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: Why shouldn't we hire you?

A: You might not want to hire me because I'm young and inexperienced.

But please don't let my youth and inexperience fool you. I assume you are looking for a teacher who will be a positive influence in the lives of students, who knows her craft, who can motivate students, and who can solve problems both big and small. I assume you are looking for someone with lots of classroom experience, lots of practical ideas, and lots of background knowledge about learning styles and teaching strategies. I believe I can bring all those attributes to this job. In student teaching, I worked closely with the other fifth-grade teachers to improve reading scores by 18 percent. I also was part of a team that initiated a behavior-intervention program with the school counselor. And I helped write a series of inquiry-based thematic units for the science program. I honestly believe you should hire me because I'm a go-getter and I'm intensely passionate about teaching.

This is a question that pops up every so often; it is designed to see if the candidate can think quickly on his or her feet. It's also asked to see if there is any negativity in the candidate's philosophy. The best way to answer is to turn the question around. Rather than focus on the negative, emphasize the positive instead. Notice how the response above was turned into a positive one that focused directly on what the candidate could bring to the school. Specific examples and experiences were used to support her philosophy with a very positive attitude.

: If you could change anything about your teacher-preparation program, what would it be?

A: I wish we would have more field experience hours required in preparation for student teaching. At High Tuition College, we were required to complete 150 hours of field experience prior to student teaching. I've always felt that that simply wasn't enough to prepare us for the demands and challenges of the student teaching experience. So, on top of that requirement, I spent a lot of time over breaks and vacations volunteering at my local elementary school. I was a guest reader in the school library for the "Readers are Leaders" club, I helped out with the after-school tutoring program, and I coached the junior soccer team. I wanted to obtain as many experiences with youngsters as possible, even beyond what the college required. I knew that those experiences would help me be a better teacher.

Don't bad-mouth your college or university teacher-training program (the interviewer may have graduated from there, too). Briefly mention one small aspect of the program that may not have met your expectations. Show how you dealt with that aspect in a positive way, going above and beyond the usual requirements to learn more than was required. This is a great chance to demonstrate how one of your strengths was used to address a problem or recurring situation.

EXTRA CREDIT

Talk with one or two of your college professors, and ask them to cite an area or two that they think needs some improvement or changing in the teacher- preparation program. Ask them to suggest what they might do to make that part of the program better. Consider their response(s) as part of your answer to the question above.

: What was your second career choice?

A: I've never considered anything else but teaching. I've been influenced by many teachers in my life—from elementary school all the way through college. I know how one teacher can change the life of a student. Perhaps I was that average student pushed to excel by Mrs. McDonald in sixth grade, challenged to go above and beyond by Mr. Donahoe in tenth grade, and inspired to create a "hands-on, minds-on" curriculum by Dr. Oliver in college. Teachers have had a profound influence in my life, and I would like to make that kind of difference in the lives of my students. I can't think of any other profession, or any other occupation, that would give me the opportunity to change lives in such a positive way as teaching. For me, there is no second career. I want to teach!

Don't even think about suggesting an alternate career path. This is when you must convince the interviewer—beyond a shadow of a doubt—that your life's mission is teaching. Demonstrate your overwhelming passion for the field, and let it be clear that teaching is in your blood, is an integral part of who you are, and is the singular pursuit of your life. This is not the time to be wishy-washy. Be clear, passionate, and compelling about your career choice.

 
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