Describe a situation in which you made a difference in a child's life.

A: Karen was one of the students in Mrs. Ginnodo's fourth-grade classroom. I had been assigned there in order to complete some of my field experience hours. Karen had been through a succession of foster homes, didn't have a father, and barely knew anything about her mother. She had two dresses that she alternated wearing from day to day. She had seen tough times, and likely would continue to do so. But, for some reason, she and I connected. I have always enjoyed horseback riding, and Karen was a fan of horses. So I hunted up some horse books in the school library, and we read them together. We talked about horses, made models of horses, wrote horse stories together, created a PowerPoint presentation on horses, and even visited a friend's horse farm one Saturday morning. Probably, for the first time in her life, she smiled. And, probably, for the first time in her life, someone took the time to learn something about her. One of my professors always talks about the power of the affect in education. I got an opportunity to see that power in action.. .and I'll never forget it!

I particularly like this question. It provides an insight into the real educational philosophy of a candidate that goes beyond book learning and memorized strategies. It allows me to see into the true character of a person and whether his or her commitment to teaching is sincere and passionate. In short, are they in it for more than just a job? You would be well-served to practice this question (and your response). Of course, this is not the time to pontificate ("If it wasn't for me, she would never have), but rather be humble. Focus on the affective side of teaching, and let the interviewer know that you have been touched by students as much as you have by your own teachers and professors.

INSIDER TIP

Make sure you have some stories about yourself. Make sure they are relevant to teaching, that some involve experiences other than student teaching, and that they are short. Generally, 45 seconds is plenty of time for an anecdote.

Describe the best teacher you ever had and what he or she taught you about teaching.

A: That would be Mr. Hart, my 11th-grade English teacher. He was tough, demanding, challenging, and uncompromising. He never took second best— we had to turn in our best work, or it would come back to us with "Do Over" penned across the front. We probably had more to say about Mr. Hart— unflattering, to be sure—than any other teacher we had. But, as I look back, he taught me more about writing than anyone else. He taught me that writing is a subject of exactness, a subject of details and definitions. "You can't be mushy," he would say. He pushed us to new heights, prodded us into new and often uncomfortable areas, and made us all better writers. One of the primary reasons I want to be an English teacher is because Mr. Hart took an average student like me and turned her into a far better writer than she would have been otherwise. I want to make that difference in students' lives, too!

Most of us have been positively influenced by one or more teachers. We get into teaching because some teacher made a profound difference in our lives. Let the interviewer know how this person made a difference in your life and how you want to "pass the baton" to a new generation of learners. This is the time to be passionate, sincere, and complimentary. Like you, I've had a few really tough teachers in my life, but they planted some powerful seeds that have taken root and sprouted in each and every class I teach today. Make sure the interviewer knows precisely how you've been influenced and how you will influence others.

 
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