In the post “5 Points To Get Across in a Teaching Interview” from 2018, I wanted to share some ideas for people going through the education interview process. No matter what questions are being asked, I think we can still bring up some key points that highlight our thoughts on education.
In the accompanying podcast, I share three ideas that will help candidates thrive in an interview, such as the importance of making candidates feel comfortable and welcome, ensuring that the process is less like an “interview” and more conversational and that all people being interviewed grow from the process.
I applied for a job at a historical park when I was in university, and I was excited about the opportunity to be a tour guide and share some history with visitors. Eager to get the chance, I went through the interview and thought I was doing well. Then they asked me this question, and I will never forget it. The interviewer held up a pencil and said, “Pretend you are telling the history of this pencil to a group. Go!” Right away, I shared that I didn’t know anything about the history of the pencil, and the interviewer said, “Make it up then!”
I stumbled along, making stuff up that was utterly incoherent and had a Billy Madison debate moment where nothing I made any sense and everyone in the room was dumber for listening to what I had shared.
To this day, I still think the question was stupid and more of a “gotcha” moment. It was not helpful for the interviewers to determine if I was a good fit for the job because I would hope that any of the histories that I would have shared at the park would have been accurate, not something I made up on the spot.
As I have seen interviews in education, I have seen some of this disconnect as well. Asking teachers to “teach a lesson” to a panel, when we are looking for more collaborative learning in classrooms or groups that don’t talk to applicants and have conversations but shoot rapid-fire questions their way. If you are going to get the best educator for your school, you have to do your best to see how they are in an environment that is most like your school or the school you want to create.
As someone who is being interviewed, you don’t ask the questions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t guide the conversations, though. Some people I have interviewed and some that have interviewed me, keep coming back to specific themes, no matter the questions. When working with educators that are about to have interviews or newer teachers, I encourage them to have some focus points for interviews that they will come back to throughout the questions.
Here are five key points that I would suggest you consider revisiting throughout an interview:
1. You have a focus on relationships first (staff and students). – One of my favorite principals in the world stated that if you were exceptional with connections but weak with content, you could last a longer in education than if the reverse is true. Of course, we want educators with both, but focusing on the relationship piece is paramount, this goes beyond students as well. I know some very gifted educators, who are great with children but struggle with other adults. The focus is on finding school teachers, educators that are focused on the benefit of every child in the school, not only ones they teach directly. If the word “relationships” does not come up in your interview, I would be concerned.
2. You have a willingness to grow and learn. – Whatever you know now, should be less than what you know in a year. Somehow in the interview, it is important to give examples of times that you grew through your career as a teacher and learner. You could have been a fantastic teacher ten years ago, but if nothing has changed, you can now be irrelevant. Growth is necessary as individuals, or will not happen at the organizational level.
3. You have access to knowledge outside of yourself. – Collaboration is key in education, so if you are limited to your thoughts and ideas, so is your classroom. Face-to-face collaboration is crucial, but how can you learn outside of your local community? For this post, I asked people for thoughts that I could share for this post:
If you were interviewing a teacher for your school, what things would you like to hear from them? Would love to know your thoughts.
— George Couros (@gcouros) April 15, 2018
If you read the responses, you will see that there are so many great ideas that go beyond this post. If you want to provide “world-class” education, you have to take advantage of access across the world.
4. You are passionate about the content you teach. – Content knowledge is crucial to any teaching position, but if you are in education, we all know the teacher that knows their content inside out but is unable to share that knowledge with their classroom. Having a passion for what you teach, though, can become contagious. If kids see you love your subject, it is probable; it will become contagious.
5. Education is a calling, not a career. – Why did you become a teacher? The prevailing sentiment is that teachers do not get into it for the money, but I also think about the mental tax teachers pay and how much we feel alongside our students. This doesn’t mean that a teacher should only care about teaching; they should have outside interests as well. But if you don’t LOVE the job, it could eat you alive or wear you down.
The five above are vital points that I think are important to get across in an interview, no matter the question, but are a personal preference. What would be some of the ideas that you would want to ensure you were to get across in a teaching interview?