Preparation for your interview is important – and part of prepping is putting together a portfolio.
A teacher interview portfolio is not often required; however if one is requested or expected, then you must be certain that you are ready to produce exactly what the interview committee is looking for.
Let's get one thing clear up front:
A “portfolio” doesn't have to be fancy
It can be a simple as a manila folder with student work samples. The point is not to make a grand presentation to the interviewers; it's to have the opportunity to present proof of your classroom effectiveness to increase your chance of being hired.
So, always be certain to ask if they would like any examples of curriculum development or student work when you receive the call setting up the job interview. Don't ask:
“Do you want to see a portfolio?”
That sounds very official. Keep it more informal and you'll more often get a chance to show a few samples.
Portfolio Presentation Ideas
Always remember that interviewers want to see examples of what you have done, not what you want to do. A simple portfolio can be a great way to demonstrate in a very concrete manner what you have accomplished with students in the past.
Never force your portfolio on an interview committee! You have to “read the crowd” to see if they are receptive to viewing it. To be honest, in my experience with dozens of interviews (both as an interviewer and an interviewee) I have never encountered a situation where a portfolio was reviewed. The reason is simply one of timing.
Often interview committees have called several candidates and must get them reviewed in a certain period of time, usually allowing only 30 minutes for each interview. Since they have to ask certain questions they often don't find the time to review hard copies from the candidate.
I don't believe that this is the best teacher interview approach, but it is what it is. In spite of that, I still maintain that it is nice to have some items along so that you can finish up an answer by saying:
“Would you like to see some examples?”
Gathering your documents
Your portfolio should fit into a three-ring binder that is very thin (under 1 inch). You must truly curate the items that go into your portfolio, selecting only a few of the very best samples. This is especially true if you are bringing it to an interview where one has not been specifically requested.
Bring one example from each content area that specifically relates to the job for which you are interviewing (grade level, specialty, etc.). If they have not asked in advance to see such things, then they will not want to spend much time looking at it.
Your examples may include photographs of student work or students at work, a page or two from a PowerPoint, etc. Be sure to print in color.
If you have been asked in advance to provide a full portfolio, then you will want to place the following in your binder:
- Your classroom management plan
- An example of a lesson plan
- A couple letters of recommendation
- A sample of parent or staff communication that you have created
- An example of representative student work from every content area that includes descriptive feedback you have given the student.
You don't need (or want) work from students who have executed your lesson perfectly; you want to show that you can constructively individualize your feedback for kids who need further support. Your written notes to students on their papers will really showcase your ability to provide positive, results-oriented coaching.
Video: Building your teacher interview portfolio
The “New Teacher” Dilemma
First job interview ever? Not sure you have anything significant to bring? Of course you do! Just gather some work from your time as a student teacher, using the same list as above.
Everyone on the teacher interview committee will understand your situation; they will expect to see a portfolio that is in line with the current stage of your career.
If you have any questions at all about how to succeed at your interview, be sure to check out my teacher interview course.