This book benefitted enormously from the contributions, deliberations, suggestions, and input of numerous individuals. Their professional assistance made this a far better resource and a more engaging tome than I could have written on my own. I am eternally grateful to old friends and newfound acquaintances for their advice and direction, counsel, and wisdom.
First, my students at York College of Pennsylvania deserve a thunderous standing ovation and a plethora of "high fives." They have suffered and endured, shared and suggested—with heaping measures of good humor and positive dedication. That the teaching profession will be enhanced by their service is a given; that this book has been strengthened by their ideas and perspectives is equally significant. They are the creme de la creme of educators, and it is my honor and pleasure to work with them every day and every semester.
To all the principals and administrators who invited me into their offices and their schools over the years, I extend a warm and gracious "Thank you." I was privileged and honored to communicate with an eclectic array of sincere, committed, and insightful individuals from a wide range of educational institutions throughout the United States and Canada. Each provided me with invaluable tips, successful procedures, and practical insights; they allowed me to pick their brains (often when they least expected it) and view the realities and dynamics of well-executed, thoughtful interviews.
I also extend a warm appreciation to all the reviewers of this book—those friends and colleagues who took valuable time out of hectic schedules to assess the utility of this resource and its practicality for tomorrow's teachers. Enormous cheers and grateful hugs go to Nancy Sinkus (Slatington, PA), Susan Fetner (Morganton, NC), George Severns (Dover, PA), Anita Meinbach (Miami, FL), K. C. Cassell (Orme, AZ), Jan Kristo (Orono, ME), Lynn Boyleston (Lexington, SC), and Cathy Gaarden (Rio Rancho, NM).
I am eternally thankful to Lori Cates Hand, who, although she is no longer with the company, took on this project for JIST Publications with enormous enthusiasm and unmitigated support. She was an early advocate of the ideas and message within these pages, and her fingerprints are liberally sprinkled throughout the chapters.
This book would have been considerably less than it is without the expert editorial guidance, keen eye, and professional attention to detail of its developmental editor— Grant Mabie. Grant is one of those rare editors keenly aware of how to work with an author to maintain a voice, shape a manuscript, and design a product—all with a remarkable joie de vivre that is both engaging and inspiring. Most important, Grant is the consummate professional—genuine, devoted, and personable. What a joy!
Above all, I want to acknowledge you—the reader. You are about to embark on an incredibly rewarding and exciting career. You have spent considerable time and devoted substantial energy to get to this stage in your professional development, and I want to salute those efforts, applaud your determination, and celebrate your possibilities. Thank you for all your contributions to education—those that have gotten you to this point, and those that will ensure your teaching success in the future.
—Anthony D. Fredericks, Ed.D.
Let's begin this book with a basic fact of life:
The person who gets the job is not necessarily the best qualified candidate. It's the person who knows how to best nail the interview! In the end, employers want to hire individuals they feel will be a good "fit" for the job and for the organization. They hire people they like both personally and professionally."
Does that statement scare you? Does it worry you? Does it make you question all those methods courses you took, all those papers you wrote, all those exams you sweated over, and all those late-night sessions you spent writing behavioral objectives, anticipatory sets, and assessment protocols during your student teaching experience? I hope not! The statement above should give you a perspective, as well as a challenge, on the task before you—acing your teacher interview!
Here's another fact of life: You can send out all the resumes, contact all the school districts in your state, and write all the cover letters you want—but you can't get a teaching position unless you interview. Without the interview, there can be no teaching. Do well on the interview, and the job is yours! Do poorly on the interview, and—no matter how impressive your credentials may be, no matter how high your GPA is, no matter how many textbooks you have read, no matter how stellar your letters of recommendation may be, no matter how much time you've spent around kids—the simple truth is you'll never get the position! Simply put:
The teacher interview will make you or break you!
When I was in college (and long before I met my wife), my roommate set me up with a blind date. We went to dinner and a movie. It soon became apparent that we had absolutely nothing in common. She was from Texas; I was from California. I grew up surfing; she grew up quilting. I was a long-distance runner; she hated sports. I loved Mexican food; she was into steak and potatoes. I enjoyed action movies; she preferred romances. I was a liberal; she was a conservative. Conversation was stilted, uncomfortable, and strained. I had her back at her dorm by 9:30 (imagine!). It was very obvious there would be no second date.
Interviews are like first dates. You are trying to get to know someone. You're trying to enjoy each other's company. You want to know if this will be a long-term relationship or just a one-night stand. You want to learn as much about each other as you can in the short time available. Your decision to continue the relationship is often based on the "chemistry" that takes place during the initial encounter. A first date and an interview are, quite simply, opportunities to exchange information about each other. Each person wants to know if this is a "match" or if this is a "miss."
As Caryl and Ron Krannich once said, "Interviews don't just count—they count the most." An interview is your one opportunity to demonstrate what you know and who you are. That information is not always apparent from the applications, resumes, and letters of recommendation you submit to a school. That information is, however, the crux of a good interview. Successful interviews are all about knowledge and performance: how you present yourself, your responses to questions, and the match between your philosophy and that of the school. Remember, first and foremost, that a school wants to hire a person.. .a personality.. .a teacher; the school does not want a resume.. .an application.. .or a grade point average.
Keep in mind that a principal or teacher-selection committee is looking for two outstanding qualities in any teacher candidate:
Will this individual fit in with our school or district philosophy/educational climate, and
Will this individual contribute significantly and positively to the education of the students in his or her charge?
There is, of course, another question you must also answer—one that is never asked, but one you must always address. That one question is so important it has been given its own chapter (Chapter 6). It is, as you might expect, a question you should practice answering several times in advance of any interview.
This book includes information on how to prepare for a forthcoming interview, how to showcase your individual strengths throughout an interview, and what to do immediately after an interview is concluded. I've included information on the 149 most commonly asked questions in teacher interviews (and the answers that most impress interviewers), what to do with tricky questions, how to handle situational scenarios, and the kinds of questions that you should be posing, too. I also share some strategies that will reduce your stress for a first interview and get you ready for a second or third round of interviews.
There are also several bonus features sprinkled throughout this book. These include
Insider Tips: These sections include valuable information from professional interviewers (both in education and in business) and from other teachers who have been through a few interviews themselves. You'll get insider information available in no other resource.
Extra Credit: These are tips that can make the difference between a good interview and a great interview. The emphasis here is on practical advice that gives every response an added value, a real bonus.
From the Principal's Desk: For this book, I contacted elementary, middle, and high school principals around the country. I sent out questionnaires and conducted numerous face-to-face interviews with experienced administrators in a wide variety of schools (large and small schools; rural, suburban, and urban schools; "wealthy" schools and "poor" schools) from California to Maine and from Washington to Florida. Their "words of wisdom" will give you inside information available nowhere else.
Please know that I have been through many interviews in my teaching career. I've experienced sweaty palms, an upset stomach, and outright nervousness. I've messed up some answers and come through with other responses that really impressed the interviewers. I've heard or responded to all of the questions you'll read about in this book.
I have also been on the other side of the desk and interviewed scores of candidates for teaching jobs. I've interviewed candidates who impressed me within seconds of walking in the door as well as others who didn't even have the common courtesy to shake my hand. I've suffered through long drawn-out soliloquies and been on the edge of my chair listening to mesmerizing and attention-grabbing anecdotes. I've even hired (at least in my mind) some candidates long before the interview was over—they were that good!
In other words, I've experienced both sides of the interview process. Please use my experiences and the information I have gathered from principals and administrators around the country to prepare for your own interview sessions. You'll find this advice valuable whether you are anticipating your first interview ever or whether you have been through a few along the way. I promise you down-to-earth information and a book filled with positive strategies and techniques that can help you land that all-important teaching position.
Keep reading, keep practicing, and remember: You're on your way to an incredibly fulfilling career as a teacher.
FROM THE PRINCIPAL'S DESK:
"There was one interview I'll never forget. A few years ago a young man—I'll call him Jason—came into my office for his initial interview. We exchanged a few pleasantries, and then I asked him the first question: 'Tell me a little about yourself.' He paused for a few seconds and then reached into his briefcase and pulled out an elaborate hand puppet. He slipped the puppet over his right hand, and it was the hand puppet who 'answered' the question. Using a falsetto voice, Jason manipulated the hand puppet—whom he had named 'Bob'—and had 'Bob' respond directly to me. Slightly taken aback (I'd never had a puppet talk to me before), I decided to proceed. So I asked Jason to tell me why he wanted to be a teacher. Again, it was 'Bob' who answered: "'Well, Jason wants to be a teacher because he really likes kids and he knows how to get their attention and he also....' I was still a little stunned—and a little more than amazed—but decided to continue. I asked about two or three additional questions, and each time 'Bob'—in a very animated fashion—told me something about Jason. Finally, after about ten minutes, I could take it no longer. I found a diplomatic way to end the interview, I escorted Jason (and 'Bob') back into the outer office, rolled my eyes at my secretary, and went back into my office to try and recover in time for the next interview. To this day I still have nightmares about that damn puppet."
(One very good reason why you should read this book.)