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Your Professional Portfolio

Tips from Julia Norman, a Sudbury teacher and member of MTA's New Teacher Committee.

A professional portfolio is an essential part of a job search in teaching. It allows administrators to glimpse who you are and what you will bring to the table, without ever having stepped foot in your classroom. Some district require teachers to maintain a portfolio as part of the evaluation process. Take time and really invest in your portfolio. It can be the deciding factor!

A couple of years ago I decided to go back into the elementary classroom after teaching science for a number of years. I pulled out my old portfolio that I had made when I was a college graduate and I had to laugh. Inside were so many things that really didn’t belong. Who I was as a professional did not shine through in the “too thick” binder of pictures and lessons. I decided it was time to reorganize.
 
When you enter professional teaching, you will be evaluated using the Massachusetts Principles of Effective Teaching. I choose to organize my portfolio using each one of the principles as a “section” in my portfolio. These sections include: Currency in the Curriculum, Effective Planning and Assessment of Curriculum and Instruction, Effective Management of the Classroom Environment, Effective Instruction, Promotion of High Standards and Expectations for Student Achievement, Promotion of Equity and Appreciation of Diversity, and Fulfillment of Professional Responsibilities. A full description of each of these principles can be found at http://www.doe.mass.edu/lawsregs/603cmr35.html?section=ted
 

Porfolio Checklist

Building a portfolio can help you reflect about your work -- and back up what you say you can do with evidence. A portfolio might include some or all of the following:

  • Your professional background.
  • Class descriptions: time, grades and content.
  • Written examinations: National Teacher's Exam, state licensure test.
  • A personal statement of teaching philosophy and goals.
  • Documentation of what you've done to improve your teaching (example: a list of seminars you've attended).
  • Implemented lesson plans, handouts and notes.
  • Graded student work, such as tests, quizzes and class projects.
  • Video/audiotape of classroom lessons.
  • Colleague observation records.
  • Written reflections on teaching.
  • Photographs of bulletin boards, chalkboards, or projects.

Adapted from NEA's Beginning Teachers CD.

A common rookie mistake that many new teachers (including myself) make is cramming their portfolio with too much “stuff.” During your interview the administrator does not have the time to look in detail at everything. Instead, select 2-3 examples of each principle. For example, in the “Promotion of Equity and Appreciation of Diversity” section I included a letter to parents that I had translated into Spanish, Russian, and Brazilian. In the “Fulfillment of Professional Responsibilities” section,  I wrote a description of the partnership I had founded with Drumlin Farms and included pictures from their various visits to the school. I know that you are very proud about the various lessons you have done, but you must be very selective when choosing material for your portfolio. It is truly a case of “less is more.”

I would also suggest having an extra copy of your portfolio. On the majority of interviews I went on, the administrator half-heartedly flipped through my portfolio, if they looked at all. Don’t be discouraged. Bring your extra copy and offer to leave it for them to look at after the interview. Arrange a time to pick up the portfolio in the front office. 

The most important thing to remember is this portfolio is an opportunity to present yourself as a professional to a potential employer. Your portfolio should be neat and organized. Buy plastic slip covers and have a table of contents. Buy the correct size binder so that papers aren’t sliding out. If your portfolio is a mess, the administrator will assume you are also a mess. As I always tell my students, neatness counts!