If you’re interviewing for a teaching position, it’s critical to be prepared. In this article, we’ll discuss how to prepare for teacher interview questions with sample answers that could help you get an A+!
It's not easy being a teacher today. There are a myriad of issues to deal with, in and out of the classroom, and schools want to ensure they're hiring the most qualified, dedicated candidates. Whether the ink is barely dry on your teaching certificate or you're a seasoned veteran, some questions are commonly asked in a teacher interview, and having answers at the ready is key to getting the position. As a former public school teacher with a Master’s Degree in Teaching, I’ve encountered these questions and can give you a unique insight into how to answer them concisely and effectively.
In this article, we’ll discuss the types of interview questions you’ll be asked in an interview, including:
How do you prepare for a teacher interview?
Identifying your strengths as a teacher
How long does a teacher interview last?
6 common teacher interview questions, with answers
Like interviews in any field, the key to success is preparation. Don’t think you can go in there cold. The interviewers are going to go in-depth with your experience, education, methods, and teaching philosophy, and coming up with answers on the fly would be tough. Beyond preparing answers to potential scenario-based questions, there are a few other things you can do to prepare and set yourself apart from the field of candidates:
Compile a portfolio. Include sample lesson plans and reflections, your resume, a statement of your teaching philosophy, formal and informal evaluations/assessments and instructional activities aligned with core learning objectives, an original syllabus for a class you’ve taught (or plan to teach), and examples of student work that were marked unsatisfactory, average, or excellent, along with a rubric and written comments.
Have a positive attitude. Administrators want to hire teachers who are positive and cool under pressure. Be aware of your body language, which is an indicator of your feelings and thoughts. It will give the interviewer an idea of how you’ll appear to the students.
Dress professionally. Even if the school dress code for faculty and staff is casual, present a polished image while interviewing. This shows that you take the position seriously.
Do your homework! Take the time to research the school, including its social media accounts, district website, and news articles. This will give you a good idea about the community, the history of the school, and its reputation.
Like most interviews, you’re going to be asked about your professional strengths (and weaknesses) as a teacher, so it’s important to have these in mind before you prepare your interview answers. These might seem like “gotcha” questions, but it’s not designed to trip you up or eliminate you from consideration. The fact is, we all have strengths and weaknesses, but how you deal with them (and try to improve on them, if necessary) shows how you will deal with the trials and tribulations you’re bound to encounter as a teacher.
For your strengths, take a mental inventory of your career so far. What challenges have you faced? How did you overcome them? What did you learn about yourself from those experiences? Are you a problem-solver? Do you stay composed in stressful situations? Can you quickly adapt to changing circumstances? Once you've thought about it, compose a list of both your strengths and weaknesses. It might look like this:
Strengths: organization, patience, creativity, empathy, collaboration, persistence
Weaknesses: dependent on routine, perfectionism, lack of technical skills, or struggling to maintain a work-life balance (critical for teachers!)
Use the STAR method to create answers that give the interviewer a situation, your task at the moment, what steps you took to address the situation, and the result or outcome. This will give the interviewer some context for both your strengths and weaknesses and how you learn from your experiences.
While there’s no way to guarantee which questions you’ll be asked, below is a selection of common questions that most teacher candidates have faced at some point in time. Regardless of the question, take some time to come up with specific examples of both successes and things that “didn’t quite work” and have them at the ready no matter what questions they throw at you.
If this isn’t the first question, it will probably be in the first part of the interview. Teaching, for many, is a “calling,” and it certainly isn’t the easiest or most lucrative job out there, so interviewers will be curious as to why you chose to go into teaching.
"I was fortunate to have so many wonderful teachers throughout my academic years, but one who stands out is my ninth-grade science teacher. I never considered myself adept at science and math, but Mr. Daniels not only taught the material in a relatable way but went out of his way to make sure that everyone knew that they have their own, unique, equally valid talents. I learned that, yes, the subject matter at hand is vital for our academic success and depth of knowledge, but equally important is to make sure each student understands that they have something to offer; that the ability to think critically and the desire to never stop learning are critical to their future. I became a teacher because I want to help students become the best versions of themselves to benefit their own lives as well as our society at large.”
Every teacher has their own style, but students have different needs. It’s important to be flexible. In your answer, state the characteristics of a good teacher, in your opinion, how these qualities help students, and how you’ve worked to develop those characteristics in yourself and your teaching.
“I think students want a teacher who wants to be there and cares about them, and they have a pretty good sense of when they have a teacher who doesn’t. Students need to know you’re ‘on their side’ and support them in their efforts to learn and succeed. I like to maintain a sense of approachability and let the students know I’m always there for them. In this way, I can work towards building trust and a connection with each student.”
Discipline issues are going to come up regularly, even in the best-managed classroom, and finding out how you deal with it is an important part of the interview process. Classroom management, including discipline, is vital to success as a teacher and will vary based on your grade level, teaching style, and school policies. When answering this question, concisely explain your disciplinary approach and how it affects the classroom environment.
"Teachers need the appropriate approach to discipline to be effective in the classroom. I provide my expectations at the beginning of the first class and reiterate them regularly, so students know what's expected of them. Without these expectations, it's much harder to keep students accountable, and they won't understand why they're doing what they’re doing. In my studies, I learned a couple of different methods for discipline in the classroom, and in my experience, I feel that positive reinforcement has had the best outcome. While there are always going to be cases that need to be referred to administration from time to time, I believe that positive reinforcement as a form of discipline leads to positive behavior from the students, and gives them regular goals to work toward.”
The use of technology in the classroom is here to stay. Many teachers work towards incorporating it into their daily lessons. But it has to be used effectively, without overshadowing the actual lesson or using technology for technology’s sake. Let the interviewers know how you feel about tech in the classroom, and how you utilize it to maximize student outcomes.
“There’s no denying it—technology is a useful tool in the classroom. However, it can also lead to students getting sidetracked, so it’s important to set goals and expectations for using the technology so that it doesn’t distract from the learning process. In this day and age, students need to be tech-savvy. That’s why my assignments incorporate technology to complete the task. For example, all my written assignments have to be properly formatted, so that they learn progressively advanced skills over the term along with supporting their writing outcomes. This will help them on multiple fronts when they're in college or the workplace and set them up for success."
Like any job, employers want to know how you’d fit into the overall workplace culture. Many schools have their own teaching beliefs and values, and it’s important to ensure that a teacher can maintain confidence in their style and viewpoints while still being true to the mission of the school.
“I think it’s most important to meet students where they are rather than fit them into a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Lessons have to be relatable, too. Otherwise, they don’t understand why they need to learn the material. As an English teacher, I try to help students develop empathy, especially when they’re reading about characters who are very different from them. When I was a student, I found it very helpful when teachers would help me make connections between the story and characters and my own life experiences. As a teacher, I strive to make older works of literature relevant to the students, like comparing Shakespeare’s stories to modern-day events or things in popular culture. This way, I'm not telling them what to think—they're able to come to these conclusions on their own. I believe this deepens their understanding of the material.”
While it's true that the interviewer is looking for an engaging and effective lesson plan, they also want to get an insight into your planning process, including your reflection on the lesson. Talk about what went well, and what you'd change the next time you present it. Consider having an actual lesson on hand, so that you have a visual aid when you walk them through the process. (This might be a good time to review Bloom’s Taxonomy and his categories of student thinking, including both lower-order and higher-order thinking skills!)
“When creating a lesson plan, I utilize the concept of backward design, as discussed in the book 'Understanding by Design,’ in which we start with the student-centric end goal—what we want the students to learn—and work backward from there. So I decide what students need to know and be able to do by the end of the lesson and create either a formal or informal assessment to measure their learning. I then plan a series of targeted tasks, or even full lessons, depending on the end goal, which will allow students to complete the assessment successfully. If you look at this sample lesson plan I've provided, you can see that I…” (Then walk them through your specific goals, tasks, assessments, and outcomes on your sample lesson plan.)
Remember, no matter your subject matter or what grade you teach, schools want to hire teachers who are committed to continually developing their skills, can work as part of a team, are proficient with utilizing data, are organized, and, most of all, who are committed to their students. If you can incorporate these skills into your interview answers and take the opportunity to express them when you can, you’ll show the interviewer that you’re a dedicated, capable teacher who would be an asset to their school and the community.
Need help polishing your interviewing skills? Check out our Interview Prep tool, which will help you build your confidence through mock interviews, AI questions, insight, and feedback.
During a teaching interview, interviewers are going to go in-depth about your experience, education, methods, and teaching philosophy, so it’s important to prepare some answers ahead of time.
Before the interview, research the school, compile a portfolio, and plan to dress professionally.
Identifying your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher will help you formulate thoughtful, student-centered answers to common interview questions.
Jennifer Inglis is a freelance writer and content creator with extensive professional expertise in advertising, media analysis, teaching, writing, and literature. Prior to working for Career.io, Jennifer was a public school teacher, teaching courses in college and career readiness, writing, and public speaking. Jennifer has a master’s degree in Teaching, and is the author of two published novels.