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Zingers! (and 25 Dynamite Answers)

It's inevitable—sometime during your teacher interview, you'll be thrown a zinger!

It may be about a particularly difficult aspect of teaching; it may be about an education initiative or new piece of legislation; or it may be something about your background or experiences that you're not keen on discussing. These questions are full of stress, anxiety, and potential dangers. These questions seldom have single right answers; instead, the interviewer is interested in seeing how you think on your feet, how you handle yourself under stress, and how composed you are when presented with a situation that has no easy answers.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you can always expect one of these "toughies." Knowing that you will probably get one or two is the best way to prepare for your interview. While you won't know the exact questions you'll be asked, you will be prepared for them in advance. In fact, one of the best ways to prepare is to invite a friend to ask you some of the questions below over a period of several days prior to a scheduled interview.

It's important to remember that these are intentionally stressful—you know it, and the interviewer knows it. Don't let your confidence be shaken—maintain your calm, poise, and positive attitude. This is not the time to become defensive or argumentative; it is the time to demonstrate that you can handle the inevitable stressors that teachers face on a regular basis.

Of course, when asked one of these zingers, you shouldn't tell the interviewer that the question is unfair or inappropriate. A defensive posture will work to your

disadvantage. Try to answer these questions to the best of your ability. Don't fake it; the interviewer has likely asked this question in many interviews, and he or she will quickly know if you have tried to concoct a response that is insincere, inaccurate, or inappropriate. If you simply don't know an answer to a question, pause for a few moments, look the interviewer in the eye and simply and honesty inform him or her, "I'm afraid I can't answer that question."

EXTRA CREDIT

Whenever presented with a difficult question, it is always advisable to pause for a few extra seconds before responding. The interviewer knows the question is tough, and a thoughtful response will always get you more points than will the first thing that comes out of your mouth.

Following are 25 "zingers" that frequently pop up in teacher interviews. Of course, these are not the only challenging questions you'll be asked, but if you practice with these you'll be ready for almost anything an interviewer can throw at you.

: Tell me (us) a little about yourself.

A: I'm a goal-oriented individual; I set high standards for myself and my students. During student teaching, I was given the opportunity to set up a behavior-modification program for my students. It was a tremendous success because students were given an opportunity to help establish some of the parameters. I also worked closely with parents to create a homework project that got them more involved in the math curriculum. Also, I'm on the cross-country team in college, and each year I set new goals that have helped me achieve personal bests in both the 5K and 10K.

This is often the first question asked in an interview and can also be the most dangerous. Don't talk about generalities, and don't offer information that can easily be obtained from your resume. This is an excellent opportunity to help control the conversation by providing the interviewer with information he or she may wish to explore later in the interview. The key is to stay focused and be direct. Never take more than two minutes to answer this open-ended question. If you do, they'll lose interest even before they ask the next question.

EXTRA CREDIT

In responding to personal questions, keep the focus more on what you can do (or did) rather than on personal details. Instead of "I'm paying alimony to two ex-wives, my stepsister is in jail, and I've been unfairly accused of tax evasion by the IRS," try something like "I've always loved reading stories to children, sharing the magic of a book well-read and a story well-told."

 
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