Teach For America Final Interview Day

So, that’s it.

After the weeks of preparation, excitement and stress, my Teach For America final interview is over and done. For now,  I can breathe. First and foremost, I have to express my sincere gratitude to all of the ‘good luck’ comments, tweets, Facebook messages and e-mails I received. Each one truly warmed my heart and and increased my confidence come interview day. Since many of you have so sweetly asked about the outcome of the day, I thought I’d share an hour by hour account.

4:00 am: woke up in a panic. I thought: My lesson is not creative enough; I should have read the documents again; How can I convey to the TFA interviewers that I  can be an great teacher and role model to children if given the chance?

6:10 am: Somehow I drifted back to sleep for  two hours before getting up to get ready for the big day.  A small cup of espresso followed by a ‘power breakfast’ of oats made with coconut milk, topped with peanut butter, apple, and half of a vegan Mexican Wedding Cookie from Lauren (Thanks Laur!!) crumbled on top (be jealous, they were awesome!) set me up for what proved to be a great day.

(Courtesy of Lauren )

7:30am: I timed my lesson one more time before I packed up my materials and hit the road. I allotted 1 1/2 hrs for a 25 minute trip. Let’s just say I was a little excited with a touch of anxiety.

8:00 am: I arrived at the site of my interview 1 hr early. Yes, this was a bit excessive, but I knew I’d be much calmer once I settled in. I took out my reading materials and reviewed them. However, I kept finding myself scanning over the same 2 or 3 lines not absorbing anything. Finally, I put them away, poured myself a glass of water and relaxed.

8:30 am: Fellow applicants started filing in. Thank God, because when I get nervous I like to chat. I started chatting with college seniors from area schools, excited with the life that awaits them post graduation. I met an older gentleman with a lifelong career in business and then a young man recently discharged from the Marines. I must say, part of the fun of the TFA application process is meeting so many interesting people

9:15 am We were called into the interview room. Our interviewers were incredibly friendly. They started the day with brief introductions and then encouraged us to do the same. “Hi everyone, my name is Lisa. I graduated from Rutgers University in 2009 and since then have worked in health care and education.” Followed by a little “I’m so happy to be here, today”  message.

9:30 am Time for the highly anticipated ‘sample lesson’. Okay, now this was what I was most nervous about, but it actually ended up being the most fun. We all shared a few laughs and everyone was extremely supportive of one another. I went 2nd to last and I was happy for this gift. Watching everyone else allowed me to calm down a bit before presenting mine.

I was incredibly surprised that 3 people came in 25-45 minutes late. I later learned they had hit major traffic, but I was extremely surprised that they hadn’t planned for it (this from the girl who leaves 2 hrs early.) I felt bad for the two girls that were interrupted by their entrance.

Finally, it was my turn! You have 1 minute to pass out any necessary materials and write the details of your lesson on the board. The interviewers announce “your teaching time has begun” and you have 5 minutes to show them what you’ve got. I taught a lesson on “Subject and Predicate” and I am really happy with how it went. My big concern was going over the 5 minute limit (I tend to add in extra tidbits of info or try to sneak in a few jokes when I teach) but I ended right on time.

My advice? Have fun with it! What’s great about this is that you can teach absolutely whatever you want! I think keeping it simple is the best way to go about planning it. And time yourself over and over again. This is critical. I must have practiced saying my lesson 20 times before the interview day to make sure I didn’t have to read from the notes I brought and  also so I wouldn’t exceed 5 minutes.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many ‘visuals’ you have. What matters is that you are confident, achieve your objective, and feel good about your lesson.

10:30 Group activities. The group activities vary from interview to interview. Basically, they measure your ability to think critically and work as a team. In the interest of maintaining the integrity of the interview process, I won’t share specifics, but I can share how I prepared.

I reviewed the provided readings over and over again; highlighting and jotting down notes in the margins. Also, I discussed the articles at any and all opportunities so I was well versed.

Before break, we got to hear from our interviewers about their experiences in TFA. I really enjoyed hearing from the person that served in Baltimore since I chose this location as one of my highly preferred sites (second to Philly, of course). Next to the sample teaching lessons, this was my favorite part of the day. One story almost brought me to tears, and at that moment I knew I could do this. I would love nothing more than the opportunity to positively impact the lives of young children in need of support and love.

It was at this time that we had to work with our designated group to determine our one on one interview times. I figured that since I lived in the city and others had to bear the awful 76/476 commute, I would volunteer to go later in the day if others wanted to get out of there earlier… I was assigned 5:40 pm.

The afternoon was filled with lunch at DiBruno Brothers: Turkey and Brie on Baguette with a side salad and homemade chips (absolutely perfect for an early winter day), and coffee with my lovely friend, Kristin. We wandered around the city and my mind was successfully cleared and confident for my evening interview.

(Courtesy of DiBruno Brothers)

5:30 pm I had a wonderful experience during the interview. I truly enjoyed talking with my interviewer and sharing my passion for TFA and why I believe I would be great corps member. I had the opportunity to ask her some questions and I really learned a lot from her answers.

For now, I wait.  I will here back on exactly January 18, 2011, whether or not I will be accepted. Until then, fingers crossed.

After the excitement of the day, Luke and I went to a local BYOB to unwind and reflect and the day, the future and all the things that make us happy. A perfect ending to the day.

Note: If you are reading as a current applicant in need of some reassurance about your Teach For America Final Interview please feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions at lisaathome215@gmail.com .

If you would like information about applying, visit their website for more information.

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4 thoughts on “Teach For America Final Interview Day

  1. Hi Lisa,

    It’s great to hear stories about prospective TFA’s. I was in your shoes two years ago and I remember my final interview like it was yesterday! I’m sure you did great. If you have any questions about Teach For America that you can’t find on their website, check out achievementgapped.com. It is blog that I started about life before, during, and after TFA.

    Good Luck!

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