What steps would you take with a student who was disruptive in your classroom?
A: First, I would make sure my intervention was quiet, calm, and inconspicuous. For example, one day I saw that Michael was not paying attention in class. So I used his name in part of my presentation, as follows: "As an example, let's measure Michael's height in centimeters." Michael had been whispering to his neighbor. When he heard his name, he was drawn back into the lesson with no disruption of the class. I also believe that the more immediate a reprimand, the less likely a student will feel I condone his or her behavior. And, perhaps most important, reprimands should be kept brief. The more I talk, for example, the more I will distract from the lesson and the more I "reward" a student for inappropriate behavior.
This is another opportunity in which a personal example or anecdote will help to illustrate your point and your philosophy. Show the interviewer that you've had some first-hand experiences and that you knew how to deal with them. Don't even think about suggesting that the student be sent to the principal's office. If you do, you're dead!
FROM THE PRINCIPAL'S DESK:
"We have had candidates carry in suitcases of dusty art and materials they spread out all over the table. Some used it, but it was mostly overkill."
What, for you, is the most important aspect about discipline?
A: Discipline is not about getting students to do what I want them to do.
That's what dictators do, and I don't see myself as a dictator. Discipline is providing an environment in which positive teaching and learning can occur simultaneously; it's order from within. To get that, I need to teach my students proper discipline. During the first weeks of school, I need to establish a set of expectations, the specific details of those expectations, and the consequences if those expectations are not followed. For me, nothing is more important than a well-crafted and well-articulated discipline policy. If it is true that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," then the time I take at the start of the school year will pay enormous dividends throughout the rest of the school year.
Discipline questions always pop up in interviews, whether you are an elementary teacher or a secondary educator. Know discipline inside and out! Know discipline like the back of your hand, and know how to state your discipline policy clearly and compellingly.
What classroom-management techniques do you use or are you most comfortable with?
A: I had a very interesting conversation with my cooperating teacher early in my student teaching experience. She gave me a piece of advice I've never forgotten and which I've used on numerous occasions. She said that teachers often make the mistake of using "stop" messages rather than "start" messages. For example, "Stop talking. We need to get started." A better message is "Get out your math books, and turn to page 44." I learned that a "start" message establishes a productive, businesslike tone for a lesson. The focus is not on the negative behavior, but rather on the importance of the lesson. When I began to practice that philosophy in my own classroom, I saw some tremendous changes—very positive changes, I might add.
This is a great opportunity to share a story or personal anecdote that demonstrates how you put a philosophy or concept into practice. It would be equally important to share how that opportunity helped you become a better teacher.
What are some things teachers do that create classroom-management problems?
A: Teachers sometimes, inadvertently, create discipline problems through certain kinds of behaviors. Professor Lewiston shared some of the most common behaviors. These included 1) extreme negativity; 2) an excessively authoritative climate; 3) overreacting; 4) mass punishment; 5) blaming; 6) lack of instructional goals; and 7) not recognizing students' ability levels. I learned that avoiding these, and other similar behaviors, can go a long way toward creating a climate of trust and caring that will significantly reduce misbehavior.
Describe your knowledge of the inappropriate behaviors in addition to your own personal reaction to those behaviors. Let the interviewer know that you are aware of factors that may have a negative influence on students' learning and that you are conscious of what you need to do to avoid those behaviors.