Coaching for Interview Questions
What kind of teacher are you?
Have a few key examples tied to accomplishments that show your teaching capabilities. "Because I am a very positive person, I can see the best in all of my students. I strive to inspire my students and let them know they can succeed. Fortunately, they rarely let me or themselves down."
What motivates you?
"I am extremely motivated by seeing growth in my students, as well as my own personal growth. I love a chance to learn; I am a lifetime learner and encourage all my students to be, as well."
What do you not like to do?
"I believe it is important to do whatever is necessary to get the job done. When I do run into something disagreeable, I try to do it first and get it behind me."
Would you like to be the principal of this school?
"At this time I'd like to be the very best teacher I can be. I'm looking forward to doing that with the help of my colleagues in the district."
Why have you left your present job?
We advise you to be positive here. "I really liked my old job, but I feel a new challenge keeps people fresh, and I want to stay invigorated and enthusiastic about my teaching. I also felt that my personal growth was not on track with some of my longer-term objectives."
Did you increase the Iowa basic scores of your students in your last job?
"My students' scores were very high and I was very pleased and proud of the results," or "I am not aware of my students' scores as yet, but I am aware of the high degree of success my students have had this year."
How did your principal, coworkers, and students get on with you?
How would you describe your relationships with your principal, coteachers, staff, and students?
Have some examples of the kind of team player you are. This is a good time to bring up that you are a "people person" and are known for getting along with everyone.
Do you know how to motivate and inspire children?
This is a leadership question. Know what it takes to be a quality leader. In preparation, think of your approach to motivating and inspiring your students. "Giving a lot of positive recognition to students for their efforts and setting a good example help me inspire my students to continue to strive. I learned from an excellent teacher the value of being a strong and positive role model for my students, and therefore have always been careful of my personal conduct."
What are your short-, medium-, and long-term goals?
Tie your answer to goals that could conceivably be realized in this school. You don't want to get too lengthy, so limit your goals to just the short and medium range. A good answer would include growth in one's job through learning, experience, and accomplishments.
Do you prefer working in a small, medium, or large community?
Remember where you are when you answer! You might also highlight your flexibility and your strong trait of adaptability.
Can you describe something about your teaching that makes it special?
"One important key to being a great teacher is to be able to develop fun and creative learning activities while maintaining classroom control." You would then describe a very successful creative learning activity you have done with students.
What is the toughest task of a teacher?
A good reply is, "I have found that the toughest tasks are also the most rewarding, such as finding the best way each individual student in my classroom learns. And knowing my students well enough to recognize that different motivational approaches work with different personalities."
Why do you want to work for our district?
Your reply could be based on their reputation of commitment to children, and/or the community's being a nice place to work and grow. Knowing all you can about the district will help here.
Why should we hire you?
If you know the job requirements, match up some of your accomplishments and say, "If there are opportunities to do that and more here, then this is a great match between my assets and your needs."
What do you look for in a new job?
Be careful! Better know a little about the district and the job you are after. If not, push in the direction of excellence based on former accomplishments.
What was your greatest success?
Pick one of your most significant accomplishments in the classroom. If this can be tied to their needs, all the better.
What has been your biggest failure?
Try to avoid such things as "Did not get along with my principal or other teachers, did not like the school board policies, too much pressure, too much work, too much overtime, problems of health, personal problems interfering with work." You may want to discuss this one with friends before the interview. If it can be something you were later able to correct, it becomes a learning experience.
What kind of day-to-day schedule did you have in your last job?
Stress performance and results rather than reciting what you did minute to minute.
How do you feel about the progress you made in your last position?
"When I started with the Lakeland School District I was given a classroom of 31 third and fourth graders. It was a large class with varied needs, but one of the nicest groups of kids imaginable. It was a challenge to meet all the needs of that varied group, but the students and I worked well together. I was very pleased with their excellent progress by the end of the year, and their above-average scores."
What were the most important problems you encountered in your past job?
"The problem of time; I love teaching and I always wish I had more time with each and every one of my students."
Did you have any frustrations in your past job?
Here you must be honest and admit frustrations because frustrations are a normal part of any job. Relate some situations you found yourself in that were challenging and then indicate what you did to overcome them.
Tell me some of the creative work you have done with your students.
"Creativity" means how you developed an idea, a new theme, or a new program, and how it improved the students' learning.
Are you a leader?
Give examples of how you followed leaders and how you successfully led other people. To be a good leader, you first must be a good follower.
Do you like to compete?
"Competition is great as long as it does not sacrifice the progress of any of my students. I have found that in a classroom filled with students of varying ability levels, I must help students achieve all they can achieve without discouraging them. They cannot all be the best in the class." This might be a good time to discuss the value of competition within students versus competition between students.
Do you consider yourself successful? Why?
Think about what is meant by successful. If you have been doing the kind of work you enjoy and have accumulated some accomplishments, this would be a good basis for your answer.
What can you do for our school that someone else cannot?
By now you should know the requirements of the job. Match your accomplishments against needs and mix with an interest in what you have seen/heard so far. As for the other candidates, you really cannot answer, nor would you want to. Base your answer on what you feel you can do.
What do you like best and least about the position we are trying to fill?
You can choose the best part of the job, provided it is not something like, "It is close to my home" or "I can make lots of money." Rather, you might say something like, "At this point I see no important negatives. That's why I'm so interested!"
What was your greatest success?
Pick one of your most significant accomplishments and tie it to the needs of the school.
What has been your biggest failure?
We suggest you prepare for this by choosing a problem you were later able to correct, so you can turn it from a failure into a learning experience. Also, you can say that you were not ready for the tasks that were given you, but that, with these learning approaches behind you, your handling of those situations now would be much more positive.
What kind of schedule would you like to have?
Stress that you would hope to have a lot of time to work with students, since that is where you feel you can contribute the most.
Are you considering any other jobs at this time?
If you are, say so—but without detail. If not, say, "I have some possibilities that I am considering."
What was the last book you read?
It might be a good idea to try to recall a good book you have read lately and think about what you learned from it. Be careful. The interviewer may have read the same one.
What magazines/newspapers do you read?
This would be a good time to mention trade journals, which would reinforce your interest in the field of education.
How long have you been looking for a job?
If it has been a long time, you might mention any consulting or other part-time work. If not, tell the interviewer honestly how long you have been seriously looking.
Describe your ideal job.
Do not forget the requirements of the job at hand. Do not be unrealistic here, or you will scare off the interviewer. Also, try not to set your goals too high, or it may appear that this position is only a stepping stone to your real desires.
What do you think your references will say about you?
We advise you to always send your most recent resume to anyone you may use as a reference. Then, follow this up with a phone call about what they see as your teaching strengths. If you have done this, you can honestly say what they were impressed with.
- How would you describe yourself?
Think of your professional goals, keeping in mind the traits you are especially proud of from your self-appraisal.
How would your spouse describe you?
One would hope that your spouse, if you have one, would be your greatest supporter. What traits from your self-appraisal would most impress him or her?
What would you like to improve upon?
"I am always trying to be the best person I can be; because of this, I am working on maintaining a high level of health through good diet and exercise. This helps me keep up with the high-energy students I teach." If this answer would not work for you, pick something that will not be a detriment to your ability to handle this position.
How do you spend your free time?
This is not the time to mention that you like cliff jumping or anything else that may seem highly dangerous, if not downright irresponsible.
What are your major accomplishments?
Here is a question that lets you mention your teaching successes. Pick the ones that pertain to the job in view.
How many hours should a person devote to his or her job?
"I feel it is important for me to devote as many hours as needed to do a job I can be proud of."
What things would you like to avoid in your next job?
Be careful; it might be a good idea to say something general, such as, "As a teacher I am always aware of the sensitivity of adolescents. I make certain that I push my students to do their best, but never embarrass them or let them feel like failures."
How old are you?
This is an illegal question, yet perhaps not harmful for you to answer. If you are offended and do not want to answer, you might try using humor. For example, "I stopped counting at ____, just like Jack Benny."
Does your present district know you are planning to make a change?
If your district or school does know, then you may say so. However, if not, you must be tactful. Your answer could be something like, "I've grown a great deal in my present position. I have been there years and I am ready for a new challenge. At the appropriate time, I expect to let my district know. And, of course, I will do everything I can to make the transition as smooth as possible."
Why have you decided to change careers?
Your answer could be based on growth, interest, opportunity, or your increased flexibility to do what you truly want to do at this time, which is teach. It is always an excellent bonus to be able to say honestly: "I have always wanted to teach and, fortunately, the opportunity has finally emerged for me. I am so looking forward to the fulfillment of my dreams."
How many days were you out ill last year?
If you have been out a lot, this could be damaging, unless you can impress upon the person that it was an unusual, nonrecurring problem. "Unfortunately, I was out three weeks because of an accident. But I maintained daily contact with my substitute, and I continued to correspond with my students so they knew I was still there to support them. The children and I used email, as well as the telephone and mail service, to stay in touch."
How do you take criticism?
"I take teaching children very seriously, and would welcome the opportunity to learn how to do my job better."
Can you work under pressure?
Here you would do well to think about a time when you handled pressure successfully on the job and relate the story without getting into too much detail.
Do you have any questions?
Now is your opportunity to ask questions about what this job might entail.
Excerpted from How to Get a Teaching Job, by Courtney W. Moffatt and Thomas L. Moffatt.