Career Advice: Midyear Replacement and Portfolios
Suzanne Tingley on taking over a class midyear and creating a great portfolio.
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
Q | I recently took over for a retiring second-grade teacher. I went over my philosophy and policies with the families, yet I feel they constantly question me.
A | Taking over a class midyear is tricky. It’s your class, but parents and children are used to the former teacher’s way of doing things.
Remember that while your philosophy and policies are important to parents, their top priority for their children is continuity. Parents want to see a smooth transition from Ms. X to you so that their child’s academic progress or comfort isn’t jeopardized. The fact that they are questioning you doesn’t necessarily mean that they prefer the other teacher, but it does suggest you may be doing things differently from what they are used to.
Take your time to modify rather than remake the classroom so that students and parents will understand an easy transition is your priority, too. Try to work within the routines already established whenever possible. As time goes by and parents become more confident that their child’s learning will not be upset by the transition, you’ll be able to make changes.
Be patient. Next fall you’ll have a classroom that is yours from the start, and with it will come a new set of parents who will be more accepting of your ideas.
The Best Portfolio
Q | I am relocating and looking for a new job. How can I put together a great portfolio?
A | One section should contain your résumé, certificates, etc. A second section should include anything that makes you distinctive—awards, letters of appreciation, references. A final section should reflect successful experiences you’ve had working with students, including pictures of their projects.
A strong portfolio can help you get a job, but only if you know how to use it. Passing it around during an interview can be a distraction, and you don’t want to just leave it behind. Instead, think about questions you might be asked and organize your portfolio so that you can quickly locate supporting material. For example, if an interviewer asks, “How do you keep parents informed of their child’s weekly progress?” you can flip to the “Friday Letter” you send home. If the question is, “What experience do you have teaching reading?” you can show pictures of your students at learning centers while you describe the program. If you’re a new teacher, it’s fine to use photographs of you student-teaching.
Used this way, a portfolio can be a powerful tool not only to demonstrate your accomplishments but also to help interviewers remember who you are.
Question for Suzanne Tingley?
Suzanne Tingley is a former teacher, principal, superintendent, and education professor. Her Practical Leadership blog can be found at scholastic.com/administrator.