Date updated: Tuesday, June 15, 2010
By Mary C. Clement, Ed.D.
Be prepared to introduce yourself in any interview. Do not tell your life story, but rather describe one unique aspect of your professional training, student teaching, or earlier teaching jobs. Do your homework about the district, so that you can have a specific answer regarding why you want to work there.
Consider talking about classroom organization strategies for getting students into the room and settled. Talk about routines and procedures, and how they help young children.
Whenever you interview for a position teaching elementary grades, you will be asked about all aspects of literacy. Be prepared to describe a reading series you have used, with specific examples of strategies that have worked.
Talk about, and show from your portfolio, a classroom management plan.
Middle school really is different than elementary or high school teaching. Be prepared to talk about adolescent development and the social needs of this age group. Many middle schools operate with teaching teams, so highlight your experiences with team planning.
High School, General
Think about these questions and have an answer ready that addresses motivational factors of teenagers, since knowing the students is the first step in teaching them. When you describe a lesson, discuss how you focus and motivate students each day.
All employers want to know that you can set up a classroom with routines and procedures, and can establish rules with corrective actions and positive feedback (rewards). Show a management plan from your portfolio and describe your experiences from student teaching or a former classroom.
Questions by Subject Areas for Upper Elementary, Middle and High School
The best hint for how to answer these subject-specific questions is to talk with a veteran teacher in the field, a college professor or your student teaching supervisor. In today’s competitive job market, candidates really do need to reflect on possible answers and actually practice what they will say in the interview.
Special Education Questions
In general, special education questions will deal with populations of students (what kinds of issues they have), settings for delivery of classes, methods of teaching, and strategies for collaboration and communication with constituents (parents, teachers, administrators). The vocabulary for special education is highly specific and many acronyms exist, so if you are asked a question with an abbreviation or term you do not recognize, ask for clarification. This is especially true if you were trained in one state and are now moving.
What’s the bottom line? What do employers really want to learn about you in the interview? They want to know that you can organize and manage a classroom. They want to know that you can raise student achievement. They want to know that you can work well with colleagues and parents. Share specific past success stories so that the employer feels confident that you will have future success when hired.
Dr. Mary C. Clement is a professor of teacher education at Berry College, northwest of Atlanta, Georgia. Her research on the hiring of new teachers has received national recognition.