Spring is in the air and so are teacher interviews! It’s officially job search season, so if you’re reading this with an interview scheduled, CONGRATS. If not, you’ll get the call soon enough. After all, you’re here reading this riveting blog post about teacher interview questions in your spare time. 🙂
This post is actually the fourth in a series about landing a teaching job, so make sure you check out these other tips & resources for getting HIRED:
- 10 Tips to Make Your Teacher Resume Stand Out
- 10 Tips for Writing a Teacher Cover Letter
- 10 Tips to Ace Your Teacher Interview
- Resume & Cover Letter Templates + Step-by-Step Writing Guides
The more prepared you are, the easier your teacher interview will be, so let’s get started! Here are 10 common teacher interview questions and specific tips for answering them:
1. SO TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF.
This just might be the most dreadful and awkward question ever, but it’s absolutely going to happen, so be ready for it! It can be difficult to talk about yourself without word vomiting and rambling, so preparation is key here. This question is an ice-breaker, first impression, and important question all in one, so if you can nail it, you’ll feel confident for the rest of the interview.
To prepare for this “personal sales pitch,” I recommend jotting down notes about yourself. Generate a list of details you could include, and then review your bullet points to determine what’s most important to share in the interview. Look back on your resume, and make sure that you’re doing more than regurgitating its information. What does a total stranger need to know about you to get the sense that you’re a good human being and teacher? You don’t have time to tell your whole life story, so focus on your defining traits, values, and experiences.
Once you’ve generated a list of essential details, practice your answer out loud. Seriously! This is the one question you can almost guarantee you’ll be asked, so you might as well have a nearly perfect answer.
2. HOW DO YOU LESSON PLAN?
This question can feel incredibly frustrating, too obvious or easy, and everything in between. But you can almost guarantee that you’ll be asked some variation of the lesson planning question. Whether it’s unit-planning, lesson planning, or using data to inform your planning, you’re going to have to talk about planning.
Administrators want to see that you know how to plan with a purpose, using “backward design” to map out the skills, goals, and assessments of the unit before planning the individual lessons. To communicate this, talk through your lesson-planning process from start to finish, using an example of a recent unit. The more concrete your answers are, the better! Like I mentioned in this post of teacher interview tips, it’s helpful to have a portfolio full of your best lessons. With a portfolio, you can speak about how you plan lessons and then show those very lessons to the interview committee. In addition to impressing the interview committee, a portfolio will help YOU during the interview. It’s much easier to talk about a lesson that’s right in front of you.
3. HOW DO YOU DIFFERENTIATE?
For some reason, this question can feel even more intimidating than the lesson planning one. Again, we all differentiate, but there are so many forms of differentiation that it can feel impossible to cover all your bases.
Aim to show the interview committee how you differentiate content, process, and product. For example, you might be able to explain that you differentiate content through leveled assignments/texts, graphic organizers, or choice boards. To illustrate that you differentiate process, or your instruction, you could mention flexible grouping, small group instruction, learning stations, book clubs or lit circles, or student conferences. To show product differentiation, you could explain how you offer options for projects and assessments.
As you explain how you differentiate, don’t forget to offer concrete examples. For example, if you use literature circles, explain a recent unit. What books did you offer, and how did you choose them? How did you differentiate instruction for each lit circle group? How did you differentiate each group’s project or assessment?
4. HOW DO YOU INTEGRATE TECHNOLOGY?
After the hot mess that has been Teaching In A Pandemic, you can bet that this question is here to stay. The silver lining is that you have no shortage of stuff to discuss after whatever combo of remote, hybrid, or socially-distanced learning you’ve experienced this year.
To answer this one, go beyond the buzzwords and speak specifically about the tech tools you use often. Most importantly, don’t forget to explain how you use them. Anyone can rattle off a list of technology tools, but not everyone knows how to integrate technology with a purpose. Make this clear! For example, you might say…
- I use Padlet to activate students’ background knowledge and facilitate reflection.
- I use EdPuzzle for flipped instruction. Students watch content videos & answer questions at home so we can discuss and do interactive lessons in class.
- I use hyperdocs to scaffold the writing process. The hyperdocs give students guidance through graphic organizers, screen-recorded lessons, resources, and more.
- I use Quizlet/Kahoot/Gimkit/Quizziz to gamify learning with vocabulary, figurative language, and literary devices.
- I use podcasts to practice literacy and listening skills. Students listen, discuss, and respond just like they would with a novel, short story, or other text.
5. HOW DO YOU APPROACH CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT?
This question can feel just as intimidating as the lesson planning and differentiation questions. Every teacher has a different way of approaching classroom management, but it can be difficult to articulate it.
For this question, you’ll want to describe your philosophy while offering examples of specific actions you take. You might mention things such as co-creating classroom expectations, parent communication, building relationships, clear procedures, compassionate & logical consequences, positive reinforcement, planning engaging, structured lessons to prevent behavioral issues, transition strategies, student choice, etc. The list goes on. In addition to outlining specific strategies, it’s helpful to describe specific situations and how you address them. For example, you could describe how you would respond to a defiant student who is disrupting the class.
Here’s a helpful hint: Always bring it back to relationships and understanding your students. When students misbehave, there’s a reason, and it’s our job as educators to figure that out. Reaching out to the student and speaking to them, human to human, is always the first step in solving a problem together.
It’s worth mentioning that you should do your research to determine if there is a school- or district-wide approach to discipline, such as PBIS or restorative justice. If so, make sure to familiarize yourself with the approach and align your answers accordingly.
6. WHAT IS ONE STRENGTH & ONE WEAKNESS?
The first part of this is simple, but the second is challenging! What kind of weakness can you admit? And how honest should you be?
Honestly is the best policy, but if your weakness seems more like a deal-breaker than an area for improvement, it might not be the best answer. So maybe don’t mention that you hate grading or contacting parents or working with other teachers. And don’t do the “weakness-that’s-actually-a-strength” trick either. Instead, try to think of an area for growth. What’s a weakness that you are actively confronting and working to change? Explain what you’ve done, what you are doing, and what you plan to do in the future.
I’ve always been very transparent with my weakness: it’s stress! However, when I explain it, I’m always sure to mention that it’s something I’ve worked on since Day 1 of becoming a teacher. I mention that I’ve strengthened my time- and stress-management skills and that I know it will always be a “work in progress” for me, and that’s okay. The best part of this answer is it’s so common that nobody is going to fault you for it.
7. HOW DO YOU USE DATA?
Ugh, data. Everyone’s favorite topic, right? It’s no surprise that the stock answer they’re looking for is that you use data to inform your instruction. But since anyone can rattle off this buzz-phrase, what you need to do is specifically explain how you do that.
- How do you assess and then what do you do with that data? (Consider informal & formative assessments, formative & summative assessments, etc.)
- How does it impact what you do in class the next day, the next week, the next unit, and/or the next year>
After briefly explaining how you use data, the best way to illustrate your proficiency is with an anecdote or example. Are you sensing the theme here? Always support your answers with evidence (data, if you will)! For example, you might be able to describe a time when your students performed poorly on a test or project and how you retaught the content in a new way.
8. HOW DO YOU BUILD RELATIONSHIPS/CLASS COMMUNITY?
If the interview committee asks this question, it’s a good sign: it means they value creating community. You do too, so you’re on the same team. Relax and talk about the things you do to make students feel seen and heard. Here are a few ideas:
- Discuss how you partner with parents/guardians (parent letters & surveys, conferences, newsletters, emails, etc.)
- Explain how you get to know students at the beginning of the year (student surveys, get-to-know-you activities, a personality test/reflection, etc.)
- Show how you make students feel valued every day (connecting over common interests, tailoring lessons to their lives, celebrating success, offering positive reinforcement, etc.)
- Mention how you support students in their lives outside of school (attending sporting/extracurricular events, sponsoring clubs/activities, coaching sports, volunteering in the community, etc)
9. WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF [INSERT SCENARIO]?
This is vague, but it’s worth a mention because scenario questions are common in teacher interviews. Here’s the secret: There’s often not a “correct answer,” and the interview committee is probably most interested in your thought process behind your final answer. The goal here is to explain your line of reasoning, reflect out loud, and show your values as you work your way through the dilemma. Here are a few common scenarios:
- What would you do if you had a student who disrupted class or refused to work?
- What would you do if you noticed your lesson wasn’t working and students weren’t engaged?
- What would you do if you disagreed with a decision a colleague made?
- What would you do if most of your students failed a test?
As you prepare for an interview, think through these situations and others, whether they’re hypothetical examples or previous experiences from your teaching. Whether you use this information for these questions or others, it’s crucial to have concrete examples to illustrate your answers.
10. WHAT QUESTIONS DO YOU HAVE?
The final question will almost always be, “Do you have any questions for us?” It’s easy to decline with a polite, “No, you’ve covered everything…thanks!” but it looks better to fire off a few questions that you’ve prepared beforehand. Asking your own questions will show the interview committee that you are prepared and interested. Even better, the committee’s answers will give you valuable insight into the school. If you’re in between schools or job offers, asking questions is a great way to “read” the school and determine if you’ll be a good fit.
Here are a few general questions to get you thinking. Remember to ask the questions that are most important to YOU:
- How much freedom do teachers have with the curriculum?
- What does collaboration look like at your school?
- What kind of technology do teachers & students have? What platform do you use?
- When can I expect to know more about this position?
Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions about information, programs, or other initiatives that you notice while researching the school. Once again, this level of preparation will impress the committee and show them that you’re serious about the position!
BONUS: ~CURVEBALL QUESTIONS~
When interviewers throw a curveball at you, they’re trying to see how you’ll do off the cuff. They’ll most likely appreciate clever or witty answers, raw honesty, or surprising answers. After all, if they’re asking a surprising question, they can expect an original answer. It all depends on the question and tone, but this can offer a unique opportunity for a memorable answer! Here are two curveball questions I’ve been asked and how I responded.
- Why should we not hire you? Talk about a curveball! This was actually for an online teaching job, and I answered with complete honesty: Because my former students would miss me and I might end up missing the brick-and-mortar classroom. My answer came true a few months later when I ended up hating virtual teaching. I was honest, and I was right, but hey, at least I got hired.
- On a scale of 1-10, how nervous are you? I avoided quantifying my stress and answered, I can’t put a number on it, but I could probably write you a 10-page essay on it. That English nerd answer amused the math teacher principal so much that he ended up hiring me and joking about my interview for the next 5 years. Ha!
If you liked these tips, then you might be interested in the following posts:
- 10 Tips to Ace Your Teacher Interview
- 10 Tips to Make Your Teacher Resume Stand Out
- 10 Tips for Writing a Teacher Cover Letter
For help with the job search process, check out these resources that helped me get hired twice in the past two years:
What other teacher interview tips or questions would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments!