: How would you handle a student saying, "You are the worst teacher ever! I hate you!"
A: I would remember to focus on the behavior rather than on the student. I might say something like, "It seems as though you are upset with me. Would you care to explain further?" When teachers get comments like that, the worst response would be to put the student on the spot. Instead, a conversation is more productive when the emphasis shifts to the actual comment rather than the student's personality. I've also discovered that sending an "I message" is a very productive way of diffusing the student's anger, with a message such as "I understand that you are upset with me. I wonder if you can tell me why." To build up the trust necessary for an effective conversation, it's valuable to let the student vent and then get to the heart of the anger without assaulting the student's emotions.
This kind of question is a test of your discipline and classroom-management philosophy. Demonstrate that you are up on the latest behavioral strategies and techniques for handling student issues. If you were to say something like "I'd make the student go stand in the corner for ten minutes," you would clearly show that you do not have the student's best interests in mind or that you were not aware of appropriate behavior-management techniques. Make sure you can cite a specific technique (by name) and how you would apply it to a specific situation.
: What do you want your students to remember about your classroom?
A: I want students to remember my classroom as a comfortable place that supported their needs, both physically and psychologically, and in which each student felt secure and respected. I want my students to know that the classroom is their place; that it's not just the teacher's place into which they have been temporarily invited. I want them to know that the classroom invites student engagement and celebrates the work of all students. I want them to have a sense of ownership in the classroom, a sense that this is a place that supports, encourages, and respects each and every individual as a unique and contributing member of the class. I want them to believe that their "investment of self' in the classroom will pay off in incredible educational dividends and lifelong emotional growth.
This is another question that taps into your philosophy of education. That is to say, are you child-centered, or are you subject-centered? Do you place students ahead of standards, curriculum, and rules, or is it the other way around? Keep your response to this question focused on students, and you'll always score points.
FROM THE PRINCIPAL'S DESK:
"I am always impressed with candidates who have a 'children first' orientation with compassion and a missionary mindset."
: If an administrator visited your classroom, what would he or she see?
A: She would see an educational environment in which every student is respected, trusted, and learning. She would see an active classroom where students are never absorbing information passively, but are, instead, actively participating in a curriculum that puts a premium on personal and meaningful engagement. She would see students taking responsibility for their learning through self-established goals, with projects and activities that are pedagogically sound and standards-based. She would see students achieving and challenged through higher-level-thinking questions, specific RTI activities, and a teacher dedicated to success. She would see a classroom that embraces every student's cognitive and affective potential. She would see a community of learners!
The answer to this question should focus, not on the physical environment, but rather on your philosophy of education. This is a question that gets to the heart of what it means to be a teacher. Here's where you can let your beliefs and your values shine. But be careful—this is not the time to ramble. Be concise, and keep your answer to two minutes or less.
: If you are not successful in getting a full-time job, what will you do?
A: I am committed to teaching and education. Being a teacher is my top professional goal. I believe I can make a very positive contribution to this field, and I'm willing to wait for the right opportunity to make that happen. If it's not a full-time position, then I would be equally happy to be listed on any number of substitute teaching lists. The more opportunities I have to expand and improve my teaching abilities will be beneficial to my long-term goals. If I don't get that full-time job, I'll work harder, volunteer more, and take any opportunity I can to work with youngsters. This is what I want to do, and I'll take advantage of every opportunity possible to do it.
Don't be shy! Share your passion for teaching and your commitment to education. It's important that the interviewer knows of your universal desire to teach, your intense and dedicated drive to make a difference in the lives of children. That commitment must show through, just as much for a full-time teaching position as for a place on the substitute teaching list. By demonstrating that universal desire, you provide the interviewer with both reason and rationale for any and all positions in the school or in the district.