Like many people, you might find you want to leave your mundane (although steady) job mid-career in order to do something more meaningful. It’s not unusual for that something to be teaching. So you get certified, update your resume, and land a few interviews.
But the interview process can be daunting. You try to present your best self, hoping that you say the right thing and don’t botch any of your answers.
No matter how much job interviews intimidate you, there is no reason why you can’t go into your teacher interview with complete confidence.
You simply need to prepare well ahead of time. What follows are teacher job interview questions you need to contemplate and research before you actually go into an interview.
Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive. It simply includes the essential steps you should take when preparing to secure the teaching position you want. Carefully thinking through these questions will not only help you during the teaching interview but will also help you be a better teacher.
1. What Do You Love About Teaching?
Other questions in this vein could include:
- Why do you want to be a teacher?
- What is it about teaching that is motivating you to leave your current job?
- Who was one of your favorite teachers in the past and why?
Any hiring manager wants to know that the person applying for the job is both qualified and cares about being there. A job such as teaching magnifies the importance of caring because a teacher is there to serve young people. You will present yourself poorly in your teaching interview if you come across as though you’re not interested in getting the position.
Before the interview, think through what you love about teaching and why you want to pursue a career in that profession. Writing out your thoughts can be a helpful way of processing them. You want to answer your interview questions with solid reasons, concrete examples, and personal stories, where appropriate.
A few common reasons people want to teach are:
- they love learning and being in a learning environment
- teaching is a job with a lot of variety
- teaching is a way of serving their communities
- they like the creativity and independence teaching offers
- they want summers off
- they want to make a difference in people’s lives
Questions pertaining to your love of teaching are an excellent opportunity for you to show that you are genuine and personable. If you can, share a story about one of your own teachers or someone else who particularly inspired you to pursue teaching. Stories have a special way of resonating with people. Whatever you say, let your enthusiasm and passion for teaching be clear in your answer.
2. What Is Your Teaching Philosophy?
Questions about your teaching philosophy are targeting what you believe is the purpose of your discipline and what you think are the best ways to fulfill that purpose. Your teaching philosophy is something you should write out ahead of time for your own sake, as well as for the interview. As you explore your teaching philosophy, consider:
- Why is your area of discipline important to society?
- Why does it matter whether anyone learns it or not?
- What is your role within your discipline?
- And what are your specific teaching methods that support and fulfill your philosophy?
For example, if you are an English teacher, you might believe in raising people who are good thinkers. After all, ideas determine how people live.
You also recognize that thinking and language are connected to each other. The better people can articulate themselves, the more clearly they are thinking. You therefore believe that a significant part of your role as an English teacher is to help people become better thinkers by mastering the English language.
This is one side of your teaching philosophy, your beliefs. But you also need to explain how you are going to apply your philosophy practically in the classroom. How do you implement both formative assessment and summative assessment? How you do so will naturally depend on the ages of your students.
Say that you’re teaching high school students not to use vague language. You could charge both yourself and your students a quarter each time anyone says words like “stuff” during class. Then at the end of the year, you could buy the class pizza with the earnings. Or you could require them to orally present their papers at the end of each project. That way, they articulate their ideas in multiple ways.
Make sure you clearly understand the “how” as well as the “why” of your philosophy. Knowing the “how” will help you prepare for questions about your teaching style and classroom management.
3. What Are Your Teaching Style and Methods?
Being able to explain your teaching methods demonstrates that you are competent and prepared to be a teacher.
- How do you help students to learn your subject?
- How do you help children with various learning styles?
- How would you help a student struggling to keep up with the material?
There is always, of course, room to grow within any profession. You will learn a lot once you actually start teaching. But there is a basic level of understanding you should have about your discipline before you start teaching it.
Again, your teaching methods are the practical side of your teaching philosophy. What assignments will be most effective in helping you to achieve the purpose of your discipline? How can you capture your students’ imaginations and bring your subject to life?
People learn in different ways, such as visually, aurally, and kinesthetically. How can you engage all five senses with your assignments? Perhaps you could do a formative assessment by having students visualize a concept through drawing or painting. Incorporating crafts into lessons is an especially helpful strategy for elementary teachers.
Students who are musical will appreciate you incorporating music into the lesson. Some students, while very intelligent, don’t enjoy discussing ideas so much as they like being outside or being active. Middle school students, for example, are at stage where they often don’t have recess anymore, but they still have excess energy. What activities or projects can you assign that will engage those students?
When you finally land a teaching job, the teachers you work with will be invaluable for giving you ideas. In the meantime, there are many online resources you can browse to get advice about teaching your subject.
4. How You Will Manage Your Classroom?
Knowing how you will manage your classroom demonstrates that, in addition to being competent in your area of discipline, you can also lead and relate to people well.
Note that classroom management overlaps with teaching style. The more organized you are, the more you will minimize misunderstandings between you and your students.
The interviewer might ask you:
- Are you a tough teacher or an easy one?
- Has there ever been a time when you had to deal with a particularly difficult student?
- If so, how did you handle that situation?
Teachers face captive audiences on a daily basis. Many of the members are not going to be naturally excited about being there. Classroom management is therefore an essential topic with which you need to be familiar.
This is particularly true for candidates interviewing for a teaching position in the field of special education. Special ed teachers need to be familiar with a variety of strategies for keeping students’ attention and dealing with disruptive students. They also need to be able to explain how they’ll help students persevere with a difficult task.
Use your past experience or online research to come up with tactics appropriate for the age level and type of student you’ll be teaching. Do some research ahead of time to learn about the disciplinary procedures at the school where you’re applying. Then you can tailor your answer accordingly. Know what you would do, and show how your methods fit the school’s philosophy.
For example, if you’re an elementary teacher, you could try a strategy where when someone breaks a rule, you write one letter of the word “sorry” on the board. Your students understand that if you ever spell the entire word, the class loses a fun activity.
It’s also a good idea to mention how you would prevent conflict from arising ahead of time. You can make it a habit to make eye contact with each student throughout the day. You could greet each one at the beginning of the day, showing you’re happy to see all of them. The more your students know that you care about them, the less likely they are to act out.
5. What Is Your Greatest Strength?
A question about your greatest strength is one that interviewers commonly ask when hiring for any profession. As with questions on other areas, your answer to this one can demonstrate how you specifically are qualified for the teaching position.
Don’t think of it as bragging about yourself. You are objectively explaining how you are a good fit for the school. If you don’t have any relevant strengths, why would anyone hire you?
Before your interview, brainstorm what your best selling points are. Consider them in a professional and personal context.
- Has your boss praised you for achievements in your current job?
- What have been your recent successes at work, and what skills contributed to those successes?
- Have your coworkers ever pointed out any of your strengths to you? If you can, ask them what they are.
You can ask the same question of your friends and family. Even though these are people you know on a personal basis, they can help you identify your primary character qualities.
For example, if people know you as an exceptional communicator, give recent examples of that strength. Then explain how you’ll use that skill in a teaching context. That could look like being a good public speaker, setting clear expectations for your class, or contacting parents in a timely manner. Whatever you mention, you want to give specific examples from the past and apply them to the teaching position you’re seeking.
6. Why Do You Want to Work in This Job/School/District?
Never go into an interview not knowing anything about the organization interviewing you. Answering this question well shows that you care about getting the job and also helps you determine if the job is a good fit for you.
Mashable reports that three of five common mistakes interviewees make are:
- not being prepared
- giving cliché answers
- seeming bored
Doing your research and thoughtfully preparing for the interview will help you not to make the first two mistakes. Communicating your enthusiasm for teaching, as mentioned earlier, will ensure that you don’t make the last.
Find out what you can about the job itself, as well as the school and the school district.
- What are the school’s characteristics?
- Do the students in that school district have any specific needs you feel you are suited to meet?
- Is there anything about the administration’s philosophy that you appreciate?
- What is the school doing well that makes you excited about working there?
Researching the position will help you with all of your interview questions. You can use whatever you discover in your answers where applicable.
7. What Is Your Biggest Weakness?
Be prepared to answer a question about your shortcomings.
- What is your primary weakness as a teacher?
- What do you dislike most about teaching?
- What do you find to be the most challenging part of teaching?
Hopefully, it’s obvious you shouldn’t say you don’t have any weaknesses. Everyone has weaknesses. This question is an opportunity to demonstrate your honesty and how you learn from your mistakes.
It’s understandable if you fear that answering this question truthfully will make you seem unqualified for the position. But you can give an accurate response while still presenting yourself as a strong candidate. All people face difficulties in their jobs, and all jobs have aspects to them that are not enjoyable. These are just facts of working life.
One way to turn this question to your favor is by describing how you currently deal with a consistent challenge. Or maybe you had a major weakness in the past that you have since overcome. Describe how you did so and what you do differently now.
8. Do You Have Any Questions for Me?
You do not want to get to the end of the interview and have nothing to say when the interviewer asks this question. This is another opportunity for you to demonstrate you care about getting the job and to determine whether you actually want it.
Having questions for the school shows you are sincerely interested in the teaching position. But it’s also a chance to discover information you cannot get through your own research.
If there is anything you’re particularly concerned about, this is your chance to ask about it! Your questions might include:
- How would you describe the culture of the school?
- What are the students like?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of each grade?
- Are the teachers supportive of each other?
- What are the administration and parents like?
- What are some challenges the staff has faced this year, within the school itself as well as within the school district?
- How does the school relate to the community?
Don’t ask about time off or salary at this point. Questions like that are inappropriate until the school offers you the teaching position.
Across the country, the teacher shortage is growing. It’s becoming harder and harder for students nation-wide to learn under qualified and dedicated people.
We can help you get prepared.
Don’t let an unpleasant aspect of searching for a job, whether it’s facing an interview or something else, stop you from pursuing a much-needed profession. Follow these teacher job interview tips, and face the application process with confidence.