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You’ve sent out resumes, filled out applications, and now you have your first teaching interview scheduled. Congratulations! Getting called for an interview is one of the biggest hurdles in any job search, so give yourself a pat on the back.
However, your excitement can quickly turn into anxiety when you start thinking about how to prepare for your interview. What will the interview process be like? What types of questions will you be asked? How should you answer each question? This is where we come in.
At 240 Tutoring, we’re here to help you through every step of becoming a teacher – from passing your certification exam to getting your first classroom ready. We have over 60 years of collective experience in education, and have been on both sides of the interview process. In this article we’ll be sharing our tips for a successful teacher interview from start to finish. We’ll also cover the questions you can expect to be asked, how to answer them and the questions you should prepare to ask during your teacher interview.
Teacher Interview Tips
Before the Interview
Start your interview preparation by researching the school and district. Take note of mission statements, programs offered to students, student demographics and any specific curriculum used. Most of this information can be found on the school or district website, but an often overlooked source of information is a school’s social media page. This can give you insight into recent events held by the school, ways that the school promotes family involvement and the overall culture of the school.
Once you know a bit more about the school, it’s time to start preparing for the actual interview questions. The best way to do this is by reading through examples of questions (check out our list below), and brainstorming possible ways that you could answer them. Reflect on any past teaching, tutoring, or student teaching experiences, noting specific examples and scenarios that you can use during your interview.
Don’t get caught up in planning word-for-word answers to specific questions. A better approach is to have a list of examples and thoughts in your mind that can be applied to a variety of questions. Be sure to be able to answer the question, “What can you do to contribute to our school?” This is one that is bound to come up!
You want your responses to sound thoughtful and prepared, but not overly rehearsed. Having a list of ideas and examples to pull from can help prevent you from sounding too robotic and can also keep you from drawing a blank when you’re asked a question you weren’t prepared for.
The Day of the Interview
Gather everything you need and give yourself plenty of time to get ready. Even though the school already has your resume on file, it doesn’t hurt to take a few extra copies. You should also bring a notebook and pen as well as some notes to review as you wait for your interview to start.
You probably know that you should arrive early to an interview, but just how early should you be? While you should give yourself plenty of extra time to account for unexpected traffic, you don’t need to go into the actual building until about 10 to 15 minutes before your scheduled interview time. If you get to the school earlier than that, take that time to relax in your car and collect your thoughts.
During the Interview
Even though you may not feel like it, try to convey confidence throughout your interview. Remember, getting called for an interview is a huge step, so they’ve already noticed skills or qualities in your application that they like. Your job at the interview is to seal the deal by elaborating on your qualifications and by showing your personality.
Don’t be surprised if there’s more than one person interviewing you. It’s common for teacher interviews to be led by the principal or assistant principal, with other staff members sitting in as a panel. These other staff members might include the school counselor, grade level or subject team leaders, or the other teachers in the grade level or subject that you’re interviewing for. If your interview has more than one person, make a point to address everyone as you respond to each question. Direct your answer mainly at the person who asked the question, but look at each person as you talk.
After the Interview
After your interview, be sure to send an email thanking the interviewer for their time. If there was more than one person in the interview, include them in the email as well. (Tip: You can find teachers’ emails on the school website.)
In your email you should:
- Thank the interviewer(s) for their time.
- Highlight one or two aspects about the school or job that interested you. (“I really enjoyed learning about your school’s positive behavior intervention system.”)
- Reiterate or mention one or two of your specific qualifications for the job. (“I feel confident that I can contribute to the overall progress of students at this school by …” “My student teaching experience at (school) taught me the importance of … “)
- End by reiterating your appreciation and stating that you look forward to hearing from them soon.
While you certainly don’t need to send your email as you’re walking back to your car, you should try to send it within 24 hours of your interview.
Common Teacher Interview Questions (And Tips for Answering Them)
Knowing the types of questions you’ll be asked can take a huge weight off your shoulders. In our experience, these are some of the most common questions asked during teacher interviews. To keep you from sounding too robotic, we’ve provided general tips and talking points, as opposed to specific answers to use. Remember, you want to sound genuine and prepared, but not too rehearsed.
On the off chance that you’re asked a question that you aren’t prepared for, it’s OK to ask for a moment to think before you answer. It’s better to pause for a moment to collect your thoughts than give an incomplete or half-hearted answer.
If you’re new to teaching, some of the questions about past teaching experiences won’t directly apply to you. Chances are, your interviewer will acknowledge this and explain that it’s okay to describe what you would do or to draw on an experience from your student teaching. If not, lead into your answers by saying something like, “While I haven’t had direct experience with that yet, I plan to do X, Y, and Z.”
- Why did you decide to become a teacher?
Chances are, you’ve answered this question before in casual conversations with friends or family. Use that as a starting point, but be sure to include something that sets you apart from other candidates. Of course you want to be a teacher to work with children and make a difference, but what specifically drew you to teaching? Did you struggle in school and want to help your students have a better experience? Do you feel strongly about the value of the subject you plan to teach? Adding a personal aspect to your answer can help you stand out from other applicants.
- What is your favorite part about teaching?
This is another question where you want to avoid too many cliches. Everyone loves “when students have a lightbulb moment.” While there’s nothing wrong with this, you can put your own spin on it by going beyond the traditional answers. Do you love working with students with challenging behavior? Do you enjoy helping students develop their own personal passions? Maybe you love watching young children go from knowing a few sight words to reading short chapter books by the end of the year. No matter your answer, make sure that it is centered around the students.
Similar question: Tell me about one of the most rewarding moments you’ve had as a teacher.
- What is your least favorite part about teaching?
For this question, make sure your answer is honest and relatable, but not too negative. This is one of the few questions where you don’t want to elaborate too much, as you could risk coming off as complaining. A good framework to follow for this question is to share your least favorite part about teaching, explain why you dislike it, acknowledge that it needs to be done, and share how you find motivation for doing it.
For example, perhaps your least favorite part of teaching is the amount of standardized testing. In that case, your answer may sound something like this:
“My least favorite part of teaching is the amount of standardized testing that is used, because I know it only gives a snapshot of a student’s abilities. I know that standardized tests are necessary to make sure all students are getting a quality education, and I know they can provide important data for teachers to use. However, I always make sure that I’m using additional assessment measures so that I can get a full picture of my students’ knowledge and abilities.”
- Describe your classroom management style.
This question requires a lot of thought and planning to keep you from either drawing a blank or giving a long-winded, rambling answer. Technically speaking, there are four distinct classroom management styles: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and indulgent. You can mention one of these, but chances are your interviewer wants to know specific strategies and approaches that you plan to use in your classroom.
Some points to think about when planning your answer include:
- How do you establish your classroom rules and expectations? Are your students involved in the process?
- What consequences are in place when rules are not followed?
- How do you teach procedures and enforce them throughout the year?
- What are some ways that you reward or reinforce positive behavior?
- What steps do you take to prevent behavior problems from arising?
- How do you incorporate technology in the classroom?
Technology is used in every grade level, so it’s important for teachers to know how to best implement it. Technology should always be used to enhance a lesson, not as a replacement or a “filler” activity. Think of specific examples of how you have incorporated technology into your lessons or how you’ve seen technology used by other teachers. Do you use online interactive math manipulatives to teach place value? Have you used virtual field trips to enhance science lessons? Do your students use online platforms for asynchronous group discussions?
Your response to this question will depend on the grade level you are interviewing for, so make sure you are describing age-appropriate uses of technology.
- What are some ways that you communicate with families and encourage family involvement?
If you’re new to teaching, this is a question where you’ll need to explain what you plan to do. You should focus primarily on how you will communicate with families within your own classroom (newsletters, communication apps, providing virtual conference options, etc.), but you can also share a way that you can promote family involvement in the school as a whole (curriculum nights, career days, volunteer opportunities, etc).
This can also be a good opportunity to mention something that you learned from the school’s website or social media page. For example, “I noticed that you all recently hosted a science night for families. It looked really neat. That’s something I would love to be involved in if given the opportunity.”
- Why do you want to teach at this school?
This is another great opportunity to use information from the research you’ve done on the school or district. Are you passionate about the discipline and behavior approach they use? Is there an innovative program at the school that you are interested in? Do you feel a connection to the community or school demographics?
Plan to use specific examples rather than vague statements. For example, instead of saying that you “like the teamwork shown amongst the staff,” explain that you appreciate the fact that grade level teams collaborate with one another each grading period in order to vertically align the curriculum.
- Describe a student you’ve had with behavior concerns and how you handled it.
For this question, make sure you use neutral terms and facts. You don’t want to sound as if you are complaining or have negative feelings towards the student. Describe the behavior concern or specific situation, then discuss the actions you took and how the issue was resolved. It’s important to describe how you got to the root of the problem, rather than focusing on a punishment. For example, if you describe a student who repeatedly refused to participate, you should discuss how you spoke privately with the student to find out why.
Wrap up your answer by describing how your actions benefited the student. For example, did a one-on-one conversation lead to a student feeling more valued and respected in your classroom? Did a parent conference give you insight into new strategies to try with the student? Did seeking support from the school counselor lead to the student receiving additional behavior services?
Note: It’s OK to use an example where you sought help from an administrator or counselor, as long as the support was warranted. For example, typical off-task behavior should be handled by the classroom teacher, but it is appropriate (and necessary) to seek additional support for a student with severe emotional disturbances.
- Describe a difficult situation that you have had with a student’s parent and how you handled it.
Like the previous question, you’ll want to make sure that you are using neutral terms and sticking to the facts rather than venting about a parent. Have a scenario in mind where you feel certain that the issue was resolved in a positive manner.
When asking this question, interviewers are looking for someone who can listen to parents’ concerns in a respectful manner but stand firm in their position as the teacher while finding a resolution to the problem. For example, if a parent is frustrated about the way you are teaching multiplication, an appropriate way to resolve this is by empathizing with their concerns while also explaining why you are using a different strategy than they are used to.
- Describe a student you’ve had who struggled with a specific topic or subject and discuss how you addressed this.
This is a great time to highlight your understanding of intervention strategies and differentiated instruction. Be specific in the strategies that you used to support the student. Did you use small group instruction? One-on-one support? Did you use math manipulatives to make an abstract concept more concrete? Did the student receive Tier 2 or 3 RTI support?
You’ll also want to mention how you monitored and documented the student’s progress. Differentiation, intervention, and progress monitoring are crucial in education, so make sure you have a strong response in mind for this question.
Similar question: What are some ways that you differentiate your teaching to meet the needs of all students?
- How would your former team members or coworkers describe you?
This is a bit of a twist on the traditional “What are your strengths” question. Think about some of your best qualities as a coworker, along with specific examples to support this. Have you shown that you are especially dependable by stepping in when a teacher needed help with last minute sub plans? Would former coworkers mention how your attention to detail helped identify gaps in students’ knowledge? Plan to list two to three descriptive statements and provide examples for each one.
- How would your former students describe you?
Obviously you want to choose positive qualities to answer this question, but be sure the traits you list are also ones that a principal would like to see in their teachers. While your students may see you as “friendly,” a potential employer may worry that this means you lack authority. “Approachable” conveys a similar message, but in a more interview-friendly way. Similarly, you can replace “fun” with “has exciting lessons.” A small change in phrasing can make a world of difference, while still being genuine about your answer. Like the previous question, be sure to have specific examples in mind to share if needed.
Similar question: What traits do you think students are looking for in a teacher?
- If I were to walk into your classroom on a typical day, what are some things I would see?
Think about your own personal vision for your classroom in terms of both student activities and classroom layout. Will students work mostly independently or in groups? Will multiple activities be happening at the same time, or will all students be working on the same task? What type of seating arrangements will you use? Where and when will you work with small groups of students? For younger children, what types of centers will you use? Use these questions as a starting point for describing your ideal classroom.
Similar question: Walk me through a typical day/lesson/class period in your classroom.
- How do you know when a lesson has been successful?
Effective teachers use a variety of methods to determine if a lesson has been successful, so your response should acknowledge this. Plan on briefly referring to some of the assessment tools you use, such as exit tickets or discussions, then tying in the fact that one of the best ways to tell when a lesson is successful is when students are excited about the topic and engaged in the lesson or activity. You want the interviewer to know that you understand the importance of assessments, but that you are also able to gauge students’ understanding during a lesson and can adjust your teaching accordingly.
- Describe some of the methods you use to assess and monitor your students’ progress.
While the goal of the previous question was to highlight your ability to evaluate student understanding during or shortly after a lesson, this question focuses on your knowledge of different assessment strategies and your ability to implement them appropriately throughout the school year. Be sure to describe a variety of different methods, such as anecdotal notes, running records, diagnostic tests, class assignments, or school-wide common assessments. Discuss the importance of using different assessments strategies for different purposes and how a combination of assessment tools should be used.
- What can you contribute to our school?
This is the opportunity to transition into what your contribution to the overall school culture would be. How would your presence on the teaching staff positively affect the staff culture? What will you bring to the table as a co-worker? This is a critical question and the perfect chance for you to help the interviewers actually envision you at their school.
Think specifically about how you will be beneficial to the staff. Do not just think on how being an effective teacher will help, but give ways you will seek to make a positive impact on the staff.
Consider the impact you have had on other teams in the past and ways you anticipate to benefit your co-workers.
Bonus Teacher Interview Question: “Do You Have Any Questions for Us?”
This is practically a guaranteed interview moment, so you’ll want to have a short list of questions you can ask during your teacher interview. It’s OK (and even a good idea) to write them down in a notebook and bring them with you. Keep your questions centered around the school’s philosophies, opportunities for professional development, and how teachers are supported. Questions regarding start dates, specific schedules, and salary can wait until you are offered the job.
It’s OK to have several questions prepared, but plan on actually asking one to three questions. You want to sound interested, but not as though you are the one doing the interview. Some questions you may want to ask include:
- How are first-year teachers supported? Will I have a mentor teacher?
- What type of professional development or staff development opportunities are offered by the district?
- What approach does this school take regarding student behavior and discipline?
- What are some ways that this school or district encourages community involvement?
- What is the next step for me in this interview process? (This is a great way to find out when you might hear back, without having to actually ask it.)
You may find that all of your questions were answered throughout the interview. If this is the case, simply explain that by saying, “Well, I was going to ask about A, B, and C, but you explained it so well already when we discussed X, Y, and Z.” This shows that you were prepared with questions, but that you were also listening and engaged during the interview.
After your teacher interview, your biggest job is to relax (and send that thank you email!). Chances are you did an excellent job and will soon be called back with a job offer.