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Interview Questions for Teachers: Preparing, Rethinking

Jordan Catapano

I can still remember being invited into the principal’s office, shaking hands with the folks who would interview me that afternoon, and sitting down to answer a few questions. I remember many of the interview questions for teachers they asked, and I remember many of my answers.

I remember the work I put into preparing my teaching portfolio, how I rehearsed answers to dozens of interview questions for teachers, and how I carefully selected which tie I would wear for the big day.

And now as I look back at the interview and the interview questions for teachers that landed me my first teaching job, I have to ask myself: “If I had to interview for the same job, what would I say to their interview questions for teachers? What would I show? Would the years I’ve put into my job qualify me for the same position … or have I taken what I worked so hard to have for granted?”

It’s common for us to work extremely hard to get to that “Next level” of what we want. But once we arrive at that level, it’s not unusual for our work quality to level off and our enthusiasm to wane. At this time while we’re midway through the school year, it’s important to reflect on how far we’ve come and how far we still want to go as educators.

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Interview Questions for Teachers: Preparing

When preparing for an interview, there’s a certain process we follow to give ourselves the best shot at landing the position. As teachers, we cull the best from our schooling and teaching experiences to promote ourselves. We want to help educate students, and during an interview we need to make a compelling case for why we’re the best candidate to do so at any given institution.

To prepare, prospective educators often do the following:

  • Find top-notch examples of assignments, activities, student work, and contributions to the school community.
  • Describe our personality, style, accolades, and contributions via a résumé.
  • Create a physical or digital portfolio showcasing work.
  • Brush up on educational buzzwords and acronyms.
  • Practice answering interview questions for teachers.
  • Get letters of recommendation from others.
  • Prepare a sample lesson.
  • Dress for success.

Now, if you currently hold a teaching position, then you’ve been through this process. And, if you’re like me, you’re grateful it’s behind you! But there’s something special about trying to land that job or get promoted to that next position. This process forces us to think about that ideal version of our teacher selves – that type of teacher we want to be on a daily basis.

I like this interview prep process because it gives an individual a chance to think about whom they truly are, what they have to offer to their students and school, and what their “bests” of everything are. The interview process allows us to craft that perfect image of ourselves and try to project that to the world. Of course, we’re going to fail, to wane, and to prove over and over that we’re not perfect – but it’s nice every once in a while to get in touch with that “Next level” version of ourselves.

So now that the interview process is behind you, do you still envision yourself in the same way? Would you still hire you?

Reflecting and Preparing by Interviewing Yourself

Although I don’t anticipate getting interviewed in the near future, I still believe that the way we think of ourselves when preparing for an interview is important. We no doubt work hard for our students and our schools, but there’s something that’s lost when we realize we’re not being watched or judged by anyone else. The interview was our chance to showcase our very best – but when we’re not showcasing, do we subconsciously let our very best diminish into very average?

This is my fear, so to circumvent a decline into mediocrity, I interview myself. It’s a little weird and, yes, there are other ways to go about self-reflection, but one handy method I’ve used repeatedly is to imagine myself preparing for and participating in an interview … with myself.

Apply the same concept of preparing for an interview to yourself for where you’re at today. Here are the two main things you can do:

Ask yourself questions. What are the types of questions that you’re likely to be asked during an interview? Make a list of what you believe you’d be most likely asked, and then carefully think through your answers based on your experience. You can easily find resources for teacher interview questions, or you can ask someone in your school who interviews what it is they’d likely ask candidates.

When preparing answers, think about your experiences and your examples you’d bring up. You can answer these out loud as though you were actually talking to someone, or you could even reflect by writing down your answers.

But when we’re answering such questions, a funny thing happens. We discover that some questions might be relatively difficult to answer, or that we’d answer some in a way that we knew – if we were being interviewed – would be far less than ideal. Fortunately, no one is interviewing us and our job is not at stake, but it’s questions like these that reveal our current weaknesses. And it’s those weaknesses that we want to become more aware of and proactive about during this reflection process.

Look for your best work. Along with thinking through educational questions and answers, consider what your best examples are you could showcase. What lessons would you want to talk about, what methods have you found work the best, what student successes can you point to, and what are you most proud of?

Find these elements you would showcase in an interview, and then ask yourself: “How can I incorporate all of these more prolifically in my practice?” What I find is that while I often have many elements I’m proud of, I should incorporate these elements more throughout my teaching. I definitely have items I could showcase to present an “Ideal” version of myself, but what if these ideals became more of my norm?

This is an interesting way of asking: “What have I done that works well, and how can I do those things more?”

Would You Hire You?

So after spending time reflecting on how you’d answer various questions and how you’d showcase your “Best” qualities and successes, what do you do from there?

The whole point of walking through this self-interview process is to help you envision that more idealized version of yourself. It’s a healthy break from the day-to-day work we do to consider how we might find ways to get even better at our craft. But the whole exercise is futile unless we do something based on our reflections.

Consider these three action points after you work through your self-interview:

  • Take one of your “Best” methods and find one way you can incorporate this more.
  • Examine one weakness you had trouble talking about and do something that you’d be proud to talk about in an interview.
  • Look at that one “Student success” you have and think about how you can replicate that success with another student this year.

See, that’s not so hard. The idea with this method of self-reflection is not to feel like you suddenly need to become perfect in every way, but rather to remind yourself of how you can continually find ways to improve. The interview is one way we try to envision a dynamite version of ourselves, so why not think about this more often?

You can shake things up a little bit by partnering with a few colleagues and trying some of these techniques, too:

  • Do mock-interviews and then debrief with each other afterwards.
  • Write recommendation letters for one another.
  • Find top-notch examples of methods that work and share with one another.
  • Collaborate to develop mutual blogs, portfolios, websites, or other ways to share great experiences.
  • Encourage one another to “Take that next step” toward growing in your profession.
  • Be mutual models of enthusiasm and dedication.

Whether on your own or with colleagues, it’s important to continually reflect on who we are and who we’re becoming as educators. One way is to put yourself back in an interview situation, project who it is you’d be as the perfect teacher, and then take small steps towards realizing that vision. Try it out and have fun!

What questions would you ask yourself if you were considering hiring you? What would you struggle or rejoice to answer? Share your thoughts with our community by leaving a comment below!

Jordan Catapano is a high school English teacher in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated and head of his school’s Instructional Development Committee, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and has experience as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website www.jordancatapano.us.