7 Tips to rock an interview
As the English Department Chair at my school, I’ve had the opportunity to be on the other side of interviews. I’ve seen what works, what doesn’t, who gets hired, and who doesn’t. Here are some tips to help you get the call back.
- Be ready to explain how you will use assessment data in your lesson planning. Even as the assessments as we know them change due to ESSA, they are not going to totally disappear. You will likely still be expected to collect pre, mid, and post assessment data on basic standards for your content and use that data to drive instruction. Make sure you mention that you will use pre-assessment data to target students who might need more support reaching specific learning targets as well as students who are ahead of the game and might need enrichment activities to challenge them further. I use my writing pre-assessment data to create my peer editing groups. Many schools use a green, yellow, red coding system on pre and mid year data to visually tag how close specific students are to achieving the learning objectives/targets.
2. Who do you go to if you need help? One question I was in charge of asking in the last interview I participated in was “If you need help who will you ask?” The answer is not the principal! You should always go to your Department Chair first with just about anything (except in the case of bullying or suspected child abuse, in which case tell guidance ASAP). Principals and assistant principals don’t have time to help you with your content or with minor discipline issues like getting the kids to stop talking while you’re talking. Go to a colleague or your department chair for advice on issues like this. If they can’t help you, they will find someone who can.
3. Prepare a portfolio, but don’t expect them to ask for it. Every time I’ve gone for an interview I’ve brought my “portfolio” with me. Right after college it was a big binder that included my philosophy of teaching, philosophy of classroom management, and various types of lesson plans (reading, writing, with technology, without, etc). Quite honestly, I don’t think it ever made the difference between getting a job and not, and more often than not the interviewer didn’t even want to see it. (If you really feel pressed to create a full portfolio see Vanderbilt’s teaching portfolio page. It’s the best one I’ve found).
My advice is to bring a small portfolio containing a couple of innovative lesson plans that you’ve used either in a previous job or in student teaching. If the opportunity comes up during the interview to bring up one of these lessons, go ahead and take out the plan and offer them a copy for them to look at later if they are interested.
I also firmly believe that you should have some kind of online presence as teacher or future teacher. Even better (in my eyes) than a paper portfolio is a well organized online portfolio which can be accessed through a link you provide on your resume. Then the interviewer can take a look at it before the interview and it can provide you things to talk about. Make sure to drop appropriate buzz words in that portfolio!
4. Be ready to answer questions about how you will deal with behavior problems in your classroom. Hopefully if you’re in the process of applying for jobs you already know that the answer must mention the importance of having good relationships and good rapport with your students. You should emphasize how you will be proactive to prevent behavior problems as much as possible (See classroom management philosophy).
Most interviewers are also going to want to know that you’re not just going to jump to writing a referral (unless it is a serious offense that absolutely requires one). They want to hear that you will conference with the student, that you will contact the parents to see how you can work together to prevent the problem from happening habitually. We all have our own styles with this, but be ready for this question.
5. Ask if you will have your own classroom. Will you be in a portable? Will you be sharing a room? Will you be floating? (Floating means you don’t have your own classroom and move from room to room throughout the day). They may not be able to answer concretely, but they can give you an idea of how many teachers are in the various situations in their school. Let them know you are open to whatever scenario you are given, but this will be pertinent information for you if you are offered more than one job. Obviously having your own classroom is the best situation and if you have to decide between two otherwise equally good positions, the one where you won’t be floating might win.
6. Ask how many preps you will have. Prep means preparation, or how many different types of classes you’ll have to plan for. When you ask how many preps you will have (or how many preps an average teacher at the school has) you’re asking how many different types of classes you’ll teach. This is generally only an issue at the middle and high school levels. If you teach General English 10, Advanced English 10, and Creative Writing that means you have three preps. That is a lot. One year I had five. Yeah, five, gasp. Most teachers prefer to have two preps. One might get boring, but more than two can become a crazy juggling act. Again, this is very useful information if you get offered more than one position. If it is your first ever teaching job one prep might make life easier for you, but most schools have very few (if any) teachers with only one prep.
7. Whatever you do, be positive and excited about the school, about kids, and about teaching. No matter what you say, your love for your content and for kids needs to come across. Emphasize how you want to connect with kids and mentor them in addition to just being their teacher. Note that you understand the difference between being their friend and being their teacher/mentor, but that you know how important building relationships with students is. Make sure the people who are interviewing you know that you’re pursuing a teaching career because you want to make a positive difference in the lives of kids.