A. General Questions
: What do you know about this school?
A: According to the school's Web page, you have achieved AYP in each of the past five years. Your reading scores are up, and your math scores are making some significant improvements. That says to me that your teachers are sincerely committed to integrating some instructional changes to the reading and math curricula. Along with the two extra days of in-service training recently approved by the school board, this underscores a sincere commitment to the needs of students. I've talked with several teachers and— to a person—they are all impressed, and all supportive of, the new schedule. This schedule makes additional time available for literacy instruction— something that is showing up in the improvement of test scores. Some of the parents have even remarked on a new sense of energy in the school— certainly something to be proud of.
This is a frequent question in any interview. Simply put, the interviewer wants to know if you've done your homework. What do you know about the school other than how many teachers work there and the color of the hallways? Make sure you take the time to pour over school board minutes, the school's Web site, and any printed newsletters or brochures. Talk with people in the school—teachers, maintenance staff, bus drivers—and learn as much as you can about the climate and philosophy. Chat with parents and community members in the supermarket, hardware store, or gas station. Learn anything you can, and plan to share that knowledge in the interview.
You can always get extra points if you research the school's recent test scores and frame some sort of positive comment around those scores. For example, "I see that you've made an 8 percent improvement in your reading scores over last year. You must be very proud." Or, "I note that your recent math scores have held firm over the last three years. I'd like to contribute my enthusiasm and expertise in teaching math in helping to improve those results."
: Why do you want to teach in this school/district?
A: When I visited in February, I had the opportunity to talk with some teachers about your new writing program. When I checked out the school's Web site and saw how much writing was integrated throughout the curriculum, I became even more excited. I really believe that writing can enhance the middle school program, and, with my writing background, I can make a positive contribution to that effort. I like the emphasis on writing, and I like the opportunities for contributing to that effort.
This is a golden opportunity to demonstrate all the homework you did on the school or district (see Chapter 2). Your response should make it clear that you know something about this specific school or district as well as how you can contribute to their overall academic effort. Here's where you can "stroke their feathers" and tell them what a good job they are doing.
: What are the essential traits of an effective educator?
A: I believe that good teachers are effective because they assume five interrelated roles. One, they serve as positive role models for their students. They model their excitement and enthusiasm for a topic consistently and daily. Two, effective educators are student oriented. They truly care for their students, and they exhibit empathy—trying to see the world through their students' eyes. Third, effective teachers are task oriented. They concentrate on the instructional activities that cause learning to happen rather than on procedures. Fourth, they are good classroom managers. They understand that classroom management is not about achieving order for order's sake; it's about achieving order so productive learning can occur. And, fifth, good teachers are lifelong learners. They continually add to their knowledge base throughout their teaching careers. I strongly believe in these principles and plan to make them part of my teaching repertoire throughout my career.
This is an excellent question, and your response should demonstrate your knowledge of what good teachers do as well as how you plan to embrace those principles. This is the time to show that you know your research and what that research means in terms of your own teaching career.