Job interviews are exciting (we swear)! They’re a peek into new opportunities, new colleagues, and new challenges that will change your career path. No pressure, right? Here’s one way to be sure you’ll nail it: Prepare the answers to some common teacher interview questions before you set foot in the office of your future principal.
Here are seven teacher interview questions that are highly likely to come up. We recommend that you research your answers now. Then, stand in front of a mirror and start practicing!
1. Why did you decide to become a teacher?
It seems trite and like a softball question, but don’t let that fool you. If you don’t have a substantive answer, then why are you even applying? Schools want to know you’re dedicated to enriching the lives of students. Answer honestly and with anecdotes or examples that paint a clear picture of the journey that took you to become a teacher.
2. What type of classroom management structure would you implement if you were hired?
If you’re a veteran teacher, discuss how you handled your classroom in the past. Give specific examples of things that worked the best and why. If you’re new, then explain what you learned as a student teacher and how you’ll map out a plan to run your first classroom. No matter how long you’ve been teaching, familiarize yourself with the school district’s philosophies on classroom management and discipline. Mention how you’ll incorporate their philosophy and stay true to your own. If you’re unable to find out much about the school’s policies beforehand, ask the interviewer to explain.
3. How have you used, or how will you use, technology in the classroom?
Technology is at the forefront of education, so your interview is the time to show off that you’re savvy. Talk about why you’re excited to use technology with students. Explain how using SMART Boards improved your students’ test scores or describe the incredible website your last class created together. And, it’s great to throw in that you wear a Fitbit or that you control all the electronics in your house with your iPad. Innovative thinking around technology is something your administration is looking for—and so are your students.
4. What is your teaching philosophy?
This question is tricky. Don’t answer with a cliché, generic response. In fact, your response is your teaching mission statement. It’s the answer to why you’re a teacher. It’s helpful if you write out your mission statement before the interview and practice reciting it. Discussing your teaching philosophy is a chance to show off why you’re passionate, what you want to accomplish, and how you are going to apply it in this new position, in a new classroom, at a new school.
5. How will you motivate parents to become involved in the classroom and in their child’s education?
The home-school connection is imperative yet tough to maintain. Administrators lean on teachers to keep open lines of communication with parents. They even see you as a “publicist” for the school, reinforcing the culture, strengths, and values of the school to parents. So, answer this question with concrete ideas. Share how parents will volunteer in your classroom and how you’ll maintain regular contact, providing updates on both positive and negative events. It’s great to also share your plan for providing resources to parents when students are struggling.
6. What ways do you assess and evaluate students?
Here’s your chance to preview your lesson plans and reveal your methods for keeping on top of students’ social, academic, and physical development. Explain the types of quizzes you give because you know that they’re most telling about students’ strengths and weaknesses. Give insight into how you use oral reports, group projects, and seat work to determine who’s struggling and who’s ahead. And, share how you implement open communication with your students to discover what they need to succeed.
7. What interests you about our school?
Research, research, and research more before your interview. Google everything you can about the school. Do they have a theater program? Are the students involved in the community? What type of culture does the principal promote? Use social media to see what the school proudly promoted most recently. Then, ask around. Use your network of colleagues to find out what (current and former) teachers loved and hated about it. The point of all this digging? You need to know if this school is a good fit. If it is a good fit, you’ll demonstrate how much you want the job by explaining how you would get involved with all the amazing school programs you’ve heard so much about!
8. How will you meet the needs of the students in your class who may be advanced or say they’re “bored”?
School leaders don’t want to hear canned responses about how you can differentiate; they want you to give some concrete answers and support your ideas. Perhaps you help get kids prepared for scholastic competitions once they’ve mastered the standard (spelling bee or chemistry olympiad, anyone?). Maybe you offer more advanced poetry schemes for your English classes or alternate problem-solving methods for your math students. Whatever it is, make sure that you express the importance that all students are engaged, even the ones that are already sure to pass the state standardized test.
9. How will you motivate students who seem uninterested in learning or are unwilling to participate in class?
Teaching in an age when we must compete with Fortnite, Snapchat, and other forms of instant entertainment makes this question valid and necessary. How will you keep students’ heads off their desks, their pencils in their hands, and their phones in their pockets? Share specific incentive policies, engaging lessons you’ve used, or ways you build relationships to keep students on task. An anecdote of how a past student (remember to protect privacy) that you taught was turned on to your subject because of your influence would also help your credibility here.
10. Which activities, clubs, or sports are you willing to sponsor if you are offered a position?
While this expectation may be more real for middle and secondary teachers, being the new kid on the block often comes with a conversion of your title from Mr. or Ms. to Coach. If athletics aren’t one of your strengths, you can still get an edge on your competition by sponsoring science club, yearbook, or academic team. You might also share a special skill, like knitting or creative writing, and offer to teach it to interested students.
11. What three words would your peers, administrators, or students use to describe you?
After getting caught off guard by this prompt at a previous competitive interview, I would encourage you to have some thoughtful options to describe yourself. It’s tempting to say things you think your new boss might want to hear, like intelligent or hard-working, but don’t discount character traits or terms that paint you as team player among peers and a role model for students. Some options to consider are empathetic, creative, caring, or cooperative.
12. What do you feel you can contribute to our school’s PLC for your subject?
The days of shutting your door to do your own thing are out, and professional learning communities are in! Go in ready to discuss topics such as common planning, benchmarks, and data analysis. This is a key time to highlight your strengths. Whether you shine in making high-level DOK assessment questions or have a plethora of student-centered activities for your subject, let the interviewers know what you have to offer to your prospective peers and what you hope to glean from collaborating with them.
13. Which component of your resume are you most proud of and why?
Pride may come before a fall, but if asked about your accomplishments, don’t be bashful about conveying your worth. Have you won a grant for classroom materials? Share the details and how it helped your students succeed. Did you receive an award for excellence in instruction? Talk about how the application process helped you reflect and grow. If you’re a recent graduate, you can still brag on yourself: Describe your student-teaching experience and how it prepared you for opportunities, like the job opening you’re vying for. Small things, like professional organization memberships, can also help you relay your interest in staying up to date on the latest educational research and best professional development.
14. Do you have any questions?
While it may be tempting to get out of the hot seat quickly by answering with a simple no, this will generally be the final question and your last opportunity to leave a good impression. So, grab a journal or pad and jot some ideas down before your interview and proudly pull these notes out on cue. If you are at a loss for what to ask, peruse the school’s website, check out their goals, strategic plan, or recent accomplishments and refer to them specifically. Your potential principal will likely appreciate your inquisitive side if it is paired with genuine interest about their school.