When you consider taking on a teaching position at a school/district, you need to think through many areas. These include the school community, the surrounding neighborhood community, the curriculum, the intervention protocols for students, the technology available for students and teachers and various other resources including school support staff.
A wonderful piece of advice is to “window shop” at the district and school websites. Review the mission and vision and see if it aligns with your philosophy of education. Look at teachers’ websites at the school and review their classroom calendars of activities, look for collaboration and see if they plan for lessons that seem engaging to you. Check the school’s behavior plan and efforts to involve the community. Do they have school events like carnivals, STEM nights or talent shows? Are these things that you are interested in?
Much of this research can be done ahead of an interview; however, if you have secured a teacher interview, there are a few questions you can ask that will both inform you and demonstrate to the interviewer that you prioritize certain areas. Consider including the questions below when it is your turn to ask the questions in an interview.
What Professional Development Supports Are in Place for New Teachers?
Teachers who maintain fulfilling and successful careers are consistently taking advantage of professional development opportunities to continue on-going learning opportunities. They improve their teaching practices daily. This could be through reflection, collaborating with other teachers and leaders or by attending more formalized professional development opportunities.
Such opportunities help educators to apply new research in education as well as to refine known best practices in teaching. When schools/districts make an effort to ensure their teachers have opportunities for this learning, they are demonstrating that they value these efforts. Likewise, when you ask a question about these supports, you are showing that you also care about your own development as an educator and that you are dedicated to the profession.
When “window shopping” on district and school websites, look for opportunities to engage in professional development opportunities, such as participation in district and school committees as well as school board meetings. Reviewing this information will help you understand the level of engagement the district and schools encourage with their teachers and staff. This information will also help you during an interview because you will better understand their vision for school community.
What Social-Emotional Support Mechanisms Are in Place for Teachers in the School/District?
Teachers, like students, are susceptible to social stressors from political and cultural climates taking place in the local and global communities. It is becoming increasingly common to hear about efforts teachers are taking part in to maintain a healthy work-life balance. We need to take part in such an effort if we are going to sustain a long career as an educator.
Some of these practices we can initiate on our own by communicating or meeting up with friends, praying or journaling about our day. But, when a school/district takes part in these support measures, they acknowledge your efforts and value you as an individual. Asking questions about these supports shows your interviewer that you seek balance and stability.
For example, ask if the school has a social-emotional learning (SEL) program they use to support teachers, staff and students. Many schools implement some type of social-emotional supports and actively engaging them with students will not only model the importance of SEL with students but will also provide you with strategies and tools to deal with stressors.
When being interviewed, administration may ask you how your philosophy of education aligns with their school’s mission and vision. They may also ask you how you support relationships with and amongst students in your classroom or how you plan to model SEL in the classroom. This is your opportunity to share your belief of what SEL means to you and your teaching and to hear more about the supports the school offers.
How Are Teachers Evaluated and Provided With Feedback and Coaching?
As teachers, we have many sources of feedback: administrators, coaches, families, students, colleagues, etc. In a classroom, we welcome different stakeholders to observe our classroom and provide us feedback on our teaching practices. It is also important for us to be aware of the formalized teacher evaluations that are done on a periodic basis.
We want to be able to demonstrate our strengths to observers, but we also need to be open to constructive criticism on areas where we have an opportunity to improve. This is where feedback and coaching become valuable. Schools/districts with strong coaching mechanisms will be more likely to retain great teachers because they will be continually cultivating the talents of educators and staff. During an interview, you may be asked about your comfort level of receiving and implementing feedback. Keep in mind this quote from Robert Allen, “There is no failure, only feedback.”
You will likely be asked what you feel are your strengths and areas in need of improvement. Be prepared to share your passion of education, why you became a teacher and why you would like to be a part of their school community.
Ask about how feedback is provided and how often. Do they have Professional Learning Committees (PLC) in which teachers review student data and collaborate on strategies to meet students’ needs? Do teachers have opportunities to meet with instructional coaches, special education teachers and administration to reflect on their practice and offer suggestions on new ways to approach teaching and learning?
Feedback is an essential component of growth for educators. Even veteran teachers have opportunities to grow in their practice and expand their teacher toolbox of strategies. Being an excellent educator is not about being the best; it is doing your best! Doing your best includes the willingness to take feedback, reflect on your practice regularly, learn from others, share and collaborate and meet students’ needs to the best of your ability.
These questions provide a starting point for some of the questions you can ask in a teacher interview. Don’t think this is an exhaustive list, as there are many more valuable questions that can be asked. Remember, asking questions helps you gain information on the school/district, but they also are invaluable when demonstrating to your interviewer what you find important when considering a role in a school teaching position. Do your research ahead of your interview. Practice how you will respond to various questions and think about what you want to know about the school community.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.