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Interview Tips for Teachers

Rick Bowman - Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Whether you are seeking promotion or applying for a classroom teaching position, the panel continually asks itself the same question – What special qualities, experiences, attributes and potential does this person bring to our school?

The onus is therefore on you as the applicant, to provide the panel with as much information as you can that will whet their appetite and excite them about the prospect of employing you!

Preparation is the key. The best performers at interview are invariably those who put in the time preparing what they want to say. There are various schools of thought on this topic, but the one strategy that stands out above all others – one that is tried and tested – is the use of “stories”. If applying for a teacher or faculty head job the panel might ask you a question like “What do you consider to be the important features of an inclusive classroom?”  Rather than replying with a philosophical treatise, much greater impact can be achieved by telling a “story” as well – “I firmly believe the key to an inclusive classroom is pedagogy and material that will engage and interest every student. And then tell the story: Last year I worked with a Year 9 maths class with a very wide range of abilities. By remodelling and differentiating the curriculum to provide challenges for students at all levels I generated excitement and success for all students in the class. Some specific strategies I used were….”.

The same applies to leadership positions. For example, a question like “How do you motivate staff?” is so broad that it invites responses across a multitude of themes. Focus on one or two ideas. In preparing a response you could begin with one or two key philosophical statements such as “I believe the key to motivating staff is to ensure they are involved in collaborative planning and are recognised for their efforts”. It is very wise then to follow this up with some specifics such as “In the role of faculty head my major task was to engage staff with the new senior maths curriculum. With a number of teachers who were against the new changes because of their controversial nature, I adopted some strategies to dispel their fears, overcome their opposition and gain their support. For example I negotiated a key leadership role for one of these teachers with many years’ experience, recognising her expertise and attending a number of training sessions with her. We then co-presented a staff seminar on the new curriculum. Another strategy I used was…..”

Remember….LESS IS MORE and MORE IS LESS. Avoid too many examples or stories to emphasise a point (two is ample). Make your stories cover a breadth of scenarios, rather than focusing on one area.

And what if you haven’t had the chance to give them your “gold”? At the end of every interview the panel chair will say something like  ”That concludes  our questions, but before we finish, is there anything you would like to add?” Around 90% of interviewees don’t capitalise on this and respond with “No thanks!” or slightly better, they might ask a prepared question. This is an opportunity not to be missed – here’s where you can tell them your golden story! Maybe have something brilliant up your sleeve just for this occasion!

In closing – be sure to do your homework on the school. If it’s a state school, zoom in on the state Department of Education’s priorities which are the basis for the annual school plan. These are sure to be key elements in the school’s future and things worth considering in your responses. If an independent or catholic school – research the website or state-based Cath. Ed site, and talk to colleagues to find out the school’s future directions and how you might bring value to the new role. Many principals are accepting of people calling up to arrange to visit their school – so why not consider this strategy?

All the best for your future success!

Rick Bowman 

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