What Questions to Ask in a Teacher Job Interview
Being a teacher is one of the most rewarding and challenging jobs. You get to work with children and help them learn valuable life skills, but you also have to deal with parents and administrators at the school. One thing that can determine whether or not a teacher stays in their position is how much they enjoy their job. If you’re interviewing for a teaching position, make sure you have questions ready to ask! You are interviewing the school to see if you will be happy working there.
If you’re looking for a job as a teacher, you know the importance of asking questions during an interview. But specifically what questions should you ask in a teacher job interview? With the proper preparation, you can ensure your interview is successful.
Think About the Day-to-Day of Teaching
Asking about the daily life of a teacher is a great way to get a sense of what you’re in for if you take this position. You want to know how the school operates, its philosophy and methods, and how they affect students and teachers.
- What is the school’s philosophy? What do they expect from teachers? Do they have ongoing training programs, or do you have to figure things out independently? Is there already an established curriculum, or are you expected to create one from scratch?
- How is the class structured? Are there set periods each day where specific subjects are covered (i.e., math in the first period), or does it depend on what lessons need more attention at any given time (i.e., reading skills)? How often will different teachers teach each subject throughout the year (i.e., one science teacher covers biology while another covers physics)?
- What are parents’ expectations of students’ performance—and vice versa—in this particular grade level? Do parents expect their kids to learn everything they need before moving up into middle school next year, or do they know that eighth graders typically take more advanced classes than seventh graders?
Asking About the Curriculum
As a teacher, it is your responsibility to provide students with the tools they need to be successful in their learning.
I have worked in two districts with two very different approaches to literacy in the elementary school classroom. One district provided little to no curriculum. Some teachers would find that amazing. They get to have creativity and be trusted to create their lessons. Others would see the amount of planning without a curriculum as overwhelming.
The second district I worked at provided scripted lessons. I loved not having to plan. The curriculum provided all of the lesson planning for me. Some teachers complained they hated reading from a script and had no creativity. Think about what is best for your professional and personal life. Asking about the curriculum will give you insight into what your day-to-day will look like and how much time you will have to spend preparing for class.
There are many reasons why teachers and students need to take breaks throughout the day. For example, teachers need time to eat lunch, spend some alone time at their desks, or complete necessary tasks like grading and planning. At the same time, recess allows students to burn off energy and take a moment to step away from academics.
- How long do teachers have for lunch? What is done during this period (e.g., eat in the classroom)? How long does recess last? Are there any restrictions on what teachers can do (e.g., no sports unless they’re playing with kids)?
- How much flexibility do teachers have when it comes down to prep time? Are there preps planned for you, and are you attending meetings or covering recess duty?
Interview Your Administrator
If you get the chance to interview the principal, vice principal, or superintendent, ask them about their teachers. These questions will help you determine what type of teacher they want and whether or not your working style aligns with their philosophy.
For example, I once interviewed for a middle school job looking for creative problem solvers who were also great teachers. When I asked them about their most successful teachers, they talked about how each had a different way of approaching problems in the classroom and how each student responded differently to those methods. For example, they spoke of the workbooks of homework sent home each night and spelling words. After hearing this response, I knew that although my teaching style was very similar to theirs (I am creative and love problem solving), my personality didn’t align with theirs because my teaching method is more innovative than traditional.
New Teacher Support
New teachers are often nervous about their first year in the classroom, and it’s crucial to find out what kind of support you’ll get from your school.
Ask questions like: “How do you support new teachers?” or “How will I know whether my students are learning?” You should ask if they have a mentorship program or a mentor teacher who can first help you through rough patches. Is there an orientation day for new teachers? What kinds of opportunities do they have for professional development?
Another thing to consider is the teaching culture at your prospective school. For example, some schools emphasize collaborative learning environments; some focus more on independent thought and student-led discussions. Ask what type of atmosphere exists in each classroom—and how this environment affects student achievement—to see if it suits your style, especially as a new teacher coming into a district.
When considering what questions to ask in a teacher job interview, you could choose to memorize a list of them. But, it’s better if you don’t! Instead, prepare by thinking about what matters to you most when choosing an employer and then come up with questions that reflect your priorities. You want to learn as much as you can before you commit to working at the school!