Professional Practice

Getting Hired as an Art Educator (Ep. 226)

As we begin the month of July, teachers are starting to worry about finding a job for the fall. Today’s episode is for those teachers who are still applying, still interviewing, and still trying to get hired. Amanda Heyn, AOEU’s Director of K-12 PD, joins Tim to share her best advice and best ideas for getting hired. Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by the Art of Education University, and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.

As we begin the month of July, teachers are starting to worry about finding a job for the fall. And a lot of districts are starting to worry about finding enough teachers for the fall. If you were one of those lucky people that got a job in the early spring, congratulations. You’re very lucky. I remember I accepted my first job in June and I felt pretty good about getting hired then. And I knew some districts are still hiring and they were still calling me literally the day before school started, like the day before students arrived. So the hiring process can continue to go on a lot later than we would like. So all of that just to say that I know a lot of teachers out there are still applying, still interviewing, still trying to get hired. And that’s what today’s podcast is going to be about.

We scheduled this podcast to correspond with a brand new pro learning pack that just came out last week called Getting Hired as an Art Educator. And that learning pack has everything you need, advice on resumes, job searches, preparing for an interview, strategies for interviewing, preparing your teaching portfolio, and so much more. If you think that applies to you, then it is definitely worth checking out. And today I have my good friend and AOEU’s director of K-12 PD, Amanda Heyn, here to chat with me on the show. You know Amanda from her plethora of podcast appearances and she and I hosted the series of coronavirus webinars together. So probably a familiar face and a familiar voice for you. But today she is here to talk about getting hired as an art educator and she is ready to come on right now. Back on the show again, Amanda, welcome. How are you?

Thanks. I’m doing really well. How are you?

Tim: I’m doing great. I’m excited about this conversation. I think it’s probably going to take a while, because there’s so much to talk about, but if we could just narrow it down to one question, getting hired for a teaching job, it’s pretty easy, right? Simple to do. How do you do that?

Amanda: Yup, totally, totally easy. Like you jump through a bunch of hoops and then you throw in a dash of luck and boom you’re hired. Anyone who has gone through this process, you know that it is far from easy. And I think this process is frustrating for a lot of people because there are a lot of parts of the process you can’t control. You cannot control if they already have someone in mind, but they have to legally go through the process of hiring. You can’t control if somebody has been vying for this job from a different school and they want to transfer, but they still have to… There’s just so many things that you can’t control. You can’t control exactly what they’re looking for, what will resonate with them. However, I think there are a lot of things you can control and there’s more that you can control than people realize upon first glance. And so I hope that I can share some helpful things that teachers can do to at least improve their chances when they go in for that interview for that sample lesson or whatever they’re being asked to do.

Tim: Definitely. I actually want to ask you about both of those things, but let’s just talk first about where’s the best place to get started? I know people are really overwhelmed when they’re looking for a job, there’s so much to take in, so much to think about, but what are maybe just two or three concrete steps that people can take to narrow their focus and can help decide on what’s important?

Amanda: Definitely. So I think this is a really important thing to think about because a lot of teachers think, “I will take any job, like any job that will have me, I will take.” And in some cases, you have to do that for financial reasons or whatever. And that’s one situation. However, if you are maybe thinking about switching jobs or you can afford to look around a bit, it might not be the right approach to just take whatever you can get. Do you want a 90 minute commute each way? Maybe that’s reality that you have to take and that’s one thing, but maybe you actually don’t want to spend three hours in the car every day to go to your teaching job. So I would say that a few key questions that you should ask yourself, the first might be what is your mindset about job hunting?

Is any job a good job? How much of a risk am I willing to take? How far outside of my comfort zone am I willing to go? And then I would think about if you’re willing to make a move for a job. Is this something that… Do you have a family that this is going to impact? Maybe you want to move and that’s something that’s exciting to you. Maybe you’re really comfortable where you live and you need to take something closer to home. And then I would think the third one, and this may be personal, but I have a feeling it resonates with everybody. I know in my case, I had a particular age level that I really felt comfortable and I really loved, it felt like home to me.

Yes, I could teach other grades, and I did, and I did an okay job. But when I was teaching elementary students personally, for me, that’s where I was happiest. So would it be a deal-breaker if it doesn’t happen that you get to teach the age or grade level that you feel best about? And then finally, just things like our art on a cart, is that a deal-breaker? Is sharing a room a deal-breaker? Is that long commute a deal-breaker? So thinking about what things you absolutely would not want to do can help you hone in on things that you might want to look for in a job posting.

Tim: Yeah, that’s some really, really good advice. Now when people are first getting started, everybody thinks like, “Oh, first thing to do is put together my resume,” which a lot of places are looking for, but a lot of places are also looking for a CV. Can you maybe just talk a little bit about the difference between those two things and bigger picture? Just the importance of each of those things?

Amanda: Sure, okay. So I think I’m going to do a brief description and then I’ll talk about the differences. This doesn’t seem like a loaded question, but I feel like there’s a lot to talk about. Okay, so a CV as a curriculum vitae, I believe is how you say it, and that is a comprehensive history of your educational and professional life. So everything you’ve ever done professionally starting at the age when you get out of college is essentially what I’ve seen for the most part. Some people even choose to include their college experience there as well. And then a resume is more of a highlight reel of your professional and personal accomplishments. So the differences are that a resume is much shorter. So I’ve been on the hiring end of things, a couple of times, both in my role at AOU, but also in my role as an art teacher.

And I think that a good resume is one page. If you can make it one page, which I know sounds so hard, one page front and back maximum, but if you can keep it to one page, that’s great. Curriculum vitae is much longer. I am not joking when I say I’ve seen one that is 17 pages long. So a resume is tailored to a specific job posting. So you might highlight certain experiences over others. So for example, if you were applying for an elementary art job, you might highlight the fact that you ran an art summer camp. If you were applying for a graphic design job or a job in an unrelated field, I don’t think you would put that art summer camp on your resume. But a CV is not tailored it to any specific job. So it just stays the same.

You could potentially rearrange the sections, but everything stays on there. And then the last big difference is what I just said, the resume can be organized in a variety of ways, depending on what you want to highlight. There are some best practices out there. Don’t put your volunteer work first, I guess, unless you’re applying for a volunteer job, but I don’t know why you’d need a resume for that. But I would look up some conventions, but you can be a bit more playful with the resume whereas the CV are generally in reverse chronological order with your newest accomplishments in each section first. Okay, so which do you need? I would say most teachers looking for a K-12 job in the United States will need a resume. You obviously want to check with your job posting which one they would prefer.

But generally I would say a lot of teachers are probably going to just be okay with a resume. A position abroad or if you’re looking for a position at a university or in the academic world somewhere, they will probably want to see a CV. So I would say those are where the line is split, but again, if it’s not made clear in the posting, you should definitely ask. Did you want me to… Oh the importance of a good resume. Should we talk about that?

Tim: Yes.

Amanda: Okay, sorry this is like a nine-part question. I’m trying to stay on track. Okay, so I would say the resume isn’t everything, but it kind of is everything until you get that interview. So having a strong resume is important because sometimes it is the only thing that someone is going to look at before deciding if they want you to come in for an interview. So you have to look at it like a window into your opportunity. And so personally, when I’ve been on the hiring end of things, like we just said, I don’t have time to read more than one page because you might think all of your accomplishments are very important and very interesting. But when the person hiring has to read through 50 or 60 or 70 resumes, multiple pages add up really quickly.

So definitely if your resume is one page front and back, put your most important things on that first page, and then it needs to be polished. You should have multiple people edit it. You should have multiple people proofread it. And I would say my last note is you can add a bit of artistic flair and emphasis on a bit. This is not the time to pull out the rainbows and the glitter. As much as I personally love those things. Maybe that would catch my eye, I don’t know.

Tim: I feel like most principals are not looking for glitter and rainbows, so a little bit to stand out is good, but yeah, I would definitely keep it to a little bit.

Amanda: Right, maybe your name is in a different color or you have your personal information in a cool circle graphic or something. Keep it professional, definitely. But you are the art teacher. You can insert a tiny bit of personality into a resume, I would say.

Tim: Yeah, I think that’s some good advice. Now I want to talk little bit too about finding the right fit for you, making sure, you mentioned it earlier, but how much do you think somebody should know before they apply to a school or apply to a district? Whether they think they’d fit there. And if you are thinking of a specific district what would be your recommendation on how people can go about researching what they need to know about the position, about the school, about the district?

Amanda: Sure, so I think in one sense, any interview is a good interview because it allows you to practice, especially if you’re a newer teacher, if you don’t have a lot of experience interviewing, if there’s a school where you know it’s not a good fit. I mean, some people might say that’s wasting the interviewer’s time. And in some cases it might be, but I would say definitely explore your options because you might also go to that interview and you might be pleasantly surprised. It might be something that you weren’t expecting that you’re actually excited about. But I would say before you go in, there’s two reasons to research a school district and the first would be to see if it’s a good fit for you. And the second would be so that you can sound intelligent in the interview.

Amanda: I think it’s really impressive to principals or administrators whom I was on hiring on the hiring team to see that someone has researched and knows what is important to their district. I think that’s a really good way to make a connection. So I would say it’s important to know what the salary is, because if that’s a factor in your decision, you are going to need to know that. Most public school salaries, those are public records and you can just do a simple Google search and generally get a pretty good ballpark estimate before you go in. I would say you should know what sort of population your school district is serving. And you should know if there are any big initiatives, so you can see if you resonate with those or not. You may want to see how their schools are structured.

It might give you a sense of if you want an elementary job, but you go and look and they only have K-8 jobs, that’s how their school district is structured, you may be able to glean some information that way. And I would say just thinking about where the schools are in relation to your location and just some of that basic info is good to know, so that you have a sense of what you’re getting yourself into. And like I said, even if it’s not a great match, you still may want to apply and take the interview because you may learn something that you can’t obviously find on a website through an in-person conversation.

So I would say the easiest way to do this is just a Google search. If you feel comfortable, could call the district office and ask to talk to somebody. You could also obviously ask around if you know art teachers in neighboring districts, or you know other teachers in that district even, or you know parents who send their kids to school in that district. There are a lot of people who can help you figure out and get a pulse on a district before you go ahead and apply.

Tim: All right, cool. Now let’s say that you’ve put all that together, you got your resume, you have figured out the district, you apply, and you’re asked to come in for an interview. So when it’s interview time, how should you go about preparing for that? What is your best advice for interviewing?

Amanda: Yes, okay. So the number one rule is be prepared. Just be prepared in every single way you can prepare, and I’m going to go through some ideas. But it really goes for all facets of interviewing. So before the interview, you’re going to want to prepare a teaching portfolio. So I think this is really important because it’s a good visual. It gives you something to do with your hands, and I’m talking about, you can have an online portfolio and you absolutely should have that, but bring a hard copy that you can pass around the table. And then just be upfront. I have been in interviews where administrators wanted to keep this beautiful portfolio that the teacher… They don’t realize that a teacher spent four to six hours putting this together. And this is a one of a kind document, so that’s the beauty too if you have an online one, you can leave a link.

But anyway, if you bring that portfolio to pass around, that can be a really good thing to use to talk about your work. So some things that you can include in that would be like a philosophy of teaching, a copy of your resume, a couple of your best lesson plans, sample assessments or photos of student work, any of those things would be great to share. And then I would also practice answering specific interview questions. So I think we can link in the show notes to there’s a huge article we have about getting hired, where there’s a really amazing download that has 25 common interview questions with advice about things to think about when you’re answering those questions. And so I know it’s so much work, but I would practice answering every one of those questions.

You can interview to a friend, to your pet, to yourself in the mirror while you’re out on a walk. I mean it really doesn’t matter. As long as you are thinking about how you want to word things. That also can help you from getting on a tangent, because sometimes we get nervous and we just keep talking and really interviewers, they don’t need a five-minute answer for every question. They just want you to hit the highlights. So that’s a good way to go about it. And then even down to the little things and you know me, I am a chronic preparer of all. I am all scenarios A through F laid out. So when I would interview, I would literally drive to the place that my interview was a couple of days before the interview, because I’m also directionally challenged, also not a secret, but I didn’t want to get lost.

And it was something that maybe would seem really silly to other people, but it was something that helped calm my nerves immensely because I knew exactly where I was going. I knew how long it would take me to get there. And so it was something that I felt like I needed to do. I laid out my outfit the night before, I had my bag packed with my portfolio and a water bottle and a cell phone charger and anything that I thought that I might need. So is all of that annoying to do? Is that take a ton of your time, especially if you are also teaching? Yes, but it’s also worth it. So that’s before the interview. But other interviewing advice, I would say get there early, this is sometimes for people a situation where you need to fake it until you make it with the confidence aspect.

I like to remind people that all of the people sitting at the table are just people. Yes, they’re administrators. Yes, they’re other teachers. I actually walked into an interview one time where there were for parents of students, which I think… Yeah, I didn’t know that that was going to happen. And I think that was the most intimidating interview I’ve ever had because especially when you become a parent, everyone has their child and wants that best experience for them. So anyway, whoever is at the table, they’re just people, and I think it’s important to keep in perspective that it’s as much about you finding the right fit as it is about them finding the right fit.

So yes, they are interviewing you, but you are in a sense interviewing them as well. And then I think that the final piece of advice I would have is to stay on topic, which should be your work with students. I’ve been on an interview committee where someone came in and spoke for 20 minutes about their own artwork, their own costume design work. And it’s like, “Wait a minute, that’s not why we’re here,” and that’s not what administrators want to hear about. They want to hear about how your ideas and philosophies and creative projects are really going to engage their students and make a really amazing art program for them.

Tim: Yeah, that’s very true. A lot of good points there. So I think one thing that’s part of a lot of interviews is teaching a sample lesson and that makes everybody nervous no matter how long you’ve been teaching. So what do you think the best approaches that people can take to designing and teaching a sample lesson as part of their interview?

Amanda: Sure, so it’s a really big ask I think on the part of the interview team to ask a teacher to come into a space they don’t know, with students they don’t know, and execute anything. I mean we know as teachers that it takes a month at the beginning of the school year to get your routines and your procedures done. So I would say don’t have too high of expectations for yourself. You obviously want to prepare, but know the deck is stacked against you. And what they’re really looking for is how you can connect with kids and your ideas. And I think that it’s safe to assume that they also know that this is a hard situation and not everything is going to go perfectly. So I think one of the really key things to do again, is to prepare and make sure that you are clear on all the parameters.

What is the age of students that you’re going to be teaching? How many students are you going to be teaching? Are there certain lesson topics that you need to do? I’ve seen everything from, “Teach whatever you want,” to, “We need a lesson about secondary colors.” So make sure that you are clear about exactly what it is that you’re being asked to do, especially what supplies are going to be available, how long you’re going to have. And from there, you can start to build a plan. And I really advocate for teachers choosing something that they know and that requires minimal supplies. This is not even a time for liquid glue. Of course nobody’s going to do paper machete or something, but I would stay away from glue. I would stay away from paint. I would do drawing materials essentially is what I would probably point people towards.

And then I think if you have no direction from the school district, I would do something that teaches a simple art concept. You could do color mixing with oil pastels, you could do how does shade a 3D form with older students. You could do some creative activity that gets kids thinking in a new and different way or asks them to come up with… Invent a robot or something that is going to be engaging, but not super complicated. And then I guess my last piece of advice about that would be to try to infuse a little classroom management into it. Take those first three to five minutes and set the tone in some way, make sure you introduce yourself. If the kids don’t know you, they don’t know what to call you, you are going to have a really hard time reigning them in.

It could be as simple as, “Every time I need your attention, I’m going to count down from five.” Now is that the most groundbreaking classroom management strategy? No, but they need to know what to expect from you because otherwise you’re going to lose them really quickly. And then I would also say to have a plan for what you’re going to do if you get done early, have a five minute review game in your back pocket, have an exit ticket activity that older students could do. Something so that if you end up flying through things unexpectedly, you’re not just standing there going like, “Well, that’s it.”

Tim: No, that’s awesome. And then I guess my last question will be about when the interview is over, you’re done teaching your sample lesson, it’s gone well, the interview was great. After you get home, how would you recommend following up? And when is the best time to do that? And then I guess after you hear back, how do you deal with the news? Once you hear whether it’s good or whether it’s bad, how do you deal with getting that answer?

Amanda: Sure, yeah. Well I love that you said when you follow up, not if you should follow up. So you definitely need to follow up. It somewhat depends on the timeline and the vibe you are getting with how you’ve been communicating up until the point of your interview. So it’s really clear some administrators really like email. They’re really reading their email often. If you’ve been going back and forth with email and you feel like that would be an appropriate way to make a followup, that’s great. It’s a really good option if you know that they’re making a quick decision. So if they’ve clued you into this timeline and they’re deciding within the next few days, if you send a letter through the mail, it may not make it. If you have some more time, you might choose to send something like a card or a letter. Personally, again, over-prepare, I always do both.

I like knowing that the email is delivered to the right inbox and that it’s delivered right away, but then a nice thank you card can be a nice gesture as well. In that letter, you want to do a couple of things. You want to thank them for the opportunity to interview. You want to re-communicate your interest and your experience. It’s also a good time to include any information that you may have forgotten to mention during your interview. And then if and when you get good news, realize that you don’t have to say yes or no right away. So you can often take some time. Sometimes you can… In my experience, it’s common to ask for four to seven days, in some situations that may be even appropriate to ask for more time, especially if you have some interesting extenuating circumstances, but you might want to, instead of making a super quick reaction, just sit and think about like, “Is this a job I really want?”

It might be a heck yes, you might be in that any job is a good job situation. In which case your decision is very easy, but maybe you’re looking at a couple of jobs. Maybe you’ve been super lucky to be offered a few different options. And so just know that you can often ask for a bit of time to make that decision. And also obviously be clear about what your timeline is for that decision if they didn’t make it clear. And then if you get bad news, I would say just go into it with a growth mindset. Just look at it as a learning experience and figure out what you can take away from the experience, whether it was something you thought you did really well and you would repeat in a future interview or something that you know that didn’t go quite well. And you need to spend some more time on for the next interview.

If you’re feeling really confident, you can also ask what you can do to improve your interviewing skills. And a lot of administrators, it seems like a weird thing to ask, “Well how could I do better?” But a lot of hiring people are used to that question and are happy to answer it for you. So I would say that’s probably the best way to deal with the bad news is just to look at it as a learning and growing experience.

Tim: Yeah, that’s some awesome advice. Cool, well Amanda, thank you so much. I know we’ve covered a lot, so I appreciate all of your time, but thank you for sharing all of that with us and hopefully we can talk to you again soon.

Amanda: Absolutely, thanks so much.

Tim: Amanda always has so many great things to say, and I appreciate her coming on. Now the Getting Hired as an Art Educator pro pack that we mentioned and that we talked about here today has so many great downloads, resources, advice, and so much more. My personal favorites, I really enjoyed the download that’s called seven ways to make yourself stand out in an interview. Great advice. And also the 25 common interview questions, which is a great preparatory tool. So I think you will feel incredibly prepared, incredibly ready for an interview after you’re going through those. So if you are still looking to get hired, take some time to watch that pro pack, go through the downloads. It’ll all be really valuable for you. If you’re not looking to get hired and you still made it all the way through this episode, thank you first of all.

And also I’ll tell you that there are two other new pro packs that came out last week. One is working with inks and the other one is all about curriculum, both really valuable, great pro producers you’ll really, really enjoy those. Okay, so thank you to Amanda for the interview and for recording that entire pro pack on getting hired. Those of you that are still looking, still searching, still interviewing, we wish you the best, and hopefully you can use all of this new-found knowledge to ace that next interview. Good luck.

Art Ed Radio is produced by the Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Thank you for listening and we will talk to you next week.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.