Standard Interview Questions, Possible Answers & Tips!

I compiled a list of standard questions a candidate might be asked when applying for an elementary teaching position. The sample answers are merely suggestions of what the hiring committee might be looking for, but obviously, you would need to think about your experience, background, and expertise!  

The committee will be looking at your personality and if you are a good fit for the grade level teaching team, so be yourself!  :)  The committee will more than likely highly value those with multiple certifications in addition to Elementary Ed. (ESL, Spec. Ed., Reading. . .) as well as bilingual candidates, so share all that you have to offer!

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Interviews are very nerve wracking.  I would strongly suggest  bringing a portfolio with you that shows who YOU are as a teacher.  Create one online (make a website or a PowerPoint) and bring your laptop to the interview, or go to the nearest office store, and buy a 3 ring binder, page protectors, and dividers.  The portfolio should include the answers to the below potential interview questions, specifically, include your:

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  • Table of Contents
  • Resume
  • Standard cover letter
  • All certifications ~ teaching license, SEI, CPR, CPI, Orton-Gillingham . . .
  • List of all clubs, committees, etc. that you have participated in as a teacher and/or student teacher ~ were you a PTO representative, School Site Council member, Climate Team member, data team member, a mentor teacher to a new teacher. . .?
  • Transcripts
  • Honors or Awards you have received
  • Certificates from classes/workshops you have taken
  • Recommendations from former employers, letters from pleased parents, letters from students
  • Your teaching philosophy ~ a paragraph.  Website samples are listed below.
  • Lesson plan samples ~ try to include both ELA and Math.  If you don’t have a great lesson, make two for the grade you are interviewing for!
  • Teaching observation reports from your former principal or your college advisor
  • Information on curriculum and/or assessment that you know ~ Fountas & Pinnell Guided Reading, Engage New York, Lucy Calkins, Fundations, Pearson DRA2, running records, Open Circle. . . .  Research what the school you are applying to uses, and write a little blurb about it to include in your portfolio!
  • Photos of your students’ projects and photos of productions ~ did your class put on a show or play or some other performance?
  • Photos of bulletin boards you’ve assembled
  • Photos of your classroom that shows your centers, routines, organizational system! You can even go to Google Images and find photos of IDEAS you would like to implement in your own classroom!  For example, here are ideas: Literacy Centers, Math Talk, Organized Elementary Classroom, Flexible Seating.  Check out my Inclusive Classroom page!
  • Write about the importance of having your students develop a GROWTH MINDSET! 
  • Examples of collaboration with colleagues ~ dates, what you accomplished, goals. Think about times you collaborated with the Speech and Language teacher, specialists, Occupational Therapist ~ how did you work together?
  • Recent research papers you have written  
  • Field Trips that you have planned and organized
  • Examples of parent engagement ~ both what you have done in the past plus future ideas ~ website, newsletters, programs from school shows, homework charts, etc. 
  • Examples of technology usage ~ Effective E-Learning
  • Technology that YOU are proficient in ~ Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Adobe Illustrator, In Design. . .
  • Examples of strategies to use to fully engage your ELLs and students on IEPs ~ create a strategies list!   RETELL and Reading Strategies can help you!  Put in a sentence stem chart like this as an example of reading strategies:4240af34fbb7deb2c844145d1258f3b3--guided-reading-strategies-reading-skills
  • Write a blurb on the various types of assessments.  Include your experience in preparing students for high stakes tests such as the PARCC or MCAS 2.0. Assessments
  • Common Core shifts and information ~ especially for the grade level you are interviewing for!  Common Core
  • Memberships to professional organizations or newsletters, like International Literacy Association or National Education Association.  If you are a recent college graduate, it looks great in your portfolio to join such organizations!
  • Information on who YOU are outside of school!  What are your talents and interests?  Are you an artist, musician, athlete. . . ?

More Portfolio Ideas  ~ This article suggests making 6 duplicate “mini” portfolios ~ one for each interviewer to browse through as you are being interviewed!  That would be helpful!  

​Have a nice inspirational quote on the cover of your portfolio!

Teachers Pay Teachers Q&A Samples ~ You might want to purchase this Q&A list in addition to what I am offering for free here.  :)

Common Questions ~ How Would You Answer?

More Free Questions ~ How Would YOU Answer?

A List of Tips

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1.  What is your philosophy on education?  (This blurb can be written right in your portfolio!)  Write a blurb!  Here are some ideas:

2.  What do you enjoy most about teaching?  (Your portfolio will speak to your organization and creativity, but also include some of the following points. . .)

  • Working with children
  • Satisfaction of student growth in all aspects ~ academically, socially, behaviorally
  • Contributing positively to a child’s development
  • Challenge of integrating technology into the curriculum
  • Being creative, organized, efficient
  • Collaborating with colleagues
  • Helping students to achieve their potential
  • Challenging myself by continually learning ~ there’s always a new curriculum or new method to try

3.  Describe your best lesson or unit that you designed and taught.  (You will have this in your portfolio!)  Try to put in an ELA and Math lesson.  Be specific about what the students actually did and how you assessed them. Think about the objectives and interactive learning strategies that were incorporated. RETELL has a list of interactive strategies.

4.  Talk about the Common Core and how it influences your teaching.  (You will have this in your portfolio!)  The Common Core. . .

  • Focuses on college and career readiness 
  • Students cite evidence
  • Students read more nonfiction texts
  • Rigorous curriculum
  • Implement close reading strategies
  • Higher standards and expectations
  • Higher level questioning
  • Students dig deeper

5.  At the grade level you are applying for, what would we see during your Math block?  Your ELA block?  (You will have this in your portfolio!)

  • Objectives and CCSS clearly posted and discussed with students
  • Mini-lesson with visuals, tapping into all modalities ~ seeing, hearing, moving, touching (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, tactile)
  • Gradual release of responsibility model
  • Whole class, small group, partner, individual work
  • Use of interactive learning strategies such as Turn and Talk, Think/Pair/Share, Jigsaw, Numbered Heads Together RETELL
  • Students working at his/her own level “with a reach” to move to the next level
  • Lots of praise and positive reinforcement
  • Teacher circulating around room when not working directly with students
  • Teacher keeping records, conferencing with groups and individuals
  • Students on task
  • Students having choices in seating, assignments, projects
  • Every child gets what he/she needs ~ what’s fair isn’t always equal
  • ELL students and students on IEPs are fully included and participating
  • Higher level questions being asked
  • Using research based methods (See RESEARCH menu on my home page)

6.  How do you create a positive classroom climate?  (You will have this plan in your portfolio!)

  • Being positive myself
  • Not raising my voice
  • Using nonverbal cues
  • Treating students with dignity and respect
  • Having students create rules on the first day so they have ownership of rules, expectations, consequences ~ have rules posted and students sign the rule “contract”
  • Being consistent
  • Having flexible seating ~ wiggle stools, yoga balls, floor seating with a low table, standing at a standing table
  • Giving students choices in seating locations, projects, assignments
  • Accenting the positive
  • Implementing the Open Circle curriculum
  • Knowing my students and setting each one up for success
  • Preventing poor behavior by being proactive and avoiding potential pitfalls
  • Using nonverbal cues to redirect students
  • Assigning classroom jobs so the students have a sense of pride, ownership, and belonging
  • Having whole class goals and rewards like pajama day, eating lunch as a picnic outdoors. . .
  • Attending extra-curricular events and showing my dedication and my caring about each student
  • Calling home or emailing to report GOOD news! 
  • Class DoJo  Research this!

7.  How would you handle a student who does not follow the classroom code of conduct? (Again, you will have this in your portfolio!)

  • In a 1:1 conversation with the student, inquire what might be causing the behavior
  • Accent the positive
  • Set the student up for success ~ give the student options as far as classroom seating ~ does the student need a larger desk, frequent breaks, modified assignment. . .?
  • Implement a back and forth journal between home and school so the parent can be involved and help redirect the behavior
  • Report GOOD NEWS to the parent
  • Have an incentive chart so the student earns reading aloud to a kindergartener or lunch with the teacher or some other goal to strive for.  Keep the chart private ~ between you and the student
  • Check in with the School Adjustment Counselor to see if SAC servies might be needed
  • Gather data on behavior ~ what triggers it?  What have you tried?
  • If all else fails, seek advice through the Teacher Support Team if the school has one ~ this way the behavior is formally documented and you can collaborate with colleagues on a remediation plan

8.  How do you communicate with parents?  How do you engage parents with the learning?  (Again, you will have this in your portfolio!)

  • On the 1st day of school, send home a survey and gather data about how best to reach each parent ~ either phone (and best time to call) or email
  • Twitter
  • A classroom website can post lesson plans, homework, ways to help the child, links to online resources
  • Grades can be posted on PlusPortals
  • School or PTO Facebook can alert parents to events
  • Classroom newsletters
  • Daily homework folder which outlines homework to be signed
  • Home/School behavior journal if needed
  • Parents will be invited in to attend classroom performances, to be guest readers, or to teach for 30 minutes in an area of their expertise
  • Parents can leave me a voicemail and I will return parent calls
  • Back to School Nights and other school based events
  • Morning and afternoon duties I might bump into parents and have a quick check-in
  • Translators can be called ahead of time for bilingual conferences
  • Parent volunteers for field trips
  • Reporting GOOD NEWS home as needed

9.  How would your colleagues describe you?  (Think of positive adjectives.)

  • Dedicated
  • Hard working
  • Approachable
  • Team player
  • Supportive

10.  What’s important when working with ELL students and with students on IEPs?  (Your list is in your portfolio!)

  • Accommodations are being followed
  • I need to know the WIDA levels and the IEP goals and accommodations
  • Modify work as needed
  • Preferential seating
  • Make all children feel included and welcome and successful
  • Implement interactive learning strategies RETELL
  • Teach using all 4 modalities to reach all learners
  • Use cooperative group work so students can learn from each other and motivate each other
  • Keep data and track growth
  • Collaborate with colleagues

12.  How do you assess student progress? (Check your portfolio!  :) )

Formative Assessment:  The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used to improve teaching and to improve student learning.  Formative assessments help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work.  They help teachers identify problem areas to remediate immediately.

Summative Assessment:  The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student work at the end of a unit by comparing it to some standard or benchmark.  These are high-stakes or have high point value.

Performance Assessment:  A performance assessment is an assessment in which students demonstrate that they have mastered specific skills by performing or producing something.

Authentic Assessment:  Authentic assessments have 2 characteristics.  First, they may be embedded in classroom routines of instruction and learning and conducted during regular activities.  They are clearly related to the learning and achievement that are the goals, and the inferences that we make from this information can be connected to the student learning.  An example would be a school store ~ setting up goods, counting money, giving change.  Second, they may be focused on real-world reading.  These tasks focus on the world outside of school.

The “Other” Assessment:  Assessing important factors such as motivation, engagement, self-concepts, agency, interest, and attitudes.

Always analyze data and use data to guide teaching.  Regroup students frequently based on data.  Talk to last year’s teacher and this year’s specialists to track progress of students that way, as well.

  • Running records
  • DRA2
  • Pre and post tests
  • Unit tests
  • Quizzes
  • Daily observations
  • Exit tickets
  • ANET progress, MCAS 2.0 scores, PARCC scores. . .
  • Assessments ~ get some ideas from this page
  • Students can self-assess ~ here are some examples Self and Peer Assessments
  • Gather student work to create growth portfolios
  • Some students may be formally evaluated for potential IEPs.  Provide accommodations as needed:  

Common Accommodations

  • Clear and concise directions, rules and expectations
  • Break down tasks into smaller chunks
  • Gain eye contact with student prior to giving directions
  • Repetition and/or restating directions
  • Preferential seating
  • Limiting distractions
  • Use of visuals (schedules, rules, tasks)
  • Frequent check-ins
  • Modeling of language and classroom expectations
  • Preview, clarify, and repeat new information
  • Allow student extra time to process information and extra time to formulate a response
  • Have student repeat directions and instructions to make sure they understand what is being asked of them
  • Connect new material to prior knowledge
  • Use of graphic organizers
  • Multi-modal approach to learning
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Opportunities for movement breaks

13.  How do you collaborate with colleagues?  If you were a teacher or aide before, did you meet at weekly teacher support teams, attend building meetings, attend curriculum meetings?  Elaborate on those!  If you are a recent college graduate, talk about the cooperative learning work you’ve done!

My personal collaboration includes STAT (weekly Student Teacher Assistance Team meetings), School Council ~ meets monthly to discuss schoolwide projects and budget, monthly Curriculum Team meetings and monthly building meetings, I coordinate the foyer bulletin boards based on feedback and ideas from staff, we use Google forms as a staff to collaborate on student goals and projects with the “invitation to edit” button, we have data team meetings in which we discuss students, goals, lessons, and regrouping of students. . . .

14.  How do you use technology in the classroom?  (Check your portfolio!)

  •  Get ideas for your portfolio from my page!
  • ASK INTERVIEW COMMITTEE:  What technology is available for students/teachers to use?

15.  What are your strengths/weaknesses?  Your strengths:

  • Organization
  • Attention to detail
  • Past experience in the classroom ~ give examples of successes!
  • Drive and motivation to keep taking workshops and classes
  • Communication with colleagues and parents
  • Positive attitude
  • Personal experience as a student (share) and what motivated you to become a teacher

Your weaknesses should be POSITIVE and actually be STRENGTHS!!!

  • Drive, determination, and persistence that keeps you up at night, thinking of ways to reach all students and ways to make the learning fun, interactive, engaging.
  • Using every possible method and tactic to reach all students.  
  • Taking on challenges and never backing away from a challenge.  You actually thrive with a lot on your plate when it benefits the students.

16.  Do you have any questions for us?  (Show interest in the school and position ~ although tempting, stay away from asking specific hiring date questions.)  Ask a couple of the questions they’ve asked YOU!  For example:

  • How do the classroom teachers incorporate technology at ____ grade level?  
  • What ELA and Math programs does this school use?  
  • How does this school engage parents in the learning?  
  • Does this school have a Teacher Support Team?  (A team that meets to discuss students that might be having issues behaviorally or academically ~ with the goal of giving advice to remediate issues.)
  • What type of professional devleopment does this district offer/will be offering?

CONCLUDING THE INTERVIEW

  • Say thank you for their time, and say you would appreciate the opportunity to teach a demo lesson!
  • Offer to leave the portfolio overnight for their review, or leave information of how they can revisit your online portfolio. 
  • Shake hands with the committee if you hadn’t done so at the beginning.

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CONGRATULATIONS!  YOU HAVE BEEN INVITED BACK TO TEACH A DEMONSTRATION LESSON!  Plan your lesson, but THINK about the following which are always WONDERFUL to include:

  • Post your objective with the Common Core State Standard.
  • Read the objective aloud to the class, and explain TO the students what they will be doing and WHY.  **Be sure your objective matches your activities!**
  • Preteach any tricky new words with VISUALS ~ use pictures from Google Images or real objects and maybe even physical gestures that the students learn and repeat after you! Say the word, define it, and have the students repeat the word using the gestures. These are excellent strategies for all students, including ELLs. See my RETELL page for more.  Break longer words apart into syllables and put these on the board for students to refer to when stuck.  Maybe have students make a gesture as they read when they encounter the new words with a thumbs up.
  • Your posted objective and new vocabulary words should be large enough to be seen from across the room.  
  • Incorporate technology ~ maybe create a PowerPoint or even use music ~ so bring in your laptop because the classroom you are teaching in may not be equipped!  You can always write on your lesson plan how you would modify this lesson using the school’s technology.
  • At the end of your lesson, maybe revisit the new words to see if children retained the meanings.
  • When you teach, remind students, “Eyes on me.”  If students are whispering to each other give a nonverbal cue (maybe 2 fingers up), smile, and say “I’m going to wait” and wait.  You need to have the class under your control.  :)  
  • Speaking of waiting for their undivided attention, be sure to give the students wait time to collect their thoughts.
  • I do, we do, you do!  Always teach a new skill this way!  YOU model and think aloud. Gradually release responsibility by getting students involved with support. Finally, have them do it on their own.  More info:  I DO, WE DO, YOU DO! 
  • Give the students opportunities to stand and move ~ again, my RETELL page has a lot of interactive strategies to pick from.  Also, get some ideas from:  Instructional Activities
  • When you call on a student, have him say his/her NAME before answering ~ try to remember names OR start the lesson off by having each child write his/her name on a folded index card large enough for you to see.  The students display their names on their desks.  Call students by name!
  • CIRCULATE around the room as you teach!  Again, call the students by their names to establish that connection. Make specific, positive, thoughtful, and encouraging comments rather than “good job.”
  • Incorporate the 4 Modalities into your teaching to reach all learners!
  • Check out this site:  Teach Content Through Music!  Perhaps leave the class with a song that sums up the lesson!
  • When you have a question to ask the students, first incorporate turn and talk briefly, and then have various pairs raise hands to share out ~ this way ALL students must be engaged.  Comment on the thoughtful talk that you overheard or clear up misconceptions.
  • Have frequent opportunities to check in for comprehension.  Maybe try an every pupil response tactic like thumbs up/thumbs down, or bring in a bunch of white boards and markers with a tissue to wipe clean so every pupil answers. . . . 
  • Try to incorporate a HANDS ON activity ~ something with manipulatives.  I observed one lesson on the 3 types of rocks where the teacher had prepared baggies for each student of different colored playdough pieces.  Balling the dough up slightly created sedimentary rock ~ the playdough colors were still visible. More pressure on the dough by smooshing it down with a palm created metamorphic rock and the colors slightly merged.  Totally rubbing the playdough pieces together to “heat” it up and blend the colors, created igneous rock.  If you can teach a science lesson as your demonstration lesson, Steve Spangler Science has wonderful whole class lesson kits you can purchase if you’re willing to spend a little money. Something fun and hands on will get the students excited and engaged, but don’t forget to set the ground rules and expectations for behavior ~ “the expected behavior.”
  • Jigsaw is an impressive way to teach ~ and color code it!  Here is an example. Let’s say you are teaching “marking up the text for deeper comprehension” with a focus on finding the main idea and details, and your topic is 5 different U.S. Presidents. You will pass out article #1 so each student has a copy, and YOU read it with the students.  (On my LiveBinders under my Student Interactives menu, I have children’s search engines and you can easily find kid friendly articles there!) YOU model pinpointing the main idea by THINKING ALOUD. YOU pinpoint 3 key details BY THINKING ALOUD ~ underline details ~ mark up the text.  YOU write your answers on the board the way you want THEM to.  Have 4 more different articles of 4 more different presidents of reasonable length for 4 different groups (consider time constraints and grade level) ~ one article per group. You have 4 groups, so use 4 different colors.  Have the students count off 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.  Group 1 works off of the yellow paper and studies Lincoln, 2 works off of the orange paper and studies Washington, 3 red paper, etc. (Don’t forget this is elementary school and you want to show some type of organizational system.) Prepare on the papers what the task is that YOU just modeled ~ again, it could be as basic as mark up the text, state the main idea and 3 details of your article. The like colored groups read together and teach each other about their president. They have to be sure everyone in the group knows the main idea and 3 details. They help each other write these on their papers.  NOW THEY ARE AN EXPERT GROUP on THIS President. Meanwhile, you are circulating around the room, listening in, coaching.  Then students reassemble in different colored groups, and TEACH EACH OTHER their president. . . .  Wrap up with an exit ticket, such as name 3 facts that you learned today, or what question would you ask one of the president’s that we discussed today, or how did you feel about the Jigsaw strategy? 
  • End with a self-assessment!  Whatever and however you teach, ALWAYS spiral back to the objective.  Have students give a thumbs up if they feel they have met the objective, a sideways thumb if they still need to go back, and a thumbs down if they feel lost.  

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If you think of any other potential questions and/or answers, let me know!  I will add them!

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COPYRIGHT 05/25/2017.  PLEASE CITE AS FOLLOWS:

Araujo, Judith E., M. Ed., CAGS. “Standard Interview Questions, Possible Answers & Tips!”Mrs. Judy Araujo, Reading Specialist. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 May 2017. <http://www.mrsjudyaraujo.com/typical-interview-questions-answers-tips/>.

Graphics are from Google Images.  Right click on them.

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