accomplished.
  2. They want to like you. Too often interviews are sterile; you must create an emotional and compelling context through your story telling.
  3. They want to be assured that you share their values and aspirations.
  4. They want to see that you look and act the role.
  5. They want to be sure that you’ll easily fit in and not cause conflict.
  6. You need to come across as humble, self-effacing, sincere, direct, plain spoken, good humored, and authentic.

If this is what the interviewers want, then how do you go about creating a narrative and presenting yourself as that candidate? What strategies should you employee?

Useful Strategies

  1. Find out everything you can about the school-community from a variety of sources. How many students do they have; what are the demographics; what are they proud of; who are their leaders; what is their reputation; what is their fiscal and physical status.
  2. Figure out what they really want you to do. Do not solely rely upon their job description—that’s what they think they want; it may not be what they really want. Do they want a change agent? Are they happy with their current status?
  3. What problems do they have? Speak to how you have addressed similar problems and solved them.
  4. Analyze your resume, particularly your accomplishments, and emphasize those aspects that they are looking for and that are consistent with their values as a community, and their needs. It is not enough to assert, “I’m creative and hardworking”. Provide specific and vivid examples of your accomplishments, both professional and personal. Quantify your accomplishments whenever possible.
  5. Elude to some personal information, which is not on your resume and which they can’t ask you about. If you are married and a parent, let them know. School people love family-oriented candidates who can relate to children and parents.

The tactics as to how you go about carrying out these strategies requires careful planning and practice. However, the reward of moving through the steps of your candidacy and winning the job will be worth all of the effort.

Dr. Larry Aronstein is an experienced career coach who assists school leaders, aspiring leaders, and teachers in their resume and interviewing preparation. Find out more at www.larryaronstein.com. Contact him at larryaronstein@yahoo.com

Getting a Teaching Job: When All Else Fails

         “I’ve done everything I can think of; now it’s the summer, and I still don’t have a job. What should I do now?” Well, this calls for extraordinary measures. Basketball coaches motivate their players as the game draws to an end and the score is still close by telling them, “Leave everything you’ve got on the court.” This means exhaust all possibilities. Most school leaders are on vacation during July and the first two weeks of August. Upon return they almost always find that a few staff members have notified the district that they’re not returning. Some staff members decide to retire, others find new jobs or might be re-locating, some decide they want to stay home to raise their family, and still others reach the conclusion that education is not their forte and resign.

         Use your time in June and July to get prepared. Polish up your resume; read a how to get a teaching job guide…https://www.amazon.com/Getting-Your-Teaching-Larry-Aronstein-ebook/dp/B00KWEG2KQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1527344934&sr=8-1&keywords=larry+aronstein#customerReviews. Get coaching from an experienced educational career coach.

        Administrators are faced with the challenge of filling these jobs within the next two to three weeks before schools open for the new school year. There is a real urgency to find new staff. Therefore, this is a great opportunity to get hired. So, here is my advice. Sit down with a local map and decide how far you are willing to commute. Draw a circle from your location using that maximum commuting distance as the radius. Identify every school district within the circle, find the websites of the districts, research the names of the assistant superintendents for human resources, and try to find the names and phone numbers of their secretaries; you might even call the district to find these names and phone numbers. Put your fear of rejection on hold. Call every one of those secretaries. Introduce yourself: “Good morning, Mrs. Fisher, my name is Carol Hines and I’m a certified elementary school teacher who’s recently graduated from Curtis State College. I understand that you may have several vacancies, including a K-5 position. I would appreciate it if I could make an appointment with Dr. Charlton, so that I could introduce myself, give him my resume, and tell him why I’m the right person to fill that position. I promise not to take more than five minutes of his valuable time.” Now, we really don’t know if there’s a pending K-5 position available. The only thing that’s important is that you get in and meet Dr. Charlton. And yes, this actually works. But, don’t be surprised if the secretary brushes you off, “I’m sorry Ms. Hines, we only accept on-line applications, and I do not believe there’s a vacancy.” Still, you are far from finished.

        If you get an appointment, that’s fantastic. You must then get in there and convince Dr. Charlton that you should get further consideration. He might just pick up his phone and call the principal and tell her that he’s sending you over to meet her. Remember, they are in a hurry to fill that job. But, if your phone calls to the secretaries all result in rejections, you must now take the next step. Put on your most professional looking outfit, plot your route, and visit as many district offices in your circle as possible within the next few days. You may encounter a security guard or will certainly have to go through a receptionist. Now, this is what you say, “Hi, I’m Carol Hines and I’m here to see Mrs. Fisher (remember, she is Dr. Charlton’s secretary).” The receptionist will either direct you to the Human Resources Office, or she’ll pick up her phone and tell Mrs. Fisher that you’re here to see her, or she will tell you that Mrs. Fisher is not available. Even if you can’t get in to see the secretary, ask the receptionist to take your resume and give it to Dr. Charlton. There is a chance that Mrs. Fisher may tell you to come up. If you get to see Mrs. Fisher, be as personable and self-confident as you know how to be and ask her if you can meet Dr. Charlton and personally hand him your resume.

        I have actually hired people who walked in off the street in July and August. I assume that these candidates are committed and are the kind of people who aren’t afraid to do whatever it takes to succeed. I like “go getters” and want them to work in my organization. However, there might not be a position available. Nevertheless, you might ask Dr. Charlton about other available opportunities. The following are possibilities: a long-term substitute position; a teaching assistant position; a regular substitute who is permanently assigned to a school. These may not be your dream jobs, but it is a foot in the door and an opportunity to impress school leaders. Just go for it. Nothing to lose; everything to gain.

Dr. Aronstein prepares teachers for interviews and their preparation of resumes. www.larryaronstein.com