Answering Questions at Teaching Interviews

Answering Questions at Teaching Interviews

Does the thought of answering questions at teaching interviews fill you with dread?

For many, the answer is a resounding YES! Not only is the application process extremely time-consuming, but if you are lucky to reach the interview stage, you will deal with on-the-spot pressures too. Most schools will observe a lesson you’ve prepared before moving to formal interviews. If you reach this stage you’ve done well. However, this is often the point at which candidates struggle the most. After all, you can prepare a lesson, knowing to some degree how it will go. But how can you predict what will be asked in an interview? Answering questions at teaching interviews is a skill you need to develop. Fortunately, there’s a way.

Thankfully, most schools look for the same sorts of qualities in a candidate, regardless of the subject, or level of responsibility. The questions asked by schools then, are broadly similar, or at least they aim to draw out the same elements from candidates’ responses. Schools want to appoint someone who is hardworking, dependable, honest, self-evaluative and looks to develop their own skills and knowledge.

If you are applying for a Leadership position, then you should prioritise extra qualities that are more specific to leading staff. These include having a clear vision and priorities for the role, developing successful strategies to solve problems, being able to lead teams of colleagues and being analytical and self-critical.

How would you deal with interview questions without preparing a detailed answer in advance? For most of us, the answer would be ‘requires improvement’. But in reality, with a little self-reflection, you will have an arsenal of anecdotes that you could bring out to demonstrate your capability in all of these questions.

Take a look at the questions below and see how you would respond:

Popular Questions at Teaching Interviews

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Why do you want this job?
  3. How would you deal with a difficult colleague?
  4. What would you do if a student disclosed X?
  5. How would you deal with apathetic parents of an underperforming student?
  6. How would you teach topic X to a more able / less able group?
  7. What is your biggest weakness?
  8. What was the last teaching book you read? How did it impact your teaching?
  9. How do you think your observed lesson went?
  10. What value do you bring to the department?
  11. Tell me what an outstanding lesson looks like?
  12. Describe an “outstanding” school?
  13. What is more important: attainment, progress or achievement?
  14. How would you deal with a student complaint against a member of staff?
  15. What would you do if you disagreed with an instruction given by a senior member of staff?
  16. Do you have any questions to ask us?

General tips for answering questions at teaching interviews

  • Be authentic. Tell the truth and justify everything with reasons based on actual experience. Headteachers and governors can smell a “fake” response a mile off.
  • Don’t just tell. Instead, show. Use examples of how you have dealt with situations from your own experiences. This could be about managing the expectations of students, building relationships with colleagues, overcoming a personal challenge regarding a teaching method, etc.
  • Go beyond your teaching experience and show how you have dealt with similar situations outside of school. In other words, how do you demonstrate the values the school wants, in your personal life? (Be careful not to over-share though!)
  • Be reflective. The best teachers can evaluate their performance, showing how they could have dealt with situations differently. As always, have examples at hand. Are you still evaluating? how many times have you altered your practice? (The more the better!)
  • Show that you pay attention to detail. Have examples that demonstrate how you diagnosed an issue leading to underperformance and then show how your response to that made an impact. You can read this post on Black Box Thinking For Teachers for some inspiration!
  • Do your research on the school. The role you are applying for is at THEIR school. If they have specific priorities then show your knowledge of them. This could include closing the attainment gap between boys and girls at Key Stage 4, or it could be gaining more A/A* grades at Key Stage 5, for example.
  • Use data. Instead of saying “I have excellent results”, say “last year my classes achieved X% in their GCSE exams. This demonstrates your attention to detail.
  • Work out in advance what YOUR vision for the role is. Keep referring back to that vision throughout your responses. The more your vision comes through, the less doubt there will be over your character (a MAJOR point that interviewers consider).
  • Structure your answers using the STAR technique. Click here to see how this works.
  • Be a “Purple Cow”. Lots of candidates will give the same sorts of responses to standard questions. Be memorable by answering the questions in a unique way.

Recommended Reading

There are a lot of good books out there on answering questions at teaching interviews, but having read a lot of them, they often aren’t useful for teaching interviews. For that reason, I’ve narrowed down my recommendations to a couple of excellent books which will make teaching interviews a much easier and less stressful experience. I’ve included affiliate links to both books below.

My first recommendation is 50 Teaching Interview Questions & Suggested Responses: For Primary School Teaching Interviews by Mark Thomas and Lynne Ryder. This book contains most of the commonly asked questions and gives excellent guidance on how to respond in a way that maximises your chances of success. The authors have decades of combined experience as headteachers, so if they tell you to mention something at the interview, then you’d better do it!

My second recommendation is Why You?: 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again by James Reed. Whilst this book isn’t specific to teaching, the questions he asks and answers within it are often asked in teaching interviews. James covers the main areas usually examined in the interview, including character, experience, career goals, competency and even those curve-ball questions like “If you were an animal, what would you be?” Reading this will undoubtedly prepare you for interviews at any level, from NQT to Executive Headteacher.

Final thoughts…

I loved and hated interview questions at different times in my career. Hated when I hadn’t prepared or rehearsed a good enough answer. Loved when my prepared answer showed my true ability and future potential.

Share this with anyone applying for teaching positions, I promise they’ll thank you for it!

Good luck,

Andy.

Follow me on Twitter and now on Pinterest too. And don’t forget to LIKE and SHARE with your fellow teachers!

How to Pass Teacher Training

Those who can… Teach!

Teacher Training is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do. It is also one of the most challenging.  This post is about how to handle this challenge. You’ve chosen to embark on a career that will have a profound impact on thousands of lives, so we must get it right. Our future and the future of the next generation depend on it.

Below I’ve outlined FOUR practical tips that I’ve been asked countless times by trainees during my career. Take a look and please share with fellow trainees if you think they’d be useful.

Checklist

1. Before Starting Teacher Training

Firstly, decide why you want to teach. If you are “in it for the right reasons”, ie the desire to make a difference, to help shape the world, to guide young people to make good decisions, etc, then this on its own will keep you motivated. If you have decided to teach for the money (what money?), the holidays (which you will work during) or the 3pm finishes (good luck!) then perhaps now is the time to re-assess. Either way, it’s a good idea to speak to a variety of newly qualified and experienced teachers, just so that you know what you are getting into!

Some people going into teaching may need to update or refresh their subject knowledge. Particularly if they are going into teaching several years after being in full-time education themselves. My advice would be to pick a decent GCSE level textbook and swot up on some areas you wouldn’t feel confident teaching about. Don’t worry about being an expert though – that comes with practise and trust me you will get plenty of that!

2. First Few Weeks

Trainees often ask the beginning of a course, what should I focus on? Behaviour management? Time management? Making creative resources? The truth is, there isn’t just ‘one’ thing trainees should focus on, but there is one ‘main’ thing. Learning. Engaging students in learning is the single most important function of a school, a lesson, a task. Get that right and students will behave (usually). Get that right often enough and you will improve at managing time in the lesson. Get that right and homework will be completed well and on time. Teacher Training is all about Learning.

3. Developing your Skills

Once you have a few weeks ‘experience’ under your belt, you should start to focus in on some of the details. In order to become an outstanding teacher, you must be able to analyse and evaluate how your teaching impacts on specific groups of students. These groups are often compared against the performance of the class, to see whether a group is performing to a disproportionately high or low level. Your job as a teacher is to put strategies in place to raise the attainment for these groups so that they achieve their potential. Some of these groups include boys; girls; more able and talented students; students with special educational needs; students with disabilities; students from areas of socio-economic deprivation; students who speak English as an additional language; etc.

Teacher Training

4. Passing the Teacher Training  Course

To pass your Teacher Training course you will need to demonstrate that you’ve met the government standards. To do this, you will have to create a portfolio of evidence, ranging from academic essays to records of lesson observations, extra-curricular activities you’ve planned to resources you’ve produced, etc. You will probably have to keep a reflective journal as part of your portfolio. This isn’t something to be feared – nobody enjoys writing down their weak points each week! However, if you want to be taken seriously as a professional, you need to demonstrate that you can self-evaluate truthfully and in detail. This journal will become your best friend once it comes to interview time!

Gathering evidence can be an overwhelming task or just a task. You choose. Organisation and adding frequently to the portfolio are your best tools for success here. Make a point of adding and annotating a piece of evidence every single week and ideally more often if you can. That way, you won’t end up (as many trainees do) with only a couple of weeks to go until they are assessed, with almost a term’s worth of evidence to create and file away.

Final thoughts…

There are lots of other things that you’ll have to deal with during your Teacher Training (workload, homework, behaviour, jobs, etc), but I’ll dedicate specific posts to them at another time. Just remember, your job is to make your subject engaging and relevant. If you do this, your students will learn and they will make a difference to the world once they leave your classroom.

I hope you found this useful. Leave a reply if I’ve missed something out!

Follow me on Twitter and now on Pinterest too. 

And don’t forget to click on the share buttons below!

%d bloggers like this: