If you’ve just graduated from college, you’ve probably been consumed by the hectic academic schedule making it impossible to give some thought to what your strengths and weaknesses are in the workforce.
NOW is the time, for various reasons – you must take the time to do this thought-provoking exercise.
Why is it so important? Being aware of your personal strengths and weaknesses is a prerequisite to the other steps you must take to market yourself as the top-notch classroom teacher you know you can be.
For example, how can you prepare your mission statement, resume, or teacher portfolio if you don’t really know yourself?
Another important reason is this: You’ll almost certainly be asked to tell about your strengths and weaknesses during your teacher interviews.
The one that is virtually always asked deals with your strengths and weaknesses. More than likely, it will be put to you in the form of a command rather than a question:
“Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses.” Think about this for a minute: What is the interviewer really asking? What the interviewer really wants to know is this: “Why should we hire you?
What can you do for our students and school community?
Why should we choose you over the rest of the candidates we’re interviewing today?”
When you’re asked about your strengths and weaknesses, you should consider it an open-ended question, a golden opportunity to sell yourself—or, as we hear so often these days, a chance to be your own publicist. You need to tout your strengths and minimize any weaknesses by presenting them as strengths. This is actually quite easy to do, as you will see.As an educator, if asked your strengths & weakness, it's a chance to be a publicist. Ideas here #EduInterviews #EduCareers Click To Tweet
You have many specific skills and positive character traits. Some are tangible; others are intangible.
Your tangible skills include those related to the teaching profession in general —including your ability to teach on the elementary or secondary level—and specific skills, such as your ability to work with bilingual or gifted children. Other examples include:
Your amazing skills in creating thematic units to grab and hold the students’ attention.
Maybe it is your ability to manage student behavior with group work.
You will list most of these job-related skills on your application and resume, so the interview panel will already be familiar with them. However, you might have many other tangible skills that are not shown on your resume, but that will greatly enhance your chances of being hired.
For example, you might have coached Little League, taught swimming lessons, or been a camp counselor. Or perhaps you worked your way through college by tutoring struggling students. These all require skills that are transferable to the classroom. Your hobbies often involve transferable skills as well. For example, you might enjoy working with puppets, playing the guitar, surfing the Net, playing chess, sewing, or crafting.
By the time you’re through discovering your skills, you’ll be oozing with self-confidence.
Next, we come to your intangible skills. These could also be called “invisible” skills because they have to do with your personality, character, and ability to get along with others.
- Are you patient? Caring? Trustworthy? Loyal? Responsible? Self-disciplined? Honest? Positive?
- Do you have a sense of humor?
- Do you get along well with others?
- Do you have a strong work ethic?
- Do you really love young people?
- Are you excited about becoming a teacher?
- Are you a dependable, punctual person?
- Do you enjoy working in a team?
- Do you get a charge out of motivating students?
If so, let the interview panel know. They may never know unless you tell them!
How about your leadership qualities?
Are you a good organizer?
It is VERY IMPORTANT to be prepared to illustrate your skills with specific examples. For example, tell about the time you worked with a group of parents to coordinate a fundraiser or how you initiated a neighborhood-watch program in your subdivision.
Remember, the interview panel is looking for reasons to hire you, reasons why you’re the one they want on their staff. So give them all the information they need to make the right choice.
Why are these intangible qualities so important? Because the interview committee already knows your academic background, including your college major and minor, what credentials you hold, and what you’re qualified to teach. You wouldn’t have been called for an interview in the first place if you didn’t fit their needs in a professional sense. What they really want to know about—and what they can find out only during an interview—are your intangible strengths: those positive qualities that say you’re an enthusiastic, likable, dependable person.
Be prepared to give specific examples of your strengths if asked. It’s also a good idea to put one at the very top of your list, just in case you’re asked, “What is your greatest strength?” Unless you’ve thought about it ahead of time and rehearsed your response, you might be caught off guard.
If you tell the panel that your greatest strength is your dependability, for example, be prepared to explain how you’re always the first one in the parking lot in the morning because you don’t like to be late for work. If your greatest strength is that you relate well to kids, tell them how much fun you had teaching swimming lessons last summer and how well you got along with the children and their parents.
A word of caution: Don’t get too carried away with the details; make your case and move on. In 30 seconds to a minute, you can, with practice, build a powerful case for yourself when asked about your greatest strength. Don’t beat it to death!
Determining and Communicating Your Weaknesses
After you’ve told the panel about your strengths, expect to be asked about your weaknesses. Fortunately, your weaknesses or “limitations” don’t have to work against you at the interview table. You know your limitations, but don’t be too quick to plead guilty to weakness if you can turn it around and convert it into something that will make you look good.
When you’re faced with the question “Tell us about your weaknesses,” don’t get negative and immediately begin to explain how you don’t like to teach science because it’s always been difficult for you, or that you never quite had the interest in science, but are fine with other content areas.
Don’t mention your lack of understanding of the role standards play in teaching students.
Right away, you’ve turned off the committee and told them just about all they want to hear on the subject.
The fact that multi-subject teachers feel more prepared to teach some subject areas than others is a given, so try to stay away from specific academic subject areas or job-related classroom skills. Instead, talk about your most “angelic” weakness—one that can be turned into a positive. Here are some examples:
“I’m a poor manager of my time.”
“Sometimes I have so many good ideas and things I want to accomplish with the kids that I get frustrated when I run out of time.”
“I’m such a nitpicker that it gets in the way of my progress.”
“I’m too demanding of myself—and sometimes giving myself a break will be better for my health.”
“I never seem to be able to reach my goals.”
“My expectations for myself and my students are high, and with time constraints, I feel I don’t always reach my goals.”
“I have very little patience with people who waste my time.”
“When working or planning with others, I sometimes get frustrated when the time is not used efficiently—going down too many rabbit trails. I have had to teach myself to be patient.”
Whatever you do, don’t confess to a weakness in classroom management or a certain subject area. You’ll only be digging a hole for yourself! Instead, take one of your most “innocent” and “harmless” weaknesses and turn it into a positive.