How to Prepare for a Successful Elementary School Interview
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Believe me, I know how stressful it can be to interview for your first teaching position.
It can feel like a lot of pressure because it's the culmination of so much work over the past four or five years, and because so many of us who become teachers feel like we’ve grown up just knowing that we wanted to teach – it’s not just a profession to us, it’s our calling.
So, when it finally comes time to start interviewing, it can feel a little bit like an identity crisis if an interview doesn’t go well. We are just so certain that we were born to teach and any outside experience that challenges that can feel crushing.
But that is not going to happen to you, because today, we are going to talk about what you can do to prepare before you ever get to the interview.
We are going to talk about what kinds of questions interviewers like to ask, broken into categories of general questions they will likely ask, teaching questions, and classroom management questions. Finally, we will talk about what to do on the day of your interview to ensure that you have a positive experience.
Like anything, success is all about when preparation meets opportunity.
If you’ve done the work to be well prepared, when the opportunity for a job position comes up, you will be that much more confident and more likely to have a positive experience than if you don’t prepare and just try to wing it. If I learned anything during my student teaching experience, it was to always be over-prepared for any lesson I planned to teach and preparing for an interview is a lot like that.
What to Do Before the Interview:
Find out the specific names of the people who will be interviewing you so that you know them by name when you get to the school.
- Contact your references to let them know that they will likely be getting a call from the school and ask for their permission to use their names. Ask anyone who has seen you teach, like your cooperating teacher from your student teaching practicum, a colleague, your college or university professor, or even the administrator of the school where you did your student teaching placement to give you strong references.
- Study the school and district websites to become familiar with the school district’s mission, vision, and values. This will be helpful information for you to incorporate into your answers during the interview.
- If the school handbook is not available as a download on the school website, contact the school and ask for a copy.
This handbook will provide important information about the school’s discipline and management policy (so you can be sure that your answers align with it when you talk about your classroom management plan during the interview).
- Prepare a list of questions you will want to ask about the school, such as the level of parent involvement, what kind of technology you will have access to, and what the average class size is for the grade you are interviewing for. Also be sure to ask if they have any kind of formal mentoring program or other PD support for new teachers.
- Be sure you have your portfolio ready and are prepared to answer questions about it, as well as your resume and cover letter (you should have a uniquely crafted cover letter prepared for each school that reflects its’ unique mission and vision). Click here to access some great information about what to include in your teacher portfolio.
- Plan your outfit (including shoes, accessories, and jacket) at least the day before your interview. If you know that you don’t have any clothes that look professional and that you are comfortable in, be sure to shop for an interview outfit at least a few days before your interview. First impressions matter!
The Most Common Questions:
You will want to think about how you can answer these questions honestly and give lots of practical examples if possible. Also, be sure to practice answering these questions clearly and concisely and consider role-playing with someone so you can also think through related, follow-up questions.
Some of the general questions they might ask include:
- What is your philosophy of education?
- Why do you want to work for this school and district?
- What motivates you to be an elementary teacher?
- What do you think sets you apart from other applicants?
- What was your biggest challenge during your student teaching placement and how did you resolve it?
- Teaching can be a stressful job. What do you do to manage your stress?
Click here to learn How to Cope with Sunday Night Anxiety.
- What kind of PD have you already experienced?
- What activities would you consider coaching or advising as part of the school staff?
- Where do you see yourself in ten years? Do you plan to always teach or do you have other career aspirations?
- How would your students or past colleagues describe you?
- What questions do you have for us?
Be sure to listen to the full episode of this podcast to get more detail about why administrators ask these questions (and how you might want to answer them).
Some of the teaching questions they might ask include:
- Why do you want to teach this grade level or this subject?
- How do you incorporate Common Core State Standards into your classroom teaching?
- How do you evaluate the effectiveness of your lessons?
- How would you describe your teaching style?
- Talk about a lesson that didn’t go very well and how you turned it around.
- How do you plan to develop relationships with your students?
Click here to learn 10 Fantastic First Week of School Activities!
- How have you used technology to enhance your teaching?
- How do you differentiate instruction for your students?
Click here to learn How to Differentiate Any Lesson.
- How do you incorporate social-emotional learning in your lessons?
- What assessments do you use? How do you use assessment to drive instruction? Click here to learn about Freedom from Grading Overwhelm.
- How do you plan to establish relationships with and involve parents in your classroom? Click here to learn How to Prepare for Meet the Teacher Night.
Some of the classroom management questions they may ask include:
- What are your classroom rules and how are they established?
- Which routines or procedures do you have in your classroom and how do you teach them? Click here to learn How to Create Your Classroom Management Plan now!
- What is the optimal design for a classroom in the elementary grades?
- What do you do when a student doesn’t follow a rule or procedure?
- How will you engage reluctant learners in your classroom? Click here to learn 5 Positive, Easy, & Creative Ways to Get & Keep Your Students' Attention.
- Do you use rewards in your classroom? If so, how do you use them?
- What do you perceive is your greatest challenge when it comes to classroom management?
- What steps would you take if a student constantly disrupted your class?
- Do you anticipate involving your administration in classroom management? If so, give an example.
- What role do parents play in your classroom management plan?
- How do you handle student conflict in your classroom?
What to Do the Day of the Interview:
- As I mentioned at the beginning, first impressions do matter. Take the time to wash and style your hair, dress professionally, and make sure your fingernails are clean and neat.
- Be sure to leave plenty of time to get there (plan for an extra 20 minutes at least) in case there is unexpected traffic on the way.
- Take some time to remind yourself of all of the successes you’ve had in teaching up to this point.
Right before you go in for your interview, think about the best lesson you ever taught and remind yourself of why you decided to become a teacher.
Let your positivity, your confidence, and your love and passion for teaching shine through when your administrator first comes out to meet you.
- Whenever you are not sure of how to answer a question, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.
- Have your list of questions printed so you can ask for answers to your most pressing questions about the school.
- Be sure to bring your portfolio if this has been requested. Sometimes they don’t even look at it (but want to know that you’ve taken the time to prepare one), and other times they will browse through it and ask a few questions about it.
- Be sure to thank your interviewers for their time and follow up by writing a thoughtful thank-you note to the individuals who interviewed you. It can be very impressive if you can mention something that you especially liked about the school and/or about what you learned about the district during the interview. Be honest and positive, and let your enthusiasm shine through.
- You’ll find your teaching home, and don’t accept a position if you have a bad feeling about it. And - when you DO land the perfect job, be sure to listen to How to Make Friends at a New School so you develop the support system you need to stay strong and enjoy your first years in the classroom. 💕
I hope that this was helpful for you as you prepare for your elementary school teaching interview. Please comment below and let me know what was helpful for you, or if there's anything I didn't cover that you'd like more information about!
P.S. Need to brush up on your classroom management skills? You might want to check out my Chaos to Confidence Classroom Management System!
Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor
Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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