A. Questions About the School/District
Let's assume you have researched the school/district via their Web site in the days prior to the interview. You've gathered information about their location, mission statement, physical facilities, sports teams, and philosophies. Perhaps you had the opportunity to talk to or communicate with some of the teachers or staff. You may have even been able to make a pre-interview visit to scope out the school grounds, watch the interactions between staff members, or visit one or two classrooms. All of that "homework" is valuable simply because it gives you a "feel" for the philosophy of the school, the atmosphere, and its day-to-day operation.
Equally important is the fact that all of that preliminary work will help you craft questions specific to that particular school. Instead of asking, "How is the cross country team doing this year?" (which could be used for any school) you might ask, "I see the cross country team has had some tough meets this year. As a former long-distance runner I'd like to contribute my expertise. What kinds of coaching opportunities in cross country or track would Lumberjack High School have?" Such a question would be specific to the school with whom you are interviewing.
FROM THE PRINCIPAL'S DESK:
"Don't ever ask a direct question of a certain individual sitting on a hiring panel. It puts the person on the spot."
This is not the time to ask questions that can be easily accessed via the Internet or through school or district publications. By asking such questions, you reveal that you haven't done your homework and you waste valuable interview time that could be better spent on other issues. Here are some appropriate questions to consider:
What would you say are some of the strengths of this school/district?
What are some of the challenges you anticipate in the next five years?
I'm very student-oriented. Would you please describe the student body in more detail?
What are some of the ways in which parents participate in school activities?
You mentioned [a curriculum initiative] a few minutes ago. Could you tell me a little more about this?
What new academic programs or extracurricular activities are being considered for the coming year?
What are some of the support services for students?
How is the curriculum aligned with state or national standards?
What are some of your long-term goals for the school? For teachers?
What do you see as some of your most pressing challenges in the coming year?
B. Questions About the Job/Position
Plan to ask one or two questions specifically about the position you are interviewing for. These questions should be designed to obtain more information about the specific responsibilities of the position as well as the day-to-day activities you would be expected to perform. This is a perfect opportunity to ask questions that will open the door on how you will be able to answer the single-most important question (see Chapter 6).
Don't ask questions with "yes/no" answers ("Do you have a teacher-mentor program?"). It's important for you to pose questions allowing the interviewer an extended response—and you a chance to show how you can positively contribute to that situation.
Could you please describe your teacher-mentor program?
I noticed that the school is departmentalized. What do you see as some of the advantages of that organization?
What types of opportunities are there for team teaching?
How would you describe parent expectations for students? For teachers?
I'm very interested in building my skills as a teacher. What staff development opportunities are offered?
What are some of the challenges you're experiencing in the reading program (or any other curriculum area)?
What types of responsibilities outside the classroom are teachers expected to do?
What do you see as some of the opportunities for community involvement?
In what ways does the school/district support or encourage graduate work?
How did this position open up?
FROM THE PRINCIPAL'S DESK:
"One of the best questions a candidate can ask in an interview is 'What opportunities for professional development can the district offer me?'"