Prepare for a Teaching Interview – Land That Teaching Job!
Prepare For Your Interview
In the last nine years, I have had three different teaching assignments. Furthermore, I have successfully interviewed and have been offered employment at every school where I wanted to work.
This is not by accident: with careful planning and preparation, I was able to get the job that I knew would fit me and my personality. I have interviewed at many schools looking for the right teaching position.
It's not easy getting the job you want, especially in a recovering economy. However, there are ways to outshine the competition. In fact, I have coached friends and other teachers to finding the job they wanted and I'm going to share how I did it.
With these steps, finding a job won't be guaranteed, but you will greatly boost your chances of finding the teaching job of your dreams.
Portfolio, With All Components
Prior School Research
10 Interview Questions
Thank You Card with Stamped Envelope
Research the School
Do your due diligence and research the school.
- You can get a good idea if you'd like to work there by peeking behind the scenes at the school and the district in which it belongs.
- You can reference what events are happening, read the principal's page if there is one, check out photos of students at work, and read staff biographies.
Look at the school's mission and vision statement.
- To see if it's in alignment with your goals and values.
For example: do you want to teach at a Waldorf school when your own values reflect a desire to utilize technology?
- This will help you when you are doing your interview.
It's always impressive if you can reference an organization's reasons for existing: it shows a true interest in them.
Create a "Teaching Resume"
A one-page resume might get you your first job at the ice cream shoppe, but usually, one page is not nearly enough to convey your teaching experiences.
- Your teaching resume should include your educational background, as well as all relevant teaching experience.
On my own resume, for example, I still include my student-teaching experience, though it was ten years ago. If I am interviewing for a position teaching English as a Second Language, I'm going to include my volunteer experiences with teaching ESL students.
Modify your teaching resume if you're applying for different positions.
- If interviewing for a Spanish teaching position, don't include ESL experience because it's not relevant (unless the position entails possibly helping with English Language Learning (ELL) students).
- Do include tutoring and any interim positions you've held that have to do with teaching Spanish.
- Include skills and hobbies in your resume. Schools like to know your skills because they might be able to tap into your talent.
- List awards and professional organizations—these make you shine above the rest.
What's Your Experience?
Do you think your chances of landing your job will be higher if you follow this checklist?
Brush up on Educational Jargon
Every business has its own culture and sub-language. The field of education is no different. In fact, the educational world has many acronyms.
If you're a recent graduate of an educational program, you might be familiar with a number of terms and acronyms: ESL, PEP, EOG, EOC, 504, and many more.
In an era where teachers have more accountability, many of these acronyms come from various laws in place to help with student achievement.
Again, the more familiar you are with the terms, especially in your subject area, the higher the probability your interviewers will take an interest in you.
Knowing the different acronyms and terms will help you when you talk about "differentiation of instruction"—this is an educational buzzphrase and you must be ready to demonstrate how you do this.
When you're looking at a school, pay close attention to their mission and vision.
Do they align with your values and goals?
It's important that they do - you won't be happy working somewhere that is completely different than your personal values and goals.
Create a Portfolio
In recent years, there has been a de-emphasis on a teaching portfolio in favor of resumes or just talking during the course of the interview.
I'm here to tell you that if you have a portfolio, your chances are much greater of landing the job you want than someone who does not have a portfolio.
However, if you create a portfolio, make it part of the interview.
- As you speak, you'll be able to refer to it. Remember those special needs students I spoke about above? You can use a portfolio to show their work and progress.
- A portfolio gives your hands something to hold on to while you're talking. Many people tend to use their hands too much in interviews, or they have sweaty palms and end up wrinkling their resumes.
- Boost confidence in what you're saying. If your interviewer asks about your teaching philosophy, you can refer to your written copy and summarize.
What to Include In a Teaching Portfolio
- Your teaching philosophy (this must be error-free)
- Your best examples of student work
- A sample (or two) of your best lesson plan
- Any awards you have received while teaching
It's a good idea to include a few extra things in a teaching portfolio:
- A copy of your teaching license
- A personal letter to the principal or headmaster of the school
- Personal discipline plan
- Past evaluations (such as summative evaluations and reviews)
- Extra copy of your resume
The second list of items may not seem as important, but if you have a copy of your teaching license and credentials, for example, then your interviewers will not have to go through the trouble of making copies.
If you're a student-teacher, the same applies: you can use lesson plans you created during your internship, include samples of student work, and you should already have a teaching philosophy.
Be Prepared for Hard Questions
Interviews are designed so that yes, the school and the prospective candidate put their best foot forward.
However, the interviewers will want to make sure you're a good match for them. By the same measure, you want to make sure you're a good match for the school, too.
There are subtle ways to do this. Your interviewers will ask you some candid questions about your teaching.
Personal Examples of Tough Interview Questions
Question: It's October 3rd, the afternoon, and you're teaching 4th grade. What does your lesson look like?
First, you have to understand that because it's early in the year, students aren't going to know the material that they should know by April. Fourth-grade content is going to look a lot different from second grade. The fact that it's in the afternoon might mean the students are more tired.
Answer: (Remember, I am a Spanish teacher.)
I know that by then, students will have learned the alphabet, numbers and greetings. By October, I will have built upon those concepts and created a more comprehensive unit about autumn and I will have collaborated with the teacher to see what other specific things I could teach to make my lesson most beneficial to students.
Question: I had from another principal was the following:
What do you do when Little John misbehaves in your class?
Don't be fooled by this open-ended question. Principals and Assistant Principals are looking to make sure you don't say something like, "I will send him to the office."
Schools are getting away from more punitive punishments, first of all. Second, they want to see how well you can handle all the different scenarios that will arise in the classroom.
Students have lives outside the classroom that we may know little about: little John's mom might be sick or he might not feel well or someone might be bullying him. Still, he might not understand the content I'm teaching. It's important to discreetly pull the student aside and investigate what might be causing the problem. From there, using Love and Logic can be a great tool in helping that student.
In effect, with this kind of question, you're demonstrating your ability to wear different hats as a teacher; you'll be expected to wear many hats.
Always research the company or school where you want to work before the interview. Your interviewer wants to know that you did your homework. That's a sign of a hard-working employee.
Have Your Own Questions Ready
Often in an interview, people find that the interviewer addresses all their questions during the interview.
This is why it's a good idea to have at least 10 questions ready for your interviewer. Never leave the interview without asking your own questions. Your interviewer will interpret this as "not interested."
Ideally, you want to ask about 2–3 questions. Often, your interviewer will have answered a few from your list. Go over what they haven't answered and pick the most important ones you'd like to find out.
Good Questions to Ask
- What would you say the culture is like here at ABC School?
You want to find out if the culture is lively, if morale is good, etc.
- Could you tell me more about why this position is open?
Sometimes schools can tell you why—Mrs. Travelmundo moved to Argentina - or it might be because the last teacher just couldn't take the school anymore. Listen to your instincts on these questions because the school will not be able to give you exact details due to privacy and/or confidentiality laws.
- What is your favorite part about working here?
You're looking for an enthusiastic response. If not, are you going to be excited about working there?
- What is your biggest challenge as a school right now?
Faced with funding issues and constraints all across the board, schools already have certain issues. Financial constraints due to budgets are normal. What you're looking for here is if the school might have problems beyond that which you might be comfortable with.
- Could I sit in and watch a class?
You can use this as an opportunity to get to know another teacher. That person might be able to give you candid answers about what it's really like to work at that particular school. This also shows your interest in the school itself.
- How often do you offer professional development?
This is a way to find out how much is expected of you outside the normal school day. Private schools will typically require more time from teachers outside of the school day with various activities.
- What sorts of safety measures do you have in place to ensure the safety for all?
We live in an age with school shootings. You want to make sure that you are as safe as possible, and that the students are, too.
- What other responsibilities might I have as a teacher?
This is a good time to ask about extra-curricular activities you might be interested in. Do research their website beforehand so that you know if such an activity is offered or if you can create one yourself.
During the Interview
This is the most stressful part of the process. However, if you are prepared, have your resume and portfolio ready, then the interview will be like a "recap" of your skills and expertise.
- Arrive 15–20 minutes early. (Arriving on time is actually "late.")
- Apparel: a suit for the guys, and conservative dress for the gals (skirt, slacks, dress shirt)
- Use and refer to your portfolio, resume, and any supplemental materials
- Don't be afraid to use personal anecdotes from the classroom - just keep it professional
Some good ideas beforehand are:
- Practice in front of a mirror or a friend
- Thoroughly look over your materials so that you are confident in what you are saying
- Do highlight your expertise and achievements, but don't go overboard: nobody likes a braggart
- Don't bring up your personal life during the interview: never say how "poor" you might be or that "I really need this job"—you will send your interviewer running
After the Interview
The single-most important thing you can do after the interview? Send a thank-you card.
Every single job where I have sent a card, I have secured employment there.
In fact, have the thank you card before you go into the interview. Then, when you get back to your car (bus, apartment, etc.), thank your interviewer.
What to Say on the Thank You Card
Keep it simple: one line to express your gratitude, one or two lines to recount something you talked about in the interview, mention how you enjoyed speaking with him/her, and talk about how you would love the opportunity to be a part of the school's team.
Sign and seal the card, and send it the same day of the interview, if possible.
This works. If the school has two candidates with equal qualifications and stellar portfolios, but one person sends a personal thank-you card, who would you pick?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2014 Cynthia Calhoun