What do you want to achieve as a teacher?
A: I want my students to achieve to the best of their abilities. I want them to be successful, not just in mathematics, but in life. I want them to see how math touches every aspect of our lives, how it helps us solve problems, tackle difficult assignments, and think more clearly. I want to be more than just a math teacher—I want to motivate, model, and inspire; I want to make a difference in both mathematics and everyday life.
State your philosophy clearly and succinctly. This is a question that taps into your true reasons for teaching, whether you've given thought to your future, your educational and career goals, and your aspirations. Don't hedge on this one; plan it out ahead of time. It will definitely come up in one form or another.
Why do you want to teach?
A: I had a professor in college who always used to say, "To learn is to change." That saying really captures a feeling that has always influenced me simply because I see all the positive changes that have occurred in my life through education. I want those changes to be part of what I share with young people. I want students to see how education can keep us current, keep us growing and changing throughout our lives. It's not the accumulation of knowledge that is important; it is what we do with that knowledge that keeps change happening, and that keeps us growing. I want to initiate and fan those flames in my students as much as my teachers have done in me.
Provide some evidence that you have given this question serious consideration. Make sure a sincere and committed desire to teach comes through loud and clear. Every principal has heard "Because I want to make a difference in kids' lives." Try something new, something that refers to a specific reason or incident in your life that propelled you into education. This would be a good opportunity to weave a short anecdote or personal story into your response.
The "small talk" at the beginning of an interview is critical. It helps establish a conversational tone for the rest of the interview. Respond to questions with something more than a "yes" or "no." Be sure to ask your own questions that will require something more than a "yes" or "no" from the interviewer.
What personal skill or work habit have you struggled to improve?
A: Early in my student teaching experience, I often found it difficult to say "no." I volunteered for everything. I guess I just saw so many jobs that needed to be done that I jumped in and wanted to do them all. I soon saw that this was taking time away from lesson planning, classroom management, and individualized instruction. Now, instead of trying to be all things to all people, I try to tackle those ancillary duties that will have the greatest impact on student learning. I haven't perfected that yet, but I'm much better now at managing my time.
This is a good opportunity to highlight a task or chore that popped up early in student teaching. It would be appropriate to select something that everyone struggles with—time management, lesson planning, classroom management—and ways you tried to improve yourself as a result. Don't select something that is personal ("I have anger-management issues with three of my ex-boyfriends."); instead, select something that is universal to all teachers.
What three expectations do you hold for yourself?
A: When I'm teaching children, I always want to be fair and consistent. I know that fairness isn't about treating everyone the same; it's giving each student what he or she needs. I also want to be flexible. I know that no two teaching days are the same, and I need to be able to bend, adjust, and modify at the proverbial drop of a hat. If I can't change when something comes up unexpectedly, then I may be cheating my students out of some wonderful learning opportunities. But, above all, I expect myself to be a good role model for children. I want to display all the joy and excitement I have about education and let my students be part of that enthusiasm. I've always believed that good teachers are good models, and I never want to forget that in any classroom or academic activity.
This is the flip side of 'Why do you want to teach?" Can you provide the interviewer with three concrete reasons why you entered this profession? Can you convincingly explain, in a few short sentences, your motivation for teaching?
What are your professional goals for the next five years?
A: First, I want to attend graduate school and get my master's in curriculum and instruction. Beyond that, I would like to continue to take graduate courses and in-service courses so that I can stay current in the field. Second, I would like to attend a number of regional and national conferences so that I can connect with other middle school teachers in addition to staying up to date on the latest strategies and techniques for teaching at the middle school level. Third, I would like to contribute to some professional magazines and journals. One of my college professors helped me prepare a paper for submission to a student publication, and I guess the writing bug really bit me as a result. I'd like to write some articles and share my ideas and thoughts on teaching social studies.
Have a plan of action; if you don't, the position will probably be offered to someone else. Make sure that your plan includes a focus on the school's needs. Don't say that you want a graduate degree because you'll make more money; rather, say that you want to attend grad school in order to stay current and make more of a contribution to the school.
Don't begin any graduate work until after your second year of teaching. You need time after your undergraduate work for your brain to decompress and rejuvenate. Your first two years of teaching will take all your time and attention, and you don't need to be distracted with the academic requirements of one or more graduate courses. After your second year of teaching, you will be much better prepared to tackle graduate work and to see its direct implications in your classroom.