Five Questions Asked at Every Teaching Interview
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Paige is at her first teaching interview for a pre-K teaching position in a public school. She has chosen an appropriate interview outfit and brought her portfolio and extra copies of her résumé. After she and the principal discuss some of the topics Paige has studied for the past four years, such as research-based teaching methods, the principal says, “We have about five more minutes. Sell yourself.”
Much like the activities in an early childhood classroom, what happens during a job interview can be hard to predict. The types of questions asked and the way the administrator shapes the interview varies based on the position you are interviewing for and the school district. As a young teacher, I spent last summer researching interview questions and rehearsing responses in front of the mirror. I reorganized my portfolio at least a dozen times! So many questions raced through my mind every time I got a call: What do I bring? What do I say? What do I wear?
After going to my fair share of interviews, I have become more confident about the preparation process. Although we all have different approaches to teaching and professionalism, the following tips were especially helpful to me and might be useful for you as well.
Out of all of the interview questions I fielded, these five were always asked.
1. “Tell me about yourself.”
It’s typical for interviewers to make this request at the start of the meeting. They want to know what you consider important enough to mention. It is difficult to know just how much to say, because you want to highlight all your abilities and experiences but avoid rambling on. Definitely prepare this answer beforehand, so that you are not randomly recalling résumé bullet points on the spot and debating which ones to bring up. Restate your name, your certification, and the school you attended. Talk about the teaching experiences you consider important and relevant (student teaching counts!), and end with a short sentence about the reasons you want to teach in this particular school.
2. “If I were to walk into your classroom during an early literacy or math activity, what would I see?”
This answer can be a bit lengthy, because you want to explain your intentional planning and the activity’s learning goals. Speak at a steady pace and stay on topic, and the length won’t be a problem. Your answer depends on the children you would be teaching and your teaching style’s fit with their unique characteristics. Are you leading a small group, working one-on-one, or working with the whole group? Explain how you would get the children interested at the beginning of the activity. During the activity, what will you be doing? How will you end the activity? Think about your teaching strategies, and tie them in with the curriculum (typically found on the program or district website). Using the name of the curriculum shows interviewers you are interested in their school or program and that you researched it.
3.“Describe some of your positive guidance strategies.”
Be sure the strategies you describe are developmentally appropriate and effective. It is best to share ones that you have implemented successfully, so you can use examples from your own experiences. Administrators seem to appreciate discussing guidance that reinforces positive behaviors and involves children in deciding how to work together in the classroom.
4. “How do you plan to communicate with families?”
Your answer should reflect the culture of the community in which you are interviewing. Find out the home languages spoken, the economic status of most families, and the kinds of family involvement encouraged by the school or program. Knowing these details, you can shape a response that demonstrates respect for the families. Would it make more sense to use email or to send letters home? Would it be beneficial to create a class website? Is there a teacher portal available? Be sure to mention that you chose a method because you are aware of the community demographics!
5. “What makes you the best candidate for this position?” (“Sell yourself!”)
This is a loaded question! Of all your qualifications, state the ones that put you over the top. Although you need to maintain a professional demeanor throughout the interview, this question calls for your personal views on early childhood education and how you see yourself contributing to the program. When preparing for the interview, consider the following: Why did you choose the field of early childhood education? How dedicated are you to the young children you teach? How has the field affected your thinking, previous jobs, and life experiences? This is the last message you will share with interviewers, so be sure to give an answer that represents you as a unique individual.
Once the interview begins, remember to trust yourself and your skills. With preparation and confidence, you’ll be teaching at your dream school in no time.