‘Isn’t twitter just people talking about what they had for breakfast?’
That’s the most common reaction I get when I mention my Twitter addiction. A lot of people don’t understand why I would want to virtually hang out with people I’ve met and have a conversation. What could you possibly say in 140 characters that could be of any meaning?
Outside of amazing ideas to implement in the classroom, there’s advice, support, professional contacts and something any student teacher would want, job leads.
Because Steven Johnson was right, chance does favour the connected mind, and my job search is over with a permanent position for 2012.
All up I applied for just 5 jobs in total, was short-listed to four schools (three of which I had Twitter contacts), had the difficult task of having to say ‘thanks but no thanks’ to two amazing schools and ultimately received an offer from one of the schools I applied for hours after being interviewed.
Part of the reason I was able to generate a job offer was that I had a presence on MyPortfolio which the school who hired me also uses. University on the Hill doesn’t use MyPortfolio (something I will save for another rant) which gave me an immediate leg up over every other student teacher in the city who applied for this particular gig. How did I get a MyPortfolio account? Through sweet talking a contact I met on, yup you guessed it, Twitter.
But the thing with Twitter is that is so much more than just having a digital presence and general schmoozing. Instead of having just 2 Associate Teachers from my Teaching Experiences I have a network of hundreds of global educators who were contributing to my learning in just 140 characters.
I can talk about pedagogy without sounding like I was regurgitating a Whitney Houston song because of conversations I had on Twitter. Point to web tools I had implemented in my teaching practice which I found via Twitter. Most importantly I had a real idea about what the school I was applying about was about because I had already visited the school virtually through the classroom blogs which I found because the Principal of the school is on Twitter.
Now in case you are wondering I can do other things apart from tweet. My e-portfolio has videos I’ve made of student learning, great reports from my Associate Teachers and Visiting Lecturers, this blog demonstrates a commitment to reflective practice and having an Asian language is a big selling point to many New Zealand schools. All this gives me an added dimension to my e-learning obsession and in fact supports it.
So if you are passionate about arts, there’s a community somewhere go find it on Twitter.
If you are passionate about sports education, there’s a community somewhere go find it on Twitter.
Ditto for maths, science, social studies and just about every curriculum area, find or build your community on Twitter.
My advice to student teachers is simple.
Don’t spend most online life hanging out with other student teachers on Facebook pages closed off to the teaching world. Ultimately that community is constrained by one world view, that of the student teacher, which is a narrow perspective dominated by lectures and assignments. Your time in the teaching profession started when you enrolled in the course so come out from behind the digital walls and start connecting with the awesome teachers and principals out there on Twitter. You’ll learn heaps and all this learning might help you find a teaching job.
Wondering who to follow? Here’s just a few of the people who have helped me on my journey to start you off.
@heugumperNZ I owe you big time.
Thanks to @fionagrant, your tweet back in June really kick-started the readership to my blog.
I could go on…
So I will just say thanks so much to the awesome tweachers up and down New Zealand and around the world who helped this Student Teacher become a Beginning Teacher in 140 characters or less.
Last Friday I had my first teaching job interview. I was very humbled to get to this stage of the process as I know the school had received a huge amount of interest not mention applications from all over the North Island and some from the South as well! But this was a job interview with a difference, it was a group one.
The prospect of having my first job interview with 10 other student teachers vying for 1 or maybe 2 jobs was always going to be a double-edged sword.
On one hand being an online student means that I don’t spend much time physically hanging out with other student teacher so I was looking forward to spending time with student teachers. But there was a rather large elephant in the room, we were in competition with each other for a plum teaching position.
From the outset it was clear that all the applicants had something we were passionate about and had something different to offer the school. There were teachers who were interested in dance, music, sports, fine art and drama. One of the students gave a fantastic mihimihi and a number of us had lived overseas at some point in our lives.
I was dumbstruck by the thoughtful and interesting feedback as well as the creative ideas generated for learning. To say I was intimidated by the talent amassed in that room would be an understatement. If I was a principal, I would want to hire us all! I must confess I spent half the time wondering what on earth I was doing in a room full of awesomeness.
So it was just as well our session didn’t feel at all like a job interview. It was run with clear learning intentions and success criteria, there were individual tasks, group tasks, pair tasks. We were planning lessons, talking pedagogy and learning about leadership. If nothing else comes from the interview, I got a free afternoon of professional development run by some amazing school leaders with some brilliant student teachers. That’s the first time I’ve ever come out of a job interview and immediately wished I could go back for another session.
The only downside was that there was no internet access and most of our work was done with pen and paper. However there were physical reasons for this and by end of the session I had access a laptop which made me realize that yes more than anything I’m an e-learner. I like being able to move text around a screen far more than jotting ideas down on paper. Not having a device made me feel literally disconnected from my style of learning.
I’m sure there will be a lot of experienced teachers out there scratching their heads wondering if this is the future of HR practices. I would say yes. Collaboration is an essential ingredient for 21st century educator but traditional 1 on 1 interviews don’t effectively assess this quality except perhaps at the reference check stage. From an interviewee’s perspective it is easy to talk in an interview by yourself about being collaborative. Walking the talk with people you are competing against? That’s tough. But the thing with principles is that they only mean something if you stick by them when they are inconvenient.
The group interviews undoubtedly gives huge amount of qualitative data about you as a person which just isn’t there in the traditional set up. As a interviewee you need to strike a delicate balance between talking and listening. You want to get your ideas across (I’m a special snowflake! La, la, la! Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!) but at the same time you need to show that you can use ideas that come from other people in the room. In short you are being tested on knowing when is a teachable moment that you need to speak up and when is a learning moment and you need to listen. Do I think I got the mix 100% right? Nope but I’m still learning to make the most of teachable moments. Nevertheless the interview had lots of teachable and more importantly learnable moments.
I wondered whether I should post on this experience because I don’t yet know the outcome of the interview and job hunting is such a secretive process. You don’t want prospective employers to know you are talking to other schools when you are in the process of searching for a job because all your job applications proclaim love for that school and that school alone. To say that not only only are you seeing someone else but they said no seems risky. It puts a big scarlet F on our forehead in a society that doesn’t do well with failure. Someone has said no? Maybe there’s something wrong with you. In reality everyone at some point has experienced failure or had a set back in life and it isn’t the end of the world. Picking yourself up and asking what you can do differently to generate another opportunity is what counts.
In fact through the interview process I know that getting a knock back for this job might not come down to anything specific about me but that the school needs to get the right mix of teachers on staff. The Korean-speaking e-learning nerd might not be quite right in the mix when there are sports teams that need to be coached and productions that need to be staged. I know from the interview process that there are other Beginning Teachers who are far more passionate about sports/music/drama/art than I am. However if creating digital content, engaging online communities and using technology to learn is something schools need, then I’m the best Beginning Teacher in New Zealand to fill that particular niche. A bold claim to make, but I can totally back it up.
So that’s why I’m posting about the interview because this is what I’ve been doing for the last 8 months, blogging about my learning. I don’t know if it makes a difference but this is my teaspoon.
Hopefully the awesome teachers I met last Friday will find ways to utilize our collective talents and I will be doing a happy dance for whoever gets the job/s. That’s another great thing about group interviews, you really don’t have any hard feelings if you get a ‘no.’ Because rather than competing against an unknown entity you know the other applicants and in fact find yourself cheering for them.