Congratulations! You’ve gotten an interview appointment for a teaching position at a new school—or possibly for a different position at your current school. This is an important first step, but there will likely be a number of qualified candidates vying for the same spot.
So how can you distinguish yourself from the pack and land the job?
Your resume, references, and professional portfolio will help, of course, but it’ll always be the impression you make during your face-to-face interview that’ll get you hired. Since there are actually only a few types of questions a teacher can be asked, it’s completely possible to enter a teaching interview confident and prepared.
In addition to content-specific questions about the position you’re interviewing for, anticipate that you’ll also be asked questions based on your knowledge of and experience with meeting the needs of the whole child. Be ready to explain how you honor and attend to the social, emotional, soulful, and academic growth of your students— both individually and as a group. Be prepared for questions concerning classroom management, teacher-student relationships, student engagement, and learning outcomes.
Here are the types of questions you’ll be asked, along with suggestions and resources to guide you in preparing your answers and in practicing citing specific strategies and relevant classroom anecdotes.
1.) Why did you decide to become a teacher?
Prepare a brief professional mission statement that doesn’t merely explain how you want to change students’ lives but also how your own life is enriched by being a teacher. Also, look up the school’s vision statement and reference how your teaching will reflect those same goals.
2.) How would you handle a student who is constantly disruptive or defiant?
Instead of focusing on how you would react, explain the ways you approach classroom management proactively so small misbehaviors rarely become chronic or severe. Here are 8 ways to maintain student cooperation and courtesy. If the interviewers press you on the original question, this advice on students with oppositional defiant disorder may help.
3.) How do you cultivate positive relationships with your students and create a sense of class community?
Recount a time you bonded with a student who needed some extra attention and understanding. Show your concern for the emotional wellbeing of the most vulnerable students and describe your plan for SEL development . Also explain how you create a sense of empathy and inclusion amongst your students so classmates support each other socially and academically.
4.) How do you use data to differentiate instruction and support students identified with specific learning disabilities so all students can learn?
First, be ready with the names of a couple of data-rich student assessments you’re familiar with. Your interviewers won’t demand that they be the same ones they use, but the fact that you’re aware of testing practices is important. Then, here are 20 differentiated instruction strategies you can use to prepare your answer on how you respond to data. Also, show your knowledge of the 11 learning disabilities and describe a few ways you work with parents and school resource personnel to meet the individual needs of each child.
5.) How do you support literacy for all students, including English Language Learners?
No matter their content area, every teacher is a literacy teacher. Explain how you help develop your students’ reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. Here are 12 ways to support English learners in a mainstream classroom.
6.) How do you incorporate collaborative and project-based learning?
Discuss the difference between cooperative and collaborative learning, and describe a specific PBL assignment your students will work on.
7.) How do you keep your students engaged and motivated, and how do you allow students voice and choice to help them become self-directed learners?
8.) How do you teach 21st century learners, integrate technology, and guide students to become global citizens?
9.) How do you include parents in their child’s education?
10.) How do you maintain your own professional development and what areas would you select for your personal growth?
You might read books and blogs, watch videos online, subscribe to journals for teachers, attend conferences and workshops, or be a member of an educator’s society in your field. Be ready to talk about the specific resources you use to keep up with the latest trends in education, such as the growth and benefit mindsets, flexible seating, flipped and blended learning, STEAM, culturally-responsive and trauma-sensitive teaching, restorative practices, mindfulness, makerspace, gamification, etc.
As far as personal growth, explain ways you want to further expand your teaching efficacy, rather than speaking of certain teaching “weaknesses.”
Bonus question: What questions do you have for us?
Try this: “Please tell me the most important thing you know now as an educator that you wish you knew before you began your teaching career.” The answers you receive will reveal what your interviewers most value about education, and this insight will allow you to tailor your closing conversation to your interviewers’ interests.
If you liked this article, you’ll also enjoy my 9 other articles for Edutopia.
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For more on attending to the whole child and how teachers and parents can be allies in education, read the book by Robert Ward, Talented Teachers, Empowered Parents, Successful Students.