Saturday, February 24, 2018

What is Your Philosophy?

There's one question asked in every single interview.  It takes several different forms and several different permutations.  The words may vary from interviewer to interviewer.  And, it may be disguised to look like a simple, innocuous inquiry.  But, no matter what form its takes, you can count on being asked about your teaching philosophy.  This is one of the most important pieces of information an administrator want to know about you.  Here's a typical "philosophy" query:

     What do you want your students to remember about your classroom?

     A:   I want students to remember my classroom as a comfortable place – one that supports their needs, both physically and psychologically, and one in which each student felt secure and respected.  I want students to know that the classroom is their place; that it’s not just the teacher’s place into which they have been temporarily invited.  I want them to know that the classroom invites student engagement and celebrates the work of all students.  I want them to have a sense of ownership in the classroom; a sense that this is a place that supports, encourages, and respects each and every individual as a unique and contributing member of the class.  Their “investment of self” in the classroom will pay off in incredible educational dividends and lifelong emotional growth.
This is a great question that taps into your underlying philosophy of education.  That is to say, are you child-centered or are you subject-centered?  Do you place students ahead of standards, curriculum, and rules or is it the other way around?  Keep your response to this question focused on students (not yourself or the curriculum) and you’ll always score points.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Tell Me About a Situation That Frustrated You.

Can you take criticism?  Do you take responsibility for your actions.  These are questions  administrators want answers for.  How you answer these queries says a lot about you and your personality.  Expect to get an interview question like this one:

     133:  Tell me about a situation that frustrated you during student teaching

     A:   I was frustrated when my college supervisor made me write out my lesson plans for the first ten weeks of student teaching.  Many of my friends only had to write complete lesson plans for the first four weeks and then they went to “block plans.”  However, in talking with my supervisor I learned that it is always advisable to over-plan – that is, write lesson plans that are more detailed and more involved early in the teaching process.  I discovered the advantage of that on two occasions – once when an assembly had to be cancelled and another when a teacher on our social studies team called in sick at the last minute.  I sure was glad to have those extended and expanded lessons – they really came in handy.  I understand now why I was asked to do a lot of over-planning early in my student teaching experience.

This question is designed to probe how you react to criticism.  Are you someone who blames everyone else when things don’t go right?  Or, are you someone who takes advice and uses it in a positive way to become a better teacher?  This is a grand opportunity for you to show how you turned a negative into a positive.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Your First Teaching Job?

Here's a tricky question - one that will let the interviewer know whether you've done your homework about the school or district.  It's a question you want to answer with confidence and assurance.

Since this will be your first teaching job, how do you know you’ll like the career path?

A:   I’ve spent a lot of time in classrooms – during my field experiences requirements, student teaching experience, and volunteer work at the elementary school in my hometown.  I talked to several teachers here and throughout the district and asked them what they enjoy most about the Wide Open Spaces School District and they all said they especially like the camaraderie and support system in place for teachers.  I get a real sense that there is a spirit of cooperation and dedication here that is important in the education of children, but equally so in maintaining high morale and a vision for the future.  I believe I can thrive in this type of atmosphere and am confident that my philosophy and that of the school will be a long-term match.
Let the interviewer know that you have gone above and beyond in your teacher preparation program – that you’ve seen teaching from many different angles.  In addition, allow the interviewer an opportunity to see how your philosophy and that of the school are mutually compatible – that you are just not excited about teaching, but that you are especially excited about teaching in this particular school.  Allow your enthusiasm and energy to come to the fore; demonstrate your passion through tone of voice, body language, and animation.  Since this will undoubtedly be one of the final questions you’ll be asked, make sure you put a large exclamation point on your response.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Your Most Creative Lesson?

Creating dynamic and energizing lesson plans is what good teachers do.  Any principal want to know if you are "up to speed" on lesson plan designs as well as the elements that go into a well-rounded lesson.  Here's a question that's typical of those asked relative to classroom planning.

     What’s the most creative or innovative lesson you taught?

     A:   During the fifth week of student teaching I contacted a family friend at Prospect Hill Cemetery.  He provided my fifth grade class with a tour of the Cemetery.  When we got back to the classroom we divided the class into several teams.  One team worked on a PowerPoint presentation, another team created a timeline of important events in the life of the cemetery from the Revolutionary War to the present, another team looked into burial customs from around the world, another team of students developed an annotated bibliography of books about death and dying, and the final team gathered oral histories from some of the docents and volunteers at the Cemetery.  What was originally conceived as a three-week project eventually turned into a two month multi-disciplinary project that combined social studies, art, music, language arts, and reading into a most exciting thematic unit.
This is a grand opportunity to provide a specific and concrete example of how you went “above and beyond” the usual lesson planning for student teaching.  Be sure to provide specific details and any reactions you obtained from supervisors or administrators.  Show, as much as possible, how you are willing to pursue projects that are somewhat out of the ordinary – projects that engage students in creative or innovative ways.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Successful Teacher?

One of the major themes of any interview revolves around your personal philosophy.  What do you believe?  Why do you do the things you do?  What sets you apart from every other candidate?  Here's a question that pops up in almost every single interview - no matter whether you're applying to teach Kindergarten or AP Calculus in 12th grade.  In one form or another, expect this query:

     What does it mean to be a successful teacher?

     A:   I believe successful teachers have five distinctive qualities – qualities that set them apart from the so-called “average teacher.”  For me, a successful teacher is one who is flexible – someone who can take charge no matter what the situation or circumstances.  Second, I think successful teachers must exhibit a sense of fairness throughout the classroom – that is, a fair teacher treats all students equally in the same situation.  Third, I believe all outstanding teachers have high expectations for each and every one of their students.  Fourth, and this is absolutely critical, successful teachers have a consistently positive attitude.  They don’t let the little things get them down and they serve as positive role models for their students.  And, finally, I believe that the most successful teachers are those with a sense of humor.  Not cracking jokes all the time, but rather looking at the bright side of things…laughing out loud…and using self-deprecating humor when appropriate.  As elements of successful teachers, those items are also personal goals for me as I begin this lifelong journey.
This is a question designed to tap into your personal philosophy.  It is strongly suggested that you respond in the first person, rather than in the more distant third person.  Let the interviewer know that you are, or you have the potential to become, a successful teacher.