Job interviews are exciting (we swear) even if a lot of them are now taking place via Zoom! Interviews are a time for new opportunities, new colleagues, and new challenges that will change your career path. No pressure, right? Here’s one way to be sure you’ll nail it: Prepare your answers to some common teacher interview questions before you get in front of your future principal. Here are 20 teacher interview questions that are highly likely to come up. We recommend that you research any answers and start practicing your responses. Now, let’s go nail that interview!
1. Why did you decide to become a teacher?
It seems trite and like a softball question, but don’t let that fool you. If you don’t have a substantive answer, then why are you even applying? Schools want to know you’re dedicated to enriching the lives of students. Answer honestly and with anecdotes or examples that paint a clear picture of the journey that you took to become a teacher.
2. What is your teaching philosophy?
This question is tricky. Don’t answer with a cliché, generic response. In fact, your response is your teaching mission statement. It’s the answer to why you’re a teacher. It’s helpful if you write out your mission statement before the interview and practice reciting it. Discussing your teaching philosophy is a chance to show off why you’re passionate, what you want to accomplish, and how you are going to apply it in this new position, in a new classroom, at a new school.
3. How do you use technology in the classroom?
Or specifically in a post-COVID world, “How did you handle remote learning?” Technology is at the forefront of education, so your interview is the time to show off that you’re savvy. Talk about why you’re excited to use technology with students. How did you manage remote classrooms and engage students? What technology did you incorporate and use while teaching at home and in the classroom? Your administration needs teachers who are tech-savvy and have innovative thinking around technology.
4. Describe your classroom management structure.
If you’re a veteran teacher, discuss how you handled your classroom in the past. Give specific examples of things that worked the best and why. If you’re new, then explain what you learned as a student teacher and how you’ll map out a plan to run your first classroom. No matter how long you’ve been teaching, familiarize yourself with the school district’s philosophies on classroom management and discipline. Mention how you’ll incorporate their philosophy and stay true to your own. If you’re unable to find out much about the school’s policies beforehand, ask the interviewer to explain.
5. How do you incorporate social-emotional learning in your lessons?
Many states and districts have added requirements for social-emotional learning into their standards. Explain how you will not only tend to the academic needs of your students but tie in lessons that satisfy the core SEL competencies. Describe how you will help students build their self- and social-awareness skills, how you will support them in building relationships, and how you will give them the skills to make responsible decisions.
6. How do you connect your lessons to the real world?
Incorporating real-world connections into lesson plans helps students understand why what they’re learning is useful beyond the classroom. Explain how you will facilitate this kind of authentic learning for your students. Will you invite guest speakers? Use primary source documents? Will you tie in current affairs when possible? Show that your methods extend beyond the theoretical.
7. How will you encourage parents to support their children’s education?
The home-school connection is imperative yet tough to maintain. Administrators lean on teachers to keep open lines of communication with parents. They even see you as a “publicist” for the school, reinforcing the culture, strengths, and values of the school to parents. So, answer this question with concrete ideas. Share how parents will volunteer in your classroom and how you’ll maintain regular contact, providing updates on both positive and negative events. It’s great to also share your plan for providing resources to parents when students are struggling.
8. What are some methods you use to check for understanding as you’re teaching?
It’s one thing to prepare a high-quality lesson plan, but if students are not following along, what’s the use? Explain how your instruction will be responsive to students’ needs. Will you incorporate tech tools for assessments? Or implement exit slips summarizing what they’ve learned? Do you have a quick-check method, like thumbs-up/thumbs-down, to quickly scan for understanding?
9. How do you assess students’ progress?
Here’s your chance to preview your lesson plans and reveal your methods for keeping on top of students’ social, academic, and physical development. Explain the types of quizzes you give because you know that they’re most telling about students’ strengths and weaknesses. Give insight into how you use oral reports, group projects, and seat work to determine who’s struggling and who’s ahead. And, share how you implement open communication with your students to discover what they need to succeed.
10. Why do you want to teach at this school?
Research, research, and research more before your interview. Google everything you can about the school. Do they have a theater program? Are the students involved in the community? What type of culture does the principal promote? Use social media to see what the school proudly promoted most recently. Then, ask around. Use your network of colleagues to find out what (current and former) teachers loved and hated about it. The point of all this digging? You need to know if this school is a good fit. If it is a good fit, you’ll demonstrate how much you want the job by explaining how you would get involved with all the amazing school programs you’ve heard so much about!
11. What is the greatest challenge facing teachers today?
Remote learning? Hybrid learning? Diversity and inclusion? Social-emotional learning? Engaging parents? The challenges are plenty! Think about your specific school, district, city, and state. What issue is most pressing and what can you, as a teacher, do to help?
12. How can you meet the needs of a student with an IEP?
Today’s inclusive classrooms require that teachers know how to meet each child’s unique educational needs, especially those with disabilities. Even if you have not worked extensively with special needs students, educate yourself on the process and be familiar with the lingo. Prepare a couple of examples of ways you can differentiate instruction to support their particular needs.
13. How will you meet the needs of the students in your class who are advanced or say they’re bored?
School leaders don’t want to hear canned responses about how you can differentiate; they want you to give some concrete answers and support your ideas. Perhaps you help get kids prepared for scholastic competitions once they’ve mastered the standard (spelling bee or chemistry olympiad, anyone?). Maybe you offer more advanced poetry schemes for your English classes or alternate problem-solving methods for your math students. Whatever it is, make sure that you express the importance that all students are engaged, even the ones that are already sure to pass the state standardized test.
14. How will you engage reluctant learners?
Teaching in an age when we must compete with Fortnite, Snapchat, and other forms of instant entertainment makes this question valid and necessary. How will you keep students engaged? Share specific incentive policies, lessons you’ve used, or ways you’ve built relationships to keep students on task. An anecdote of how a past student (remember to protect privacy) that you taught was turned on to your subject because of your influence would also help your credibility here.
15. Describe a troubling student you’ve taught. What did you do to get through to them.
This question addresses more than just your reluctant learners. This speaks to any discipline measures you’ve had to address. As a teacher, you need to control the classroom and provide a safe space for all of your students. Think about your approach to troubling students and any successes you’ve had in the past.
16. Which activities, clubs, or sports are you willing to sponsor if you are offered a position?
While this expectation may be more real for middle and secondary teachers, being the new kid on the block often comes with a conversion of your title from teacher to coach. If athletics isn’t one of your strengths, you can still get an edge on your competition by sponsoring a science club, yearbook, or academic team. You might also share a special skill, like knitting or creative writing, and offer to teach it to interested students.
17. What three words would your peers, administrators, or students use to describe you?
Having been caught off guard by this prompt at a previous competitive interview, I would encourage you to have some thoughtful options to describe yourself. It’s tempting to say things you think your new boss might want to hear, like intelligent or hard-working, but don’t discount character traits or terms that paint you as a team player among peers and a role model for students. Some options to consider are empathetic, creative, caring, or cooperative.
18. What do you feel you can contribute to our school’s PLC for your subject?
The days of shutting your door to do your own thing are out, and professional learning communities are in! Go in ready to discuss topics such as common planning, benchmarks, and data analysis. This is a key time to highlight your strengths. Whether you shine in making high-level DOK assessment questions or have a plethora of student-centered activities for your subject, let the interviewers know what you have to offer to your prospective peers and what you hope to glean from collaborating with them.
19. Which component of your résumé are you most proud of and why?
Pride may come before a fall, but if asked about your accomplishments, don’t be bashful about conveying your worth. Have you won a grant for classroom materials? Share the details and how they helped your students succeed. Did you receive an award for excellence in instruction? Talk about how the application process helped you reflect and grow. If you’re a recent graduate, you can still brag on yourself: Describe your student-teaching experience and how it prepared you for opportunities like the job opening you’re vying for. Small things, like professional organization memberships, can also help you relay your interest in staying up to date on the latest educational research and best professional development.
20. Do you have any questions?
While it may be tempting to get out of the hot seat quickly by answering with a simple no, this will generally be the final question and your last opportunity to leave a good impression. So, grab a journal or pad and jot some ideas down before your interview and proudly pull these notes out on cue. If you are at a loss for what to ask, peruse the school’s website, check out their goals, strategic plan, or recent accomplishments, and refer to them specifically. Your potential principal will likely appreciate your inquisitive side if it is paired with genuine interest in their school.