How to Get a Teaching Job – Part 3: The Demonstration Lesson
This is the third part in a four-part series exploring the different steps that lead up to being hired as a teacher. Part 1 offered advice on resume design and Part 2 helped to nail the first job interview. Part 3 will suggest how to approach the demonstration lesson.
How to demonstrate your skills
Congratulations on making it through the first two parts of being hired as a teacher. The next step in the process will most likely be a demonstration lesson, which allows your prospective employers to see you operate in a simulated classroom. Many times I’ve seen strong candidates with quality resumes and good interviewing skills completely flame out during this stage of the process. Yet, I’ve also seen many candidates put their candidacy over the top with a strong demonstration lesson. Here are some suggestions:
Let the demonstration lesson stand on its own: The school will most likely give you a broad topic and grade level to work with. Rather than attempt to present a lesson that will synchronize with the current class activity, it is best to present a lesson that will stand independent of other classroom activities.
On that same note, avoid printing out and using a canned lesson from the Internet. While there are many solid lessons out there for your consideration, and you should certainly use them for inspiration and guidance, be sure to make the lesson your own. A quality observer can easily tell what you’ve created and what you’ve gathered from an outside source.
It’s not about you; rather it’s about how effectively you facilitate students’ learning: Too many candidates mistakenly think the lesson is designed to see how well they can “perform” for the observers. In my experience, the observer is far more interested in the strategies and activities you use to help the children meet the lesson goals. If your lesson has anything more than a three- to five-minute introduction, it is far too long. Introduce the lesson, check for understanding and then have the children go immediately to work on the lesson.
It’s also best for the children to be as active as possible during the lesson. You should definitely employ cooperative learning strategies and group-work skills during the lesson. Remember, it’s not about you, but you helping the children grow as learners.
Be a little ‘meta’ during the lesson: Don’t hesitate to comment on the progression of the lesson to the observers while the children are active and engaged. It doesn’t hurt to offer an observation or to spend a moment discussing why you made a certain instructional decision in preparing the lesson. This shows the observer that your lesson was well thought out and you were conscientious in its creation. Making an astute observation about a child also shows you understand how children learn.
Nuts and bolts: Here are a few things you can do to smooth out the delivery of your lesson:
- If possible, ask the teacher for the first name of each child and create an easy-to-read desk sign to display during the lesson. Addressing a child by first name assists with classroom management and is a positive signal to the observer.
- You will most likely be given a time frame for the lesson. Be sure to stick to it, as respecting the time of the observer sends a strong message on your thoughtfulness toward others.
- Bring extra copies of the lesson plan and materials for the observers to have during the lesson. Distribute these during the lesson and, if possible, ask if any of the observers have any questions after the demonstration lesson has concluded.
- Lastly, be certain to follow up your demonstration lesson with short notes (either email or handwritten) for each person involved in the process. This once again shows them your high level of thoughtfulness and consideration.
In Part 4, I will discuss the Principal Interview. While similar to your initial interview, it is much different in expectation and scope.
An educator for two decades, Brian P. Gatens is superintendent/principal at Norwood Public School in Norwood, N.J. Gatens has worked at the K-12 level in public and private school settings in urban and suburban districts. He has been a classroom teacher, vice principal, principal and now superintendent/principal.