When I moved to Michigan two years ago I had no idea how difficult it was to get a job in a public school. I had to get serious! I looked a tons of blogs to get ideas and am hoping to pay that back as the advice of others helped me so much in my own job search. I'm now at a public school in Michigan with an amazing principal and colleagues I very much enjoy. Hooray!
Although talking on the phone isn't as ideal as talking in person, one nice thing about these is you can do the interview with no makeup in your jammies! You can pace around and have notes in front of you the entire time. I always have highly specific notes I keep in front of me for phone interviews and my laptop handy to type the questions as they are given. These questions are great for reference, not only for this interview, but also as you prepare for interviews in the future. All of the interview questions I've mentioned below are ones I've typed during or written down after an interview.
My interview notes are divided into a number of sections:
*Introduce self - Personally and professionally
*Why am I interested in this school?
*Difficult child - what do you do?
*Professional reading and development (include specific titles of books and presentations)
*Strengths and weaknesses
*Good reading instruction - what does it look like?
*Good math instruction - what does it look like in your classroom?
*RTI and assessment experience
*What sets you apart from other candidates?
*What can you add to your team?
For a phone interview I had that was a final interview as it was out of state, I sent a picture through their online application system as an attachment. I like to visualize who I'm talking to and figured they would as well. I learned after I got the job that they had my picture up as I interviewed, so this worked for me. I've heard arguments against this as well, but I wasn't attempting to send a Glamour Shot. I just wanted them to have some idea who they were talking to. For the record, I would NOT send a Glamour Shot. :)
In Person Interview:
For every question that deals with the classroom, think of a student you have had in the past that demonstrates that particular part of teaching. For example, instead of simply talking about working with struggling readers generally, say something about your classroom practices and then add the student example like: "One example from my own classroom was when I helped Terra who was unable to find motivating just right books by doing some emergent publishing. We spent 15 minutes a day during the literacy block typing up her own stories as she told them to me aloud. She loved her personalized stories and used these as a supplement to her just right texts. She also used them during our writer's workshop block. This was one way I've tried to individualize instruction for one of my struggling readers."
Try to frame your answers using the question at the beginning and end of your response. I have a super hard time doing this, but I know from friends who have been on a crazy amount of interview committees that this is one thing that sets candidates apart when they have a number of qualified applicants. An articulate speaker is someone you hire! I always try to use the question or part of it as I begin and finish the answer to every interview question. Using something like "In short, those are a few examples of how I organize the math block in my classroom." as the end to a response helps your interviewers to know you're done rather than waiting for you to trail off and then look at them awkwardly as a signal you're finished rambling.
Possible Interview Questions:
*Tell us a little about yourself (this is not a question) :)
*What could you bring to the position? What sets you apart from other candidates?
*Tell us about your teaching experience as it pertains to the position.
*What is your background as it relates to classroom management?
*What is the most recent professional development you've participated in?
*What is a professional development book you've found useful in your classroom, and give examples of how you've integrated what you've learned into your classroom instruction.
*Give an example of one of your favorite children's books and how you'd use this for instructional purposes in your own classroom.
*Describe a lesson in your classroom that went well and how you knew it went well.
*Describe a lesson in your classroom that did not go well, how you knew it did not go well, and what you did after the lesson.
*How do you differentiate for students on different academic levels?
*What assessments are you familiar with?
*How do you know that your students are learning?
*You notice a student crying at his/her desk – what would you do?
*You notice your whole class is not engaged in a lesson – what would you do?
*How do your students know they can depend on you?
*Do you do anything outside of school to further your learning?
*Do you consider yourself a reflective teacher?
*Your whole class fails an assessment – what would you do?
*Why did you decide to become a teacher?
*What would you be if you weren’t a teacher?
*How do you involve parents in your classroom?
*How do you effectively communicate with parents?
*Have you ever changed course due to the needs of a teammate?
*Have you ever gone above and beyond for a student?
*What are your strengths and weaknesses as an educator?
*Why do you want to teach at this particular school/district?
*Do you have any questions for us?
What to Take:
These are the items I always take to interviews:
Resume (5-6 copies)
Picture Portfolio (3-5 copies of stapled packets)
Letters of Recommendation (5-6 copies of stapled packets)
My iPad (to show how I used Class Dojo and the Confer app if asked)
My interview notes (pictures of pages shown above)
A Word About Portfolios:
I do not like the giant binder portfolios. I find them cumbersome and don't want to wade through them as part of an interview committee. There's always only one which means you don't have time to pass it around and it's awkward to have someone leave a copy since it usually gets shoved in a desk or sits with the secretary while the job candidate slinks back to retrieve it three days later.
I do like to show as much personality as possible and have something extra to set me apart. I am a super visual person and have tons of pictures of my classroom due to the blog, so I decided a picture portfolio with some fast facts about me would do the trick. I always make at least 3 color copies of my picture portfolio to take and leave at interviews. If I am super excited about a position I also e-mail these as a PDF to the principal/contact person when the job is listed. This is one thing that could set you apart. Not everyone will like it, but you only need one person to find it engaging and call you back. Another plus about having this with you at the interview is you can work it in to the curriculum questions you are given. I used the writing page to show my current principal/interview committee when I was asked a question about what I would change about their current writing curriculum. I was so happy I had the pictures to back up my thoughts.
The second page of my picture portfolio includes Fast Facts I want to make sure the interview committee knows about me, plus it's a nice way to show a little personality. It's always a bummer when you leave an interview realizing you wish you had said something, but forgot or didn't have an opportunity. The Fast Fact page is a good way to get the basics in you are hoping to say, plus since it's short, there's a better chance the interview committee will actually look at it.
I make all of the picture pages in PowerPoint and then save them as a PDF before I print them. If you save them as a PDF then the document can be easily sent by e-mail.
I hope some of this info is helpful to you job seekers out there. When on the hunt for a job, there is so much you can't control, but one thing you can control is your degree of preparation. I always figure I'll prepare as well as I can and whatever happens happens.
If you're looking for more job hunt resources, here are some I found useful last summer. Enjoy!So You Want to be a Teacher? Interview Tips from Beyond the Worksheet
Top 10 Tips for Landing a Teaching Job from Luckeyfrog's Lilypad
A+ Teacher Interview from Primary Punch
Teacher Interview Questions from Extra Special Teachingl
Job Interview Tips from The Cornerstone for Teachers