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What You Need to Know About Interviews

For most of my life I was a long-distance runner. In high school, college, four years in the armed services, graduate school, and through most of my teaching career, I continued to run long distances. For me, one of the best parts of the day was when I came home from a long day of teaching. I'd throw on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, lace up my running shoes, and take off for a run of six or eight miles. Occasionally I'd run up and down rolling hills, along dusty lanes, or around the perimeter of a public golf course. Every so often I'd lope over to the local high school to do some interval work on the track. About once a month or so (more in the summertime), I would enter and run a 10K race. Occasionally I would get a trophy or medal for my placement in the race. However, it wasn't the awards that were important to me, but rather the opportunity to run faster than I had in a previous race at the same distance.

I had learned early that the more effort I put into my daily runs the better I would do in the races I entered throughout the year. As a former college coach put it succinctly, "There are only three ways to be a good long-distance runner—run, run, run!"

And guess what: There are only three ways to be successful in a teacher interview— prepare, prepare, prepare! If all you do is put together a resume, send out letters to three dozen schools, and keep your fingers crossed, you may be very disappointed... and jobless! You need to prepare. You need to go the extra mile (or two). Here's the key to getting the teaching job you want: You need to distinguish yourself in some positive way from other candidates vying for the same position(s).

Getting a teaching position must be an active process; it should never be a passive project. Doing what everyone else does (sending out endless batches of applications, correspondence, letters of recommendation, and resumes) will seldom guarantee you a job. You need to set yourself apart from the crowd, distinguish yourself as a candidate of promise, and demonstrate initiative, drive, and enthusiasm. Anything less, and you'll be seen as one of many rather than one of a kind!

The Themes of a Teacher Interview

When a principal, superintendent, or committee interviews potential teachers, there are several themes they have in mind. While this book provides you with 149 of the most frequently asked questions in an interview (along with suggested responses), it's important to remember that all of these questions and all of the other parts of a teacher interview are centered on eight basic themes. By knowing these universal themes—and by preparing for each one—you can assure yourself of a positive reaction by a prospective employer.

One way to look at each of these eight themes is to imagine each as part of a sales message. Each one is designed to highlight and showcase your skills, abilities, and attitudes in the most favorable light. Each one is designed to separate the mediocre from the good and the good from the great. Everything you do, everything you say, and everything that occurs in a teacher interview is tied to these themes—separately and collectively.

I encourage you to read through these themes. Then, try some of the following:

Think about each one, and develop a personalized approach to each one.

Write or record a response—how would your talents, skills, philosophy, and abilities address each theme?

Take apart your resume, and reassign your personal information to every theme.

Tell a friend (not in education) how you would present yourself in regards to the themes.

Write each theme on an index card and carry the cards around with you. Pull the cards out during the course of the day and review them...and review your responses.

In short, prepare yourself to respond—in both word and action—to these key themes and you'll be ready for any interview.. .and any interview question.

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