You open your email and find a request to schedule an interview for a teaching role. Good job on getting this far!
Before you can start shaping the future by guiding the education of young minds, you have to get through a teaching interview. It isn't hard, but preparation is critical to making that all-important great first impression.
Your resume, teaching statement, cover letter, references, and LinkedIn profile have already started working on setting you apart from other candidates. Having polished, well-thought-out answers to teacher interview questions will be the icing on a cake. There are some common and not-so-common interview questions you can expect.
Regular everyday interview questions
Obviously, you can expect to hear the following common interview questions:
- Tell me about yourself
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Why do you want to work at this school?
- What is your strength as a teacher?
- Tell me about a weakness you have as a teacher.
These are the get-to-know-you questions all interviewers ask. Hiring managers are trying to ascertain information about your past (i.e., how you went from not being a teacher to being a teacher). They also want some insight into your hopes and aspirations and how you handle things that happen on a daily basis in the classroom.
Lean on the STAR method when answering situational interview questions. Talk about what happened, what you did, and the result of your actions.
Content area questions
Once the interviewer feels they know a bit about you, then you will dive into the meat of the teacher interview questions. That will most likely start with questions about the subject matter you'll teach.
Whether you're applying for a role in elementary, high school, or university, there are certain core lessons you'll have to engage students in learning. The hiring manager will want to know that you know the subject matter in order to determine if you can successfully deliver the curricula.
Sample content area questions:
- In your last teaching job, what percentage of students passed standardized testing?
- How do you assess student performance?
- How do you evaluate your own performance as a teacher?
- How many observations showed something you needed to change in your classroom? What were the suggested changes and how did you implement them?
Your responses to these performance-based questions point to how well your students retain knowledge of the subject. If they aren't learning what you're teaching, they can't pass tests.
These questions are just the tip of the iceberg. After they've determined that you're good with lesson delivery, the hiring managers will move on to the more open-ended questions about teaching philosophy, classroom management plans, student engagement, curriculum development, and building student-teacher relationships.
Questions about teaching philosophy
Your teaching philosophy is a highly personal statement that details your beliefs about teaching. It should highlight how you plan to achieve maximum learning through student engagement. In answering teacher interview questions about your teaching philosophy, the interviewer will come to understand some of your core teaching beliefs.
Since you have already written your philosophy out in an essay, will a hiring manager really ask you questions about your philosophy? Yes, they will.
Here are a couple of interview questions you could hear pertaining to your teaching philosophy:
- What is your teaching philosophy? This could also come out as “What is your teaching style?”
Hopefully, you've done some research on the institution where your interview is taking place. It's important to know the school's goals, so that you can weave them together with your own teaching style.
By fusing your style with school goals, you achieve a robust answer that shows how your values align with their needs. Your answer could sound something like this:
“I believe that being a steward of information requires knowledge to be shared for the betterment of someone else's life. To accomplish this, I create inclusive classroom environments to promote knowledge transfer and retention, nurture individual development, and task students to critically assess all matters of [SUBJECT].”
When you researched the school in preparation for your teacher interview, did you find out what type of classroom environment they support for students? According to Study.com, there are 4 types of learning environments.
If you found out that the school supports an assessment-centered learning environment, you could use this response:
“I know that this school has a focus on assessment-based learning, because having students pass a standardized test is critical to their promotion from one grade to the next. My lessons engage students in a number of ways, through hands-on practice, role-playing, and rote memorization, to ensure they have the knowledge to pass end-of-the-year testing.”
It is impossible to impart valuable knowledge to students who are running amok and not paying attention. This is where a detailed classroom management plan comes into play, and you can bet you'll hear at least a question or two about how you manage your class and handle unruly students.
- What classroom management system do you use?
You probably spent a lot of time during college learning how to build and implement classroom management plans. If you've held other teaching jobs, you've had the opportunity to build and execute your own system and know what works. Some teachers use behavior charts, while others rely on building positive relationships with parents.
Edutopia indicates there are 11 viable classroom management strategies. All you have to do during your teacher interview is to talk about what you feel works best for you.
“I know that a mismanaged class is a missed opportunity for sharing information with students. In order to be the best possible advocate for learning, I employ a mix of classroom management strategies, including positive affirmations and reward charts for tracking behavior and maintaining alignment with school rules and policies.”
- How would you handle controversial issues that students bring up in class?
As students get older, they're faced with everything from bullying and divorced parents to a lack of resources at home and the current state of affairs with various news events happening around the world. Depending on the age of the student, some of these subjects can lead to heavy emotions or even outbursts. The hiring manager wants to know how you'll redirect students should these events occur.
“I believe that students should be allowed to feel their feelings with the understanding there is a proper and an inappropriate way to express emotions. When controversial topics come up, I've found the best approach is to pause the conversation long enough to establish some ground rules on how we'll talk as a class. This will help to ensure that everyone remains civil. Then, we can get back to discussing the topic in an age-appropriate manner that adheres to any school rules surrounding it.”
Some other questions you may hear about classroom management include:
- What methods of discipline do you use?
- How do you lay out your classroom?
With all of these questions, start by talking about how you'll connect with the student on the issue. Then, discuss what you'll do to correct the behavior. Finally, tie your action into how the result will align with school policy, procedures, objectives, goals, mission, vision, and values.
A great classroom management plan certainly improves student engagement, but the hiring manager will likely want to know more about how you will make learning matter.
- How do you keep students engaged in learning?
- Describe which pillar of engagement you use to teach children and if you use a single pillar or a mixture.
- How would you handle a disruptive student?
Inject some inspiration into your answer to these interview questions by offering up how important student success is in your classroom. Talk about how you create harmony by setting clear expectations and leveraging students' non-academic interests to make learning fun. Don't forget to mention how you monitor and record progress. When you come to the end of your answer to interview questions about engagement, always remember to circle back around to how what you do will benefit the school.
“I've found that mixing pillars of engagement has been successful in improving communication and boosting students' desire to know more. With that said, disruption can happen, and the best way to quell it is to redirect the student to something else. This is why mixing the pillars of engagement is helpful, because there's always another way to get the student interested and stop disruptions before they get out of hand.”
Building new curricula
The only way to deliver lessons in alignment with school academic policies is to have a plan. This may even include Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for students with special needs. Be prepared to answer questions about your process of building instruction plans and how you differentiate instruction.
- How would you handle a situation in which you believe a student doesn't need all of the accommodations listed in their IEP?
- Do you incorporate technology into the delivery of your lessons? How?
Social diversity and inclusion have become very important in today's classroom. The answer to interview questions about curriculum, lesson plans, and learning materials must show how you use blended instruction. Your overall classroom goal, and the main idea you want to get across during your teacher interview, is that you can follow regulations by delivering differentiated instruction that reaches all students.
“I understand that students learn at their own pace and that lessons need to be differentiated to accommodate various learning styles and abilities. I write plans that provide students with a range of options to choose from, offer diverse learning resources - both on and offline - and use tiered activities to build understanding and skills.”
Building student/teacher and parent/teacher relationships
You need to be prepared to answer questions about how you will build relationships with students and parents. After all, relationships are one of the cornerstones of successfully delivering engaging lessons. How do you know what to incorporate into your lessons if you don't know about what your students like? Expect to hear teacher interview questions like:
- Which activities or clubs will you sponsor?
- How do you keep parents aware of what's going on in your classroom?
- What would you do if you found out a student was being abused at home?
- How would you handle an upset parent?
By engaging with students during extracurricular activities and events, you'll demonstrate a willingness to improve relationships which, of course, will help to bolster engagement in your classroom. You must also show an understanding of how busy parents are and that you'll go the extra mile to keep them in the loop about their children's education.
Here's a great way to answer an interview question about parent engagement:
“In recent years, the trend in communicating with parents has shifted away from notes and emails to text messages and classroom management apps – like ClassDojo. By keeping up with the changing times, I've ensured that parents have real-time access to things like homework assignments and student progress. Parents have been really pleased with how easy it is to communicate with me.”
The end of your teacher interview
Now that you've finally answered all of those teacher interview questions, you can sit back, relax, and wait for the job offer. No, there's still one more question.
- Do you have any questions for me?
This is often the deer-in-the-headlight-look-provoking question. Luckily, you understand that you're interviewing the hiring manager as much as they're interviewing you, so you've prepared some interview questions of your own. You don't have to wait until the end of the interview to ask your questions; weave them into the overall conversation you're having with the hiring manager.
Here are some sample questions to ask in a teacher interview:
Why is this position open?
What are some challenges teachers at this school have faced?
What extracurricular activities are available and are any of them mandatory for teachers to participate in?
Where do you see the teacher you hire in 5 years?
What is the standard technology available for classrooms?
What is a major issue the school is facing?
Is there an active PTA group at this school?
How well does the community engage with the school?
Yes, interviews are scary. A little preparation can, and a dash of confidence will, help you to succeed in giving great answers to interview questions for teachers. Of course, help is always available. TopInterview has some great coaches that offer expert advice.