The reasons you want to be a teacher are undoubtedly many. Who you are as a person and how you would like to share your personality with students are significant factors in why you chose to be a teacher. So, too, will they be significant in terms of your success in an interview. A teacher's personality is a major and predominant factor in the success of students within that teacher's influence as well as the success that teacher will experience in an interview situation.
Good classroom teachers are joyful. They are excited about learning, and they transmit that excitement to their students. They relish in the thrill of discovery and the natural curiosity of students. And they are stimulated by the unknown and are amazed at what can be learned, not just at what is learned.
Those three factors—who you are, your personality, and your excitement about teaching—should also be part of any teacher interview. You must demonstrate your passion for teaching! If you are passionate about teaching, it will come through loud and clear in an interview. On the other hand, if you are noncommittal, blasé, or simply "flat," that will also show up. Your passion for teaching must be evident in every word you say, question you answer, and gesture you use.
There are three major components every interviewer looks for in a potential employee: expertise, trustworthiness, and dynamism. Dynamism means that you must be "energized" about teaching and kids—that teaching is your raison d'etre. This sense of dynamism, which you show through your excitement and enthusiasm, means that nothing will stop you from providing a group of students with learning opportunities second to none and that you have a positive personality, a sunny disposition, and a friendly demeanor. You are a doer, not a watcher. You are an advocate, not a complainer. And you are an explorer, not a "paper pusher."
You must exude enthusiasm for teaching in what you say and how you say it. Obviously, you don't want to go overboard, but you do want to let the interviewer know of your excitement and enthusiasm. You do want to demonstrate your passion.
Body language is a significant source of information about an individual. It consists of body posture, hand and facial gestures, and facial expressions. Although there is much still to be learned about the effect of body language on how we perceive others, we do know that as much as 70 percent of human communication consists of body language—with the remainder consisting of words themselves.
The body language you display in a teacher interview will provide the interviewer with important clues about your attitude or your state of mind. For example, how you present yourself may indicate traits such as aggressiveness, boredom, amusement, pleasure, relaxation, lack of interest, dishonesty, or fear. In short, the position of your body (and body parts) during an interview will have a significant bearing on how you will be perceived as a person and as a teacher.
Here are some tips on how you can present yourself in the best way:
• Please practice your handshake. This is a critical "first impression"; the quality of your handshake can frequently determine how well the interview begins. A good handshake (for both men and women) should not be too limp (denotes insecurity, disinterest, and weakness) or too firm (denotes aggression, control, and overt authority). Here are a few tips for the ideal handshake:
Look the person in the eye (don't look at the hands doing the shaking).
Lean slightly in toward the person with your right shoulder.
Extend your right arm so that it is parallel with the floor.
Grasp the right hand of the other person with the thumbs interlocked.
As soon as your hands touch, make a verbal greeting ("Good morning, Mr. Jensen. It's a pleasure to meet you.").
Give the other person's hand a single firm shake, up and down about one or two inches.
Make sure you give the other person the same amount of hand pressure as he or she is giving you.
Let go. Don't hang on too long.
I know it probably seems silly and old-fashioned, but the quality of a handshake (and an accompanying smile) is the first vital piece of information an interviewer learns about you. Give a sloppy handshake, a limp handshake, or a "muscle-shake" and you may send the wrong message even before the interview actually begins. I strongly suggest several practice sessions with adults (not fellow students). A handshake may seem like a minor element of an interview; but it has major implications.
Oh, my gosh! Do I even need to mention it? PLEASE—no "fist bumps"!
When sitting down, don't hunch your shoulders. Try to sit with your shoulders squared and your back straight.
Never fold your arms across your chest. This is often seen as a sign of aggression or superiority—these are not good traits.
Occasionally nod your head as the interviewer talks with you. This shows your interest without interrupting the flow of conversation. However, don't turn into a bobble-head; keep the nodding to an acceptable level.
Make sure your head is erect. Don't tip it to the side. Try to focus on keeping your chin parallel to the floor. When in doubt, always try to keep your eyes focused on the bridge of the interviewer's nose.
When sitting down, keep your feet close together or cross your legs. A wide space between your feet or knees is often interpreted as a signal that you are bored or uncommitted. Also, don't swing your legs back and forth, tap your foot on the floor, bounce your leg up and down, slide your feet in and out of your shoes, or continually cross and uncross your legs.
Be aware of your facial expressions. Our facial expressions can cause physiological reactions in our bodies. For example, if our face is screwed up tight, we feel anxious. On the other hand, if we relax our facial muscles, our entire body relaxes, too. Other negative facial expressions include tight lips, squinted eyes, and frowns. You should practice with pleasant and relaxed facial expressions. The best one of all: a smile...an honest, sincere, and personable smile. Remember what Victor Borge once said, "A smile is the shortest distance between two people." That's great advice for an interview, too.
• Occasionally, use hand gestures to make a point or to emphasize your enthusiasm. Don't overdo it, however. On the other hand, there are some hand gestures you should never do. Here's a list of some of the most annoying or distracting:
Cracking your knuckles
Tapping a pen or pencil
Touching or smoothing your hair
Putting your hand or fingers in front of your mouth
Stroking your chin
Biting your nails
Jiggling keys or coins in your pocket
Bending a paper clip back and forth
Touching your face
Folding your hands behind your head
Fixing or smoothing your clothing
Twisting your ring around on your finger
The best advice: Fold your hands on your lap or hold a pen in one hand (please don't click it or tap it) and a notebook or legal pad in the other.
Lean slightly into the interview. A slight lean conveys your interest in the interviewer and in the interview. Don't overdo this, however. The lean should be almost imperceptible, the top half of your back slightly away from the chair back and the bottom half of your back against the chair back. This posture is a good one to practice well before the interview.
FROM THE PRINCIPAL'S DESK:
"I also like to see how the body responds under pressure. The body language at the interview will give me insight as to what I can expect in the future."