Nailing Your First Teaching Interview

Nailing Your First Teaching Interview

Landing your first teaching interview can be nerve-wracking and exciting. Here’s our guide to nailing that first interview and finding the perfect teaching job for starting your career. 

1. Classroom Management

For most administrators, the biggest concern when interviewing a first-time teacher is how they will handle classroom management. Questions about this topic may be asked in several ways, like “What is your classroom management plan?” or “Tell me about the most difficult student you’ve had and how did you remedy that situation?”.  Go in with a confident plan of how you will handle classroom disruptions but avoid a list of rules and procedures. Administrators want to know what your plan will look like in practice: How are you going to build relationships? How will you implement rules and structure?  Be prepared to give practical examples. If you do not have a ton of experience, it’s okay to rely on what you’ve observed. Tell about things you saw that you think will work for you, like relationship-building tactics. It’s equally okay to highlight obvious failures you hope to avoid, like yelling or being inconsistent. 

2. Acknowledge your Weaknesses

As with just about any interview, teaching interviews will likely ask about your biggest weakness. Choose something teachable. Think about the makeup of the school you’re interviewing and the position you’re applying for. Choose something that you can improve upon as you learn in that role or that school. A principal I spoke to talked about a lateral entry teacher who said, “I think my weakness will be accumulating materials. Right now I don’t have a lot of materials that experienced teachers have.” According to her, this was a perfect answer because building an arsenal of materials comes with time. It’s also important to be coachable so highlight that you’re eager to learn as you go–any experienced educator knows that is primarily what the first year is about and they’re looking for a candidate who can adapt. 

3. Show up ready

These may seem like obvious aspects but they matter. Dress professional. Bring several copies of your resume, even if you have already submitted one via email or online. Make sure your resume has been proofread and is accurate. It should match the online application you filled out and contain references of recent supervisors. Arrive early so you can gather thoughts and cool off (most of these will be summertime interviews!) before entering the building. Greet everyone with a firm handshake.

4. Show your passion for teaching

Have a “why”. Very few people go to college for four years or more to do something they could care less about. Let that come across in the interview. Teachers are passionate people and the person most likely to get the job will be the person who brings the energy and passion it takes to keep up with a lot of kids. 

5. Know your audience

Be prepared to be interviewed by a panel of people. Most likely you will hear their names and titles for the first time as you sit down. It’s okay to jot these down if you want to send a thank you. More importantly, take note of who they are so you can inform your questions with that information. When it’s your turn to ask questions, acknowledge their experience and expertise. Highlight your willingness to collaborate and make eye contact with each person. These are often truly group decisions so you have to impress more than just the principal!

6. Prepare Materials

Some schools will ask candidate to teach a lesson. At the very least, come with sample lessons that you’ve done. Pictures of you interacting with students are great if you have them. Something tangible will help give the interviewers an idea of who you are and your style of teaching.

7. Research the School

Look at their website, look up demographic information on their student body, and take a look at the school’s report card or state reporting system. If it’s readily available, you should know it. This will help you give targeted answers and ask good questions. It’s okay to bring notes.

8. Don’t Settle

Interview the panel as much as they’re interviewing you. Find the right fit. You don’t have to take the first job offered to you. Teaching is tough and you won’t be successful if you take something just because it’s a job. Don’t put your career in the hands of someone you don’t trust or get along with. Remember that you are committing to a group of people for at least a year so make sure you feel good about it!

Other articles you may want to check out:

Nailing Your First Teaching Interview

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I am a Southern gal, mama to two kids (8 years and 6 months) and I have been teaching middle school for over 7 years. I love to go hiking or read a book in my free time. My favorite part of teaching is connecting with kids over things beyond just academics--teenagers are awesome!

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