Chapter 10: Sample Interview Questions - Sample Interview Scenarios

What follows are some sample interview questions which we have used with some success in the past. We believe the quality of an interview question can be judged by its ability to provoke spontaneous thought and rich reflection. The candidates need to be gently challenged into revealing themselves, their values and their passions.
  1. If I were to visit your classroom next week, what would I see? (The key word is see. For example, how does the teacher organize the students' desks? What is displayed on the classroom walls and why? How do the children behave?)
  2. Tell me about a mistake you have made recently in your teaching and what you have done about it.
  3. Describe to me how you would teach the concept of __________ (the seasons, absolute zero, the Third World, the beauty of mathematics, tragedy, the interdependence of global supply and demand, etc.).
  4. How would you respond to the following student question: "Why are we studying (quadratic equations, Romeo and Juliet, entropy, etc.)?" Is the student's question fair?
  5. What are the most influential factors in the success or failure of a lesson?
  6. What specific strategies do you use to ensure that your students are engaged in active learning?
  7. If I were the parent of a child who learns differently (e.g. ESL or Highly Capable), why would I want my child in your class?
  8. What specific aspects of your teaching are you currently working to improve?
  9. How has recent educational research affected your teaching?
  10. Sentence completion questions:
    When I am criticized. . .
    When I am not sure about something. . .
    When I am told what to do. . .
    When someone doesn't agree with me . . .
  11. What is your own preferred learning style?
  12. How do you know that you are continuing to learn how to learn?
  13. What has been the most significant learning experience of your life?
  14. What do your students learn from you that you don't explicitly teach?
  15. All egos require gratification; what satisfies yours?
  16. Give me a metaphor for a __________ (pre-school child, middle school student, high school student, etc.)
  17. What is the most important outcome for a parent conference? What strategies do you use to accomplish this outcome?
  18. Develop a higher level critical thinking question that is related to __________ (the AIDS epidemic, human rights, ocean tides, Romantic poetry).
  19. What is the most difficult aspect of co-planning and co-teaching? How have you addressed this issue?
  20. What does differentiated instruction mean? Can you give me a recent example of how you have provided individual accommodation to make a lesson more accessible for an exceptional student?

Some of the longer scenarios can be given to candidates in advance of the interview so they have a chance to prepare.

  1. You have prepared a brilliant lesson plan, but when you reach the classroom (candidate's choice of subject and age level) you find your briefcase empty except for a large potato. How do you use the potato to teach __________ (mathematics, reading, music, etc.)?
  2. It is seven weeks after the start of the school year and your class has just begun to bond nicely. A group identity is emerging. The principal informs you that a monolingual Japanese child will be joining your class next week. How do you respond? What preparations might you make?
  3. As you know, professional development is very important at our school. Let's imagine that you have been appointed as a teacher and that you have enrolled in a graduate level course entitled "Recent developments in neuro-psychology." The course is taught by a professor from a leading US university and 30 other teachers are in the class. 25 minutes into the first lecture you find yourself completely lost. What do you do?
  4. Reflect back on a recent field trip you have organized. What large concepts were you attempting to teach? How did you make the trip relevant for the students? What other implicit learning objectives did the trip include? Was there any learning that took place on the trip that surprised you?
  5. Nishad's mother is waiting to see you for a parent conference. Nishad is in the fifth grade and is struggling in virtually all his subjects. His frustration threshold is low and you have noticed an increasing number of temper outbursts. Nishad has not been formally assessed for a learning disability. Informal observation suggests he is reading on a first or second grade level. He steadfastly refuses to write but loves to draw pictures in art. He is constantly losing his books and papers.

    Nishad's mother is a single parent. She is aggressive and domineering and blames the school for Nishad's difficulties. She has her heart set on Nishad becoming a medical doctor. What specific objectives would you have for the parent conference? What specific strategies might you use?

  6. Shamneez is a hardworking, although somewhat withdrawn 12 year-old student in your class. At the end of today's lesson she tells you that she will be absent from school tomorrow because her god is arriving on the KLM flight tomorrow morning. She has to be at the airport to meet him. How do you respond, and what do you do next?
  7. Marina poses a problem in terms of admission and placement and your advice has been sought. Originally, Marina comes from a primitive hunter-gatherer tribe in the remote southern islands in the Philippines. Her first language was her tribal mother tongue. Following the death of her parents, Marina at age 7 was moved to an orphanage in Manila where she was spoken to exclusively in Tagalog. Two years later, she was adopted by German missionaries and began to learn German.

    Marina is age appropriate for the 7th grade but there are serious questions whether she can cope with the level of work. Physically mature, Marina is socially quite shy and withdrawn. What advice would you give about her admission? About her placement?
  8. Matthias is a learning disabled child in the third grade. He was evaluated and diagnosed some 12 months ago and since that time has been making excellent progress in your class. This has been due in large part to the partnership you have formed with Matthias's mother. You have worked closely with her and a trusting friendship has resulted.

    Matthias understands that he learns differently than other children in the class. However, he also believes that he is a capable student who can succeed in school.

    The school year is coming to an end and Matthias's mother requests that he be retained in the third grade next year. You are puzzled by the request and telephone her about it. When questioned further, Matthias's mother bursts into tears and admits that her concern centers on the personality of the one fourth grade teacher who has a reputation for no nonsense discipline and sarcasm. What do you say to Matthias's mother? What do you do next?
  9. Carmen is in your ninth grade homeroom. Her last report card was mixed but the comment of her music teacher has stayed with you: "Carmen continues to function adequately in music, but I sense there is a wealth of untapped talent - not just musical talent, intellectual talent - which we, as her teachers are missing. I have watched Carmen take a back seat to her peers in class discussions and projects. It is almost as though if she showed herself to be gifted, this would in some way ostracize her from her peers."

    Her English teacher was more prosaic: "Carmen is an above average student who is going through all the usual ninth grade girl boy stuff which is, of course, interfering with her school work."

    Last year, Carmen won a prize for writing an operetta entitled "Codex 1181," a work inspired by the 1633 trial of Galileo Galilei.

    Last month, Carmen's father wrote to the school complaining that his daughter was not being assigned homework.

    Last week, Carmen was found smoking in the girls' toilet.

    Yesterday she cut school and was suspended by the principal.

    As her homeroom teacher, what might you do?

  10. Stefano joined the school earlier this year as an ESL student in your 6th grade class.Before entering the school, Stefano spoke almost no English. His previous schooling was in Italian and his reports indicate that he had been an above average student. The transfer to the present school has been a difficult one for Stefano. He left a close circle of friends in Italy and for the first few weeks appeared insecure and reticent. In addition to his regular schooling Stefano attends Italian language classes twice a week and on Saturday mornings goes to catechism class.

    At the present time, Stefano's English is insufficient for him to deal with the abstract concepts that he will have to encounter in the 7th grade. The question you have been asked to address is whether Stefano should begin the study of a foreign language in the 7th grade. His father wants him to study French. The guidance counselor believes that an additional language will simply serve to confuse him and that Stefano should use the time for additional English.