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As you close your textbooks and take your final exams, you are likely dreaming of teaching from new textbooks and giving your own exams in just a few short months. As you graduate from college with a degree in education, you know that you will always love school and learning and knowledge—it’s a huge part of why you’re becoming a teacher! You are incredibly excited about your first teaching job and all the amazing things you’re going to impart upon your students. You’re thinking about what your classroom is going to look like (Pinterest-worthy, of course), how great your coworkers are going to be (you’ll be the best of friends), and how much your students will adore you (teacher of the year, anyone?). Before any of those dreams can come true, however, you have to actually be offered a teaching position. And in order for that to happen, you have to set up some interviews and then go into those interviews with the poise, grace, and expertise that you know you possess. Interviews can be stressful no matter what profession you’re entering, but as you embark upon this journey to land your dream job at your dream school, there are a few important things you need to think about as you prepare for and go to your interviews. Here are our top interview tips for recent graduates looking to land their first teaching job.
Present Yourself Professionally
This tip applies to all interviews, but it is especially important in the teaching profession. Not only do you have a boss to impress, but there are several other superiors at your school and in your district who expect you to represent them in a positive light. In addition, you have students who need to respect you and your authority, and their parents need to see you as a respectable professional who is capable of educating their children. Especially for young teachers, professional presentation is incredibly important. Wear something professional and modest, ensure that your physical appearance is clean and put together, and show that you can command the attention of a classroom while still keeping your students comfortable and being approachable.
Bring Multiple Copies of Your Portfolio
While many other industries require a short, sweet, and to-the-point resume, the education field is a bit different. You are expected to have a complete portfolio, or curriculum vitae, when applying for a teaching job. When you’re looking to land your first teaching job, you need to be prepared to compete with veteran teachers, which means you need to stand out in the best ways possible. Ensure your portfolio is organized and complete with your personal teaching philosophy, transcripts, certifications, recommendations, student teaching experience, lesson plans, and more. It goes without saying that your portfolio should be perfect in every way, down to each punctuation mark. Bring multiple copies of it to your interview and plan to leave a few copies with the interviewer for their perusal at a later time.
Be Prepared to Answer Tough Questions
Being a teacher is far more than just knowing information and teaching it well. Your job will include classroom management, disciplining poor behavior, interacting with parents, and much more. You need to have answers ready for questions on all of these topics, and the more detailed you can be, the better. Tell them about your experience implementing classroom management plans and how you plan to utilize that plan in your first teaching job. Show that you are aware of the school and district’s behavior plans and discipline procedures and utilize that information in your responses. Have a plan regarding standard parent communication and how you will discuss problems with parents.
Clean Up Your Social Media
This should be something that you’ve been attentive to for years, essentially since you began using social media, or at least since you began school to become an educator. But as you finalize your resume and start scheduling interviews, be sure to take another look at your social media pages and what comes up when you Google your name. Employers are constantly looking at social media to vet applicants before interviews, and schools are especially concerned with what you portray online since your students and their parents will inevitably search for you at some point. Your social media pages should show that you are level-headed and respectful, that you don’t overshare or make politically incorrect statements or posts, and that you are a mature, responsible adult.
Be Able to Briefly Explain Your Personal Teaching Philosophy
All educators, whether brand new to the field or veterans, have a personal teaching philosophy that covers a wide variety of topics. Know what yours is, and more than that, be able to explain it briefly. This should be an elevator-pitch type explanation. Know your most important points and be able to express them clearly, distinctly, and briefly. Also be able to back up anything you say. Since you are looking to land your first teaching job, you can’t claim that your ideas have worked for years or that you’ve seen firsthand the effectiveness of a particular method. Cite research, examples from mentors, and any personal experiences you do have to back up your philosophy and stand by what you claim to believe.
Be Able to Talk About Yourself in Relation to the Specific Job & School
Most interviews will include a tip where the interviewer says something like, “Tell me about yourself,” as well as, “Why are you a good fit for us?” Have prepared and specific answers to both of these questions. The first is an opportunity to talk about yourself in a way that shows them you will be a good fit for their school and that you are a passionate educator who is more than capable of providing their students with a quality education. The second question should prove that you’ve done your research. Know what the school’s mission statement is, what district they are a part of, what they’re known for (whether good or bad), and so on. Be prepared to tell them what you can add to or offer the school and what specifically you like about that particular school.
This is another common interview tip that applies to all interviews. You will almost certainly be given an opportunity to ask questions and since you’re also trying to decide if this particular job is a good fit for you, you should ask some questions as well. You may want to ask about pressing issues that the school deals with, if they have any plans for specific funding or expansion of the school in the near future, or about something you saw on their website. You can find out quite a bit about a particular school online or through the district, so be sure not to ask simple questions that you could find the answer to yourself just for the sake of asking questions.
Be Genuine and Personable
Teachers need to be several things, including smart, professional, organized, relatable, and helpful. They also need to be genuine and honest, both with themselves and with others. When you’re asked about your strengths and weaknesses, be truthful about them. You don’t have to be hyper negative when it comes to your weaknesses, but saying “I care too much” or “I work too hard” are not genuine responses and interviewers will see right through them. End your discussion on your weaknesses on a positive note, such as, “I’m constantly striving to improve myself in all areas,” but be real and personable throughout the entirety of the interview. School administrators want to ensure that not only will you respect their authority and provide quality instruction to the students, but also that you will be a good addition to their staff and that students will respect you and listen to you. Be likable yet professional, and be real yet positive. Follow these interview tips and you’ll be sure to land your first teaching job in no time.