What are the three courses you took that shaped the teacher you will be?
A: I took "Teaching Elementary Science" from Professor Sunday. She got me excited about inquiry-based science education, an approach that stimulates student questions and offers opportunities for students to pursue answers to their own self-initiated questions. In "Teaching Elementary Social Studies,"
Dr. Hansen taught me about the value of "hands-on, minds-on" teaching— not only providing children with necessary information, but giving them an opportunity to do something with that information. I also took "Topics in Children's Literature" from Dr. Smithton, who showed me the value of a literature-rich curriculum. I discovered some incredible books that I can use in all subject areas, not just reading. These three courses, and these three individuals, showed me that teaching can be dynamic and practical for each and every student in a classroom. They are lessons I will never forget.
Celebrate not only the courses that made an impact on your philosophy, but the people who taught those courses, too. If they are as good as you say they are, it is very likely the interviewer will know who they are (by reputation, at least) and will know how they have influenced other teachers hired by the district.
Interviewers are most interested in hiring your strengths and achievements. They especially want what you have done or what you can do—not simply what you believe, or feel, or think.
What sets you apart from the crowd?
A: I guess you could say that I'm success-oriented. I really like it when my students succeed—not just one or two, but when everyone has the chance to improve in some selected area, whether that is social studies, science, music, or language arts. I've been known to create several different versions of the same lesson plan—my own differentiated curriculum—so that every child has the opportunity to enjoy some measure of success. My friends would say that success is my passion; my college supervisor says it's part of who I am. It's something I hope will be part of every lesson I create and will make a difference for every child I work with.
Don't sound arrogant with your answer to this question, but display a sense of confidence. This would be a good opportunity to bring in the perceptions and evaluations of others, particularly those who have observed you during your student teaching experience. Your answer should also be short and pithy; never drone on about everything you did during student teaching or in your pre-service field experiences.
How would your best friend describe you?
A: I've known Brian ever since we were in seventh grade together at Carbondale Academy for Boys. He would probably say that I was determined, because I'm always setting goals for myself and working to make sure they are all accomplished. He would also say that I have a unique sense of humor, particularly puns, because I'm always trying to manipulate words and phrases in humorous ways. And he would also say that I'm a hard worker. Once I start a job, I just can't let go until it's finished.
A good response to this frequently asked question is to focus on three personality features that carry over into the classroom. Traits such as hard worker, goal-oriented person, accomplished musician, and good listener are all indicative of good teachers, and you should bring these kinds of traits to the attention of the interviewer. Don't share traits (even though they may be true) that are not classroom-related. Your ability to dismantle the engine in a '57 Chevy or ride a Brahma bull for a minimum of eight seconds are not classroom-related attributes. Decide ahead of time on the three talents or personality dynamics you want to emphasize—particularly as they relate to classroom life.