Congratulations! You've just landed your first interview for your first teaching job! But now what? How do you prepare for the interview? Do you have a game plan if they want you to give a demonstration lesson? What if you have to do the entire interview over the phone and can't visit the school campus? Here are some tips to help you be successful.
Questions! Questions! Questions!
There's not an interview veteran who wouldn't encourage you to ask questions. You're the prized possession and the teacher they need, so act like it. Make the most of this opportunity and pepper your interviewee with questions that will reveal whether the school is the right fit for you. If they can't tell you why the school is a great place to work, you'll know that it's time to put away your notes and move on.
Don't be shy that you're a new teacher. I tried to take advantage of this fact during my first interviews. I asked questions about support for new teachers and because I was newly minted from graduate school, I wanted to know if the school was open to the innovations and ideas I was eager to bring to life. I even asked one principal about their favorite memories from their first year teaching and how this would inform their ability to support me.
Here are some potential questions to get you started:
- What curricula do you use? How are teachers supported in terms of collaboration?
- What types of extracurricular responsibilities will I be asked to take on (committees, recess)?
- What is parent participation like at the school? How is this supported?
- What are your favorite things about these specific kids at this school?
- Why do you love working here?
- What are three reasons why I should work here?
- What are the goals you're working on?
- What are the problems you're in the process of solving?
- What are some long-term plans for the school?
Just remember that you're there to answer questions as well. Be prepared to share why you want to be a teacher, what experiences led you to this interview, how you would address discipline in your classroom, and what you would like to implement. You may be asked things like, "Who was your education hero or heroine and why?" and "Why do you want to teach at this school?" Think about these answers beforehand.
The Demonstration Lesson
So the interview went well and now they want you to teach a demonstration lesson. What do you do? You prepare. Find out what the class has covered thus far. Ask if you can send an e-mail to the teacher of the class you'll be working with. Get as much information as you can about the students' strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. What has been successful and what hasn't worked? Then plan your lesson. Bring the supplies you need and be sure you stay within the time allotted. Time management is key to making a good impression. If you finish too early, be sure you have another activity up your sleeve to do. That will show that you're always ready to improvise, which is an important quality of an educator.
While you usually don't get to choose the grade level of your demo lesson class, if you're asked to teach a fifth-grade science class when you're interviewing for an early-elementary position, you have every right to deny it. A principal asked me to teach a demonstration lesson in a fourth-grade class when I was applying for a job as a first-grade teacher. I said no and they asked why. They said they wanted a new teacher who would be flexible. I completely understood that, but I wanted to show them my best; at that point, a first-grade classroom was where I was comfortable. They canceled the demo, and I later discovered that they weren't interested in hiring a first-grade teacher; they hired a teacher and moved them to fourth grade. I was happy I passed on the demo lesson.
No School Visit
You may be interested in, or interviewing for, a school district where you're planning to move and may not have time for a site visit. This is unfortunate but not the end of the world. You will undoubtedly be able to speak with the principal and/or representatives of the hiring committee. Ask the same questions you would in an in-person interview. See if you can speak with someone on the grade-level team you'd be working with. Get a feeling for what they're like and if you'd comfortable with them. If parent involvement is a major part of the school, ask to speak to the head of the parent teacher association to see why they like the school.
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When it comes to interviewing for your first teaching job, remember that you're the hot commodity. You're beginning your illustrious career as a classroom teacher and any school would be lucky to have you. Good luck!