You’ve sent out your resume and submitted applications to work as a substitute teacher, and now it’s finally time to interview! Congratulations!
You may be wondering — what now? How do I prepare to interview for a sub position? What types of questions will be asked?
Preparing for a substitute teacher interview may leave you feeling nervous, but don’t worry! At 240 Tutoring, we have over 60 years of collective experience in education, including experience as both an interviewer and interviewee. This article will prepare you for some of the most common substitute teacher interview questions and give tips on how to answer them successfully. If you’re looking for a permanent position, check out our article on the most-common teacher interview questions and how to prepare.
Substitute Teacher Interview Tips
Before the Interview
A few days prior to your interview, take some time to familiarize yourself with the school and district in which you are interviewing. What is the make-up of the student body? What is the school’s mission statement? What makes the school unique? Taking an interest in the school’s achievements and mentioning them during the interview can help you stand out as a candidate.
Prepare for your interview by conducting mock interviews. Read through common interview questions and think about what your answers would be. Draw on your own experience as a student. What do you remember about substitute days? What did your favorite teachers do that made them successful? Gather these memories and your own experience with children and prepare a mental list of answers to common interview questions (like those below). Remember you want to use your prepared answers as a guide for the day of to create genuine responses that don’t sound too rehearsed.
The Day of the Interview
Make sure you know how to get to the school so that you will arrive on time or early. Aim for around 10 minutes early to enter the building. If you arrive much earlier than that, stay in your car, take a deep breath or two, and review your mental outline.
During the Interview
Even though you may be feeling nervous, try your best to appear confident. Use direct eye contact, smile, and laugh as appropriate. Don’t be afraid to let your personality show.
After the Interview
Thank the interviewer for their time. Express your interest in the position and that you look forward to hearing from them soon.
Common Substitute Teacher Interview Questions and Answers
The best way to prepare for your substitute teacher interview is to plan for the types of questions you’ll be asked. By planning for commonly asked questions, you’ll be less likely to be thrown for a loop during the interview. Below, you will find a list of some of the most common questions asked in a substitute teacher interview. While it is important to plan answers before the interview, it is equally important not to come across as rehearsed or studied. After each question, you’ll find some sample answers or key points. Keep these in your mind during the interview, but let your ideas flow organically.
You will likely be asked questions you haven’t prepared for. It is okay to pause, reflect on the question, and then deliver an answer. It is better to take your time than give a jumbled thought too quickly.
If this will be your first position as a substitute teacher, some questions will not directly apply to you. Your interviewer may change the question to ask what you would do in a scenario, but you can also begin your response with something like, “In this case, I would plan to do X.”
1. Please introduce yourself and give us a brief history of what has brought you here today.
For a question like this, consider both your personal and educational backgrounds. What in your personal history has brought you to this interview? Are you a parent of kids in the school? Are you a teaching candidate looking for more experience in schools? Describe any relevant experience with education or children that will make you a strong substitute teacher.
2. Why did you decide to become a substitute teacher?
You’ve probably had this conversation already with friends or family. Use your prior answers as a basis for your response. Remember to bring your personality to the table while describing your motivations for working as a substitute. Some points to consider include what skills and traits make you a strong candidate for substitute teaching and why you are well suited to work with children.
3. What was your favorite subject in school? Your least favorite?
This is a fairly standard interview question. The goal of this question is to learn a little bit more about you as a person. Once you’ve decided on your favorite and least favorite subjects, think about the reason why that subject fits that category. Did you love the logic and straightforwardness of math? Did the subjectivity of English cause you to struggle? Support your subject choices with anecdotes from your time as a student.
4. What experience do you have working with children?
For this question, consider all relevant experiences. Do you have small children in your family? Do you participate in any volunteer opportunities geared toward kids? Have you worked in education or child care previously? For each experience, remember to briefly describe any key events or skills gained from these experiences that will help you be a strong substitute teacher.
5. You have been given a lesson plan by the teacher. What steps do you take to deliver the lesson as planned?
Depending on the reason for the teacher’s absence, you may find very or minimally detailed lesson plans upon arriving in the classroom. The interviewer wants to know how you will handle reading and delivering a teacher’s lesson. Some points to consider:
- Where will you locate supplies as described in the lesson plan?
- How can you engage students in the delivery of the lesson?
- What skills or content knowledge do you have to deliver complete lessons?
6. A student refuses to remain seated and is disrupting your teaching. How do you handle this situation?
It is almost guaranteed you will be asked some version of this question. How will you manage disruptive students? Consider a variety of steps you could take to de-escalate a behavior situation, such as changing seats or location in the class, putting the student in charge of a task, incorporating play or humor, or even sending the student to the office or another teacher to “run an errand.” This would also be a good opportunity to ask the interviewer what behavioral policies are in place in the school that you could take advantage of in severe cases.
7. How would your former team members or coworkers describe you?
This question is a bit trickier than asking “What are your strengths?” Think of two or three of your former coworkers. What did they enjoy about working with you? What attributes did you bring to the team that they most appreciated? Once you’ve got these examples in mind, come up with the descriptive word for that trait. Be prepared to not only give the descriptions but also provide examples for those traits.
8. What strategies will you use to communicate with and report back to the teacher?
Teachers count on notes from substitutes to understand how the day went, what was accomplished, and if there are any issues that need to be addressed. Some schools may provide a template for you to fill out throughout the day to make notes while others will leave the format up to you. Come up with a plan for communicating absences, what happened during the lesson, where papers were left, and general comments about what went well and what didn’t.
9. Describe your favorite teaching strategy.
You may be asked a modified version of this question, the goal of which is to assess your knowledge of teaching and successful teaching methods. If you have a teaching background or courses in educational strategy, be sure to include specific examples of theorists or researched-based strategies. If you do not have teaching experience to build upon, think of the ways you learn and prior educational experiences that were meaningful to you. While direct, lecture-style teaching is still used in the classroom, current research tends to lean toward student-driven lessons that engage the student in creating and driving the material. Some more specific teaching strategies you might mention include:
- Modes of learning – people learn in a variety of ways. Generally, there are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners, or those who learn through doing. Using a variety of activities that meet each learning style is important for engaging all learners.
- Teacher Modeling – One effective strategy is for the teacher to model the skill, work the skill together as a whole group, and then allow the student to work independently.
- Questioning & Feedback – Asking high-quality questions and providing feedback are two ways to engage students in the lesson and determine and guide their current knowledge.
10. Where do you see yourself in five years?
This is a common interview question for any job. Employers want to know that the people they are training and hiring will be around for a while. How do your goals for your personal and professional life relate to this current job as a substitute teacher? Are you on track to become a teacher, and hope to use substitute teaching to bolster your resume? Are you filling in some part-time work while you finish a degree or search for a more permanent income? Whatever the case, be honest and describe how this position will fit well into your current and future life.
Now that you know what questions to expect and how to answer them, you’re ready to rock your interview! Substitutes are critically important to keeping a school running. After passing your interview, you’ll be one step closer to getting in the classroom and making a difference as a substitute teacher.
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