Whether you are a 20-year veteran or just starting out, a portfolio should be a key component of your teaching tools. Portfolios are a nearly universal requirement for the hiring process, but if you already have a secure job you should view a portfolio as your insurance against unforseen district shake-ups. Keeping one of these self-promotion tools up-to-date also can be a good exercise in self-evaluation.
Think of a teaching portfolio as an expanded resume. A few personnel administrators will welcome a variety of formats, such as a box of notes, clippings, photos and objects. However the majority look for a standard 3-ring binder. Inside they will expect to find things that show a teacher’s strengths, goals and achievements. This variety of items could include a resume, references, letters of recommendations, transcripts, education philosophy, classroom management theory, examples of lessons and photos of your classroom in action. It’s not a scrapbook, but a representation of your teaching abilities.
* Buy The Book: An obvious first step is to purchase a three-ring binder now to keep on a shelf in your room. The visual reminder might be enough to encourage you to save information for it.
* Be A Smart Curator: Figure out how you are going to save information and move it into your portfolio. One way would be to keep a large enough box in your room to archive things from your classroom for up to a year at a time. At least once per year, sort through your archive box and move items over to a portfolio box or file. Some items might be obvious enough to go straight into the portfolio file, such as printed results of special committee work you participated in.
* Divide And Conquer: Use tabbed dividers to organize and separate the contents of your portfolio. Identically named folders can be kept in your portfolio box or file cabinet as holding places for information. Suggestions for sections: resume and certification information; classroom planning, instruction and evaluation; personal goals and professional preparation; committee work; outside educational activities.
* Put It On The Calendar: Pencil in days on your calendar to review your portfolio and sort through your archive box.
Elements of a Good Portfolio
Use this list as a starting point for ideas for information and items to include in your portfolio:
* Table of contents
* Resume, including continuing education, special committee work and awards and special recognition
* Letters of recommendation
* Educational philosophy
* Classroom management theory
* Personal goals
* Sample worksheets, games and tests
* Examples of lessons – units or projects
* Photos of your classroom in action to illustrate your lesson examples
* Examples of students’ work
* Final results of projects or committees you have been a part of
* Optional: short video showing you in action in front of the classroom and one-on-one with students
* Optional: screen shots and addresses of school or classroom websites you have created
* Optional: computer disks and print-outs of programs you have written or modified
* Keep It Simple: Don’t overload your portfolio with page after page of lengthy text or repetitive photos. Imagine viewing a friend’s home video…would you rather see two hours of jerky graduation footage or five minutes of highlights?
* Keep It Manageable: Three-ring binders are the preferred choice for portfolios.
* Be Timely: Review your portfolio at least twice a year. During winter and summer vacations you can use some of the breathing room to pause and reflect not only on your portfolio, but your teaching in general. Also pencil in changes to your resume at this time so that when needed, an updated version can be retype without having to round up the latest information.
* Say Cheese: Keep a cheap camera with fast film, flash and batteries at your desk to use on a moment’s notice. Using a camera regularly will get your students used to being photographed in the classroom.
* Make Copies: Where possible, use copies of originals in your portfolio, keeping the originals in a safe place. To add a professional touch to photos, tape them to a sheet next to captions printed from a computer. Run a color copy of the whole finished sheet to use in the portfolio, and take the originals back off the taped-up master.
* Make It Clear: Create a custom cover for your portfolio with a three-ring binder with a clear insert on the cover. Use clear plastic page holders inside to keep your pages clean and neat.
* Keep It Legible: Use a computer to type and print out easy-to-read information sheets or a table of contents. Use 12 point type where possible for easy readability.