Tuesday, February 24, 2015

5 "To Dos" Before Leaving DT

As you approach the final weeks of your DT, your excitement is no doubt starting to set in.  You’re almost done your field experience, graduation is right around the corner and you now have some tangible experience to put on your resume.  It’s a wonderful feeling to be almost finished with your requirements!  That being said, now is a good time to reflect on your DT experience and start thinking about your career.  You’ve spent the last nine weeks taking care of your students.  Now, you need to start thinking about what YOU need to help you obtain a teaching position upon graduation. Here are five recommendations for you “to do” before you leave DT:

  1. Collect recommendation letters: Make sure you leave your DT experience with a minimum of three to four recommendation letters in your professional portfolio.  Make a list of faculty members who have seen you teach and can attest to your success in the classroom.  Consider asking your host teacher, clinical supervisor, team teacher, department chairperson, administrator, literacy specialist, guidance counselor, etc.  Assuming your DT is a twelve week experience, ask them for a letter around week nine and follow up with them two weeks later.  Their letters should include commentary on your professionalism, your classroom management, your demeanor with students, your creative lesson planning and your overall presence as a teacher.  Be sure to collect these letters before DT is finished and then write each person a sincere thank you note.  Don’t ever accept a letter of recommendation that you haven’t seen.  If the person can’t openly give you a positive reference, then they probably won’t be a good reference to a prospective employer.
  2. Invite administrators to your classroom:  Be confident enough to invite the principal to observe a great lesson you’ve planned!  After the observation, ask him/her for a quick meeting to discuss the pros/cons of your lesson and ask them what you could improve on.   If they give you positive comments, ask them for a recommendation letter.  If they give you some things to work on, make those improvements, invite them back for a second observation and request a recommendation letter at that time.  
  3. Journal: Take the time each week to write down one or two stories you remember from the week’s events.  Perhaps it will be about a great lesson, a classroom management issue you successfully solved, or it might even be something you wish you could do differently.  As you start to interview, principals will ask you for anecdotal stories to share about your classroom experiences.  Reading your journal the night before your interview will equip you with real experiences that showcase your strengths and also remind you of how you corrected your weaknesses.
  4. Gather Professional Portfolio Contents: It is wise to create a professional portfolio of your educational career to take with you to interviews.  During your DT, there are many opportunities to gather important documents to begin assembling this portfolio.  Some documents to consider: your formal and informal observations, recommendation letters, kudos from parents and students, student work samples and corresponding lesson plans, professional development trainings, photographs of your classroom and bulletin boards, your updated philosophy of education and your updated resume.
  5. Practice Interview: Be sure to schedule a practice interview with your principal before you leave your DT school.  This is your chance to experience real interview questions and to see how you perform under pressure.  At the close of the interview, ask the principal for feedback on your performance. You should also take this chance to ask him/her about their anticipated staffing needs for next year to get an idea if an opening might be available.  If you would consider working at this school as a full time faculty member, be sure to share that enthusiasm with the principal and keep in touch with him/her throughout your job search.  

Before you start applying to school districts after your DT is complete, you should get a professional resume critique from the WGU Career and Professional Development Center.  You want to have professional resume that showcases your best self when you are applying to school districts.  Request a resume review today: www.wgu.edu/careerservices

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How to Highlight the Value of Your Degree from Western Governors University

Western Governors University (WGU) continues to prove itself as a forward thinking, reputable, and accredited university that is leading the way in competency-based education. However, there may still be a few employers who have misconceptions or negative opinions regarding online education. Below are a few tips to help address any concerns that may arise.

  1. Share that WGU is regionally, NCATE (teaching), CCNE (nursing), and CAHIIM (health informatics) accredited (depending on your program). Regional accreditation is through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, one of the major accrediting commissions recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Regional accreditation is the highest form of accreditation given to institutions.
  2. Point out that WGU has nationally recognized programs. For example, in the Teachers College, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recognized WGU’s secondary teacher program as number one out of 2,400 programs.  Also, Accounting Today listed the top 5 affordable online bachelor's degrees in accounting and WGU's accounting program was listed as #1. Even if you are not pursuing your degree in teaching or accounting, these recognitions lend to credibility. Keep an eye on the WGU Newsroom  as there continues to be numerous articles written reflecting the success of WGU programs and the online, competency based model. Pulling tidbits from these articles can be helpful.
  3. Create a portfolio that contains some of your harder tasks and projects worked on demonstrating what you accomplished across different content areas.
  4. Print out a copy of the letter explaining WGU’s grading policy available on the WGU Career & Professional Development website to address any concerns regarding a lack of GPA. 
  5. Highlight that WGU is a nonprofit university and is not in the business of making money. Tuition rates have not been raised for 7 straight years. 
  6. Several programs have you earn industry certifications in addition to your degree. Emphasize how your education through WGU prepared you to successfully achieve the certifications in addition to your degree.
  7. Remind employers how WGU has partnered with several states to help state residents obtain access to quality education.  
  8. Focus on the self-discipline and transferable skills required to earn your degree such as prioritization, time management, goal attainment, and love of learning.

Western Governors University continues to grow and the quality of its students and graduates becomes more and more evident. Employers are seeking WGU graduates rather than questioning the degree.  For those few skeptical employers that remain, hopefully these tips will help you get your foot in the door and provide you with the opportunity to demonstrate how much you have learned! For additional career guidance and support, please contact WGU Career & Professional Development.