Teachers Should Ask These Questions At Their Next Job Interview
by Terry Heick
So you’re considering taking a teaching job? Or at least interviewing?
What should you be asking to make sure it’s a good fit for both you and the school?
Understanding The Point Of The A Teacher Job Interview
First, understand that you are interviewing the school and district as much as they are interviewing you, and this isn’t a power play of some kind. The goal of a teacher placement should be a pairing between school (and administrators from that school and district) and teacher that is sustainable and serves students.
I’ll talk more about tips for teacher job interviews in a separate post (including researching the school and seeing yourself as ‘a fit’ or ‘not a fit’ rather than ‘qualified’ or ‘not qualified’/‘good teacher’ or ‘bad teacher’). The goal of that post would be to help you ‘get the job’ for a position you’re already sure you want.
Obviously, you can’t simply take a list like this and start reading them off to a principal or–well, you’re probably not going to get the job (assuming they even let you finish the interview). The point here is to think carefully about what you’re getting yourself into–to explore the school and climate and context from several angles beyond ‘job opening.’ To think past the interview to the school year ahead so that you can find the job that allows you to grow as a teacher, which is obviously what best serves students too.
Even if you aren’t concerned with the idea of ‘fit’ and will take any job offered your way, questions like this can help demonstrate your thoughtfulness as a professional educator to those you interview with–and help improve your interviewing skills for future openings throughout your career.
I’ve separated them into two categories–practical and pedagogical. The ‘practical’ questions are more about the job itself–salary, insurance, placement, etc. I’ve probably missed some obvious ones because these kinds of questions vary wildly from one position to the next. Something absolutely crucial in one country or state or district may be far less so in another.
The second category focuses more on the nature of pedagogy itself, and while still relative, should be a bit more universal. For now, 30 questions to ask at your next teacher job interview with a school or district.
Practical Interview Questions For Teachers
1. How can I help? That is, beyond ‘teaching the class,’ what opportunities are there for me to support my colleagues and the students in this school?
2. In terms of deliverables—visible outcomes—what is expected of every teacher every day? What are the school and district ‘non-negotiables’? That is, what are the things—behaviors and general expectations—that are in place for every teacher, every day universally and across the board without negotiation or flexibility? (This sounds like a weird question, but in general, it boils down to how the school/district ‘does things’, and can have a big effect on the fit between the teacher and the job being interviewed for.)
3. What are the lesson plan/curriculum requirements—in terms of formatting, approval, collaboration, standards, publishing, etc.? This is similar to #1 but is focused exclusively on unit, lesson, and assessment design and the school’s procedures therein. For example, are the lessons scripted? If so, is there any flexibility? If not, what are the ‘expectations’ for collaboration between teachers? Is there a pacing guide? How is it used? How can and should data impact pacing guides and curriculum maps and so on?
4. What is the school behavior model and plan? How do teachers and staff work together to support both students and teachers to create a physical and intellectually safe and loving and forward-thinking environment for learning?
5. What is the attendance/sick day/snow day policy for teachers?
6. What is the school and district policy regarding COVID and related protocols, how have they changed over time, and how do you expect them to change in the near future? How are teachers protected and supported as they navigate the challenges of teaching during the COVID epidemic?
7. How much will I earn? What is the pay scale and how does it change annually? What insurance and related benefits are there for teachers? How often are teachers paid? Is direct deposit available? What about a cafeteria plan?
8. What are the extra-curricular opportunities and requirements for teachers?
9. What committees are there in this school, and how effective have they been in achieving their purpose? How can I contribute to their continued growth over time?
10. How is this school/district different than it was ten years ago? What data is there to support that? (Careful asking the second part, but know for sure that a school or district wouldn’t think twice before asking a teacher something similar.)
11. What compelling opportunities are there for me to improve my craft in this school or district?
12. How strong is the school/district IT department? Are they well-staffed and sufficiently funded? What about the district internet filter—is that designed to support student learning?
13. What role does this librarian/media specialist play in the average classroom on a daily basis? (This can be telling in a number of ways.)
14. Is there an instructional coach or curriculum expert that can help me grow? Or are they used punitively to ‘catch me doing it wrong’? (Don’t ask the second part.)
15. How do I know that I’m safe here—physically, professionally, emotionally, and otherwise?
Pedagogical Interview Questions For Teachers
16. How is student achievement defined and measured?
17. What learning models are used in this school/district? Which have been found the most effective? How could I contribute to that moving forward?
18. How is technology used to support students and their families? How is it used to personalize learning?
19. Would this position encourage me to focus on student strengths or weaknesses?
20. What is the school mission, and how do the curriculum, students, and staff fit together to help realize it?
21. How is data used to support teachers and students? How accurate are the measurements tools used to extract that data?
22. Do students like going to school here?
23. Do teachers like teaching here? What kinds of collaboration between teachers are ‘required’? Encouraged? Supported?
24. Do parents feel welcome here?
25. What have this school’s greatest successes been recently? Historically?
26. Does the school have a ‘growth mindset‘? The district? Or is it pressure, pressure, say nice and well-intentioned things, pressure, pressure?
27. How do different assessment forms and data sources work together to improve outcomes for students? How is this data made accessible to teachers? How has that accessibility and data quality improved over the last five years?
28. How do superintendents, assistant superintendents, and other similar roles support students and teachers and how can I support their work in my position?
29. Are the arts valued here? Humanities in general?
30. How do curriculum, curriculum maps, pacing guides, units, lessons, and any district/state level assessments work together? Is each flexible enough to do so?
31. How do innovation and tradition work together to serve students?
32. Where do teachers have autonomy? How is the capacity of teachers nurtured and grown throughout the year?
33. How likely is it that a student might ‘graduate’ from this school (having performed well academically) and still have very little hope for their own future? Put another way, how does the learning here actually improve the lives and arcs of students’ lives? How do we know?
34. Is it ‘safe’ to teach here? That is, is it safe for me professionally, psychologically, and physically?
35. Is there a teacher’s union? Is it mandatory? What is the history of the relationship between any teacher’s union and the school/district?
Bonus: In this position, would I teach content or teach thought?