This post originally appeared on the blog Bond with James.
This is the time of year when my district begins sending out emails concerning teacher summer school positions and school transfer opportunities. Whether you’re a novice or veteran teacher, it is always a great idea to prepare for an upcoming interview. In this post, I share five tips — in video and writing — that you can immediately implement to help you toward your goal of obtaining a teaching position. I share these teacher interview tips based on my expertise as a teacher and as a former district-level specialist and a high school campus assistant principal.
Want to fast forward? See the time stamps below the video.
Here are the time stamps to fast forward… (non-linked)
0:24 Tip #1: Devote time to learning about the campus
1:50 Tip #2: Speak about your experience in education
2:59 Tip #3: General classroom framework
4:05 Tip #4: Avoid the negativity
4:44 Tip #5: Highlight your strengths
Tip #1: Devote time to learning about the campus
If you’ve taken the time to apply to a campus, then you should also take some time to research information about it. Some districts have a district-wide application process where individuals select campuses they’re interested in rather than applying to the campus directly. If you decided to select a bunch of campuses, then be prepared to spend some time researching each campus.
I was always baffled with candidates that would show up for an interview and then confess to the committee that they knew nothing about the school. Use Google (it’s your friend) to find the campus website or other news about it. Most campuses have general information such as who the current administrators are, the bell schedule, and news for parents.
As stated in the video, you do not need to memorize every single detail; however, having some general knowledge about the school shows that you’re at least interested in the possibility of becoming a member of the faculty. You also will not be caught off guard concerning certain facts if you’re hired and show up on Day 1 of the job (such as the instructional time frame, demographics, school achievement status, etc.).
Furthermore, researching information about the campus may provide insight to potential questions that the interviewer or committee might ask you. For example, if you notice the campus has a high ELL (English Language Learner) population, you could prepare yourself to receive potential questions about ELLs. Moreover, that information may at least provide you with information to speak to about at another time during the interview (refer to Tip #5).
A few things to research (not a complete list):
– student demographics
–ethnicity vs targeted groups [ELLs, SpEd, GT, At-Risk, etc.]
– academic ratings
–state exams, AP scores, etc.
–compare the data among student demographics (do you notice any trends)
– academic initiatives or programs
–AVID campus, literacy (reading/writing) programs, interactive
– instructional core
–bell schedule (meet with students every day or every other day, the length
of classes, etc.)
–common planning with PLC (content area team)
–opportunities to attend professional development
–layout of the school or future classroom
Tip #2: Speak about your experience in education
Usually, the interview will begin with the interviewer/committee asking you to talk a little bit about yourself. This is a generic, yet open-ended question. As I mentioned in the video, I recommend talking about your higher education experience and your teaching background. You are not required to share personal information with the committee. In fact, this is where I have seen a lot of interviews go completely off the tracks because the candidate was too revealing in his or her personal life (sometimes on the verge of being inappropriate).
If you stick to your own schooling and teaching experience, then very little can go wrong. Keep it short, simple, and sweet. Don’t panic if you’re looking for your first teaching job — speak to your student teaching experience and your enthusiasm to start your journey as an educator. Share personal information only if you can connect it to your career as an educator.
Tip #3: General classroom framework
Develop an idea of your instructional framework, policies and procedures, and classroom climate. Most teachers were taught to develop lesson plans using a specific model, for example, the 5E Model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend, and Evaluate). You could reference the 5E sequence, or another model, to talk about what an administrator might observe as s/he enters your classroom for an observation. Highlight what the students, as well as yourself, are doing throughout a sample lesson (this will also help those that have to present a sample lesson during the interview).
If you’re asked to talk about a weakness, then speak to something that many people struggle with. For example, I sometimes participate in multiple campus-related events and spread myself thin. I have to continually remind myself that I cannot do it all. However, in the process of sharing a “weakness”, I have also spun it around to highlight an effective teacher characteristic — being a collaborative faculty member. As a former administrator, I appreciated teachers that assisted the admin team or their colleagues in various ways.
Here are a few sample questions:
- Describe your teaching philosophy.
- How do you handle disruptive students?
- Describe how you would work with a student that is not disruptive but disengaged from the learning in your classroom.
- Describe how you would work with a parent or guardian that has complained about your grading practices.
- Describe your idea of effective communication with parents and other staff members.
- How do you maintain confidentiality between students?
- Describe your thoughts on addressing equity in your classroom or within your department.
- What are some ideas that you have that would help close the achievement gap among students at the campus?
Tip #4: Avoid the negativity
If you had a troubling experience at a former or current campus, then it might be easy to fall into the trap of saying something that might be viewed as negative by the interviewer/committee. Try to remain neutral and as general as possible when replying to questions that might incite a negative response. For example, you might be asked to share a time when you and a colleague, or administrator, were in disagreement with one another. You can speak in general terms regarding how you would resolve the disagreement.
Tip #5: Highlight your strengths
Prior to going into any interview, develop a list of qualities and experiences that you believe make you the best candidate for the position. Whether you’re given time at the end of the interview to share additional information, or ask questions, make sure to take a moment to highlight your strengths.
If you did your homework (Tip #1), you might have learned some things about the campus that are aligned to your strengths. For example, if you have experience working with English Language Learners (ELLs) and are interviewing at a campus with a large ELL population, then highlight that experience and any successful strategies during the interview. Or if the campus is a 1-to-1 technology campus and you are a technological wiz, then talk about some of the innovative things you might use the technology for.
Don’t throw buzzwords out during the interview for the sake of it; especially if you don’t truly believe in or even execute the strategies. For example, if you don’t use word walls and have no interest in using word walls, then do not pretend to like them because you think that will get you bonus points during the interview. Furthermore, if you are offered the position, then there might be an expectation that you follow through with the skills that you used to promote yourself during the interview process.
James is an educator that has served in multiple roles throughout his career. He has taught various levels of science, ranging from grades 7-12, for several years before taking a position as a district science instructional specialist. In that role, he provided pedagogical support, as well as content-specific professional development, to secondary science teachers at 17 high school campuses. Furthermore, he worked with teacher PLCs, developed department-wide intervention plans and curricula, conducted demonstration lessons, and presented at conferences across the state of Texas.
James continued to grow and develop his instructional leadership skills as a high school assistant principal. However, while he enjoyed the challenges of being an administrator, James’ passion for teaching led him back to the classroom during the 2016-2017 school year. James continues to serve as an instructional leader while ensuring that his own lessons are motivating and engaging for students. You can Bond with James at his TpT store, as well as his blog, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or Pinterest.