Hypothetical and Situational Scenarios

What would you do if one of your students stood up and threw a book at you in the middle of a social studies lesson? Many teacher interviews include situational or hypothetical questions that test your ability to think on your feet and apply your teaching philosophy to a real-life event. Let's be honest—these are challenging simply because it is difficult to prepare for any single situation. Quite often, the question asked may be an isolated event or situation that recently occurred in the school. I recall an interview many years ago when the interviewer, completely out of the blue, asked me, "What would you do if you caught two of your male students in a sexual encounter in the bathroom?" As you might imagine, it was not a question I had anticipated, nor was it one I had prepared for. I recall stumbling my way through a response that seemed to satisfy the interviewer; yet I could only think the question was asked as a result of a recent incident. Yes, it caught me off guard, but I had practiced with other "hypotheticals" prior to the interview. (Incidentally, I was offered the job.)


In a recent survey of teacher candidates around the country, it was reported that 38 percent of them were asked to respond to hypothetical or situational questions during an interview. Only about 20 percent of the candidates had rehearsed or prepared for those questions in advance of their interviews.

In the preceding chapters, I have presented you with 149 questions that principals and other hiring officers across the country regularly ask candidates for teaching positions in their schools, and I've provided you with surefire answers that, when molded to fit your experiences and educational views, will give these interviewers a positive view of your suitability to the job. In this chapter, I offer a bonus: additional questions of this situational type.

It seems reasonable to expect that you will get one or more situational or hypothetical questions during the course of an interview. It's important to remember that there are no absolutely perfect answers to these questions—there are differences of opinion, different philosophies, and different strategies used, depending on experience and background. In short, no two people will give the same answer to these queries. What is more important is that, quite often, these kinds of questions are asked to gauge three things:

Your problem-solving abilities. Every day, teachers are faced with situations and events for which there are no easy answers and for which they may not have received training. A student has an epileptic seizure in your classroom, a parent walks into your classroom swearing at you about his child's report card, a student steals money from your purse—these are all events that will test your problem-solving abilities.. .and your patience. If you can solve problems quickly in an often stressful interview situation, then it is likely you will be able to solve them in the classroom.

Your poise. Do you get flustered when presented with a new situation? Can you handle unexpected stress? Interviewers want to know how composed and how rational you will be in the often chaotic world of classroom teaching. Can you maintain a calm, collected demeanor, or will you "fly off the handle" at the slightest disruption?


"We once had a candidate who said, 'Excuse me,' got up at the start of the interview, got in his car, and drove away."

3. Your general views about sound educational practices. Are you aware of some of the common ways of handling discipline or maintaining classroom order? Do you know some of the "best practices" that differentiate the average teacher from the superior teacher? Are you comfortable with the principles and practices of child or adolescent psychology and their application in a classroom environment? While you may not be able to provide a perfect answer to a situational event, you should, at least, be comfortable with current research, practices, and principles regarding human nature and child development to formulate an appropriate response.

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