Do I Really Need a Teaching Portfolio?

If you’re in the thick of searching for a teaching job, you may be devoting a lot of time to interview preparation, and learning how to make a great impression on your interviewers. In your search for useful job interview resources, it’s possible you’re reading about teaching portfolios, and asking yourself, “Do I really need one?”

The answer is “maybe not” but you should give serious thought to creating one anyway. Though teacher shortages exist, the job market still has pockets of competitiveness. Or you get called to interview for the position of your dreams, and you’re willing to do whatever you can to land it. While a principal will always be more concerned with a strong résumé and concrete evidence of your degree and certification, having a teaching portfolio can provide a few advantages:

It could enhance the impression you make on people who make hiring decisions.

Putting together a quality portfolio requires a significant commitment of time, which should be apparent to interviewers. They may conclude that someone who invests time and effort in this undertaking will make similar efforts on the job. Your portfolio will showcase a broad assortment of information about your background and skills. If the hiring committee are impressed by your work, it might provide you with an advantage over other candidates.

During your interview, you’ll have concrete evidence in front of you to support your responses.

If you’re asked about a lesson or unit you’re proud of, which isn’t uncommon on interviews, you could open your portfolio and illustrate your answer with a great piece of student work or another artifact. You won’t have to rely entirely on memory, which isn’t always reliable when you’re sitting in a room of school administrators who are going to decide whether or not to hire you.

You’ll have an ideal place to document the ongoing success of your career.

Don’t stash your portfolio in the back of your closet once you land a teaching position. Chances are, you put a great deal of time and care into creating this resource, and it doesn’t just have to be for job interviews. As you go through your career, you should continue to update and refine its contents, adding your best lessons and other materials which tell the story of who you are as an educator. And even if you decide, once you’re hired, that you’re going to devote your full career to your new employer, life loves to throw surprises at us. At any time, you might find yourself relocating or seeking a different type of school or position by choice or through excessing. Or you may aspire to advance your career. Your portfolio can be a wonderful way to monitor and showcase your professional growth, and you should regularly revisit it. Maintaining it, along with a current résumé, will help you be ready for unexpected opportunities and challenges.

Are you convinced? If a portfolio seems like a resource you want to have, but you’re worried about doing it wrong, you can be assured that there are no real rules. While seeking out general guidelines will provide you with structure and a starting point, you should embrace your uniqueness as an educator and include items which showcase what makes you special.

Creating a physical portfolio, and housing it in an attractive binder or similar book, is one option. If you choose to go this route, you can also create an abbreviated version to store in an inexpensive presentation folder. Having these additional copies of your documents will allow you to leave one with interviewers, so they can review it at a later time without feeling the pressure of you standing there in front of them.

Organizing your contents digitally is another option. While the items in a digital portfolio will be the same as a hard copy, its presentation will be more in line with our technology-focused world. The URL from your digital portfolio can easily be added to your resume, or included in an email to a job prospect. The ease of sharing the digital version gives it a definite advantage over physical versions, but you may not get the same ‘wow’ factor you’d expect from presenting it during an interview.

Plenty of teachers have landed jobs without portfolios, and will continue to do in the future. But a strong portfolio can be an advantageous item to have. It’s a comprehensive approach to showcasing your talents as an educator, and might make a significant difference to your job search.

Tracy Derrell is a Hudson Valley-based freelance writer who specializes in blogging and educational publishing. She taught English in New York City for sixteen years. 

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