Week 5.1: Interviewing – Between the Lines
If you are looking for your first teaching job, you have probably found lists of practice interview questions on the Internet, heard the advice of everyone from your college professor to your student teaching supervisor to your parents, and bought your perfect interview outfit. So we’re not going to talk about that.
We’re going to talk about personality, finding the “right fit,” and how to read between the lines in interviews. Do school administrators lie during interviews – yes, they do. But they don’t call it lying, they call it “putting the best face on the situation.” But it’s more like lying. So, first bit of advice that you may take or leave: Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions.
If you have the nerve, don’t ask about salary, benefits, and moving expenses. As a teacher, quality of life in the classroom is way more important than that extra thousand dollars a year. (Yeah, teachers don’t make enough money. That’s a given.) So ask about the other members of the department who you will be working with, ask about the school’s record of teacher longevity, ask about the level of parental involvement in the school. You can ask about your department budget; but even better, ask about available funding for field trips, new technology, and new books. Ask about the school’s discipline policy (hey, you’re equally in trouble if they have one or if they don’t, but at least you know if you agree with whatever policy they do have.) Finally, try to get a vibe about experimentation – do you have the freedom to change how teaching is done in the classroom, and try new methods of teaching? Or are you restricted in curriculum, by policy, by parental expectations, and by the head teacher in your department? It’s worth knowing.
I could hear the despair when you read that sentence about an extra thousand dollars a year. Benefits and salary are important, especially if you have the spouse and kids. But finding the “right fit” job for you has nothing to do with money. Hopefully no one reading this became a teacher because you thought you’d be raking it in. Even before your first interview, you have developed strong reasons for how and why you want to teach. Keep that sense of purpose in your mind as you interview – finding the right fit is about understanding the students more than the administrator and policies. They are the people you will be trying to form working relationships with on a daily basis – so see if you can observe or teach a class as part of your interview. A few schools already do this, and it’s GREAT.
In typical “Miss Teacher” fashion, I have presented you with contradictory statements in this post. Money both matters and doesn’t matter, the personality of your administrator both matters and doesn’t matter. You’re a professional and should be able to work with any other adult professional, but that doesn’t change the simple fact that you will simply mesh better with some people than others. It is worth it to keep interviewing until you find those people. Administrators do lie, but keep looking until you find one you can work with and feel comfortable with – similar to previous posts about “mentors.”
I feel like a guru at this point, staring at you and saying in a deep, portentous tone, “KNOW Thyself.” Do that, but hey, the best thing to do is to go to multiple interviews and analyze them before making any decisions. Get out there! Good luck.
Extra resources: Please refer to paragraph 1 of this post.
Next week: What Do We Take Seriously?