Tips from a principal to help you prepare for a teacher interview.
I recently spoke with my principal to get her tips and tricks for rocking a teacher interview! Just for some background knowledge, my current principal has been an administrator for 14 years. She has worked in elementary and secondary schools in both higher socioeconomic areas and low socioeconomic areas so she has seen it all!
“Dress for Disney”
The topic that took up most of our conversation was dress code. My principal made such a point to discuss it because as she explained, you make an “impression in the first 90 seconds.” In case you don’t live in Orlando (like me) and/or are obsessed with Disney (also like me), their dress code is very rigid! No unnatural hair colors, excessive piercings or tattoos, and all of their uniforms are very modest.
According to my principal, there are 3 big no-no’s when you prepare for a teacher interview:
- No wrinkled clothes – they can make you appear unprepared or sloppy.
- No flip flops! – there was a teacher she didn’t hire for that reason alone.
- No beach or mall appropriate clothes – if you could wear your outfit to the beach or mall, you need to go change.
As my admin described, she is observing you not only as a potential boss, but as a parent. After looking at your appearance, would she feel comfortable leaving her child with you?
Know Your Stuff
My principal said she always asks questions about teaching content. Even if you previously worked in a different county like I had, you should prepare for your teacher interview by reviewing the state standards. If you recently graduated, share your experiences and knowledge of teaching content during student teaching! My principal also said she always follows up with a question asking for ideas or examples of how you will motivate your students. Even if you’ve memorized every standard and have examples of how to teach them, there won’t be much learning in your classroom if you can’t get kids to do their work.
Another thing you will probably be asked is for examples of what you will do with your first day on the job. To many principals, this is hugely important because it sets the tone for the rest of the school year. How will you set up your classroom management system? What will be your expectations for transitions and basic needs, like getting a new pencil or asking to use the restroom?
Also, my principal says to be ready to share your most challenging experience. I personally shared about one of my favorite, but most challenging, students ever. He came from a very broken home and it showed. He regularly attacked me, leaving bruises, scratches, and bite marks. But after developing a relationship with him and developing a behavior plan to fit his specific needs, his kind and helpful side began to show through. Years later, I am still in contact with his foster parents. When told correctly, a personal story can show your experience, flexibility, and resilience.
Use the “STAR” Method
The STAR method is great for any job interview, but especially teaching, where you learn a lot through experience on the job. STAR stands for “Situation”, “Task”, “Action”, “Result”.
For example, when I shared about my most challenging experience, I first shared the “Situation”, that I had a violent student. The “Task” was to retrain his behavior so he would redirect his aggression to a more productive outlet. The “Action” was to work with the guidance counselor and the foster family to create a behavior plan that worked for this specific child, and implement it. The “Result” was this little boy began to share his feelings before lashing out, so I was able to give him a cool-down activity to de-escalate the situation before he became violent.
Keep Your Personal Feelings Neutral
One thing my principal strongly recommended is keeping your personal opinions about your previous administration or bosses neutral! Elementary principals in my county have a weekly meeting together. For all you know, your prior principal and current principal are friends. Bashing an old administrator never comes across as professional. Instead, you can share that you are moving schools because you are looking for new experiences, you live closer to the new school, or you have heard such good things about the staff that you want to join their amazing team. Keep it positive!
And finally, one of my principal’s suggestions was to avoid bragging about being a member of the Teacher’s Union. That can make it seem like you aren’t willing to work with your new bosses if a conflict arises. It’s always best to come across as a team player!
If you are a principal or have worked in administration and would like to share your tips, contact me on Instagram @MyJuniorBurgers!