27 July 2013

NAILED IT part 4: interview questions

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Ok, you've got a marvelous portfolio, a professionally adorable outfit, and you've done some research. Now what?

PREPLAN YOUR ANSWERS to interview questions. Talk OUT LOUD or write your answers down. But really probably talk out loud. Al and I did this for each other days prior to the interviews. There is nothing more delightful than having perfect wonderful, interesting, logical, cohesive thoughts dancing around in your brain and then not being able to string them into a series of even moderately eloquent sentences. Trust me, it happens.

At a minimum, I'd say you definitely need to know: 


Unacceptable answers: 
"It just feels right" 
"I love making a difference" 
"I've always wanted to be a teacher" 
and mother of mercy, please never ever "because I love children"*

*Y'all, lots of people can say that they love children, but lots of those people are also wildly unqualified to be a teacher (ex: kidnappers). What makes you different? Surely there is something to help ya stand out! (:

Acceptable answer: 
"[insert specific, seemingly life changing incident here] happened, and I realized that I want to be a teacher because [insert 1-2 concrete reasons here] You can even add some of the aforementioned unacceptable phrases as long as you've given some personal specific statements prior.

For example, my girl Al gave a brief explanation of how she struggled with ADHD and a diagnosed math learning disability in school. Then, she mentioned learning about SO many tools and strategies to help students who learn differently in classes at SU, and how that inspired her to want to help kids who felt discouraged by their previous academic performances because she had an understanding of what they were going through 


Unacceptable answers: 
or anything boring of the sort. 

Acceptable answers: 
"team player"
or anything else TRUE, followed by BECAUSE [insert reason you think your strength will make you a better teacher]. 

Don't forget to be honest- it would be crazy embarrassing for an interviewer to ask you to elaborate on a strength that you really don't have!

For example, Al said here that she thinks one of her strengths is creativity and it helps her become a better teacher because she is often able to think up with ways to teach something in a alternate way (explaining fractions with food instead of a worksheet, for example!) and colorful, personalized tools that make kids want to get involved in hands-on learning experiences (when making personal connections to text, she had students create their own version of A Very Hungry Caterpillar with their favorite foods).


This is admittedly a really tricky question. I personally would say that unacceptable answers include: 
"I work too hard" or "I care too much" Don't be that obnoxious bullshitter. Someone could tear that answer down in a matter of seconds. Be honest. If you have a true weakness, be frank BUT have ideas for how you will improve your situation, and specifically outline the ways you think the school/district will play a role in your improvement. 

First year teachers, email me. I have the besteverinamillionyears weakness for you, as well as your improvement plan. It is pure gold I tell ya. Pure 14K gold.

After you've nailed down some answers to the above basic questions and TALKED OUT LOUD about them, go online and look up some potential interview questions. There are quite a few lists out there. I found them in my slightly unsuccessful Google search. And then, TALK OUT LOUD about answers to questions you might be asked in an interview. 

Recently one of my favorite new blogs, A Special Sparkle, featured a post from Sarah with a lot of thought-provoking interview questions. Read through and TALK OUT LOUD about those questions here! Al got asked at least half of these questions in her recent interviews AND was able to answer them because we'd talked through the answers and she had anecdotes & info to go with them.

Veteran teachers, what are some questions you've been asked in interviews? Most importantly, what is your weakness?!


  1. future first year teacher here! (still in school!) I am putting together my portfolio and all that jazz...i still have another semester to go, but i am worried about the the interview...
    what is this about a pure gold weakness? (i couldnt find your email ) lol


    1. Karen- email me at losdosfrijoles@gmail.com and I will tell you ALL about it! (: