: Why weren't your grades better?
A: I had a great educational experience. I learned a lot while in college—not only about the art of teaching, but also about myself. I learned that if you want to succeed you need to devote yourself 100 percent all the time. When I first got to college, I was overwhelmed by all the requirements, the responsibilities, and the activities on and off campus. I got involved in lots of clubs, organizations, and extra-curricular activities. As a result, my grades suffered during my first two years. It was only when I was enrolled in my teacher-preparation courses that I realized that I would need to buckle down and commit myself 100 percent to my chosen profession.
Whatever you do, don't make excuses when answering this question. Take responsibility for your actions (or inactions). Don't try to bluff your way out of this question; the interviewer probably has seen your transcript and knows exactly what your GPA is. Own up to your mistakes, and show how you have grown as a result. Never get defensive or place blame.
FROM THE PRINCIPAL'S DESK:
"When asked a question regarding GPA and education courses, a candidate responded as follows: 'I learned the hard way not to schedule a class for Fridays at 3:00—too close to Happy Hour.' Needless to say, I didn't hire him."
: Why did you decide to major in biology (or history or elementary education)?
A: Ever since I was in fifth grade, I've been fascinated with biology. I've always had a desire to know as much as I can about the flora and fauna of a particular area. I belong to the local chapter of the Isaac Walton League, I've worked at the state natural history museum as a summer intern, and I established a pond study project while I was in high school. Biology is a love of mine, and I can't think of anything I'd rather do than share my passion for the subject with a new generation of learners.
This is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your passion and ardor for a subject. Let the interviewer hear that excitement in your response; let him or her get a sense of how committed and sincere your interest is. Make sure you defend your choice of major with some specific examples of how you have used it outside of normal academic requirements (e.g., volunteer work; clubs, organizations, and community agencies; or out-of-classroom experiences). You'll earn major "brownie points" if you can show that your selection of a major was not one of convenience, but rather one of commitment.
: What do you think is the biggest challenge teachers face today?
A: Teachers are challenged from all sides—the media, parents, government officials, elected leaders, and communities. We are in the spotlight constantly. One of the greatest challenges we face is that of assessment. Are students learning to the best of their potential, and are teachers providing their students with the best-quality education possible? Educational initiatives such as "No Child Left Behind" and "Race to the Top" have put educational assessment on the front burner of educational reform. Are we teaching what we should be teaching, and are students achieving as they should be achieving? During my student teaching experience, I was able to fully integrate assessment throughout all my lesson plans—from beginning to end. For that, I can thank Dr. Cranshaw, who showed me how to effectively integrate assessment throughout any lesson or unit. I don't have all the answers regarding assessment, but I've had some excellent training and experiences I can use throughout my career.
Rule 1: Be sure you are up to date on the latest educational theories, initiatives, and issues. You will, sometime during the interview, be asked about your opinion or your experience in dealing with one of these concerns. Be sure to demonstrate how you have addressed an element of that issue sometime in your pre-service training. If you don't, you will be sending a very powerful message to the interviewer that you don't stay up to date and that you are unaware of what is happening outside the classroom. This is a mistake you can't afford to make.