C. Questions About the Teaching Environment
You want to know who you will be working with, some of the training opportunities provided to teachers, and how you can contribute to the overall program. While your focus in this section will be on those factors that take place during regular school hours, you also want to take this opportunity to demonstrate an interest in after-school contributions. Consider the following as possibilities:
In what ways do parents get involved with the school? How would you like teachers to promote parent participation?
What kinds of outreach or community-based initiatives have been implemented in the school in recent years?
What are some new innovations or programs recently implemented (for your grade level or subject areas)? What kind of success have you had with these programs?
How successful is your current discipline policy? What changes or modifications would you like to see?
What are some of the club, extra-curricular, or coaching opportunities for teachers?
What do you see as some of the major issues the school will need to address in the coming year? How would you like teachers to contribute to those challenges?
What computer or technological resources are available for first-year teachers?
I'm very interested in being part of a strong teaching team. In what ways do teachers get together—either during or after school hours—to build that teamwork?
D. Questions That Highlight Your Qualifications
Always include one or two questions that showcase how your special qualifications or abilities can be a match for the school's or district's needs. While framed as questions, these are incredible opportunities to underscore the talents you (and only you) can bring to the school.
The primary purpose of these questions is to show how you and the school are a match; that is to say, that you have skills and talents that can make a specific and positive contribution to the welfare of the school and the welfare of the students in that school. If you've done your pre-interview homework, you'll be aware of some of the issues or concerns the school may have and how you might be able to address those concerns. These questions will also help you promote your enthusiasm and interest in the position.
I worked with kids on a number of after-school programs during my student teaching experience and thoroughly enjoyed them. What opportunities are there for me to continue those efforts here?
I have good organizational and management skills. I've worked closely with our public library setting up summer reading programs and an active youth program. How might I contribute those skills to this school?
I enjoy working with students after the regular day is over. What extracurricular academic programs are offered? Which ones would you like to see offered?
Coaching is one of my passions, and I've been involved in youth volleyball programs. In what ways can I contribute my coaching experience to Snowy River Middle School?
As I mentioned, I have a lot of training in piano. In what ways would it be possible for me to assist with the music program?
I was a member of the Chess Club in college, and I've competed at the regional level. Chess has helped me be both an analytical and a critical thinker, and I'd like to contribute to that process here at Shady Glen Elementary School. What would be some of the possibilities?
E. Questions to Close the Interview
It is always to your advantage to sprinkle questions throughout the entire interview. That said, it is more than likely that the interviewer will end the interview by asking you if you have any final questions. This is not the time to bombard the interviewer with a dozen or more questions. It is, however, an excellent opportunity for you to "seal the deal" by posing one or two final questions. The questions you choose will depend on what you and the interviewer have discussed previously and the information you have shared about your qualifications and background.
Several interview experts suggest that this is the ideal time to ask when a decision will be made regarding the teaching position. Principals around the country seem to be divided on this point. Some told me that candidates demonstrate their sincere interest in the position by asking when a decision will be made, while other principals indicated that the question focuses too much on the candidate's needs rather than those of the school. Still, here are two suggested ways of asking the "decision question" while emphasizing your potential to the interviewer:
I sincerely believe that I can make a most positive contribution to Wide Open Spaces Elementary School. I would love to bring my background and expertise in working with remedial readers, in local community literacy programs, and tutoring at the Salvation Army to the school's overall reading program. When do you anticipate making your decision on the position?
I certainly share your concern about the decline in science achievement scores. I would hope that my student teaching experiences in the after-school Chemistry Club and my work with Professor Enzyme in judging local science fairs could be put to good use here at Stegosaurus High School. When would you hope to make a final decision?
Here are some other questions you may wish to consider near the conclusion of an interview:
What is your proudest accomplishment (as a principal, as a school)?
How might I be able to contribute to the success of the school?
How can teachers (or students, or parents, or community members) make this a better school?
Where would you like the social studies program to be in five years?
What would you like students to remember most about this school (after they leave or after they graduate)?
What one quality or attribute would you like to see in all your teachers?
What makes this a good school? What would make it a better school?
According to professional interviewer Tony Beshara, "If I have learned one thing since I got into this business, it is that the candidates who get the best jobs and make the best opportunities for themselves are the candidates who ask the best questions."
F. Questions You Shouldn't Even Think About Asking!!
Use the examples above, write them down, practice saying them out loud, and always have them at the ready to use at selected points in the discussion. But don't ask any of the following questions! If you do, you might as well pack up your bags and slip out the door, because you will have practically doomed your chances for any kind of job at that school. Trust me, the following questions—which I obtained directly from principals all across the country—are destined to make the principal's job just a little easier: They are guaranteed to eliminate you from any further consideration as a teacher candidate.
You'll quickly note that most of these questions are self-serving and self- involved. While some will be obvious "no-no's," others may appear to be less so. Nevertheless, please do yourself a tremendous favor and strike all of these from your interview preparations. By the way, all of these questions have been asked and are continuously being asked by teacher candidates. Not a single individual asking these questions was ever offered a teaching job!
How much will I be paid?" Don't ask any questions related to salary or pay. If you are more interested in money than teaching, then you're in the wrong profession.
What kinds of benefits will I get?" Questions about benefits are always considered inappropriate. After you get hired is the time to ask this question.
How long do you expect me (or teachers) to be at school each day?" Stay away from any questions about school hours. Good teachers have no time clock.
Will I be able to take time off for personal business?" Asking about time for personal business is never a good idea. It demonstrates your lack of commitment.
As a man, don't you think I should get some preferential treatment here?" Don't be stupid enough to suggest anything remotely sexist. If the principal doesn't kick you out the door, I will!
How many black or Hispanic kids are in this school?" It's none of your business to inquire about the community's ethnicity. Any suspected biases or prejudices, and you'll quickly be escorted back to the parking lot.
Do you celebrate Hanukah or Christmas here?" Questions about a community's religious, political, or socio-economic breakdown are always in poor taste.
Will I be able to keep my part-time job at Wal-Mart?" Do you really want to show that you are not totally committed to the teaching profession?
I heard that teachers have to do bus duty once a week. Is that true?" Asking about ancillary duties will always get you in hot water.
Will I get in trouble if I punish a kid?" Stay away from questions that might indicate any discomfort with discipline.
Do I have to join the teacher's union in this district?" Questions about the "bargaining unit" are never appropriate. When you get hired you'll get all the relevant information.
Can I transfer to another grade after this year?" Remember, you're applying for a specific job. Don't suggest that it's not your first priority.
When asked, these questions essentially "kill" any chances a candidate has in getting a teaching job. Don't even consider them!