Post # 1
I’m trying to finish up my PhD in biomedical sciences this year and want to totally switch gears and become a high school science teacher. I’ve been tutoring and volunteering (science clubs, afterschool programs, etc) a lot over the past few years, and I absolutely love it. I’m not certified in my state yet, but have started applying to some charter and private schools. I know most jobs won’t get posted til this spring, but I wanted to get a head start. So I just got an email that one of the charter schools I applied to wants to have a phone interview on Wednesday… yay! Except, I have no “real” teaching experience in a school. So I was just wondering if any of you teacher bees could give me some advice! What kind of questions should I expect? How should I prepare? What do schools “want” to hear? Any advice at all would be amazing, because I really have no clue what to expect and am a little bit nervous. Thanks bees!
Post # 3
I changed careers to become a teacher 6 years ago. My first interview was a disaster because I truly did not know what happens in a classroom. My biggest piece of advice is to sign up as a volunteer and befriend some current teachers. Ask to spend time in their classrooms. The MOST important part of teaching is classroom management. You have to have a plan and be able to explain it at the interview. Also, think of ways you will incororate real life experience into the curriculum. Make sure you are familiar with any standardized testing and the standards and expectations for your state/area. I wish you the best of luck. Becoming a teacher was the best decision I ever made!
Post # 4
Are you planning to teach in PA or MA? In PA, you can get intern certified. You can check if MA has something comparable. To get certified the “traditional” way, you would have to do student teaching through an accredited program (think undergrad). But if a place will hire you anyway, you can apply for intern cert and your “student teaching” happens while you work in your job. Definitely look into it so you will know your options if they are interested in hiring you.
Not sure if you had to do a standard teaching application for a charter school or not, but these are the kinds of things that public schools look for according to the state department of education. You should probably write up a teaching philosophy and a discipline plan.
This list of interview questions is pretty good. My Darling Husband has seen quite a few of these. As for not having “real” experience, I would focus on the experience you do have. Think of example situations from your tutoring that you can talk about when you used differentiated instruction or had to resolve a discipline issue, etc. And this is sort of a trick question, but I’ve heard of a lot of admins asking “What do you teach?” The answer is never science; it is always KIDS!
Post # 5
I’m a teacher in Canada and a lot of our philosophies are quite different than those in the States. I’d suggest talking to some of the staff at the clubs you are volunteering for and ask them. Also, I know our provincial teaching certification websites usually have tips on interviews and typical questions.
You likely are going to want to ask the teachers you talk to about key words, school/board initiatives, their approach to literacy and math, as well as guides and resources that are big right now. Every school, every board and every district will likely have different answers and approaches they are looking for.
Post # 6
I have been teaching for 5 years (3 years 8th grade test prep (English/Math), 1 year 6th & 7th grade test prep, and currently teaching 6th & 7th grade English… finally!!!)but I had only been on two interviews. My principal’s interview was my first one. Here are some questions he asked me:
1. Why do you want to be a teacher?
2. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
3. If a student was a problem in the classroom what would you do? If that didn’t work? If that didn’t work? His objective was to make sure you knew the ladder of referral, like talk to the student, call home, talk to the dean, guidance counselor, principal… or however your school does it.
4. My school uses the workshop model so he asked me some questions about that.
Be confident, know about the school (look up information about the school first), and look good! ha!
Post # 7
I would second what everyone has said about looking up information about the school first, visiting some classrooms to observe, etc. If the school culture is not something you feel you can fit into, you could be miserable–especially since you’re going into this with no real experience. Lesson planning and classroom management will be hard enough to learn quickly without a supportive teaching and administrative staff.
It sounds like you want to get into this quickly (and good luck on your phone interview), but if it turns out that you have more time, find an afterschool tutoring program to volunteer with. That way you’ll be able to work with kids of different ages and figure out what ages you prefer. There’s a huge difference between elementary, middle school, and high school students, and even between all of the ages at each level.
Other than that… I’m not sure about charter schools, since they can vary a lot, but many schools now are “data driven” and place a lot of emphasis on test scores and recordable data regarding student progress in class. You should definitely look up your state’s standardized tests and learn about them, as well as familiarize yourself with the various methods of assessment (look up formative vs. summative assessment to start). Also go ahead and get a start on learning how lesson planning works, generally, and look through the curriculum standards for your state. They can usually be found fairly easily online.
That’s a lot, but there’s a lot involved! Good luck!
Post # 8
Wow, thanks everyone for your responses.. they are all really helpful!
@keltikate: Sounds like your decision to become a teacher was a great one! I think my biggest challenge will be classroom management, as the largest group of kids I’ve worked with at one time is 10-12. I think it’s just something that will come with experience. I actually contacted a graduate from my grad program who teaches bio in one of the local high schools, so I’m planning to go follow him around for a day after the holidays.
@Amaryllis: That list of questions will be really helpful – thanks! I’m actually planning on teaching in MA. I went to a discussion forum about teaching in MA before, so I know the requirements for public vs private, which is why I am going toward private/charter schools at the moment. For public schools, you need one year of teaching experience, which I wouldn’t have. I’m also looking into a couple of teaching internship programs like you mentioned as a backup plan. The hard part for me is going to be getting my foot in the door!
@takemyhand: Yeah, I’ve been researching this particular school and it seems their goals are different then most. I’m going to try and relate their mission to my teaching philosophy. I’ll have to check out the different certification websites and see what I can find – thanks!
@Fallicious1012: Those questions seem like the simplest, but at the same time, the most difficult questions to answer. I definitely should have good answers ready for them. It’s actually a phone interview so I can sit around in my pajamas, but I think I will dress up anyway to get in a professional mood haha
@kaliella: Yep, I am anxious to get out of grad school and start teaching! I volunteered a couple summers ago with high schoolers and really enjoyed it, so I have been trying to beef up my experience. Right now, I am working with 4th and 5th graders kind of making my own curriculum as I go and doing science experiments with them. That age is SO fun but I think I’d be better suited for higher level science. I’m also tutoring a group of Boston public school students in preparation for the AP bio test, so this is probably the most relevant. Working with this age has been really rewarding for me too. One of the girls said to me “I really wish YOU were our science teacher instead of Ms. whatever.. then I would actually understand and like this class!” It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside hahaha. But yes, definitely good advice.. I am reading into all the state requirements and tests so I can be well versed on that. Thanks!
Post # 9
I teach elementary, so interview questions would be very different. I’d say that you really need to play up your tutoring and volunteering experience. Give concrete examples of how you’ve made “content accessible” to students, i.e. how you’ve broken down concepts and really helped kids understand what they’re learning. I would think that a science teacher would have to be able to explain how to balance a curriculum of academic content and lab/experiential opportunities.
Classroom management is usually the toughest part for new teachers. Strong classroom management is a cornerstone of good teaching at any level. I’d say do some web searches on classroom management at the grade level you’re planning to teach. You have to be able to command respect and keep the attention of the toughest kids in your class to be able to teach effectively. Again, concrete examples are really helpful.
A lot of charter schools are big on projects–maybe think of some great projects that you could assign for students to be able to “create their own learning opportunities.” The focus should be on “student-centered” learning. Oh my goodness…there’s so much academic jargon that principals love to hear. Research the school and its philosophy/charter. Find out what kind of approach they like. Google that, and use the language. My current school was impressed that I had researched their positive behavior program and math program and could explain the benefits of both.
Lastly, try to relax. School professionals want to get to know you as a person, not just a teacher. Phone interviews are kind of nice. You can have notes in front of you to remind you of what you want to say. Good luck!!! 🙂
Post # 10
I taught high school English for 4 years, and I helped hire several new teachers at my school. We asked a lot of questions about social justice and how the candidate would incorporate it into the classroom (our school has a social justice mission). You might want to read some Paulo Friere and think about what science units you could do that would help the students develop into agents of change in their lives or their community.
The school I worked at was a charter school as well. Besides researching the school’s values, you may also want to research the charter school’s vendor (that is, the company that funds the school). My school was funded by a community not-for-profit company with ethics that I agreed with; however, some charter schools are funded by Big Business and Big Pharm. You might want to see who is funding the school and make sure that you agree with the company’s ethics.
Best of luck! I worked closely with my school’s science teacher, so feel free to PM me if you want any of her awesome unit ideas!
Post # 11
@MissMarriage: Thank you!! Those kind of tips are exactly what I was looking for. I’m definitely going to think about some of the things you said and have concrete examples ready. And maybe throw in some academic jargon to sound fancy!
@likelimeade: Good point – I will tailor my answers to the school’s mission for sure. I actually never even thought about how the charter school is funded.. it seems it’s publicly funded by the state mixed in with federal grants. Thanks, if I end up making it past interviews, I will PM you for those unit ideas!
Post # 12
Like takemyhand, I’m in Canada, but I’m a new teacher (just finished my B.Ed two weeks ago!) looking for work at the high school level as well. The “why do you want to teach?” question is common, and almost every interviewer asks something about classroom management, or how you dealt with a particularly difficult student.
You might also be asked about your professional goals, or to name an interesting professional article or book that you recently read.
How do you plan to incorporate technology into the classroom?
What four words best describe you as a teacher?
How will you accomodate/address different learning styles in your classroom?
How do you go about planning a unit?
How will you use assessment in your classroom?
How will you handle students who are consistently late to your class? (*HUGE for high school!)
How will you ensure that your students are engaged in the material that you teach?
Just some food for thought/things to think about! Good luck on your interview. Hope you get the job!!!
Post # 13
- Wedding: September 2010 - Heinz Chapel Ceremony, Museum Reception
Hi Nicoley! PM me if you want–I teach at a charter school in Boston 🙂 I try not to talk about work stuff publically (ie on the boards) since I blogged for WB and my face is all over the site, so I don’t really want anything about my job connected to my WB name, but I’d be happy to talk to you about it over PM!
Post # 14
@Great Gatsby: Thank you! It’s always great to see a list of questions, even if they don’t get asked. These are the types of things I was looking for to get in the right mindset for the phone interview. Good luck to you too in starting your teaching career!
@octopus: Awesome, just PMed you!
Post # 15
I teach at a college, but have worked on programs in middle schools and high schools (as well as in community settings). I also am a sex educator (but that is entirely out in the community, no schools, and predominately with adults). However, I do have my substitute teaching license in my state and have subbed. I totally understand being nervous, however just remind yourself why you love teaching (or the idea of teaching) and why you’re amazing (it doesn’t have to be related to teaching, but just things you like about yourself). I know in interviews I’ve done well on, I really talked myself up ahead of time. For the last workshop I did, I had a list of things so before I left my hotel I could look in teh mirror and say those nice things to myself 🙂 Sounds corny and may not work for everyone, but it works for me. Everyone previous to my comment has some really great advice – so you are going to be very prepared!!
 Some of the questions I’ve heard include:
- Why do you think you’re a good teacher?
- What do you like best about teaching? What do you like least?
- Why do you want to teach here?
- What do you like best about this school? (I got asked this for my current job at the university, and now that I’m there I’ve heard the professors and dean after interviewing other people and you wouldn’t believe how many people know absolutely NOTHING about the school – if you aren’t familiar with it, look online for some basic info so you’re prepared).
- Why do you think you’d fit in well here?
- Tell us about a good (or your best) moment teaching and your worst. (if you haven’t taught they may ask something similar – I heard when I worked in retail a lot “Tell us about a time when you changed someone’s mind/ turned a bad experience good”)
- How would you/have you dealt with a problem student?
- What is your teaching philosophy in a nutshell?
- do you think that you can reach every student? If so, how do you do that?
- What do you do if a student seems withdrawn and isn’t interacting?
- How would you deal with a problematic co-worker?
- What would you do if you suspected abuse in a home situation? (I was asked this in several interviews w/ different programs I’ve worked in – I know in my state Im considered to be a mandated reporter so I know any time that there is suspected abuse of a minor I’m required to report it to Family and Children’s Services).
- How do you make a difference in the world?
- What is your best quality? What is your worst quality?
- How do you make yourself a better person?
- What is your biggest accomplishment?
- Describe yourself in 3 words.
- What different methods do you use to teach? How do you use them?
- How do you keep student engaged?
- Do you believe that a teacher should be entertaining? Why or why not?
- How do you accommodate students of different abilities?
 The best way I think to prepare is to know yourself. Okay, that sounds corny, but know why this matters to you and why you want to do this. Also, as I said, know something about the school and different general policies. You aren’t going to be expected to know that individual school’s policy, but it helps to understand what an IEP (for example) is, and what you are required to do to go along with one. I sub in a charter school and they like to have their own list of subs that they are personally moroe familiar with and I had to interview there. They seemed a little… concerned with teh fact that I teach an hour away and am working on a PhD (they were essentially like “Um, why do you want to sub?? And here??”) – but my PhD has a lot to do with education and I LOVE teaching more than anything else I have ever done. It’d be great if you know anyone that currently teaches or has taught at any of the schools you are applying to – they can give you some heads ups, and if you think they are good at their job, you can even name drop.
 I’m not sure I know what schools “want” to hear! Most schools want someone who is dedicated adn will love their job. They don’t want someone who is going to teach for a year or two there (or even a few months! Heard of that….) and then want to leave. Even if you are not trying to get tenure, a lot of schools like to keep the same teachers. Schools know that they pay their teachers peanuts (or at least most know), but they also need people who love their job and are passionate about helping students learn
and finally, Good luck!!
Post # 16
@MsLobizon: Thank you so much! I love the lists of questions. I’m going to compile everyones’ and try to write down answers to them tonight. I think a big thing I struggle with is sounding confident, so I have to pep myself up beforehand and remind myself why I’m awesome!