This is the time of year when student teachers and even seasoned teachers all over the world are gearing up for new jobs. Whether you’re fresh out of student teaching (hooray!), going back to work after taking some time off, or looking for a change in your current teaching position, you need to be prepared. I’ve gathered some helpful tips for you to have a successful teaching interview and I’ve even included teaching interview questions so you can practice with a friend prior to your interview.
DO PREPARE FOR YOUR TEACHING INTERVIEW.
Many of us tend to focus on a single aspect of preparing for an interview, such as the outfit, or the portfolio. The important thing about preparing for an interview is realizing how important each aspect of your appearance, answers to questions, personality, and knowledge required for the position are. The bottom line: don’t spend 5 hours shopping for the perfect outfit and 20 minutes thinking about what you’ll say. Here’s a set of common teaching interview questions you can use to practice with a friend.
Speak up and speak clearly and loud enough for the whole interview team to hear you. If you’re trying to appear demure or sweet, it’s not going to come off as cute. Enunciate. Be mindful of your speaking rate. If you tend to speak quickly when you’re nervous, practice until you’re comfortable and it sounds natural. Think for a few seconds before answering questions, there’s no rush to answer and you’ll actually look more thoughtful doing so.
DO YOUR RESEARCH.
Sure the school might have a website, which you can find a little bit about, but the info might be outdated or not reveal a whole lot. If you’re able to, walk through the hallways prior to your interview and you can tell a lot about a school just by what’s on the walls and peaking in the rooms (if it’s not summer break of course).
See if you can volunteer in a classroom so you can get to know what the staff values. If anyone’s around, ask the staff and/or parents a few questions (tell them you’re interested in working there and just want to know the general feeling of the school). Observe what the staff is wearing (Jeans? Dresses or skirts? Slacks?) to get a clue about what kind of daily appearance will be expected of you. What kind of school is it? Private? Public? Title I? How many students are in each class? How many teachers per grade level? What’s the parent involvement like? Involved or minimal? What’s the student population like? Affluent or low income? What kinds of programs does the school use for literacy and math? Are you familiar with any of them? What’s the school-wide behavior situation? PBIS? Responsive Classroom?
DON’T BE SHY.
Shake hands like you mean it and smile while you’re doing it. You’re a professional, and not on a date. Avoid the annoying wet noodle handshakes or pretty princess greetings. Practice this with a friend. Firm, but not aggressive. You CAN be confident without appearing like a know-it-all or being overly-friendly and telling everyone about what you ate for breakfast on your last vacation. Remember, you want this job, and you want the interview team to know it, so act like it. With that being said, if you know someone in the school, district or even on the committee, do not, in any circumstance, act like you “have the job” simply because of your “connections.” That sort of behavior will most certainly come across as incredibly unprofessional and smug, and can cost you the job.
DO PROVIDE EXAMPLES.
When speaking and in tangible form. If you’re asked about how you handle a difficult situation with a parent during your teaching interview, even if you’re speaking hypothetically, provide a scenario of how you did or will respond to parents with specific examples. Try not to answer those kinds of questions with another question like they have a black and white answer and you’re not sure if you’re right (rather than saying, “I’d request a meeting so we could discuss it further after school?” Say, “I’d request a meeting so we could discuss it further after school.”). The difference is answer in a statement, not a question.
Your portfolio, NOT your student teaching binder that you turned in to your professors before you graduated, is a great asset and shouldn’t live on a shelf at home. The interview team will likely not ask to see it, which means you should use it as a tool to highlight your answers (“In this lesson example right here in my porfolio, I demonstrate how to implement guided reading at the beginning of the year.”). Here’s an editable teaching portfolio template you can use to help you get organized. You can even save it in Google Slides so it can be a digital teaching portfolio as well as a printed one. If you’re able to, ask if you can drop it off a few days in advance so your interview team has a chance to look at it. If you have time, read the feedback comments to see what teachers are saying about their experience using this teacher portfolio.
DON’T BE NEGATIVE.
Teachers don’t have to be overly happy cheerleaders, but no one likes a Negative Nancy. A teaching interview isn’t the place to complain about your last coworkers or principal. It’s not a place to look for sympathy if you’re personal life isn’t that great. When speaking about yourself, avoid talking about your shortcomings (and even the cliche ones like, “I work too hard,” or “I’m too organized.”) and focus on what makes you unique or how you intend to grow as a teacher.
DO BE YOUR (MOST PROFESSIONAL)SELF.
Remember to smile, but if you’re being fake and it doesn’t come off as natural, it’ll likely be awkward. Wear something professional to your teaching interview, and I can’t believe I have to say this, but even if it is your personality and you’re trying to be yourself, NO CLEAVAGE, RIPPED CLOTHING OR SHORT SKIRTS. Leave your “sexy school teacher” outfit at home. Let your memorable personality shine through your demeanor and conversation during the teaching interview, rather than your appearance.
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