To blog… or not to blog… that is the question

February 27, 2007

Originally uploaded by Tidewater Muse Rob Darrow asks, “Do blogs help or hinder job prospects?” He comes out in favor:

blogging is a way for a person to share who they are – their beliefs, their ideas, their thoughts and dreams. If postings deal with ones beliefs, ideas, thoughts and dreams, then I think it can only enhance future job prospects. I would hope that people today who are hiring educators in a variety of positions would consider it a plus for a person to have a blog.

On the converse, let’s say an employer reads a possible job applicant’s blog and doesn’t like what he reads? In all jobs, we often talk about a “fit” for the job and the applicant. If the potential employer does not like the applicant’s blog, then the job is not the right fit.

I think a blog is one way of showing a potential employer more about who you are as a person than a resume or letter of application or letters of recommendation.

Mr. Darrow’s notion of “fit” is one of my big points. I’m looking for a job, but I don’t want to take just any job. I want to work somewhere that is a good fit… and, frankly, if any of my online writings turn off a potential employer, then the school isn’t likely going to be a good fit with me and me with it.

Steve Poling at Mr. P’s Blog notes

I don’t think the danger is that I will say something controversial and ruin my reputation. I think the danger is in someone on a job search committee misinterpreting something I say in my blog or presume something negative about me because of my blog.

Another in favor, mostly.

And then, Ivan Tribble over at The Chronicle of Higher Education, that set off this string, nukes the whole idea

What is it with job seekers who also write blogs? Our recent faculty search at Quaint Old College resulted in a number of bloggers among our semifinalists. Those candidates looked good enough on paper to merit a phone interview, after which they were still being seriously considered for an on-campus interview.

That’s when the committee took a look at their online activity.

In some cases, a Google search of the candidate’s name turned up his or her blog. Other candidates told us about their Web site, even making sure we had the URL so we wouldn’t fail to find it. In one case, a candidate had mentioned it in the cover letter. We felt compelled to follow up in each of those instances, and it turned out to be every bit as eye-opening as a train wreck.

Don’t get me wrong: Our initial thoughts about blogs were, if anything, positive. It was easy to imagine creative academics carrying their scholarly activity outside the classroom and the narrow audience of print publications into a new venue, one more widely available to the public and a tech-savvy student audience.

We wanted to hire somebody in our stack of finalists, so we gave the same — or more — benefit of the doubt to the bloggers as to the others in the pool.

A candidate’s blog is more accessible to the search committee than most forms of scholarly output. It can be hard to lay your hands on an obscure journal or book chapter, but the applicant’s blog comes up on any computer. Several members of our search committee found the sheer volume of blog entries daunting enough to quit after reading a few. Others persisted into what turned out, in some cases, to be the dank, dark depths of the blogger’s tormented soul; in other cases, the far limits of techno-geekdom; and in one case, a cat better off left in the bag.

The pertinent question for bloggers is simply, Why? What is the purpose of broadcasting one’s unfiltered thoughts to the whole wired world? It’s not hard to imagine legitimate, constructive applications for such a forum. But it’s also not hard to find examples of the worst kinds of uses.

And it all just spirals down from there.

Well, I’m blogging, and I have been blogging, and it’s probably a little late now.

One of the things about blogging that I like is that at least I control the content about me on the web, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Google me, and the stuff you mostly find — if it’s this Peter Stinson and not another Peter Stinson, of which there are several — I control the content. And if the content is content that turns off a potential employer, my candidacy ought to be squelched; the fit isn’t going to work.

Gentle reader, what do you think?

Originally uploaded by Tidewater Muse This past week, I scheduled a job interview with a school that has three or four positions for which I’m suited. There’s a teaching position and a counseling position and two others. The plan is that I’ll visit the campus and interview without any job specified; we’re looking to see if there’s a match, first. We’ll let the job follow.

I’ve asked Andrew, my eldest son, to join me, if he’d like. Were I to get hired, and were I to accept the position, Andrew would, most likely, be a student at the school. I want him to see what the school is all about, and I am interested in his opinion of the school.

My bride has said I’m insane. While I told her that Andrew would have his own schedule as a prospective student, she seems to think that Andrew’s presence would nix any hope I have of getting the job; why would I have my 15 year-old son along on a job interview? She noted that I’m “doing it again.” By “doing it again” she means that I’m showing my full face, not just my good face.

Last year I had what I thought were some pretty good interviews, but no offers came my way. At one school, a boarding school, I arrived the day before (a Sunday) and wandered around campus for a couple of hours. I didn’t walk the dorms, but I went to the library and the athletic center and the student center. I spoke to a few students; I tried to pick up on the vibes of the school. I went to chapel in the evening.

I’d told my contact at the school that I was going to wander around, and she encouraged it. When Jenny, my bride, heard, she declared that I’d bumbled the interview. Who walks (er, I think she used the word “lurks”) about unescorted, just nosing about?

And then, I also have this habit of telling unvarnished truth. One time, at an interview years ago, I told the head of a school that I thought their recent sale of 200+ acres of woodland to a developer was likely not a good long term decision. Oh, I didn’t get that job, either.

Anyway, the question at hand: What do you, gentle reader, think about my bringing Andrew along when I visit this school for a day-long interview. I’ll be meeting with half-a-dozen faculty and administrators; Andrew would spend the day shadowing a student and sitting in on classes. Would a move like this put my candidacy in peril?

Here’s a little food for thought…

Go here for details, including sources, of the information in this presentation.

And a tip of the hat to Dr. Delaney Kirk. Dr. Kirk notes the video states, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist…using technologies that haven’t yet been invented…in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”

And she replies, “Really puts what I’m attempting to do in the classroom in perspective.”

To prepare today’s learners for tomorrow is really something else. I want a piece of the action.

Originally uploaded by jeremy.plemon I’ve been drinking from the firehose known as Bloglines; instead of water, it’s spraying me with posts, bits and bytes, some of it good stuff, some of it not so good, and some of it great stuff. And, every once in a while, something that gets me thinking.

Why is my Bloglines reader like a firehose? Well, for starters, I have 468 (and counting) active feeds.

Why do I mention this here? The latest get-me-thinking posts have been in the realm of teaching. By and large, the teachers and administrators who are using the read/write web are cutting edge, thoughtful educators who want to make a difference in their classrooms, in their schools, in their communities.

In the last couple days, I’ve learned a little about Direct Instruction and 6+1 Trait Writing, both topics I knew nothing about. Now I know enough about each to know I don’t know anything still.

Dennis Fermoyle in his From the Trenches of Public Ed.wrote today about reform His post was inspired by an essay titled What Does it Mean to be a Research-Based Profession? although the genesis of it could have come from the New York Times or any other mainstream paper this week with the news telling us that Grades Rise, but Reading Skills Do Not. I would think that if we are being effective, achievement would rise with an increase in grades. Would not increased grades show increased learning? Or does it show grade inflation?

From Diana Jean Schemo’s article in the New York Times

“There’s a disconnect between what we want and expect our 12th graders to know and do, and what our schools are actually delivering through instruction in the classroom,” David W. Gordon, the superintendent of schools in Sacramento, said at a news conference announcing the results.

We’ve had “reform” but it doesn’t seem to be getting us, as a nation, anywhere.

Dennis Fermoyle writes,

Every teacher I know wants to be successful. I mean who wants to regularly go up in front of 25-30 people, even young children, and look like an idiot? Show me something that will help me do a better job, and I will grab it, and I don’t know any teacher who doesn’t feel the same way. The bottom line is this: colleges of education and those who put on teaching workshops have been doing a lousy job. Maybe, instead of focusing on “failing schools” and “failing teachers”, Congress ought to take a look at them.

Thankfully, independent schools don’t have to answer to Congress or any other legislative body. (I reminded that we don’t want to see either sausages or laws made; in both cases, things are pretty ugly.) Independent schools need only to answer to key stakeholder groups: parents, alumni, board members, students, faculty, & staff. And, for the most part, those key groups line up when a school has clearly articulated missions and goals. (See this page for a great example of clearly defined missions and goals; this school knows what it is and knows where it is going and knows how it is going to get there.)

If we want reform, I’m a fan of starting with the work of the Coalition of Essential Schools. Their principles provide a framework within which teachers and leaders can work to provide students what they need, so that there is no disconnect between what we want and expect our graduates to know and do, and what the school is actually delivering through instruction in the classroom.

Meanwhile, I’m back to the Bloglines firehose, looking for those nuggets which will make me better, smarter, faster, wiser.

NH prep
Originally uploaded by catchesthelightOne of the positions I’m very keen on is a “dean of studies” role. What does a dean of studies do? I’ve pieced together a general position description:

The Dean of Studies is a member of the senior administrative team and is responsible for the development of the curriculum, mentoring of the faculty and instructional staff, and the progress of all academic matters of the School. The dean provides leadership in curriculum development and review, in hiring and support of faculty, and in refinement of a strong faculty professional development program. The dean’s basic responsibilities are in maintaining a sound overall academic program and a faculty and instructional staff conducive to the attainment of the educational objectives of the School. The dean is to initiate and coordinate curricular change, encourage communication among departments on issues of teaching and learning, and promote and maintain interdisciplinary courses.

I’m all over it. This can be a real change-agent role in an independent school. And, it’s a place to have an impact not only on students, but on faculty and colleagues, too. The dean can drive performance excellence in a variety of venues.

Here are two nearly unedited requirements for recent dean of studies jobs: First,

Significant teaching and administrative experience, including evaluation of colleagues; expertise in the area of curriculum development and assessment; proven track record in advancing school programs; excellent leadership and oral and written communication skills; advanced degree preferred.

And then,

Minimum of ten years of teaching experience. Masters degree level or higher. Highly developed ability to multi-task. An interest in, and real commitment to, detail and follow through. Comfortable managing conflicts and resolving differences. Approachable and an active listener. Experience working as part of an administrative team. Confident enough to stridently advocate; mature enough to understand when to compromise. Able to work with and manage strong willed leadership. Willing to make a long term commitment.

Interesting, I thought. The second set of requirements is much broader, and yet is much more specific. It’s as if they are looking for characteristics and transferable skills more than just standard job-related abilities and background.

And, I think it speaks about what is important for the leadership of the school.

Does it say something about how the leadership leads? I think it does.

I’ll take the second one. Please.

Originally uploaded by paulb216Over at About: Private Schools, Robert Kennedy’s post today is about searching for a school job. Says Mr. Kennedy,

Let’s face it, if you want to start a new job for fall 2007, you don’t start looking now! True. You might get lucky and find a last minute opening. But 95% of positions were filled earlier this month at the various national and regional private school teacher and administrator gatherings!

Oh, let’s hope he’s wrong.

He offers ten tips here. I think I’m ten for ten… I wonder what others would say.

Originally uploaded by moleofproduction It’s plodding, I have to say. At this point last year, I’d had three on-campus interviews. This year, I haven’t even had a telephone interview… not that there isn’t some interest in my candidacy, but I feel as if I’m not off the starting blocks yet.

I have one all boys school interested in me for one of three jobs: a residential life job, a counseling job, and an English/history teaching job.

I thought I had a good start on an English/history job in New England, but I think I didn’t make the initial cut.

I’ve applied for a few other posted jobs, including a dean of studies position. I fear that my wide-open search — more concerned about the school and the place than the actual position, role, and responsibilities — might be a detriment to any job other than a straight triple threat job (teaching, coaching, dormitory). I suspect that decision makers might have some apprehension since I’m not focused on a single type of job, such as a counselor or dean of students or dean of studies or division head. I have a burning desire to be in a boarding school as a contributing adult, and I have a wealth of talents to contribute; the job, really, doesn’t matter.

Most jobs are like sailboats, anyway. Every sailboat is a series of compromises, but it’s great to get underway. There’s nothing like being out on the water with the sun beating down and the wind kicking up. The same is true with jobs: every job is a series of compromises, but it’s great to be living in a community of learning.

Perhaps the next two weeks will bring my call closer.

Last year I wrote about using Web 2.0 tools in schools. Well, I posted about using web-tools for communication with various stakeholders. Seems I’m behind. The Superintendent of Schools for the Wawasee Community Schools blogs!
Student and Teacher
Originally uploaded by Wonderlane I’ve been scanning various edu-blogs; there’s so much to read, to learn, to think about. There are plenty of smart teachers out in the world doing fantastic things with their students. I am excited about the prospects of joining the throng.

Of course, there’s always a downside. Tonight I came across a post about a letter from some parents about their son’s progress in school. I think now, tempered with age and my own sons, I can better understand these parents’ concerns, but I’m flabergasted at their request. For four paragraphs they write about Johnny’s learning disability and their desire for modifications in the classroom and extra help. That’s all well and good; frankly, I enjoyed spending help periods or free bells working with students one-on-one. But then, in the fifth paragraph comes the kicker:

While it may seem like bad timing, he will be missing 3 days of school: 2/14, 2/15, and 2/20; we are taking a (much needed) family vacation. Any assistance you can give to Johnny in addressing missed work/planning ahead/etc., is so appreciated. If you have suggestions for us, based on what you have experienced to be helpful, please feel free to share your thoughts with us.

I’m reminded of a story that Dr. Steven Covey shares in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People course. When he was an undergraduate teacher, he had a student come to him to ask to be excused from a class in order to play in a tennis match.

“I have to go on this tennis trip,” the student said. Dr. Covey, having just spent class time talking about reactive language, worked to get the student to realize they didn’t have to do anything. They were making a choice… the consequences for missing class was missing out on the learning.

Johnny is going to miss the learning… and if he’s having such a difficult time with classes, is that really the best move? And, do the parents realize Johnny isn’t just missing time in class, but is missing the learning that goes along with being in class and working?

From the Official Seal Generator. And a tip of the hat to Mary Hillis. Translation help from InterTran.This morning, after a week in Atlanta attending an internal consulting and facilitation workshop, I dreamt that I was teaching; it was the first day of school.

The mind is a funny thing. In my dream, I was back teaching at Sem. I’m wondering what my mind was doing, as Sem doesn’t really fit my bill in terms of what I’m looking for. I’m still set on teaching in a small, independent, college-prep, secondary boarding school with a real boarding emphasis. There must be some 300-plus boarding schools in the US. Of those, a mere 55 or so fit my criteria.

I’ve been scanning a fair number of blogs by teachers, and I’m excited about various possibilities that exist today in integrating technology in the classroom. At Sem, and it was eons ago, twice I attempted to integrate technology into my English classroom. One semester, while teaching a course around literature from the Vietnam war era, students completed an assignment where they created videos. Several were interviews of Vietnam veterans, and a couple were scripted endeavors. They were okay, but I know that with what I know today, they could be so much better… and I’m not talking just about the use of technology, but the abilities that technology provides in terms of creativity and collaboration.

A second thing I did was establish a writing center complete with, what was then top-of-the-line, MacIntosh computers. The computers, which even in the late eighties wasn’t weren’t as ubiquitous as they are now, helped students easily edit their work. We also used a program which allowed the reviewer of the text — be it a teacher or a peer writing tutor — to insert comments into the text. I can only imagine what is available now.

Several blog posting recently have struck a nerve with me. Bing Miller from Branford, Connecticut, recently posted about where to sit in the classroom of today. He wrote

All around me, kids were talking to each other. And that’s just how I planned it.

My classroom has looked like that for several years. But now, things have begun to change. Or shift. What does that mean for me? Where do I sit in this new digital classroom? And what am I supposed to do?

Today I sat right in the center for most of the class, but nobody talked to me. It was a Literature Circle discussion day. Translation: students come in having read the first part of their novels (each group broke up their novel into four parts) and spends most of the class in small groups, sharing ideas about the book. I sit in the middle, trying to listen to pieces of as many conversations as possible. Snippets of discussions. Pieces of ideas. All the while, I’m jotting down feedback on an assessment sheet. A few minutes before the bell rings, I distribute the marked up sheets to the student groups. For me, it’s kind of a hands-off approach to the lesson. I rarely interject myself into a group’s conversation. Too often I find that if I float around the room, my arrival at a group usually means a quick shuffling of papers and comments like, “…so anyway, as we were discussing [insert any out of context reference to a character or literary term meant to sound intelligent] what are your thoughts…” Then it all conveniently tails off as I continue past. Or another dreaded interaction: “Hey, Miller, what does this mean?” Once that happens, I become the crutch. What do students need to think for if they can just ask the teacher for the answers?

From the center, there is no opportunity to show off for me or wait for me to show up. Am I able to hear every snippet of their conversation? No. Do I need to? I don’t know. I guess the answer depends on what my role as a teacher is.

This is really exciting stuff. What is the role of the teacher? I want to work in a school where my colleagues are grappling with that very question. I want to work in a thoughtful environment.

Vicki Davis from Camilla, Georgia, recently posted about her use of using wikis and other web/technology in the classroom. Well, actually the post is about a great deal more than just this; check it out

While my current role as a consultant is somewhat satisfying, I want to make an impact with individuals (i.e., students) and not just have an organizational focus.

What’s next?