If you are going into the teaching field, you often hear about creating a teaching portfolio or a job search portfolio. I had another teaching candidate ask me just the other day, “How important is a job search portfolio?” I told them I knew it was important, but I wasn’t really sure the exact reasoning behind it, so I decided to do a little research on it. The American Association for Employment in Education (AAEE) publishes a Job Search Handbook for educators every year. In this handbook there is a section called “Portfolios in the Job Search: Busy Work or Competitive Edge?”.
There are some employers, in this case school districts, who don’t ask for portfolios especially in the first or second rounds of interviews. This brings up the question if they don’t specifically ask for a teaching portfolio, why would I take the time to put one together? By having a well put together portfolio in the first and second rounds of interviews, you can make yourself really stand out. You will show that you are highly motivated and that you really want the position they are hiring for because you took the time to go above and beyond what they specifically asked for. You are also showing them examples of your work, which will give them a better idea of how you work as a teacher and your effectiveness as a teacher.
Portfolios are a great way to show employers what your strengths are in the field. By having a visual of these strengths to bring up during an interview, you will make a longer lasting impression on the employer than just talking about the examples. There are also some lessons that you are very proud of that you want to highlight, but they are too complicated to just discuss. Having this visual will allow you to effectively show the panel an example of your work and you will also showcase your teaching ability when you are explaining the lesson to the employer. This kind of makes it a two for one!
There are many different formats that you can choose when you are creating a job search portfolio. You may choose to create a binder, streamlined packet, brochure, or an electronic portfolio. There are pros and cons for each of these formats so you will have to choose the one that you think will work best for you.
Binders can be a great way to show your organization skills. By having a binder with examples of your work the employer will have a tangible example of your work. You can use color-coded tabs that allow you to reference certain items during the interview and they will be able to go look at those examples. There are two major cons of doing a binder portfolio, in my opinion. The first is that you will really have to know where everything is in the binder because it will be really hard for more than one person to look at it at one time. The second is that the employer will likely ask to keep the portfolio for a period of time so they have time to actually look at the portfolio you put together. This means if you have another interview in a short period of time following another, you may not have your portfolio back to share with another employer.
The second option is a streamlined packet. This is a document that is less than ten pages long where you can give highlights of your experiences through showing work samples and photos. One really nice part of using this format is that it is short enough that you can print a copy for each person on the panel. It is also nice because it is very short and to the point so employers will be able to look through it without spending too much time. While it is nice because it is concise, I think that this is also its biggest downfall because you have to be a little pickier about what to include and what to leave out. This may mean that you have to leave something out that you really want to include because of a lack of space.
The third format is a brochure. This is a really quick and easy way to show your strengths and highlight aspects of your career. The AAEE Handbook suggests passing out these brochures at job fairs or networking events or including a copy of the brochure with a thank you letter. The biggest obvious downfall of using a brochure is the lack of space. This being said, I wouldn’t recommend using this on its own, but I think that using this as noted in the handbook is a great idea!
The final format is an electronic portfolio. What is really nice about creating an electronic version is that you can put a link to it on your resume and employers can access it if they want before you come in for an interview. It also allows you to tailor your portfolio toward each employer and add videos of you teaching. One downfall about having an online portfolio is that you have to make sure that all of your information is accessible. You should also make sure where you are posting your portfolio is secure if you have pictures of students.
Even though an employer might not ask for a portfolio in the first round of interviews. Having one that you can show them can be a great way to help them to remember you and show examples of your work. In an upcoming post, I will be talking about what you should consider putting in your portfolio.