Teacher Interview Questions: Examples and How To Prepare

By Chris Kolmar - Nov. 30, 2020
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Whether you’re interviewing for your first teaching job or you’re a seasoned professional, it’s always a good idea to put in some solid preparation time before your meeting.

One of the best ways to do this is by conducting a practice interview with yourself where you answer common interview questions.

You can’t be ready for every question, but getting used to the types of things you’ll need to answer can be immensely helpful.

12 Common Teacher Interview Questions and Sample Answers

Here is a list of some common teacher interview questions and sample answers to help you understand what the interviewers are looking for when they ask each one.

  1. Why do you want to be a teacher?

    This question is an opportunity to share a little about yourself and what you’re passionate about. It’s also an opportunity to show what you bring to the table as an instructor. Be sure to include both of these factors in your answer.

    Example answer:

    “I’ve always had a love for learning, and I believe that much of that love came from a few of my teachers who combined their passion for learning with their deep care for their students.

    “I want to connect with students individually and help them fall in love with learning in their own way, as every student does this differently. Those are the skills they’ll take with them for the rest of their lives.”

  2. Why do we teach [insert subject] in school?

    Job type you want
    Full Time
    Part Time
    Internship
    Temporary

    No matter what subjects you’re teaching, schools want to know the reason why you teach them. Saying something generic like, “So students can graduate and get good jobs” isn’t enough. Explain why you value the subject and how you’re going to relay that to your students.

    Example answer:

    “I believe that the true purpose of English and literature courses is to teach students how to think and how to appreciate other perspectives. My goal is that they walk away from my classes with those skills, even if they don’t remember what iambic pentameter is for the rest of their lives.”

  3. Why do you want to work for our school district?

    This is a question that requires some preliminary research. Before your interview, look up the school or district’s mission and vision and glance through their social media pages to see what kinds of stories they’re highlighting. Pay attention to what strikes a chord with you and how you’d fit in with the school’s culture.

    Example answer:

    “I admire West Lake’s philosophy about valuing both excellence and relationships. No student can succeed when they don’t feel safe and cared for, and helping them be their best is an important piece of caring for them. I’d love to be a part of furthering that culture.”

  4. What is your teaching philosophy?

    When you answer this, be honest, but try to frame your answer in a way that reflects the school’s philosophy. Interviewers want to see that you’re ready and willing to further the larger organization rather than just your own ambition.

    Example answer:

    “I try to balance school and state requirements with relating to my students’ individual needs. I know that students won’t perform well on tests if they don’t understand the material.

    “Some students may grasp math concepts through lectures, but others won’t as easily, so I try to create as many hands-on learning opportunities as possible through projects and visuals. These help not only the students who struggle to learn through lectures, but they also solidify the material for those who do.”

  5. How would you handle a difficult student?

    If you can, explain how you handled a problematic student in the past, remembering to include the steps you took and the results of your efforts. If you’re interviewing for a student teaching job or internship and don’t have this experience, outline how you would approach the problem, focusing on collaboration instead of pure discipline.

    Example answer:

    “The first thing I would do is have a private conversation with the student where I’d try to get to the root of the problem. Once we find the root issue, I’d then work with them to come up with creative solutions. If we couldn’t do that, I’d involve the parents in the conversation.

    “For example, I had a student who would become disruptive only during independent work. After talking with her about it, I learned that she struggled to concentrate when it was perfectly quiet. I started playing soft music during these times, and she settled down much more easily.”

  6. What frustrates you most about teaching?

    Be honest when you answer this question, but be sure to include how you work through your frustration. Everyone has things they struggle with, but your interviewer is looking to see how you overcome difficulties instead of just listening to you complain.

    Example answer:

    “I’m most frustrated when I’m not able to meet every student where they’re at. At my last position, I had a large class size with a wide variety of abilities. I knew some of the kids were getting bored while others were totally overwhelmed.

    “I implemented a tutoring program where students who were ahead could work with struggling students to help them with their assignments. This kept the previously bored students engaged and helped lessen the load for the ones who were struggling.”

  7. How do you motivate your students?

    This is one of the most essential parts of being a teacher, so interviewers will want to know how you do this.

    Example answer:

    “I’ve found that sixth-graders love competitions, so I try to create as many fun ones as possible. Whether it’s individuals competing against each other, individuals beating their own high scores, teams competing against teams, or a class-wide goal to hit, I’ve found that these activities are powerful motivators.

    “I balance the competitions so that they stay fun for everyone and so that the same people don’t win them every time. It’s amazing how into it everyone gets, and it’s a great opportunity to teach good sportsmanship along with the material we’re working on.

  8. How do you evaluate your students?

    Evaluating your students is another vital piece of teaching, so your interviewers will want to hear your thoughts on this as well. Give examples when you can, but be sure you include your basic thought processes behind what you do, as well as your more technical teaching techniques and philosophies.

    Example answer:

    “I use formal methods such as tests and quizzes alongside more informal ones such as in-class work, reports, and activities. I take the feedback from both areas seriously, as I’ve had some students perform well in class and not on the quizzes and tests.

    “After talking with these students and their parents further, I was able to get them help with their test-taking techniques. Their scores went up significantly throughout the rest of the year.”

  9. How do you communicate and work with parents?

    Being able to work with parents is key to your students’ success. Schools want to hire teachers who are proactive about this, so they’ll likely ask you about it in an interview. This is another opportunity to give examples of your past work and share philosophies you have about this subject.

    Example answer:

    “The key to successful students is support from both their teachers and their parents, so I work to get to know the most influential adults in my students’ lives early on.

    “At the beginning of the year, I hold individual meetings with the parents. I ask them about their home life and anything that might make their child unique. Then throughout the rest of the year, I meet with them regularly to share their child’s wins and work to find solutions to difficulties as quickly as possible.”

  10. What are you learning right now?

    As a professional in any field, you should never stop learning and growing, and this is especially true for teachers. Interviewers want to know how you’re doing this, even if it isn’t directly related to teaching. Take this opportunity to share about other things you’re passionate about and what you like to do in your free time.

    Example answer:

    “I’ve always been fascinated by breadmaking, so I decided to take an online class and learn how to do it myself. I’ve already mastered whole wheat bread, and now I’m working on sourdough!”

  11. Why should we hire you to teach here?

    This question is asked in nearly every interview across all industries. Share what makes you unique and how you would further the school’s goals. (This is another reason for you to research the school ahead of time.)

    Example answer:

    “I know you value innovation in the classrooms, and I’m always looking for new ways to improve what I do. For example, at my last job, I implemented math projects that made the lessons more fun and engaging.

    “My students’ average test scores at the end of the year were 10% higher than the semester before when we hadn’t done those projects.”

  12. How would you get your classroom ready for the first day of school?

    Interviewers don’t just want to know about your decorating abilities; they want to see that you have an organized plan. Share the why behind your decisions as much as what you’d do.

    Example answer:

    “I want my students to feel welcome and to know what I expect of them. There are few things more frustrating as a child than not knowing what an authority figure wants from them.

    “I’d label the desks so that students have a place they know they belong, hang up fun posters that they’d enjoy, and make a cheerful, yet clear list of rules and consequences to hang prominently.”

Tips for Answering Teacher Interview Questions

  1. Be confident and honest. There is a difference between being confident and being cocky. Being confident is knowing your value and communicating that to interviewers.

    Give definite answers, even if you aren’t sure they’re the “right” ones. Schools don’t want to hire a yes-man, and you don’t want to get stuck in an environment you only pretended to align with to get the job.

  2. Demonstrate your technical skills and knowledge. You should be comfortable with using common lingo and show that you know your stuff. If this means you need to study up a little bit before your interview, do that, but be ready to talk about common philosophies, trends, and industry leaders.

  3. Listen well. Don’t spend the whole interview thinking about what you’re going to say next. Listen closely to the interviewers as they’re telling you things about the school and asking you questions. They can tell that you’re paying attention, and your answers will be better because of it.

  4. Tell a story when you can. Even if they don’t ask you for an example like they would in a situational interview question, interviewers want to see examples of your work in the past. They know you can say one thing and do another, so paint a picture of how you’ve lived out your answers whenever possible.

  5. End on a high note. If you’re talking about a weakness you have, a challenge you faced, or a mistake you made, end on a positive note and explain how you responded to it. Talk about what you learned from the experience or what steps you’re taking to correct a weakness.

    Interviewers aren’t expecting you to be perfect; they just want to see that you’re self-aware, willing to admit when you’re wrong, and taking active steps to grow.

Ten Additional Common Teacher Interview Questions

If you’re looking for additional practice questions, here are ten more commonly asked interview questions:

  1. Describe a time when you overcame a difficult challenge.

  2. What are your strengths as a teacher?

  3. What’s your biggest weakness as a teacher?

  4. What do you like best about teaching?

  5. Walk me through a lesson.

  6. Tell me about a time you had to adapt to an unexpected situation.

  7. How do you organize your day to make sure that you get all of your responsibilities done on time?

  8. Tell me about your worst day of teaching.

  9. Tell me about a time you worked with a team to accomplish something.

  10. What questions do you have for me?

What Employers Are Looking for in Teacher Candidates

  1. Technical skills. It may sound obvious, but don’t forget that interviewers do want to know that you can, in fact, teach. They want to see evidence of your expertise in this area, as well as in the specific subject you’re going to be teaching.

    Hiring managers can tell most of this from your resume, but be sure to build on the information they already have during your interview.

  2. Teamwork. You’re going to need to show that you’re willing and able to work with administrators, other teachers, and parents to further your students and the school itself.

    Interviewers will want to see that you can handle conflict, collaborate, and communicate with others within your team.

  3. Using data and technology. School administrators want to see that you know how to record and organize data and that you use it to inform your decisions.

    This goes hand-in-hand with their desire for you to know how to incorporate technology into your classroom in effective ways.

  4. Organizational skills. Every job requires organizational skills of some kind, and teaching jobs are no different. Demonstrate your methods of organizing your classroom and your workload throughout your interview.

  5. Fit with the culture. Hiring managers can see your qualifications on your resume. They already know how long you’ve been teaching, and if you’re at the interview stage, they’ve decided that you’re a qualified candidate.

    Interviews are held so that they can see how you would further their school’s particular mission and vision and mesh with your coworkers. So don’t be afraid to be yourself and let your personality shine during your meeting.

Tips For Preparing for a Teacher Interview

In addition to going through practice questions, here are some additional tips for preparing for your interview:

  1. Do your research. Before you show up to your interview, peruse the school’s website to become familiar with their mission, vision, and values. Look up their history and key leaders so that you can recognize them if you meet them.

    Your knowledge will show that you truly care about the organization and are taking the interview seriously.

  2. Prepare some talking points. Come up with two or three points about why you’re the best person for the job, and then make sure you work them into your interview answers.

    Think of some anecdotes about successes and struggles you’ve had in the past so that you aren’t scrambling to think of something, anything, when your interviewer inevitably asks about a success you’ve had.

  3. Dress professionally. Show that you’re serious about getting this position by dressing up more than you would normally. You should still wear clothes appropriate for a teacher, though, especially if you’re interviewing at an elementary school where you’ll need to be able to move easily.

  4. Prepare questions to ask. You’re interviewing the school just as much as they’re interviewing you, so come ready with your own questions to ask. Find out about the school’s culture, teacher support systems, and standards, but don’t ask about salary or time off just yet. Save that for when you receive a job offer.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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