Feet Up Friday: Teacher Interview Tips and Tricks

Did the title of this blog post make you nervous? Yuck- the dreaded interview.

I’m going to let you in on a secret: I really like interviewing. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m not a jittery mess beforehand, because I totally am. However, once I get started, I feel like I’m in my element.

Now, I know this isn’t the case for everyone, which is why today I’m sharing my top interview tips and trick for teachers. I hope that if you’ve found your way to this post, then maybe that means you’re interviewing for a job! If so, congrats. I hope what you read lends you a helping hand, some comfort, and some confidence. You’ve got this! Now, time to study up.

Dress for the Job You Want

Man, I love a power outfit. However, I’m not going to be wearing a bright red suit and high heels in my classroom. Dressing for the job you want puts you in the right mindset. Stick to the professional side of your wardrobe, but feel free to relax your pencil skirt into something a little flowier, with a bit of color! If you’re comfortable in what you wear, you’ll present yourself in a more confident manner. My go-to for a teaching interview is a bright, professional dress, a cardigan, and a pair of flats.

Bonus Tip: If you tend to fidget with your hair, wear it up!

Take Time to Prepare

Right now, off the top of my head, I can list ten interview topics you will most likely be asked about. Watch:

  • Classroom Management
  • Student Assessment
  • Differentiation and Accommodations
  • Parent Communication
  • Implementing Common Core State Standards or Curriculum
  • Your Identity As An Educator
  • Teaching All Learners (ELL, Special Education)
  • Social Emotional Learning
  • Team Teaching/Collaboration
  • Data Analysis and State Testing

I promise, if you google “teacher interview questions” you will read the same buzz words over and over again. As an educator, you have a specific set of tools in your arsenal. These tools are universal for running a well functioning classroom. The panel interviewing you wants to know you can communicate these ideas effectively- not just demonstrate them in your classroom! They want to see who you are. If you can prepare a little bit about each of the topics above, you’ll be that much more confident in your answers, and it will show.

Tell a Good Story

Now, this is definitely easier if you’ve got a few years of teaching under your belt. I remember feeling much more confident interviewing this past year than when I was coming right out of college because, at the time, I though I didn’t have much experience to share. However, I was selling myself short. Practicum, student teaching, summer camps, and even that time you worked at a cupcake shop under grueling management all function as experience that translates into the classroom. It’s all about how you spin it.

I mentioned interview topics above. Now, think about a story or experience that goes along with each of those topics. Forget your teaching textbook! I can almost guarantee that the people on your interview panel have. If you’re personable and can maybe even make them laugh, then you’re going to come across as someone they want to work with day after day.

Sell Yourself (Humbly)

You are going to be asked about your strengths. You’re probably going to be asked why the school you’re interviewing for should hire you. If you’re anything like me, it’s going to throw you off because you’re not good at talking about yourself. One of the biggest compliments I got from my principal when he hired me was that I “sold myself humbly.”

It’s hard to share our strengths. Most of the time, we are our biggest critics. Go into your interview knowing why this school should hire you. Are you creative? Are you a team player? Do you stay positive in any situation? I find that thinking of accomplishments I’ve had can often help me pinpoint what my strengths are. Then, I also feel better talking about those strengths because I feel like I have evidence to back them up!

You Don’t Have to Know Everything, But You Have to Be Willing to Learn

I credit my grandmother for this one and it saved my butt in the last interview I had. If you get asked a question and you find yourself thinking “what the actual…” don’t panic! First, take a pause and a deep breath. Then, you have two options. You can (1) ask that the panel explain the question further or (2) express that you are not familiar with the topic they have asked about. You should, however, follow that with “I would be more than happy to complete any PD necessary to bring me up to speed.” Finally, I really like to take a stab at what I think they’re asking for.

For example- my school uses Reader’s Workshop, which at the time of my interview, I hadn’t worked with in a long time. They asked me how I would run one on character analysis in my classroom and I told them truthfully, I wasn’t sure. However, I didn’t stop there. Instead, I shared a handful of activities and exercises I had done with past students that focus on character analysis. It wasn’t what they were asking for, but in my answer, I was able to show that I could think on my feet, create creative lessons, consider multiple learners in my classroom, and that I was willing to learn.

Have Your Own Questions Prepared

I love love love asking my interview panel questions. I think it’s so fun putting them “in the hot seat.” If you can ask them a question they aren’t ready for- bonus for you!

I would suggest asking about things that are going to directly affect you. I always prepare the following three questions:

  • How does climate and culture at (insert school here) support, not only students, but also teachers?
  • What community partnerships/outreach do you have in place?
  • What does professional development look like for your teachers, especially teachers who are new to the school/district?

Understand That There’s a Lot Going On Behind the Scenes

This ones a big one and I’m putting it at the end because it’s a hard one to hear. In schools, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that you might never know about. The first job I ever interviewed for was filled internally. The school emailed me, not even a day after my interview, and offered me a long term position instead. Major bummer. In hindsight, I should have known when the person who left her interview right before me expressed that she was surprised it had been posted externally.

If you can sub in a district where you might want to teach, then do it. That’s how I got my interview for my teaching job in Newport. I had substitute taught, gotten to know the staff and the kids, and knew that I had an “in” when I applied.

The unfortunate reality is that schools really want to know you before they hire you. This isn’t true in all cases, but most of the time, teaching jobs seem to be filled internally. You cannot take it too hard if you do not get a job because there may be things going on behind the scenes that you don’t know about. Please don’t get discouraged if you find out, like I did, that an interview you thought you knocked out of the park was really a formality so the school could hire whoever they really had in mind.

So, here’s the big finale. You are a great teacher. A school is going to recognize that and want to hire you. It might take time and it might take a little bit of “paying your dues” but it will be worth it the day you step in to your very own classroom. And if that moment happens to be the day before school starts, reach out! I’ve got advice for that one too 😉

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