Teaching portfolios are an invaluable tool to use during an interview or when you’re looking to be promoted in an educational position. They’re a great roadmap for answering questions and setting yourself apart from other educators. Even the act of pulling your teaching portfolio together can be very helpful in preparing for an interview. It’s a comprehensive way to showcase your passion for teaching and share evidence of your effectiveness.
So, how can you ensure the portfolio you create will help you land your next great teaching gig? First and foremost: Keep it professional. Your portfolio should be organized, polished and easy to navigate. Devising a theme or style that can be carried throughout will also help it flow and make it cohesive. Beware of getting too crafty though, as that can quickly get distracting and cause your portfolio to lose its professional appeal. In this case, less is more.
While it’s better to have too much content as opposed to too little, your readers will likely not have time to pore over every page, so position the most impactful elements at the beginning of each section. You’ll also want to decide what to showcase during an interview beforehand, that way you can simply expand how much you share if time allows. Including a table of contents and labeled tabs will also help readers find what they’re looking for, while page sleeves add to the professional feel and keep your documents protected. Adding photos is another great way to engage your audience and break up written content—so start snapping pics now and make a habit of doing so regularly, if you don’t already.
While you’re free to design and organize your teaching portfolio any way you like, here’s a framework of the sections you could include and what kind of elements might fit within each:
- Informational documents - Start with a cover letter and résumé, followed by your college transcript and/or Praxis scores, as well as your degree and teaching license. Round out this section by including any awards or certificates, along with any professional development documentation you’ve received over the years.
- Teaching philosophy - Before you delve into the details, it’s a good idea to set the stage by defining your own personal (a.k.a. original) teaching philosophy. It should explain what compels you to teach, how you teach and why you teach the way you do. You can also opt to include a description of how you yourself assess your teaching and find ways to improve it.
- Classroom management - This section is about everything that goes on in your classroom, not just how you deal with behavior. In addition to sharing strategies for the entire class as well as individual behavior plans, consider detailing your classroom rules, the physical set up of your room, organization tactics and procedures you’ve developed as well as how you manage student work.
- Lesson plans - Here’s where you get to showcase your planning skills. In this section, you’ll need to include a variety of lesson plans (fully written out—not just the supporting materials) that provide a complete picture of how you integrate theory and practice to deliver your curriculum. It’s important to highlight lessons that center around things like differentiation and technology integration. Examples of collaborations with other educators are also valuable. Back up the effectiveness of your teaching by injecting test scores or other supporting data, where possible. Adding key parent communications you’ve developed can also help illuminate your teaching style. (HINT: Speaking of technology integration, consider creating a digital version of your teaching portfolio. This further displays your grasp of technology and willingness to implement it, as well as providing a virtual “leave behind” for your interviewer.)
- Instructional input - Now that you’ve done everything you can to sell yourself, include some pieces that let others support those efforts. Letters of recommendation and evaluation forms can be helpful in showcasing your strengths. Including any glowing notes from colleagues, parents or students will also help to end things in a positive, personal way.
Once you craft an amazing portfolio, it’s important to remember that you’ll never truly be done with it. Teaching portfolios are living anthologies that need to be revisited and refreshed regularly. However, collecting documents and lesson plans, along with taking pictures (of your classroom, interactive bulletin boards, stand-out lessons, etc.) throughout the year will make maintaining it much easier. Then when summer rolls around, you can review and incorporate the items that best show your growth and achievements. Keeping your portfolio current means you’ll be ready when the time comes to go out and grab your next teaching opportunity by the horns.