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10 Tips to Thrive at Your Teaching Interview

Written by: Heather Hayen

  1. The Interview- A teaching interview isn’t like any other interview you’ve ever been on. It can often feel very cold and distant. I’ll leave out my personal feelings on whether it’s the most effective way to find the best candidates, but I do feel it’s important to be prepared for what a teaching interview looks like, especially in Public Schools. Public schools are typically guided by a team, the principal has the ultimate final decision, but they aren’t the only opinion that matters, they listen to a team, especially the good ones. Instead, the school will have what is usually called a hiring committee composed of teachers who will interview candidates along with the principal and possibly another school administrator. I say this because if you’ve had interviews for jobs outside of teaching, you’ve typically walked into an interview with max three people, and in my past corporate America life, I would interview with one person and then if deemed a good fit, I’d interview with the next person in the management hierarchy. With teaching, you’ll typically have one interview with a group of anywhere from 3-8 people. Be prepared to walk into a packed room.
  2. The Questions- Teacher candidate questions are arranged in advance and your interviewers are likely to not be able to ask you any questions outside of those that have been screened in advance. The plus side is most schools are going to ask you similar questions about your thoughts on classroom management, equity, curriculum, lesson planning, etc. You can learn a lot about the school by the one or two questions that are unique to that school.
  3. The BIG Question- “How do you create your lessons” or “What does your lesson planning look like.” In my opinion and experience, there is only one right answer, start with the standards. I have been in interviews where the candidates say, “I don’t plan because it’s all there in the curriculum.” First off, no it isn’t, sorry, first teaching myth exposed, but also what sets you apart from someone just reading the teacher’s guide is your ability to understand how to apply that curriculum to your standards and how to fill in the gaps. Though you’ll never be asked to create lesson plans like the ones you did in your Teacher Prep program so don’t worry, but in an interview be sure to acknowledge the importance of standards. I’ve yet to meet an administrator who doesn’t place significance on them.
  4. Standards- Review state-level standards before you interview. You’ll likely be interviewing across multiple grade levels if you are a primary teacher. For Secondary teachers (whom I’m much less familiar with) this is still vitally important. Though it is extremely unlikely during your interview you’ll be specifically asked about your content standards, being able to mention them or return to standards to support your answers to interview questions is truly helpful and shows that you are prepared. It’s impossible to know all the standards, especially when first starting, you should have familiarity with them. Standards drive the content we teach. If you are teaching outside general education content know what is expected for your specific population in the grade levels, you’d be supporting.
  5. Classroom Management- Have a basic plan of what your classroom management will look like. This will change, no one, truly NO ONE expects you to adhere to this exactly, but we want to know if you understand the importance of having a Classroom Management system in place. Classroom Management is NOT just a rewards system, so be prepared with your actual pedagogical beliefs about what Classroom Management should look like. Sharing your experience from your teacher prep program is a great share. Be knowledgeable about PBIS, my personal beliefs aside, PBIS is what most schools are focused on utilizing when it comes to Classroom Management. What will this look like in your classroom?
  6. Peer Relationships- You will be asked about how you interact with your peers. It can seem like teachers exist in a bubble and that their classroom is their private domain, but we work with our peers a lot. It’s important to be skilled at working on a team. Hiring Teams want to know you acknowledge the importance of this aspect of teaching.
  7. Your Questions- I believe as a new teacher, one of the best questions you can ask is, “What systems do you have in place to support your teachers?”  “How does this school as well as this district support their new teachers?” I’m not going to pretend you don’t already know that teacher retention is an issue. Your principal, school building, and district NEED you, they need teachers, and if they want to retain and grow quality teachers then they need to do the work to support you. Your interview is the time to find out if they are prepared to do this. Find out if they have a mentor program, if so what does that look like, is that mentor interviewing you now? Are there meetings for the district you’ll attend as a new teacher? Who will you have to rely on for the support you will need to succeed in your new role?
  8. Study the School- Research the school you’re interviewing at. Look into their school website and social media to get a feel for the environment and what they value as a school. Check out the school’s PTA social media as well. Remember the school isn’t just interviewing you, you’re interviewing them do your research to see if this school feels like the right fit for you.
  9. It’s okay to reject a job- You can say no to a job offer that doesn’t feel like the right fit. You’re in a candidate’s market! Schools need teachers and there are many schools to pick from you don’t have to say yes to an offer that doesn’t feel right for you. Just like you might not be the right candidate for the school, the school might not be the right fit for you.
  10. Thank You! – Thank you for choosing to become an educator. You’ve chosen an amazing profession. Welcome, and good luck!
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