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20 Interview Questions that New Teachers Want to Prepare For

March 13, 2021 by Christopher Olson




Whether you are a brand new teacher looking to land your dream job as an educator or a veteran teacher that could be looking for a change of scenery or relocating…this blog is for you!  When it comes to teacher interviews oftentimes we stress out over what they could possibly ask us. We could be walking into a room of strangers so focused on how to answer correctly that we sometimes forget to be ourselves.  Let’s face it…the unknown is scary!   

Well, here we go because I am going to offer you some tips and secrets to landing that job! I was lucky enough to sit on both sides of the table.  I’ve been asked numerous questions over the years as well as the opportunity to ask questions as an administrator for incoming teachers. I am providing you with 20 Interview Questions that New Teachers Want to Prepare For! By all means, this is not an exhaustive list, nor is it the only list of questions that may come your way.   However, this is a great start to prepare for that upcoming interview!

Personal / Professional Interview Questions

Interview Question 1 ~ Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you decided to become a teacher? 

This may seem like an “easy” question, but don’t let that fool you!  Schools want to know you’re dedicated and reliable to building relationships and enriching a student’s life.  Answer honestly!

New Teachers:  Why did you decide to become a teacher?  When did you get that “call” to education?  For me, I had those moments in elementary school when I used to dress up as a teacher for “Career Day”.  You may also bring in some of your work during your undergrad and/or student teaching that solidified those feelings and desires of wanting to be a teacher.

Veteran Teachers: Just because you may have already been teaching for one year, five years, twenty even… you can’t escape this question!  You may still be asked why you decided to become a teacher in the first place.  Make sure to highlight that resume and/or Curriculum Vitae (CV). Similar to a new teacher, it is still appropriate to bring in some of your dreams in your earlier years.  Trust me, the interview panel will see that spark come alive when you are talking about your passion.  Add some experiences in your first few years of teaching.  Don’t be afraid to brag about some of those “lightbulb” moments and events in your early years that solidified your career choice. 

Question 2 ~ What is your teaching philosophy?

This is a tricky question because you really don’t want to give a generic, cliche response.  Your philosophy of education or your teaching mission statement pairs well with the prior “why you’re a teacher” question.  New Educators and Veterans, it would be helpful and beneficial to write out your statement.  Put some thought into it and practice reading it so you are prepared for the interview to discuss it.  I always have a page in my portfolio that has my statement written out.  This way I can refer to it if needed, so I can discuss it openly without worrying if I am going to remember it word for word.  

 

My personal teaching philosophy: ” To provide a comprehensive curriculum with a belief that all are capable and competent learners.  This learning will be conducted in a caring, open and safe environment where students will develop self-confidence, ability to work and think independently and cooperatively.”

 

Question 3 ~ Describe your classroom management procedures.

This is another question that I can almost guarantee you will experience somewhere in your interview.  Whether new or veteran, be prepared to discuss how you handle or are planning to handle your classroom.  Bonus Points:  Tie in the district’s philosophies on classroom management and discipline!  This will show that you did your homework and came prepared knowing the district you are applying to. 

New Teachers: You’ll want to map out a plan of how you would like to run your first classroom.  Try not to get caught up on the details.  Districts/schools are not looking for a full detailed plan from start to finish.  Come prepared to talk about two or three main ideas.  For example, perhaps focus on 1) Building Positive and Appropriate Relationships, 2) Creating Rules and Expectations, 3) Positively Reinforcing Appropriate Behaviors. 

Veteran Teachers: 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. Perhaps your school implemented specific programs like PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports).  Don’t be shy to discuss some of your favorite components of the program and how you would continue to implement those features within your new setting.

Interview Question 4 ~ How would you handle a disruptive or defiant student?

Yes, this is a different question than classroom management! As an administrator in an alternative school setting focusing primarily on emotional support and severe problematic behaviors, this was the focus of many interviews for me.  I suggest checking out Education to the Core’s Free Behavior Course!  This six-session email course provides you with over 60 strategies and interventions to put into place prior to behavior occurring, during, and after a behavior occurs.  The entire course follows a function-based behavior plan with tons of freebies that you can print, fill out, and include in your portfolio!

Question 5 ~ How will you encourage and include parental support for their children’s education? 

The home-school connection is imperative, yet tough to maintain.  Districts are looking for some concrete ideas here.  Consider ideas of how parents could volunteer in your classroom or how you’ll maintain regular contact.  Will you have a weekly or monthly newsletter?  Is this something that could be both digital (like a website or google classroom) as well as a paper version?  

Another focus, whether new or veteran, is to focus on providing updates on both positive and negative events.  It’s also great to share a plan for providing resources to families when students are struggling.  Districts are not looking or expecting you to be so open that you are going to provide your personal cell number or answering emails at 9 o’clock at night.  However, they are looking for you to have an idea of how you plan to include families. 

Question 6 ~ Why do you want to teach at this school or why would you be a good fit at this school?

Here is your chance to show off your research skills!  Once you land that initial interview google everything you can about the school.  Do they have social media?  What is the school posting and proud to display?  Do they have an active arts program or sports department?   Check out the school’s website, mission statement, and “About Us” page

Don’t be afraid to use your network of colleagues.  Talk to teachers that are already in the district or former teachers there.  See what they love most about the district, but also things that they would change.  What is the point of all of this work?  You want to make sure that this school is a good fit for you and that you are a good fit for the school.  Let’s face it, our classrooms are our second home.  You can use the analogy of finding the neighborhood that you want to live in.  Does it have all the amenities you are looking for?  What are you adding to the community?

Interview Question 7 ~ What three words would your peers, administrators, or students use to describe you OR your top three strengths?

Write down your top strengths!  Perhaps you are organized, empathetic, creative, caring, or have good leadership skills.  Whatever category you may identify with, be prepared to share WHY!  It might be tempting to say things that you think the district or interview team might want to hear.  Be true to yourself!

Question 8 ~ What are you reading right now and what areas would you select for your personal growth?

You might read books, blogs, articles for professional development as well as just entertainment.  Your answer to this question does NOT have to be related to education.  Perhaps you are reading a sci-fi novel or a murder mystery.  

Discussing personal growth does not refer to teaching “weaknesses” or challenges.  This just provides an opportunity to expand your teaching knowledge and interests. Perhaps you are looking forward to additional training in the area of STEAM or flexible seating?  You may catch yourself reading up more on SEL, restorative practices, and trauma-informed practices.  This is your opportunity to share your interests as well as your knowledge of specific resources you use to keep up with the latest trends in education.

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Content-Based Interview Questions

Question 9 ~ How do you use technology in the classroom?

I personally feel that in a post-COVID world, this is going to be the highlight of every interview.  Even prior to the pandemic, technology is a hot topic that is brought up in almost every interview that I have experienced as well as friends and coworkers.  I want to share that I am NOT a tech-savvy person, so don’t let this question make you sweat!   It is about being open-minded, willing to learn, and having innovative thinking around technology. 

New Teachers: Education is moving towards utilizing technology in all aspects of learning.  This isn’t just using a PowerPoint presentation as it was when I started teaching (oh my goodness, I feel like I just dated myself).  A lot of schools have a STEM program or are moving towards building one, so make sure you familiarize yourself with technical aspects in your classroom and bonus points if you tie in STEM!

Veteran Teachers: Here is your chance to talk openly about how you tackled distance learning.  I feel almost all of us have experienced some type of virtual learning/hybrid teaching by now.  How did you manage remote classrooms?  Did you utilize a Google Classroom? Zoom? Google Meets?  What technology did you incorporate and use while teaching at home as well as in the classroom settings?

Interview Question 10 ~ How do you incorporate social-emotional learning in your lessons?

I feel this is another component districts may focus on after experiencing COVID. Some states have added social-emotional learning into their standards already.  The best thing about SEL is that it fits into everything that we do as teachers.  Check out CASEL’s core SEL competencies and how they fit into your education philosophy and lessons.  

Describe how you will help students build their skills as well as support them in building relationships.  Check out a recent Teaching Trailblazer Vlog: SEL & PBIS in the Classroom & Beyond. Another resource for you is to check out NavigatingTrauma In The Digital World.

Question 11 ~ Do you have a Homework Policy?

What are your thoughts on homework?  I’ve met numerous teachers on both sides of the fence.  Some educators believe that students require homework to continue practicing the learned skill.  That’s okay.   Other educators are not supportive of homework and that’s okay too! 

No matter what your answer will be or your feelings are about homework, it is important that you support your reasoning.  If you are going to identify a homework policy be sure to discuss how homework plays into grading and what happens if students do not complete homework.  

As a side note…consider the reasoning behind why students are not completing homework.  Sure they may just feel like not doing it.  However, perhaps they are working at a job immediately after school or are one of the primary caregivers for their siblings. I will hop off of the soapbox…for now.    

Question 12 ~ What are some methods you use to check for student understanding?

Students using whiteboards as an Opportunity to Respond (OTR) activity at Ponderosa Elementary School.

It’s one thing to share the “perfect lesson plan”, but what if students aren’t following along, it is over their heads or it is too easy and they fly right through it.  Explain how you will incorporate tools for assessment and how you will continually check for understanding.  This can include a dialogue on different types of questions, “think-pair-share” as well as the possibility of exit slips.  

Opportunities to Respond (OTRs) are truly so powerful.  Consider the use of a whiteboard for students to write their answers and hold up.  You can quickly scan the room to check for understanding.  Use of thumbs up/thumbs down for yes/no questions.  I also regularly use some movement activities (e.g., stretch up high if it is a long vowel, crouch down low if it is a short vowel).  

For those tech-savvy educators, or ones that want to learn there is a multitude of possibilities to bring in technology.  Consider sharing and learning about using Google Forms to create quizzes or check-ins, Flipgrid, or Jamboard to name just a few.   Another option to consider (especially for older students) is allowing students to use technology to answer polls, surveys, or multiple-choice questions through online systems such as Kahoot, google forms, or survey monkey.

Interview Question 13 ~ How do you assess students’ progress? 

Here is the topic to bring your interview to the front of the line… Progress Monitoring!  I feel this is one area that many educators often forget.  Educators walk into the room and share how they will use both informal and formal testing to assess progress.  Pre and post-tests as well as unit tests.   We’ve heard all that, but how does it show progress? 

New Teachers: Keep in mind both formal and informal assessments!  Explain how you will utilize quizzes and exams to show students’ strengths and challenges.  Consider the use of oral reports, group projects, RUBRICS, or Exit tickets!  Another idea to truly make a stand-out interview is to consider thinking about how you want to implement an open form of communication with your students to discover what they need to succeed.

Veteran Teachers:  What types of assessments have you used in your prior settings?   Did you have students complete projects?  Were they provided opportunities for collaboration and did you observe the students working while completing a checklist on them?  How did progress monitoring come into play for you?   Make sure to touch on both the academic as well as behavioral/social side of what data and progress monitoring shows.

Question 14 ~ How can you meet the needs of a student with an IEP?

With inclusion, you can pretty much guarantee that during your early years of teaching you will have at least an identified student sitting in front of you.  Current teachers need to have a basic understanding of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and how to meet each child’s unique educational needs, especially those with disabilities. 

Special Education Teachers (New and Veterans): Let’s face it, your entire coursework was designed around how to not only write an IEP but provide supports, accommodations, and unique individualized goals for students with disabilities.  A Special Educator’s interview may be more heavily focused on IEP related questions.  I’ve been in an interview where it was more scenario-based around the IEP process (i.e., What is the family’s role in an IEP meeting?).  On the other end of the spectrum, I sat in an interview before where I was asked in detail to describe the special education process from request for a referral all the way through to IEP implementation.  My favorite question to ask during my interviews was “What do you feel is the most important piece of the IEP and why?”.  I liked this because it allowed my teachers to share their knowledge of IEPs in general, but allowed for them to create a dialogue where there really was not a right or wrong answer!

General Education Teachers (New and Veterans):  Familiarize yourself with the process as well as the lingo in an IEP.  As a general educator, it is important to be able to talk about the importance of the individual goals as well as the SDI (Specially Designed Instruction).  SDI contains the modifications and accommodations that students shall receive to have access to the general education curriculum. 

Question 15 ~ How will you meet the needs of the students in your class who are advanced or say they’re bored?

Personally speaking, I wouldn’t depend on just talking about how you would differentiate.  Differentiation is extremely important and it shows that you are keeping in mind the varying levels sitting in front of you.  I would pair some additional concrete ideas to go along with differentiation.  Consider, depending on grade level, offering more advanced academic exposure (poetry selections, chapter books, compare/contrasts, or alternate problem-solving methods).  Another great option to consider is bringing in some project-based learning.  Where once students finish a task in class they can work on a project.  Whatever it is, make sure that you express the importance of students being actively engaged.  

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Scenario-Based Interview Questions

Interview Question 16 ~ Describe a troubling student you’ve taught or experienced.  What did you do to get through to them?

An anecdote of a past student (remember to protect privacy) is usually appropriate when asked this question.  For new teachers, perhaps the team will provide a specific scenario to you.  The team is looking for how you dealt with or plan to deal with the student.  Focus on your strengths and don’t get caught up in the “complaining” of the behavior.   I would suggest providing a general overview of the measurable and observable behaviors.  THEN focus on how you dealt with the student’s behavior.  Did you create your own resources?  Work in a team approach?  How did you monitor the behavior as well as your strategies?  Make sure you discuss how you REFLECT in your practices to review the data and how (if at all) the behaviors changed.

Question 17 ~ Describe a lesson that did not go well and how did you learn from it or alter it for next time?

Let’s face it…we ALL have had lessons that did not go well in our careers.  We will continue to have lessons not go as planned in our careers.  This isn’t the time to be shy or possibly feel ashamed to talk about a moment in our educator career that did not go well.  Trust me every single person sitting in that room had those moments and experiences!  You are NOT alone! 

This is your opportunity to show your growth and how you were able to reflect to make the experience more effective.  You can be as specific as you wish when sharing your example.  How did you know it was not going well?  Did you alter your expectations during the lesson?   Scrap it all together or reflect on it afterward and alter it for next time?   Were your students able to offer feedback?

Question 18 ~ How do you keep your students engaged and motivated?

How do you keep your students engaged and motivated? You often hear the phrase ‘a teacher has many hats’.  We are not only educators, but nurses, family, magicians, and ENTERTAINERS to name just a few! We battle with social media, Fortnite, video games, and other instant entertainment sources for children.  How can you possibly keep your students engaged?!?

New Teachers: Prior to walking into the interview room, take the time to picture your classroom.  How is it set up?  What will be on the walls?  How will students interact with their space?    All of these questions can be incorporated into engagement and motivation because it starts with the environment.  Consider sharing ideas for centers and how students will collaborate with each other.  The power of choice speaks volumes for me!  Providing choice at times for students allows them to take ownership of their learning and feel more motivated in their choices.

Veteran Teachers: Share specific incentive ideas and lessons you’ve completed in the past.  You can share how you build relationships and build upon student interest. I am a HUGE supporter of student centers in my classroom during both reading and math activities.  This provides movement, team building and sometimes choice throughout their day.  Don’t be afraid to brag about an example of a great engaging and motivating activity or lesson you conducted in the past!

Interview Question 19 ~ Don’t let an odd “out of the box” question throw off your game!

One of my favorite questions to ask in an interview was “There is a line, a circle and a square. Which one describes you as an educator and why?”.  

I have a colleague who’s ‘go to’ odd question is “What are your views on garden gnomes?”  

These questions aren’t meant to trick you. Sometimes they are to lighten the mode in the room, allow you to laugh and relax.  Honestly, sometimes you hear pretty creative and memorable responses! 

Here’s the ultimate teacher interview question:

Question 20 ~ What questions do you have for us?

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not answer with a simple no.  This will generally be the final question and your last opportunity to leave a good and lasting impression.  I would suggest jotting down some ideas that you may want to inquire about prior to walking through the door.  Consider checking out the district or school’s website for some inspiration.  Read over the districts’ goals as well as some of their plans or policies.  Don’t be afraid to refer to them specifically when asking your question(s). 

New teachers, did you feel this list was what you expected?  Any questions you expected to see on this list that wasn’t there? Feel free to let us know in the comments below!   Veteran teachers, how did this list compare to your prior interviews? Do you feel anything is missing from this list?  Let us know in the comments!   

I truly hope this list helps you prepare for your upcoming interview!  The number one thing you can do is to be yourself…the content will follow.  Most importantly, I want to hear the words: “I got the job”!

Written by: Christopher Olson

At Education to the Core, we exist to help our teachers build a stronger classroom as they connect with our community to find trusted, state-of-the-art resources designed by teachers for teachers. We aspire to be the world’s leading & most trusted community for educational resources for teachers. We improve the lives of every teacher and learner with the most comprehensive, reliable, and inclusive educational resources.

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