Finding and Interviewing for an Instructional Position

| January 12, 2007 | 0 Comments

If you’re looking for a full-time coaching position it usually isn’t hard to find one in most areas of the country if you aren’t picky about the current level of the program.  There seems to be no shortage of schools in need of full-time coaches and no shortage of band directors who are unsure of where to find such a coach.  If your interests are a little more specific, the search may be a little harder but probably not tremendously so.  Often it takes little more than a couple phone calls to local band directors letting them know your interest in working with a local team and then an interview where you should be prepared to appear as professional as possible, ready to ask questions and ready to present some evidence of your training or experience.  This means, treat this position like any other job position you would interview for.  Take along a resume, some photographs of your previous work or even a copy of a video showcasing your work that you can leave with the band director or principal.  In some counties the coaching positions are handled through the board of education.  In these cases, a call to the band director would probably lead you in the right direction.  If you do not feel comfortable making a phone call, simply submit a resume by mail or email, or by dropping it off in person at the main office with attention made to the band director and/or principal.  This article presents factors to consider during the interview process to make sure you understand the expectations of the job and that the job is a good fit for your own personality and expertise!

Writing a Resume and Cover Letter

Your coaching/performance resume should follow the same format as any professional resume.  You should attach a cover letter introducing yourself.  You should include a clear objective stating what type of position you are interested in.  Then make sure to include sections on education, performance experience, instructional experience and a list of additional related skills.

This type of resume does differ from a typical job resume in that you may be applying for this instructional position as a volunteer position or, at least, not as your primary career position.  You should provide the recipient with information about what you do for a “day-job” so to speak, in either the cover letter or as part of the employment section of the resume itself.  The band director or principal will certainly be interested in finding out what you do for a living.  They might also need to know whether you will have any time constraints (whether you are available for after-school rehearsals or only in the evenings).

Finally, prepare a list of 3 to 5 individuals that the director can call for a reference.  Ideally these should not be “friends” or fellow performers.  Instead, you should include the names of former employers (band directors) your coaches, or other instructors you have worked with.  If this is your first position you might include your high school band director, guard coach or even employers not related to color guard who could vouch for you as a responsible person.  Make sure to keep the addresses and phone numbers up to date and to let the people on the list know that you are listing them as references in case they might receive a phone call (and especially if you’ve listed someone not familiar with color guard).

Potential Instructional Positions (Job Descriptions):

Obviously, the job description of an actual position will depend on what the program in question needs and it should be more detailed than the descriptions listed below.  However, these will give you an idea of some of the different ways that you may be able to help a local school!  These will enable you to focus your resume towards the particular type of position you’re interested in (or that you have the time to fit into you schedule).  At most schools one or two individuals fulfill all of these jobs!

Director/Caption Head/Sponsor:  This person is responsible for overseeing and coordinating all parts of the color guard program.  This includes arranging for choreography (or writing the choreography), establishing budgets, holding auditions, managing the team, managing staff, maintaining lines of communication with other staff members and defining the overall vision of the team for the season.  This person often must be present at all rehearsals and performances but not in every case. 

Full Time Coach/Head Instructor:  This person is responsible for the instruction of the team throughout the season and may hold the same responsibilities as the director or sponsor if there is not a separate person holding that position.  This person usually must be present at all rehearsals and performances and is responsible for coordinating efforts with other staff members as well as guest choreographers (if they exist).

Tech/Part-time Coach/Assistant Coach:  This person is responsible for the rehearsal and cleaning of routine on a daily basis.  He/she will work towards achieving a uniform performance throughout the ensemble, count by count.  He/she will ensure all members are trained well and are clear about the specifics of both routine and technique.  He/She must be present at least one or more rehearsals each week as specified through arrangements with the head instructor or director.

Choreographer/Caption Consultant:  This person is responsible for the choreography (or helping to improve the choreography) for a particular caption (flag, rifle, or movement).  He/she will attend practices as needed to teach the routine and then later in the season to make changes or improvements.  He/she may also choose to provide a video tape and should work closely with the rest of the staff to maintain the continuity of the creative design for the entire program.

Set Designer:  This person is responsible for the design of the set including the backdrops, props and floor (and possibly including flags and costumes).  This person must make sure that all set options are within the scope of the budget.  This person must also create plans for the set pieces to be built, choose appropriate materials and engineer the pieces so that they may be easily transported, fit through doorways and able to be assembled during the alloted show time.  

Drill Writer: This person is responsible for writing the drill for the show.  He/she may or may not attend rehearsals depending on the needs of the program.  He/she should review drill periodically throughout the season and make changes as needed.

Show Designer: This person is responsible for designing the overall vision of the show.  This may include choosing music, designing a set/costume/flags, writing drill, determining equipment changes and flow of the show and writing choreography.  The show designer may do some or all of the above duties depending on the needs of the program.

Submitting your Resume and Making Follow-Up Calls

It is usually best to contact the school prior to submitting a resume so that they know who you are and so you can ask if they are in need of a guard instructor.  However, if distance or time prohibits, you could also submit a resume by mail or email.  Either way, make sure the resume looks professional, gets to the correct people, and has a cover letter detailing your purpose in the submission.  Then wait about a week two and make a courtesy call (or email) letting them know that you really are interested in working with their program.

Creating and Submitting a Video Resume

Our activity is such a visual art that, perhaps, one of the most effective ways to display your accomplishments would be to create a video resume.  With today’s home computer technology, this can be done at home for a relatively low cost.  This would allow band directors some security in being able to see your style of writing in determining whether it fits with the program they are building.  And don’t worry!  If they decide it doesn’t fit, it is sure to fit at another school.  There really is nothing worse than working in a situation where the band director and visual staff have different visions for the creative output.  It’s important to find a good match for your skills and style.

Make sure that on the video you give the proper credit to other instructors if you did not create a particular show by yourself.  For a fall show, that might mean noting who wrote the drill if you did not or who designed the flags or costumes if you did not.  Just like with the resume, it is important not to overstate your qualifications or accomplishments and directors will appreciate your honesty and integrity.  Some might even be impressed by your ability to work with other people rather than expecting you to write an entire show on your own.  It will also help you to avoid conflicts that occur when expectations don’t match reality!

The Interview (Questions to Ask and Answer)

It is important to treat your coaching interview just as you would treat any job interview.  Even if you are not asking for compensation, coaching positions demand a high degree of responsibility and those hiring coaches are looking for people they can depend on and trust, not only with the design of their final products, but also with the supervision of children or teenagers.  While a suit or dress might be inappropriate, you should dress professionally.  Avoid jeans or sweatpants. 

Next, take along a copy of your resume and, if available, a copy of some of your previous shows on a video that you can leave with the interviewer.  If you have written recommendations from parents or band directors at other schools include those as well.  At the minimum, make sure to have an updated references section in your resume with good telephone numbers.

Be prepared to answer a variety of questions regarding both your experience as well as your educational/coaching philosophy.  Some potential questions you might be asked to respond to are listed below.

1.      What is your approach to teaching routines?  Will you teach them all during band camp and then clean or do you take longer to write and teach, cleaning as you go?

2.      Will you be able to attend all rehearsals?

3.      How do you attempt to motivate members and build a “team” atmosphere?

4.      How would you work with a student who is having a particularly difficult time learning or performing a routine?

5.      How would you deal with a student who is behaving in a disrespectful manner towards either yourself or other students on the team?

6.      Why do you want to coach?

7.      What is your educational or coaching philosophy?

Finally, make sure before you leave that you are clear on what the expectations of the position or the band director include.  Think about making sure the following questions are answered in addition to any others you might come up with regarding your specific situation.

1.      How many days per week am I expected to be at rehearsal?

2.      What is the schedule for the season?

3.      What type of design budget will I be working with?

4.      Does the band (or guard) have a member handbook I could read?

5.      What is the typical rehearsal style?  (For example, for outdoor/marching band rehearsals, does the guard typically rehearse separately from the band or together with them)

6.      Does the school allow the use of rifles and sabres for performance?

7.      How many students are on the team?

8.      How are students selected for the team?

9.      What is the competitive history of the ensemble?

10.  Does the group compete or perform only at football games?

11.  What types of costumes does the group wear?

12.  Am I expected to work alone or may I bring in additional staff members?

13.  What direction would the band director like to see the color guard take now and in the future?

Ultimately, coaching can be one of the most satisfying ways of staying involved in the color guard activity and if you can find a “good fit” in terms of your own personality and the expectations of the director or staff you will be working with, coaching can be a wonderful experience.  As a coach, you have a chance to “give back” to the activity that has meant so much in your own life while at the same time providing constructive, positive experiences for a whole new group of students who might not otherwise have the chance to be involved in an activity.  It is extremely important to realize the impact that you have on your future students and your place as a mentor and role model as well as a coach or choreographer.  So, start from the very beginning, in the interview process, of approaching your new position with a sense of professionalism and integrity – and the knowledge that you will now be a color guard EDUCATOR!  Dedicate yourself to developing both your color guard skills AND your skills as an educator and you will go far!

 Jan 2007


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Category: Instruction, Professional Development

About the Author (Author Profile)

Catina Anderson is the founder/editor of the Colorguard Educators blog. Color guard has been part of her life for almost 25 years. She began coaching in 1994 and worked with the Broad Run High School color guard in Northern VA from 1998 until 2010. She has also written for Halftime Magazine and served on the Executive Board of the Atlantic Indoor Association. A former teacher, she enjoys sharing what she has learned and hopes to encourage others to share as well. Together we can create even more positive experiences for performers and help to collectively strengthen marching arts activities worldwide.

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