You've probably already done some homework on the school for your cover letter in your application, but this is a really important step in your preparation for interviews. Don't rely just going back to your cover letter (though you'll want to review what you wrote, just so you remember!), but instead, do some more digging to become familiar with the school culture, mission, vision, curriculum, and programs. Here are some ideas:
1. The school's website is the first place to stop. Read through the mission of the school. What strikes a chord with you?
2. On the website, see if there is a link to a school newsletter. This is a great resource to help you find out some of the current initiatives of the school, fun and interesting activities that have taken place, and they often include a letter from the principal, so you can get a sense of how she or he talks about the school and students.
3. Then, see if there are individual teacher web pages linked to the school website. This can be a great way to see what teachers and students are working on at the school. You might find more specific information about curriculum materials in place for, say, their reading or math program, and you can do a little more digging about those particular materials in preparation. You can also get a sense of the folks that might (hopefully!) become your future colleagues.
4. Check out the assessment and demographic data for the school on the state department of education website. In Minnesota, you can find that information here. This assessment and demographic data, as you all know, only provides one snapshot of information about the school, but can help you get a sense of what the school's priorities might be. If they are not making AYP with certain groups of students or in certain subject areas, those are likely clues of what the school will be focusing on in the next school year.
5. Also, if possible, learn something about the community. Check out the local Chamber of Commerce or community website, local newspapers, or even better, take a drive around the school and community to get a feel for the neighborhood.
The more homework you do ahead of time, the more likely you will be able to convey a genuine and articulate interest in that particular school and that particular position. Hiring committees want to make sure they hire the best person out there, and someone who has done their homework about the school will have an advantage over someone who has only general things to say about why they are interested in the position.
Next post: practicing for your interview
Are you finding interesting positions to apply for?