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8 Critical Themes of a Teacher Interview
Here’s a fact of life: You can send out all the resumes, contact all the school districts in your state, and write all the cover letters you want — but you won’t get a teaching position except when you interview. Without the interview there can be no coaching. Do well in the interview and the job is yours! Do not do well in the interview and, no matter how impressive your credentials, no matter how high your GPA, no matter how good your letters of recommendation – the simple fact is: you will not get the position!
Each teacher interview is built around eight basic themes – each one intended to identify and demonstrate your skills, abilities, and attitudes. Each is designed to separate the mediocre from the good and the good from the great. Everything you do, everything you say, and everything that happens in a teacher interview is tied to these themes – separately and collectively. Your success in any interview will be based in large measure on how well you accomplish each (and all) of the following:
1. A Passion for Teaching
When I interviewed elementary and secondary school principals and asked them to identify the most important characteristics of a quality teacher candidate, guess what they all told me? You guessed it – “A Passion for Teaching!”
What activities, projects, or tasks have you done that demonstrate your passion for teaching? What have you done that shows you are willing to go the extra mile for students? What have you done that shows your sincere commitment to teaching? Where did you go above and beyond? Have you done anything in teaching a student that is above the ordinary? Did you accomplish something during your pre-service years that went beyond your college’s requirements for teacher certification? What really excites you about teaching?
2. Skills and Experience
One of the first things you should do in any interview is establish your ability to do the job. In short – Can you teach and can you teach effectively? In most interviews this is the first set of questions you will be asked. Many of these questions will be factual in nature and will give you the opportunity to highlight your skills and talents and how they can be used in a classroom setting. This is when you really need to provide specific information rather than general information. This is also the time to be completely objective about yourself – with confidence and assurance.
What will you bring to the teaching profession? Why should we hire you? Why do you want to be a teacher? What have you learned from student teaching? Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that these are easy questions – they are not! They are often asked near the start of the interview because they help “set up” the rest of the interview. Positive answers to these questions will help ensure success throughout the interview.
Here is a basic fact that you may find hard to believe. The most important thing every interviewer looks for in a candidate is NOT the breadth and depth of his skills, education, or talents. It’s love! In a recent review of more than 100,000 face-to-face interviews, not a single candidate was hired who did not, at first, like the people doing the interview and hiring. You might think that a person’s personality is inferior to their teaching skills, but that is not the case. Simply put, people are hired because they like it.
4. Student Orientation
Candidates who do not have a strong student orientation are candidates who will not make it further into the hiring process. Without that orientation, without that commitment to the student’s life, and without that desire to work with young people no one can be hired as a classroom teacher.
How do you motivate an unmotivated student? How do you assess students? Tell us about your most difficult student – how did you manage him? How do you address cultural diversity in your classroom? What do you enjoy about working with children? What are some challenges you have experienced working with children? Besides student teaching, what else have you done with young people? Go to an interview with a strong and sincere student orientation and you can walk away with a job offer.
The field of education is changing rapidly – new technology, new standards, and new curriculum – many new things. Your willingness and interest in continuing your education is a key factor in your “hireability.” Candidates who believe that just because they have a degree their education is over are the ones who will fail in an interview. Any administrator wants to know that you are a constant learner – that you are willing to continue learning through graduate courses, in-service programs, on-line seminars and webinars, membership in professional organizations, books, magazines and journals, and a host of other professional opportunities that communicate your eagerness to continue your education further.
6. Management and Discipline
You’ve probably seen classrooms where students are organized, work is productive, and a sense of purpose and direction fills the room. You’ve probably also seen classrooms that are chaotic, disruptive, and seemingly out of control. You may have been a student in one or both classrooms at some point in your educational career. Principals are very interested in how you plan to manage your classroom. Your management skills and disciplinary policy are very important in the decision to hire you. Be aware that you will be asked more than one question in this area. Read, research, and review everything you can – your success here will always be a key decision point.
7. Lesson Planning
What are the important parts of an effective lesson? Think of a recent lesson you taught and share the steps you included in delivering the lesson. Share your short- and long-term planning process for delivering effective instruction. Think of a lesson that wasn’t effective or didn’t meet your expectations – what adjustments did you make to address the lesson? How do you use technology to improve your instruction? It is important that you give an interviewer insight into your lesson planning, lesson delivery, and lesson assessment. Anecdotes and examples should be critical elements of your answers.
Can you ‘roll with the punches’? good teacher – flexibility. Interviewers want to know that you can handle a wide variety of classroom situations, a wide range of teaching challenges, and a wide range of changes, modifications, or changes – all in one. time notice. Your willingness to present yourself as someone who can adapt without being confused or change without getting angry is a key quality – a quality that can often “nail” the interview.
The above themes appear in every teacher interview. Practice it, prepare for it, and review it regularly. Your preparedness will help you beat the competition and land the teaching position you want!
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