For years, my interview lecture for math jobs was about the number system. It was flexible, would fit well in almost any class, and generally involved enough fancy math word to impress administrators. The 20 minute lecture built up from troll counting to the natural numbers through the Real and Complex fields by pushing at the questions that a given system couldn’t answer and framing the next system as the extension to the previous rules that would give a label for what was previously unknowable.
It was also pretty funny, as math lectures go.
When I started interviewing for exclusively “tech” positions, I shifted to lessons about Conway’s Game of Life, finite state machines, and other bits of basic CS that we could tackle even in a classroom without computers. I have a deep, historic love of Conway , and that combination made sure that I could get any group of kids up and moving. Since I last interviewed with this lesson, I’ve found even more great examples of this format in the amazing CS Unplugged.
Sample lessons are a layered pantomime, where teachers are asked to build 20 minute scale models of the relationships and learning that we’d struggle to build over years. Being successful in these lessons often means convincing the adults in the room more than connecting with students.
Occasionally I break out in a sweat about what my next set of sample lessons will look like. I’ve given lots of thought to what a better interview might look like, but I’m still stymied on how to express my current teaching goals into the traditional sample lesson. If a potential hire showed up with a backpack full of cardboard , does that make them the teacher equivalent of a prop comic? What about a truck? How do you model long-term engagement and student inquiry, processes that already strain against the 45 minute boundary, in a 20 minute teaser?