You’ve landed an interview for your dream teaching job. Congratulations! Now it’s time to prepare. Whether this is your first role as a teacher or you have decades of experience, interviews can be nerve-wracking. So, what should you expect?
Here are eight teacher interview questions you can expect to encounter during the hiring process, along with sample responses and tips for preparing for and conducting yourself during and after the interview.
Questions to expect if you’re interviewing for a teacher position
1. Why did you become a teacher?
This question is similar to the “Tell me about yourself” interview question and one of the most common teacher interview questions you’ll hear. Of course, people have many different experiences and goals that shape their motivations for teaching. In every response, you should be honest and thoughtful and use real examples to help you express yourself.
I’ll always remember my favorite teacher, Mrs. Smith. I thought that I would never understand math, but she worked with me outside of class and helped me develop techniques that ultimately enabled me to overcome my fear of algebra and actually grow to enjoy it. I want to help my students the way she helped me and show them that they have talents and passions they haven’t yet discovered.
2. What is your teaching philosophy?
Like a personal mission statement, your teaching philosophy concerns your goals, values, and objectives as an educator. It expresses how you see your role what steps you take to do it well.
To me, learning is a form of self-expression and discovering a passion for gaining knowledge and growing. I see my role not as delivering information to my students, but as someone to help guide them to develop a passion and appreciation for the material. First and foremost, I keep the individual and her unique learning style in mind and adapt the content and curriculum to fit the needs of the learner and make it relevant to her life.
At one point, a student came to me and told me she was struggling because she had trouble understanding the visual way I was presenting the material. I made an effort to adapt my lessons by incorporating more spoken instruction to accommodate her needs.
3. Why do you want to work for our school/school district?
You wouldn’t accept a teaching job anywhere. What makes this one unique in your view? Any organization wants to be your first choice, even if you’re interviewing elsewhere. Of course, it’s completely expected that you have other job prospects, just as your interviewer has other candidates for the position, but you should make an effort to demonstrate your enthusiasm for this job in particular.
Your school has a reputation for excellence and creativity. I’m excited to work with students who genuinely want to learn, and that’s the impression I have of [SCHOOL]—a place where students are involved in and appreciative of their own education. I also enjoy using creative approaches to teaching the material, and I know that’s a value [SCHOOL] embraces.
4. How would you discipline students?
Many teachers deal with behavior problems and other student issues on a regular basis. It’s important to hone your approach to discipline before a problem occurs, so you have a concrete plan for how you’ll approach it.
Upfront, I would explain my expectations for classroom conduct and the procedures for how I’ll handle disruptions and violations of these guidelines. I will be fair and consistent in disciplining students as needed and give them the opportunity to discuss the issue and present their perspective. I will make every effort to resolve conflicts myself, but, of course, if I felt the issue was getting out of hand, I would discuss how to resolve it with you [assuming the interviewer is the principal].
5. How do you engage learners who seem unwilling or reluctant to participate in class?
No teacher always has perfect students. Even among older students, you’re likely to encounter some who seem unengaged. That’s why it is important to develop a plan of action for cases such as these.
First, I would discuss the issue with the student and ask why she is not engaging. There could be many different things going on, so I want to better understand the reason before taking action. Then, I would work with her to develop a plan that would help her use her own skills and talents in the classroom. For instance, if she is shy and uncomfortable speaking up in class discussions, perhaps we could discuss strategies for reducing her discomfort, such as discussing the material in smaller groups. If a larger issue is at play, such as a suspected learning disability, I would involve the principal and her parents to discuss testing and making the appropriate accommodations.
6. Why do you want to teach this age group?
Perhaps you had a middle-school teacher who inspired you, or maybe you’ve found your rapport with ninth graders. Whatever the reason is, you should be prepared to explain why you want to work with this particular age range.
In my experience, eighth grade is when students really become curious and passionate about their learning. I had an English teacher who inspired me when I was in eighth grade, and I’m eager to bring that same love of learning to my students. This is the age when students really begin to hone their interests, and I’m excited to help them explore their newfound talents.
7. How would you deal with an angry parent?
Angry parents are par for the course when teaching students of any age. You’re not going to make everyone happy, but you should be prepared for dealing with parents who think their child’s grade was unjustified or are otherwise unhappy with your teaching.
I would try to nip the issue in the bud before the parent approached me. For example, if I noticed a child was struggling, I would discuss it with her and involve her parents as necessary. If a parent contacted me, I would arrange a meeting to discuss the problem. In cases in which the parent is dissatisfied with her child’s grade, I would explain and provide evidence about why I graded her this way and discuss strategies for improvement.
8. What would you do if you suspected a student was being abused or neglected?
As a teacher, you are a mandated reporter of child neglect or abuse. If you suspect any student, including those you don’t teach, is being abused, you are required to report it through the proper channels.
I understand that as a teacher, I am a mandated reporter. If I noticed anything unusual or suspected a child was being abused or neglected, I would immediately report it through the proper channels. [NB: The laws regarding reporting child abuse and neglect as a mandated reporter vary by state. You can look up your state’s rules here.]
Questions you can ask your interviewer
At the end of your interview, your interviewer will most likely ask you if you have any questions for her. This is an important step, not only for the hiring manager’s evaluation of you as a candidate but also for you to learn more about the school and your role. After all, you want to ensure that the position is a mutual fit for both of you.
The best questions are ones you develop during the interview, such as a follow-up question about something the hiring manager mentioned or clarification. It is important to show your interviewer that you’re paying attention and involved in the conversation. Still, you should also come prepared with questions to ask. Examples include:
1. What is a typical workday like for a teacher at your school?
2. What qualities make teachers successful at this school?
3. What tools and technologies are available to teachers here?
4. What goals do you have for your school and students this year?
5. How involved are teachers in curriculum preparation and review?
6. What discipline procedures are in place?
7. What kinds of support systems and professional development opportunities do you provide for your teachers?
8. What are some strengths of this school or school district? What are some areas you would like to improve?
9. How would you describe the student body at this school?
10. Is there anything else you think I should know about the school or this position?
Interview best practices
How else can you make sure you’re ready for your interview? Here are some best practices.
• Research the school or school district beforehand.
Demonstrate that you’re knowledgeable about the school and student body by conducting research prior to the interview. You don’t want to ask a question that can be easily answered through a quick look at the website—this will make you look unprepared.
• Have a teaching portfolio ready.
Your interviewer may want to see sample lesson plans, assignments, and other materials you’ve used or developed in the past. You should also make sure you have a clearly stated teaching philosophy, as described above.
• Use specific examples.
Concrete examples from past teaching experiences will give your interviewer insight into your teaching style. Plus, your responses will be more interesting, thus making it more likely that you’ll stand out in the hiring process.
• Mind your presentation.
Dress professionally, and demonstrate confidence. Watch your body language, being careful not to slouch or engage in nervous ticks, such as biting your fingernails. Make eye contact, and project confidence. Smile and keep things light and positive.
While you don’t want to sound overrehearsed, you should practice responses to some common teacher interview questions so you sound confident and aren’t fumbling to think of answers in your interview. It’s impossible to know exactly what the interviewer will ask, but rehearsing can help you recall examples and experiences you want to discuss and generally help you feel more prepared.
How to follow up after the interview
As with any job interview, it is essential to follow up with a handwritten or emailed thank-you note after meeting with the hiring manager and anyone else involved in the hiring process. You should send one to each person with whom you met. This step is important for a number of reasons:
• It demonstrates your enthusiasm for the job.
• It’s proper etiquette and shows that you have good manners.
• It reminds the interviewer about your qualifications for the job.
In your letter, you should express your excitement about the potential opportunity, remind the employer about your qualifications, and, of course, explicitly thank her for her time. (Also remember to avoid these mistakes!) You should end your note no later than 24 hours after the interview.
Dear Ms./Mr./Dr. [NAME],
It was a pleasure meeting with you today. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the English teacher position. I’m so excited about the possibility of working with the students at [SCHOOL].
Given my 10 years of experience working with middle-school students as a tutor and teacher in inner-city communities, I believe my background makes me ideally suited to your diverse school district. I am excited to bring my unique experiences, strong rapport with young people, and enthusiasm for teaching English to this position.
I look forward to hearing from you in this regard. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if I can provide you with references or any other information.