: Why do you want to be a teacher?
A: I'm passionate about kids. I've worked as a volunteer at the YMCA camp, I've coached a Little League baseball team, and I was a guest storyteller for one semester at Candy Cane Elementary School. I believe I can be a positive influence in the lives of children. One of my professors always used to say that teachers should be outstanding role models for children. I believe I'm a good model because I'm involved in the lives of kids—not just in the classroom, but in all those activities that take place outside the classroom.
This question is actually two questions in one. An interviewer is often looking for the response to "How dedicated are you?" and "How passionate are you?" If you can succinctly address those two queries, you will always impress an interviewer. Make sure the focus is on your specific reasons for entering the teaching profession. A response like "Many members of my family, including my grandmother, my aunt, two nieces, and my mother, have been teachers, so it seemed natural for me to become one, too" will always turn off an interviewer. Keep the focus on your reasons.
: What are your goals in education? Where do you see yourself five years from now? How does this position fit into your career plans?
A: First, I want to be the best teacher possible. To do that, I've set three primary goals for myself. I'd like a position that challenges me; one where I can continue to grow and develop as a teacher. Second, I'd like to be a positive influence in the lives of children at both the cognitive and affective levels. Third, I'd like to include the community in the total education of children. Based on what I have learned so far, I believe Running Brook Intermediate School offers me the best opportunity to accomplish those goals. I would hope to be here for many years—growing, learning, and contributing right alongside my students.
You can count on being asked this question in an interview. The interviewer wants some assurance that you plan to stay in the school/district for an extended period of time. This is also a great opportunity to answer the always unasked question (see Chapter 6), because your permanence in the school/district will relieve the principal of one more responsibility—having to hire another teacher. In short, the principal wants to know if you plan to stay in the position over the long haul and if you've given thought to the future beyond your first year of teaching.
: Describe a time in student teaching when you failed to resolve a classroom conflict.
A: We had this student in second grade—Matthew—who was hyperactive. He was on meds, but his parents always forgot to give him his medication before he came to school. As a result, one of us had to maintain close proximity to Matthew throughout the day to keep him in check. In hindsight, I would have worked harder to establish open lines of communication with his parents. I would have created a more intensive classroom behavior- modification program that would have rewarded Matthew for good behavior. I would have focused more on those times when Matthew exhibited good behavior and would have established a concrete plan of action to record those successes.
A principal or interviewer wants to hear not just about the successes you've had, but also how you have dealt with some of the inevitable challenges of day-to-day teaching. Again, always focus on the positive; never blame a student or his parents. Show what you learned as a result of this experience and how you might use that experience to address a similar challenge in the future. Keep the spotlight on the fact that you are vitally interested in improving your teaching skills; that you are always willing to grow and learn.
Make it a point to tell the interviewer some facts about yourself that show how you are different from all the other candidates. Instead of saying "I successfully completed student teaching," say something like "During student teaching, I helped establish a before-school 'Thinkathon,' helping kids with problem-solving skills." Always distinguish yourself from everyone else.