Monday, May 2, 2016

The Professional Posse: Clare Dolan

I'm so beyond excited to bring you today's Professional Posse post. This girl is so near and dear to my heart because I've known her my entire life (minus only two weeks when she wasn't born yet). Clare is my cousin and an incredible first year third grade teacher in Raleigh, North Carolina. She's seriously so sweet and funny (obviously we're related), and she was always infinitely cooler than me when we were growing up. I always knew she would make an amazing teacher despite the fact that my sister always made us be the students when we played school.

Clare's interview blew me away.  For Professional Posse posts, I usually end up cutting a few questions for space, but I honestly couldn't find one to omit. It was all just so interesting and funny... maybe because I'm so far removed from the wonderful world of third grade. I for real laughed out loud at her "funniest thing that happened at work story" -- trust me, you'll be in tears. 

I also can't stop thinking about how incredible it is that, in 13 years, a college grad will be reminiscing about their awesome third grade class with Miss Dolan! -- Clare, let's not dwell on the fact we'll both be in our mid-thirtys... You, two weeks younger of course. 

Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading about Miss Dolan as much as I did! Oh, and for fun, here's an old picture of Clare using me as a footrest -- #AlwaysProfesh

Name: Clare Dolan
Field / Industry: Elementary Education
Title: Third Grade Teacher
School: Thales Academy
Hometown: Doylestown, Pennsylvania
Current City: Raleigh, North Carolina
Age: 22
Alma Mater: University of North Carolina Wilmington - UNCW

The Job

Describe your role at Thales

My role is to run my classroom. This includes teaching reading, spelling, vocabulary, math, English, writing, history and geography, and science. While I teach each of these I make sure my students are behaving properly, feel safe in my classroom, and are enjoying being at school. In every subject I am tracking student progress, making sure they master each concept, and target any problem areas I see. It sounds crazy when I put it into words, but it’s all in a days work!

Why teaching?

I literally cannot imagine doing anything else!! I have always wanted to be some sort of teacher, because I have always loved school. In elementary school I thought I would be an English teacher, because I loved to read and write. In middle school I thought I would be a music teacher, because I loved to sing. In high school I thought I would be a pre-k teacher, because I loved teaching my sister (a toddler at the time) new things.
I finally settled on elementary education, because I obviously love to teach everyday content, but I also love being a part of the person each student eventually becomes. Every classroom holds new experiences for children, and these experiences, how they deal with them, and what they learn from them shape who they become as they grow into a older children. I think it’s amazing that my job contributes to something so important in a child’s life, no matter how small my specific impact on them may be.

What was the application and interview process like?

My application process was a bit unique. I actually met Thales representatives at a job fair at UNCW. I was there looking for school’s in the Raleigh or Charlotte areas, and Thales Academy caught my eye. I really enjoyed the conversation I had with them, and passed along my resume. From there they called me to set up an interview. The actual interview took place at school and I spent time interviewing with teachers as well as administrators. Everyone was kind, welcoming, and seemed excited to be hosting interviews. It was clear they had high expectations for their teachers so as an education major, only ¾ of the way through my internship, I was a bit intimidated.

About how many jobs did you apply to when you graduated?

Applying to teach is different for every district. I did not apply to Thales Academy because I met them at the job fair, but I did apply to the public school system in my county. The Wake County application was one online application, which was then sent to all 100 schools.

What tactics did you use for finding your job?

Obviously I attended the education job fair at UNCW. After I applied to Wake County and started researching their job openings and schools. I had to narrow down those 100 schools somehow, so I basically made a list of schools near areas where I would like to live and work. I was fully prepared to start following up on job postings by calling principals, and dropping my resume off at the schools to get my name out there. Luckily, I did not have to do this because I was hired at Thales!

What’s a typical day look like? Is there a typical day?

My days are typical in that I arrive at 650am, teach my scheduled lessons, have lunch and recess, teach a few more lessons, send the kids home at 3pm, and then plan in my classroom until about 4-430pm. However, my days are not typical because I work with children! I can’t plan my lessons down to the minute because some concepts just take longer than others. I never know what is going to come out of a child’s mouth each time they speak—“Kids Say the Darndest Things” was a success for a reason! But, it’s the surprises that I like. I enjoy having a schedule, but within that schedule is the controlled chaos of my classroom.

What do you love about your job?

MY KIDS!!! Anyone who works with, or has, children can tell you that kids can bring the biggest smile to your face or cause you the most stress in the world-sometimes all at once! I love being a part of their everyday lives, and you can’t help but be happy when you’re surrounded by kids just enjoying life.

Anything about your job that took some serious adjusting?

The schedule took a bit of getting used to. I definitely needed to practice getting up early—and I’m still not good at it. Coffee is the only thing that gets me moving in the morning.

What's the school culture like?

Teachers are just all around kind and caring people, so in a school you’re going to have great co-workers. Teaching is emotional and what we do affects children. Because of this, I find that the employees at Thales are all willing to help one another, support one another, and do whatever is needed to help a child or coworker succeed. I am lucky to have a supportive and involved administrative team as well! Everyone, no matter his or her title, is approachable and willing to help. The culture at Thales definitely helped me adjust as a first year teacher.

How do you maintain a work life balance?

I will admit that it was a little hard to come up with a work/life balance at first, mostly on weekdays. I started the year off by saying I can NEVER DO ANYTHING on school nights, because I am up so early and there is no such thing as a “slow day at work” that I can be tired for. This made socializing on weekdays difficult, but I’ve slowly gotten better because I’m not so crazy about going to bed super early anymore. Luckily, all of my friends work too so we don’t have much going on during the week except dinner and reality TV.

Best thing that’s ever happened at work? Any “wow I love my job” moment?

During the first week of school I had a moment anytime a student said Miss Dolan, just because it was so exciting. “Wow I love my job” moments come often in the classroom, because students are constantly learning and that’s a rewarding feeling as a teacher.

Funniest thing that’s ever happened at work?

There are a lot of funny moments when you put 20 children in one room for a day! Earlier in the year my kids tried to figure out what my age was. They measure age by what you have—a house, a husband, or kids. So they would say things like “are you living in an apartment while your house is being built?” and “She can’t have a house yet, she’s not married!!” There was once an entire conversation revolving around one student’s comment that I’m “too old to be alone.” I also got note that said “thank you for teaching me- I hope you find love soon!!” Those are probably the funniest moments, because it’s hard for students to understand that I have a life outside of my classroom.

The Preparation

What was your major at UNCW?

My major was Elementary Education, and I chose a concentration in Language Arts.

How were you involved on campus?

I was very involved in my sorority. I held multiple leadership positions, attended two conferences to better my leadership skills, and also joined a Greek honor society. I began with my sorority and used that as a jumping point. We had opportunities to complete community service and get involved with other chapters. Joining a sorority, and taking advantage of many opportunities that came my way, opened up endless leadership positions and experiences. I am so thankful to have chosen Greek life to get involved.

Did you intern at all during undergrad?

Yes, as an elementary education major you are given multiple opportunities to get hands on experience in a classroom. Almost all experiences came as a class requirement, and you were given your assignment through the College of Education. I had different experiences in various courses from sophomore year on, and then I had my full time internship my last semester of college. This is where I went into a classroom and took over for the current teacher. I learned so much from this, and it was a great experience to be in charge of a classroom but having the classroom teacher and your professors to support you if you struggled.

Natalie's side note: the fact that Clare's top bookshelf is 90% Nancy Drew made me ridiculously happy.

The Style

What’s your go to work style?

My go to work style is business casual: I’ll wear cropped pants – I love the Pixie pant from Old Navy, and I’ll pair those with a blouse or sweater. Or a dress is always a great go to. I’ve learned to layer my work clothes because I could be freezing at my desk one second, and then running around the room teaching an exciting lesson the next. Comfy shoes are a must because I am always on my feet!

What’s the typical workplace style?

The typical workplace style is the same. A lot of skirts, dresses, cropped pants, and flat comfy shoes.

Do you have a favorite store for work clothes?

I LOVE the Old Navy Pixie Pants, for affordable and stylish daily pants (that I don’t mind getting beat up a bit). My favorite places to find dresses are Ann Taylor Loft or Gap because they have simple styles that are work appropriate—you have to remember I am moving in front of kiddos all day long!
For nice staple pieces I go to Banana Republic because of the quality but also the style. Their professional clothes aren’t boxy or boring, so I can use them for work AND life.

How long does it take you to get ready for work in the morning?

I have to be out the door by 645 each morning! Because of this I am speedy quick when I get ready for work. I shower the night before and put in a leave in volume treatment, so that I can quickly blow out the sleepy head waves and go. For my make up, I keep it to a minimum—BB Cream, powder, blush, and mascara. I’ve always struggled with acne so keeping my daily routine to minimum is a must. I use a BB Cream for the coverage and then SPF, since I’m outside at recess.

Do you have a style inspiration?

I love looking put together, and on trend, but it doesn’t come naturally to me—it takes planning! I basically leave it to the store or pinterest to do the styling for me. I’m simple—I wear the same silver jewelry everyday, and make sure my clothes match! Beyond that I’m not obsessed with style, so I don’t normally take any style risks at work.

How did you make your desk your own?

First, I made my desk my own by decorating the bulletin board behind me. I have pictures of my family, posters from college, meaningful letters, and pictures from students all on my bulletin board! I know my students show their style with all of their desk accessories, so I made sure to as well so I could make the space my own. My Godmother actually got me started with a Kate Spade desk set—complete with gold polka dot file folders, a pencil case, and some matching school supplies. From there I’ve hunted through Target’s Dollar Spot for buckets, file folders, and fancy notepads. To hold all of these things I upcycle my Birchboxes and fill them with things on my desk. This way everything is neat and organized, but reflecting my style at the same time!

Natalie's side note: Clare's Godmother, is my mother! --  Clare for real looks like her more than I do.

Natalie's side note: Clare's recycled Birchboxes give me life.

The City

Why Raleigh?

My process for choosing Raleigh as my city following graduation was fairly easy. First off, my teaching licensure is in the state, so I needed to stay here to avoid taking my teaching exams elsewhere. In North Carolina if you want a large town or city atmosphere your only options are Charlotte, Raleigh, or maybe Wilmington. I was ready to head out of Wilmington, my college town, so I narrowed it down to Raleigh and Charlotte. I ended up in Raleigh to teach at Thales!

How long have you lived in Raleigh?

I moved here in June 2015. So almost a year!

Any restaurant recommendations?

I haven’t found a spot that I crave, or absolutely need to bring people to, but I have tried some great places. My roommate and I have basically relied on Yelp to guide us whenever we eat out. Death and Taxes is a cool restaurant downtown, very modern and the kitchen is totally open so you can watch everything happen—it’s a great date spot. There’s also a little Italian place next to my apartment called Tazza Kitchen. It’s convenient, plus it has great food and drinks.

What’s the best season in the city?

SPRING! There are so many outdoor bars, restaurants, and venues to visit I still haven’t had a chance to check them all out. It makes enjoying the spring season so much fun!

Do you have a favorite part of the city?

I can only describe Raleigh as “the perfect transition city” for someone like me—someone who has never lived in a large city, and would be overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of it all. Not to mention I struggle on public transportation!! So I think my favorite part is that it’s not overwhelming, I’m comfortable and can navigate it alone.

What’s your favorite city moment?

I remember the first night I went out in Raleigh, and I was visiting some bars on the main street called Fayetteville Street, and I hopped out of the cab-very “Party in the USA” esque, lol. I looked up the street and it was just lit up, busy for blocks and blocks, and the capital building was lit up at the end! It was very quick before we went inside, but I remembering thinking woah, I actually live in a city now!

Do you have a dream city?

I think Boston would be my dream city. It seems like the perfect size, again not too overwhelming, and I would get to experience every season (unlike down here!).

The Advice

Do you have any advice for young professional women who are just starting out and interested in education?

Be yourself. As an educator you run your classroom, and as you meet the requirements of the curriculum you teach, you also need to be building relationships with your students and their families. The education field has so many different demands for their employees. In the span of 180 seven hour days you need to educate and mentor your students, love and discipline the children, and also involve and update parents.

Do you have any advice for girls still in school, be it freshman or senior year?

GET AN ERIN CONDREN PLANNER. I have two, 1 for teaching and 1 for life. They are amazing and have saved my life more than once.
Also, get involved!! The more relevant experience you have, the more confident you will be in interviews and when your join the workforce.

What’s one thing you wish you had known when looking for a job?

That it’s okay to be the young graduate. In order to make up for the fact that I was new to the education field, I put so much pressure on myself during interviews and I completely underestimated myself, and that knocked down my confidence. I basically convinced myself that I was under qualified for certain schools because I was newly graduated. In reality being a first year teacher gives you a fresh perspective in the classroom, and schools enjoy having that on their team!

Any resume tips?

Education resumes are a bit different than business resumes, so if you can find an educator to help you groom your resume that would be great. It’s important to show off the responsibilities you had during your experiences in the classroom. You have to remember you can’t be eased into your classroom, when those kids show up on the first day they are ALL yours. So, your resume is a great way to quickly showcase responsibilities you’ve had in past classrooms. In your cover letter make sure you touch your teaching philosophy and ideal classroom management plan, but don’t go into too much detail because these are things you’ll want to expand on in the interview.

Advice for interviewing?

I can’t say this enough: BE. YOUR. SELF. As a teacher you work with so many different people, so show off your passion for teaching and the confidence you’ll have in your classroom. Make sure you have questions ready to ask the interviewers. An interview is a conversation that isn’t just all about you; it is about the potential employer as well. Don’t get so nervous that you forget to ask your questions! Do your research and make sure your questions are genuine.

The End Game

Do you have a mentor?

As a beginning teacher I am assigned a mentor for three years. This mentor is assigned to help me through the first 3 years of my career as a teacher. Luckily, my mentor is on my grade level team! She is wonderful, and has been helping me through every part of this year. When you work with kids, you learn as you go sometimes because every child and class is different. I am so grateful for my mentor because she has the knowledge and experience to help me when I panic in my room thinking “Oh my gosh I’ve never dealt with this before!”

What's next?

Honestly, this is next because this is my absolute dream job. I can’t emphasize that enough. I wake up, at the crack of dawn, and am greeted by 17 smiling, yelling, and story filled students, before I am even half way through my coffee. Every part of my job is rewarding, and I can’t imagine leaving to do anything else!

If I were to feel like my time in the classroom is up, I would like to move to a bigger classroom—at a University. During college I admired my professors for taking their love of teaching, and passing it on to new teachers. I would love to learn as much as I can in the field, and then pass that knowledge onto a different generation of soon to be teachers! 

Wish you were back in third grade? You can find more of Clare on her Insta! -- It's private #teacherlife but a little birdie told me she'll accept Whale & Wishbone readers. 
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