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THE ART OF TEACHING FOR UNDERSTANDING

Candidates for leadership positions are often asked: “What do you look for in an excellent teacher?” My response to this question is the ability to teach for student understanding. The learning of knowledge and skill are at the core of education. We want students to deeply understanding the important concepts in all the subject areas. Understanding does not mean that a student can memorize and recite minute facts and demonstrate routine skills with very little understanding. Understanding is more nuanced.

Acquiring knowledge and skill are not synonymous with understanding and does not guarantee understanding. Knowledge and skills can be acquired with little understanding of the underlying concepts of the topic or when to use them. Therefore, knowledge and skills that are not understood do little good. Rote knowledge defies active use, and routine skills (eg. invert and multiple; find the common denominator; listing the American Presidents or knowing the State capitols) are often of poor service when students do not understand mathematical concepts or civics. In short, we must teach for understanding in order to realize the long-term payoffs.

A math teacher asks her students to design the floor plan of a dance club, including dance floors, a place for a DJ, and a bar area. What’s the goal? The floor plan consists of several geometric shapes and a prescribed total area. The students must apply what they have studied about the geometric topic of area to create a sensible plan and explain their thinking that went into the design.
Down the corridor, another teacher asks students to explain about a time in their lives when they had been treated unjustly and a time when they had treated someone else unjustly. These students are reading works of literature, including To Kill a Mockingbird, that deals with issues of social justice. Making connections with students’ own lives and creating their own generalizations will be a theme throughout this literature study.

In a science classroom, a student, using his own drawings, explains to a group of peers how a beetle mimics ants in order to invade their nests and eat their eggs. In this classroom, each student has an individual teaching responsibility that includes providing an example to one another that develops a deep understanding of the animal behavior of mimicry.

In an elementary school, students who are studying ancient Egypt produce an on-line National Enquirer style, four-slide power point called King Tut’s Chronicle. Headlines announce “Cleo in Trouble, Again?” Why? The format motivates the students and leads them to represent the topic in a new way.
In each case students are asked to critically think through concepts and situations, rather than memorize and respond on a quiz. Teachers are teaching and assessing for understanding. They want more and demand more from their students than remembering the formula for the area of a triangle, or three kinds of camouflage, or the date of King Tut’s reign, or the names of the main characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. They want students to understand what they are learning, not just to know about it.
Teaching for understanding is neither easy nor is it particularly welcomed. It is complex and demanding, requiring creativity on the part of the teacher to design the lesson and the assessment. However, it is essential because of the necessity to prepare students for further learning and effectively functioning in their lives.
Critics say: “We are already doing it”; “It takes too long to do within a crowded curriculum”; or “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Research says differently.

Studies of students’ misunderstanding of concepts in math include, among a multitude examples: misunderstandings students have from over generalizing rules for one operation and carrying them over inappropriately to another; difficulties in the use of ratios and proportions; confusion about what algebraic equations really mean; and many more. We start teaching fractions in the third grade and we teach the same operations over and other again each year, sometimes for the next seven years. What’s with that? Other examples in science is the denial or misunderstanding of evolution; or the denial of climate change. Studies of students’ reading abilities reveal that, while they can read the words, they have difficulty interpreting and drawing inferences from what they have read. Studies of writing show that students experience little success with putting together logical viewpoints that are well supported by arguments. Students write essays by telling what they know about a topic rather than finding and expressing a viewpoint. Students’ understanding of history reveals that they suffer from problems such as projecting themselves into another time period and/or a different place. They fail to consider what Truman knew at the time he ordered the dropping of the atomic bomb. Shifts of perspective are essential for understanding history and the understanding of other nations, cultures, and ethnic groups today.

Imagine a gun fight in space. A handful of astronauts fire their guns at one another. What will happen? If you understand Newton’s theory of motion, you will predict that by firing the guns, they will be thrust in an equal and opposite direction. The astronauts would soon be hundreds of miles away from one another. Making predictions is a demonstration of understanding, in this case of Newton’s theory. Briefly stated, teaching for understanding involves designing demanding ways that students will demonstrate a conceptual understanding though performances. These performances usually involve the student being able to: explain, provide evidence, make a prediction, find examples, generalize, apply concepts, and/or create an analogy or a metaphor, or represent the concept in a new way.

Understanding performances are varied, they must be cognitively demanding; and they must challenge students to reach beyond what they already know. Typically, most activities are routine. To be fair, routine activities have value in teaching and reinforcing newly learned concepts, but they are not performances of understanding. Therefore, they do little to build understanding. Teaching for understanding is a tried and tested approach to raising student achievement.

What follows is a summary of how to teach and assess understanding:
Demonstrations of student understanding include the student: explaining, applying skills and knowledge, providing evidence and examples, predicting, generalizing, and creating an analogy or a metaphor.

• evidence of students explaining or justifying the newly learned concept
• evidence of students adapting, applying, and predicting based on their previous knowledge to create new knowledge
• evidence of students applying newly learned knowledge by giving examples
• evidence of creating generalizations or patterns
• evidence of creating a metaphor or simile that grows out of the concept

To learn more about Dr. Aronstein visit his website, http://www.larryaronstein.com

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LEAVE REPLACEMENT: AM I INTERESTED?

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

• Are you starting a new career as a teacher or seeking your next leadership job? 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 of a teacher, and the pay is better.
• Are you currently teaching or serving in a leadership job, and have you been unsuccessfully seeking a new leadership position? Resigning a secure position in order to take a leave replacement job is a high risk move. Getting your first leadership job can be a career breakthrough. Leaving a job in which you are unhappy, can be 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 little to lose and a lot 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.
• 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.

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.

Interviewing: Do You Need to Be Coached?

Trying to get a leadership job is very much like a horse race. Recently, a school district posted an ad for an assistant principal. They received more than 150 applicants, met with 20 for a pre-screening interview, and then a hiring committee interviewed 8 semi-finalists. The Kentucky Derby had 16 horses “run for the roses”. Those horses had the benefit of the best trainers in the world prepare them.
Let’s extend the horse racing metaphor. Have you ever gotten a tip on a horse or a stock or a restaurant? Tips are for amateurs. A tip is nothing but an opinion. I never made money on stock tips, and am usually disappointed with tips in general. Tipsters aren’t coaches. A good experienced coach hones your narrative, helps revise your resume, teaches you strategies, rehearses you, gives you feedback, and acts as your cheerleader.

How much of an investment does a serious candidate make to get a leadership job? There are education expenses such as tuition, application fees, books, and expenses for commuting… then there’s buying your interview suit or outfit. That’s at least $12,000 to $18,000. Does investing a few hundred dollars for a coach make sense? Your salary will increase by 20%. What can a coach do for you? Does coaching work?
Being a well-coached candidate can mean the difference between playing a good game of checkers compared to being a fine chess player. A good coach will prepare you so that you present yourself with self-confidence; tell your story as to why you’re the right match; anticipate and prepare impressive and unique responses to the interviewers’ questions; and strategize what to say, what not to say, and how to read body language. And yes, coaching does work. Coaching should also be confidential. There’s no reason for anyone to know the secret to your success.

Coaching can effectively be done in person or over the phone.

Your university probably offers free workshops in preparing your resume and letter and provides a list of interviewing tips. However, an experienced coach goes way beyond that. He has a network of former clients and colleagues. He/she knows the school districts and their inside politics. You will be guided in how to fashion your approach to the unique needs and wants of the school, the community and the district.

A good coach also guides you in closing the deal and assists you in negotiating your salary. Don’t leave getting your leadership job up to chance. Don’t rely on tips. Remember, getting promoted is a lifetime gain which requires a short-term investment. The best investment you will ever make is in yourself.

Dr. Larry Aronstein provides over the phone and/or in person one-on-one coaching to school leaders and aspiring leaders in preparing for interviews and in the preparation of resumes. For more information go to http://www.LarryAronstein.com

The 3 P’s of JOB Seeking: PREPARATION, PERSISTENCE, PATIENCE

THE 3 P’S OF JOB SEEKING: PREPARATION, PERSISTENCE, PATIENCE

“I’ve applied for thirty leadership jobs over the last two years. I got six screening interviews; two of them were ‘courtesies’ due to contacts inside those districts. I moved on twice to a second interview and was then cut. I need your help.” This is a typical email that I often receive. My advice to those of you who are frustrated in your job seeking, and to those who are considering or in the process of getting certified is to practice the 3P’s of job seeking—preparation, persistence, and patience.

Preparation
Financial advisors will tell you that preparing for a secure retirement should begin early in your career, and if not early, then as soon as possible. Athletic coaches know that good preparation is the key to winning. Similarly, early and sound preparation is essential to your school leadership career, and that includes your education and where you attend graduate school. If you are considering enrolling in a school leadership graduate and/or certification program, you should think about attending the most prestigious university in your area. I understand that tuition costs and commuting long distances are serious concerns. However, a degree or a doctorate from a place like Columbia Teachers College, or even NYU or Fordham, will go a long way in making you a highly attractive candidate in the most desirable and best paying school districts.

Another major component is your accomplishments. Serving on a committee, chaperoning school dances, and participating in the PTA sponsored fashion show, although good things to do, should not be confused with significant accomplishments. Accomplishments may include: initiating a new course or program that addresses student needs; chairing an important committee, writing a report, and doing a Board and/or community presentation; winning a prestigious award or gaining community, professional, and/or student recognition; writing and being awarded a significant grant.

Of course, preparation must also include preparing an effective resume, and preparing for job interviews. A great resume requires meticulous crafting and editing. Giving a great interview means constructing and delivering a compelling narrative that goes beyond what’s on your resume and letting the interviewers know who you are. To prepare a great resume and give a winning interview could require getting quality coaching and feedback from a knowledgeable and experienced coach.

Persistence
Persistence means you stick with it; you are determined and diligent. Over the course of my career in public education I could have wall papered every inch of wall space of my living room with letters of rejection from school districts in four different states. I was runner up in scores of jobs. It took me 24 years from the time I got my doctorate until I got my dream job. I jokingly say that I was an “overnight success”. It is terribly disappointing and demoralizing to repeatedly experience rejection. Nevertheless, if you are determined to achieve your career goal, you must be persistent in your belief and your actions. If you are not getting interviews, enhance your qualifications. Chalk up impressive experiences and accomplishments. Become a summer school or evening school principal. Volunteer for important and difficult assignments. Re-write your resume. Have a career coach review your resume and suggest changes. Once you get more interviews, reflect upon and diagnose why you came up short. Adjust your responses to often asked questions. Again, work with a career coach to hone your interviewing skills and your answers.

Patience
Job seeking is not a 100-yard dash. It is usually a marathon. It requires endurance. You must believe in yourself. Your mantra should be, “Sooner or later, my time will come.” When it does come, I predict it will come easily.

Dr. Aronstein is a career coach who works one-on-one with leaders and aspiring leaders in their preparation of resumes and preparing for interviews. You can purchase his ebook http://www.schoolleadership20.com/page/you-re-hired-the-inside-secrets-to-landing-your-school-leadership
Learn more about Dr. Aronstein by visiting his website: http://www.larryaronstein.com

12 TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL FIRST YEAR AS A LEADER

You got your new leadership job. Now what? What can you do on day one to maximize your success in your new position? You have been a successful teacher who enjoyed a reputation of being friendly, warm and collegial. Now, as an entry-level administrator (assistant principal, chairperson, coordinator, dean), you are expected to deal effectively with teachers who in some cases may be more experienced than you and who may be resistant to your leadership, and parents who are dissatisfied with how their child has been treated in the past, and more senior administrators who assign you many of the most demanding responsibilities (student discipline, lunchroom and bus supervision, parent complaints, and scheduling).

You may be a new principal who has successfully served as an assistant principal. As an assistant principal, you essentially had only one constituent to satisfy, and that was your principal. Now, you are faced with satisfying multiple constituencies, which include the faculty, the student body, parent groups (PTA, athletic booster, music boosters, and special education parents), Central Office administrators, and various unions.

Let’s start with the assumption that the failure of administrators is primarily rooted in the individual’s inability to (1) form relationships, (2) solve problems by developing and implementing workable solutions, (3) get the staff’s “buy in” to your decisions and leadership style, (4) earn respect. Therefore, here are my suggestions as to how you can be a successful first year administrator:

1. Conduct one-on-one get acquainted meetings with all faculty members and leaders of each constituent group. Ask, “What in your opinion are the greatest strengths and greatest needs of the school?”
2. Make yourself visible and accessible to all members of the school-community. This means get out of your office and into the classrooms and corridors, and interact with attendees at school events.
3. Demonstrate that you respect the school culture and the past practices of those who have preceded you.
4. Seek out their honest feedback and advice from staff. Listen, sort out and act based on the feedback.
5. Communicate realistic and fair expectations with clarity.
6. Recruit effective staff members whenever possible who will strengthen your team. This includes secretaries, custodians, and aides.
7. Keep your personal, political and religious views to yourself.
8. Avoid going out drinking with the staff after school. Alcohol tends to loosen inhibitions and can lead to inappropriate behavior and speech. Alcohol and leaderships do not mix.
9. Do not offer your opinions or take sides in district and/or school politics.
10. Do due diligence regarding important problems that you encounter by walking around them 360 degrees and seeing the issue from every perspective before deciding.
11. Don’t be reluctant to ask for help or seeking advice.
12. Keep a reflective journal in order to process and reflect upon your thoughts and actions.

ADVICE TO NEW LEADERS

ADVICE TO NEW LEADERS

Here is a typical message I get from new school leaders at the beginning of each school year:

“I wanted to touch base with you as I had a few questions and value your insight. I had a very successful year. Being a leader is certainly a challenge, but I learned a lot and have a good teaching staff with which to work. Do you have any advice for year two or three?

(1) How, in your experiences, do years two and three differ from year one?
(2) I’ve been receiving a lot of different advice about future steps in my career. In my district, I’m interested in ultimately moving into a principal position. I’d also be interested in K-12 coordinator position in other districts. Should I just wait and see how things play out here? There will likely be openings sooner rather than later, and then express my interest in being a building principal in the event an opening occurs, or should I look outside the district if the right opening comes along?
(3) I’ve been advised me that you should always wait until gaining tenure before looking for a new position. Do you agree? I don’t want to be perceived as being ungrateful for being given the opportunity to work here.

I am happy in my position for now, but given the administrative structure here, I don’t know how long I might want to stay in my current role. Thanks for your insight!”

My response:
It’s great to hear from you. I’m not surprised you had a successful year. Year one is a “getting to know you year”—first impressions—can we trust one another—are you the real deal. Year two is “let’s get down to business and start doing some substantive stuff. The challenge, as you know, is that a lot of folks would rather “make nice” than “make improvements”. It’s tricky because you can’t alienate your constituents, even a minority of them, who could undermine you. My experience tells me that most teachers want to be comfortable with the status quo. They don’t like changes being made without their involvement.

How much you can push teachers and in what direction also depends on the support of your principal and district leaders. Even if your leaders say they are aggressive and want change, you still need to be careful and use a velvet glove.
I understand the “rule” to get your tenure first. However, if you are confidential in how you search for a new job, you will probably be okay. That means, confide in no one—not even your closest allies—people gossip. Most districts will maintain confidentiality until the very end of the process when they need to check your references.

The most accessible career path forward is usually within your own district; especially a larger district where there is a greater likelihood for movement. Personally speaking, in most schools an assistant principal is an important but a thankless job—student discipline, scheduling, cafeteria and bus supervision. The most redeeming aspect is that it’s the most viable path to the principalship. In my opinion, a k-12 subject area coordinator job does little for your career unless it’s in an innovative place that does great work with a well-earned reputation.

One last thought about asserting your leadership. Do not lead by advocating for a specific “pet program”, even if you think it’s a good thing. Lead by having your constituents look at a problem, especially if there is data that clearly demonstrates a problem. Then the group has the shared responsibility to define the real problem and search for possible solutions. Leading by advocating for a specific program, technology, or method is like starting with a pre-determined solution and then matching it to a perceived problem; it’s a solution in search of a problem. That approach is usually doomed for failure. You will be perceived as trying to enhance your career by making changes for the sake of change.

Let me offer an analogy to further clarify what I mean by not leading by pushing for your favorite approach. Let’s say you are concerned that your family members have unhealthy diets. Assume that you do most of the cooking in your family; that includes doing the shopping and preparing the menu. Assume you love vegetarian Indian food, particularly the taste of curry. You believe vegetarian Indian food is healthy and delicious. However, your family members prefer other kinds of meals. Nevertheless, you persist in trying to convince them to eat your Indian food. As they say in the movies, “Houston, you’ve got a problem.

Hope this helps. Please call me if you need to discuss this further. Keep in touch.”

Getting a Teaching Job: When All Else Fails

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 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 late in 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.

YOUR CANDIDACY:WHAT THEY’RE LOOKING FOR AND HOW TO PRESENT YOURSELF

YOUR CANDIDACY: WHAT THEY’RE LOOKING FOR AND HOW TO PRESENT YOURSELF

Everything you submit in writing and say contributes to building an attractive and effective narrative, that is a story and picture of yourself as a candidate. This includes your resume and cover letter, how you present yourself, 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 and a good fit for what they’re really looking for and what their community wants.

Creating an attractive narrative requires a multi-step strategy for each position. Each position is somewhat unique. However, the commonalities out-weigh the differences. Before I can describe some of the strategies that go into building your narrative, we first must understand what the interviewers are looking for.

What They 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 by telling your story.
  3. They want to make sure that you to 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?

Strategies to Take

  1. Find out all you can about the school-community from a variety of sources.
  2. Decide 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.
  3. Analyze your resume, particularly your accomplishments, and emphasize those aspects that they are looking for. It is not enough to assert, “I’m creative and hardworking”. Provide specific and vivid examples of your accomplishments, both professional and personal.
  4. Work in some personal information, which is not on your resume and 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 their parents.

The tactics as to how you go about carrying out these strategies requires some in-depth analyses. However, the reward of moving on to the next steps of your candidacy will be worth 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

The Likeability Factor

Your most important asset as an interviewee is your likeability. Likeability can trump everything–your knowledge of pedagogy, your qualifications, everything. Unconsciously, interviewers often decide at first sight whether they like you. Still, over the course of the interview, interviewers can change their opinions in either direction. If they really like you, they may even overlook some of your less-than-satisfactory responses their questions. So, what can you do to get them to like you?

Ask yourself, “What is it that makes me like someone when I first meet them?” If you’re like me, I like people who are friendly, relaxed, humble, pleasant, authentic, and respectful. We probably also like people who enjoy and exhibit good humor, and who seem to resonate with your values.

Researchers indicate that being likeable bears no relationship to appearing attractive, intelligent or assertive. In addition, there are also unpredictable elements, such as a resemblance to a highly-respected friend or colleague. Unfortunately, we can’t do anything about the uncontrollable.  But, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Dress appropriately and modestly—it’s just as important to not over-dress as it is not to under-dress. Limit jewelry to a small number of modest pieces. Hair styles should be modest. Going on an interview is not like going on a date.
  2. Smile. Shake hands with everyone, look each person in the eye, smile, and tell the interviewers your name. The warm firm human touch and the proximity of person to person contact are magical.
  3. Pay attention to non-verbal cues. Sit up, lean forward, make eye contact with whoever is speaking, acknowledge your understanding by gently nodding and smiling, and acknowledge others’ nods and smiles by nodding and smiling in return. Do not cross your arms. Do not frown, shake your head from side-to-side, or grimace in disagreement or disapproval.
  4. Laugh appropriately. If someone says something funny, it’s okay to laugh, but don’t overdo it. It’s also good to say something funny within the context of the interaction; however, you’re not there to entertain. If you’re the only one who’s laughing and joking, then stop!
  5. Control your emotions. If you feel interviewers are confrontational, disrespectful or disapproving, never show any signs of annoyance or anger. Keep your cool and push through it.
  6. Express an air of self-confidence; but never come across as cocky.
  7. Shake hands at the conclusion of the interview. Smile and thank each person.

Before walking into the room for your interview, your mantra should be: “Be likeable, be likeable!”

 

 

 

Resumes That Get You Interviews

Resumes and cover letters should be designed to get you an interview. If you’re a fairly well qualified candidate and you aren’t getting interviews, or if your rate of getting interviews is low, then your resume and cover letter are probably your problems. Well qualified candidates should be getting interviews at least fifty percent of the time that you send them off. If you aren’t getting this kind of action, then you need to revise your resume and letter.

The people who screen resumes are busy. They often receive hundreds of resumes for a single job posting. It may take experienced screeners only 30 to 45 seconds to review a resume. Therefore, you must immediately catch and hold their attention. Developing your resume requires a strategy.

The most common mistakes that candidates make in preparing their resume are that they follow out-dated rules. You should not: (1) limit your resume to one page; (2) start the resume with an objective; and (3) follow a strict order of categories (education, certification, professional experience…). No, no, no. Another mistake is when your resume reads like a job description. The reader already knows what a teacher or an assistant principal does. Instead, your resume and cover letter need to clearly describe your accomplishments. What special experiences, skills and knowledge do you possess that will make you uniquely qualified to do this specific job, in this specific school-community?

Most job seekers struggle to identify their most significant accomplishments. Your greatest accomplishments may not be directly related to your professional experiences. Accomplishments may also define your true character or speak to a skill set or knowledge base that few candidates possess. A good career coach can stimulate your thinking and help you define yourself. I often advise my clients to add a category to their resume that might be labelled interests and activities. I recall, as an example, a candidate who was seeking a leadership position who served as a chief of his local volunteer fire department. He supervised and trained scores of fire fighters.

Here are some additional cautions and suggestions. Never fictionalize or inflate your credentials or accomplishments. In education, there are only a few degrees of separation between your past experiences and your new one. Oftentimes, you are too close to your own resume to be objective. Have your paperwork reviewed by a well informed and respected mentor, colleague or coach, and get objective feedback. Your resume and cover letter are works in progress. Continuously revise them depending on feedback, the uniqueness of the position for which you are applying, and the results you are getting as measured by how many interviews you are getting.

Here are my guidelines for writing resumes that get action:

  1. Less is more—state your accomplishments briefly in bullet statements
  2. Accomplishments; Not Job Description
  3. Lead with Your Strengths (list them near the top—catch attention)
  4. Ignore Most Rules (omit objective; determine your own sequence of categories and timeline; keep format simple)
  5. Start Bullet Statements with Action Verbs (past tense)
  6. Emphasize Accomplishments that Match Job Posting –make them the top bullets
  7. Omit Irrelevant Activities and Experiences for the Position
  8. Interests & Activities Can Capture Attention– acting, kickboxing, interesting hobbies (visits to Presidents’ birth sites), unique travel experiences, speak foreign languages
  9. Tailor for Different Demographics (urban, affluent or blue-collar community, small town, rural)
  10. Set Maximum Number of Bullets– current position 5-8; prior 3-5; before that 2-3
  11. Sweat the Mechanics– spelling, subject-verb agreement, capitalization and punctuation; grammar; word selection; consistent format; readable font size
  12. Cover Letter– 3-4 paragraphs– always required but seldom read
  13. References upon Request
  14. Get Authoritative Feedback—friends and family are well-meaning but often lead you astray
  15. Never Confuse or Mislead the Reader– clear timeline; short and simple sentences
  16. Never Lie
  17. TELL YOUR STORY

Dr. Aronstein provides one-on-one coaching for leaders and aspiring leaders. His e-book is available at: http://www.e-junkie.com/schoolleadership20/product/495531.php#YOU%2…

 

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