- Tell me something about yourself that is not on your résumé.
- What events brought you to this interview today?
- Why do you want to be a teacher, and why did you apply to our district?
Be prepared to introduce yourself in any interview. Do not tell your life story, but rather describe one unique aspect of your professional training, student teaching, or earlier teaching jobs. Do your homework about the district, so that you can have a specific answer regarding why you want to work there.
- Describe an activity that is developmentally appropriate for five-year olds, but that would be too difficult for a younger child.
- Young children often cry when dropped off for school. How have you dealt with this in the past?
- How have you incorporated play and movement into lessons?
Consider talking about classroom organization strategies for getting students into the room and settled. Talk about routines and procedures, and how they help young children.
- What approaches have you used to teach reading?
- Tell about working with non-readers in a class.
- How have you prepared students to take standardized tests?
- Describe writing activities that have worked well for this age group.
Whenever you interview for a position teaching elementary grades, you will be asked about all aspects of literacy. Be prepared to describe a reading series you have used, with specific examples of strategies that have worked.
- What strategies have you used to transition children from one lesson or activity to another?
- What motivates students to behave? How have you rewarded students in the past?
- Describe a classroom where you have worked. How was it arranged and how did the arrangement help you to teach?
Talk about, and show from your portfolio, a classroom management plan.
- How have you integrated subjects together in a lesson?
- Tell about working with a team of teachers.
- How have you taught reading and/or writing skills across the curriculum?
- Tell about your preparation or experience working with adolescents to help them with personal issues that are a part of middle school (sex ed, stress management, relationships, growing up, etc.).
Middle school really is different than elementary or high school teaching. Be prepared to talk about adolescent development and the social needs of this age group. Many middle schools operate with teaching teams, so highlight your experiences with team planning.
High School, General
- How have you encouraged students to stay in school and graduate?
- What is a current trend in the teaching of your subject, and how have you dealt with this trend?
- Describe a lesson that would fit a traditional 50-minute lesson. Or, describe a lesson that would fit into a 90-minute blocked class.
- What kinds of stressors do today’s high school students face, and how have you helped them to cope with their concerns?
Think about these questions and have an answer ready that addresses motivational factors of teenagers, since knowing the students is the first step in teaching them. When you describe a lesson, discuss how you focus and motivate students each day.
- Describe a classroom where you have worked. How was it arranged and how did the arrangement help you to teach?
- Describe a classroom management plan that you have used.
All employers want to know that you can set up a classroom with routines and procedures, and can establish rules with corrective actions and positive feedback (rewards). Show a management plan from your portfolio and describe your experiences from student teaching or a former classroom.
Questions by Subject Areas for Upper Elementary, Middle and High School
The best hint for how to answer these subject-specific questions is to talk with a veteran teacher in the field, a college professor or your student teaching supervisor. In today’s competitive job market, candidates really do need to reflect on possible answers and actually practice what they will say in the interview.
- How have you kept students interested in reading in your classes?
- How have you incorporated vocabulary and study skills for standardized tests, including ACT/SAT, into your lessons?
- How have you worked to combat students’ fear of math?
- Talk about the use of calculators and other technology in math classes.
- How have you handled homework issues?
- Tell about the use of labs or hands-on activities in your science classes.
- Tell about your teaching experience in biology with controversial issues.
- How have you motivated students to like science and to take advanced classes?
- What methods have you used to teach, besides lecturing?
- How have you accommodated, or helped, weak readers with the materials to be read for your classes?
- What are some current trends for your subject area?
- How much of your lessons are taught in the language? Why?
- Describe your approach to teaching grammar.
- How have you incorporated culture into your lessons?
- Describe how you have worked with regular classroom art teachers to incorporate, or keep, art in the curriculum.
- How have you encouraged students who are not necessarily artistically gifted?
- How do you assess and grade students’ art work?
- How have you built weight consciousness topics into your courses?
- How have you encouraged out-of-shape students to participate in sports activities?
- Describe your experiences working with large groups of students in a gym or on a field.
Special Education Questions
In general, special education questions will deal with populations of students (what kinds of issues they have), settings for delivery of classes, methods of teaching, and strategies for collaboration and communication with constituents (parents, teachers, administrators). The vocabulary for special education is highly specific and many acronyms exist, so if you are asked a question with an abbreviation or term you do not recognize, ask for clarification. This is especially true if you were trained in one state and are now moving.
- Describe your experiences working with ___________________. (An employer will ask about special populations—students with autism, students with ADD/ADHD and any or all other categories.)
- Describe your work with students exhibiting marked impulsivity (or other specific issue).
- Tell about your experience working with students in another teacher’s classroom (mainstreaming).
- Describe your experience with a pull-out program.
- Describe your work with one student’s IEP (individualized education program).
- How have you modified lesson for learners? Be specific with your examples.
- How have you incorporated technology into lessons or into an individual student’s program?
- How have you modified a physical environment to assist a student?
- Describe positive communications that you have had with parents.
- Describe positive communications that you have had with other teachers and administrators regarding your students.
What’s the bottom line? What do employers really want to learn about you in the interview? They want to know that you can organize and manage a classroom. They want to know that you can raise student achievement. They want to know that you can work well with colleagues and parents. Share specific past success stories so that the employer feels confident that you will have future success when hired.
Dr. Mary C. Clement is a professor of teacher education at Berry College, northwest of Atlanta, Georgia. Her research on the hiring of new teachers has received national recognition.
A poll conducted for the Associated Press earlier this year found that about 57 percent of parents felt their child was assigned about the right amount of homework. Another 23 percent thought it was too little, 19 percent thought it was too much.
Educators should be thrilled by these numbers. Pleasing a majority of parents regarding homework and having equal numbers of dissenters shouting "too much!" and "too little!" is about as good as they can hope for.
But opinions cannot tell us whether homework works; only research can, which is why my colleagues and I have conducted a combined analysis of dozens of homework studies to examine whether homework is beneficial and what amount of homework is appropriate for our children.
The homework question is best answered by comparing students who are assigned homework with students assigned no homework but who are similar in other ways. The results of such studies suggest that homework can improve students' scores on the class tests that come at the end of a topic. Students assigned homework in 2nd grade did better on math, 3rd and 4th graders did better on English skills and vocabulary, 5th graders on social studies, 9th through 12th graders on American history, and 12th graders on Shakespeare.
Less authoritative are 12 studies that link the amount of homework to achievement, but control for lots of other factors that might influence this connection. These types of studies, often based on national samples of students, also find a positive link between time on homework and achievement.
Yet other studies simply correlate homework and achievement with no attempt to control for student differences. In 35 such studies, about 77 percent find the link between homework and achievement is positive. Most interesting, though, is these results suggest little or no relationship between homework and achievement for elementary school students.
Why might that be? Younger children have less developed study habits and are less able to tune out distractions at home. Studies also suggest that young students who are struggling in school take more time to complete homework assignments simply because these assignments are more difficult for them.
So, how much homework should students do? The National PTA and the NEA have a parent guide called "Helping Your Child Get the Most Out of Homework." It states, "Most educators agree that for children in grades K-2, homework is more effective when it does not exceed 10-20 minutes each day; older children, in grades 3-6, can handle 30-60 minutes a day; in junior and senior high, the amount of homework will vary by subject…." Many school district policies state that high school students should expect about 30 minutes of homework for each academic course they take, a bit more for honors or advanced placement courses.
These recommendations are consistent with the conclusions reached by our analysis. Practice assignments do improve scores on class tests at all grade levels. A little amount of homework may help elementary school students build study habits. Homework for junior high students appears to reach the point of diminishing returns after about 90 minutes a night. For high school students, the positive line continues to climb until between 90 minutes and 2½ hours of homework a night, after which returns diminish.
Beyond achievement, proponents of homework argue that it can have many other beneficial effects. They claim it can help students develop good study habits so they are ready to grow as their cognitive capacities mature. It can help students recognize that learning can occur at home as well as at school. Homework can foster independent learning and responsible character traits. And it can give parents an opportunity to see what's going on at school and let them express positive attitudes toward achievement.
Opponents of homework counter that it can also have negative effects. They argue it can lead to boredom with schoolwork, since all activities remain interesting only for so long. Homework can deny students access to leisure activities that also teach important life skills. Parents can get too involved in homework -- pressuring their child and confusing him by using different instructional techniques than the teacher.
My feeling is that homework policies should prescribe amounts of homework consistent with the research evidence, but which also give individual schools and teachers some flexibility to take into account the unique needs and circumstances of their students and families. In general, teachers should avoid either extreme.