Interviews are stressful, no matter what anyone says.
You can seek advice from colleagues you trust, ask your line manager for advice, use your own experiences to reflect upon or simply use google all in a bid to try to second guess what you might be asked on the day. The quality of information that you find can, however, can be a direct result of the time you invest into searching.
In the current day and age we are rushed for time, we need and expect things quickly and we cannot afford to wait for an answer; especially when a job is at stake. In a bid to help other educators out there, especially those who find themselves in a toxic school, NQTs/RQTs or those who simply feel ready for a change of environment I thought I would share with you my bank of questions that I draw from when interviewing for a position in my team.
For me, the questions are broken down into a few sections that I want to tap into: Reflections, Pedagogy, Motivations, Ambition and Development. I don’t ask them all, there simply isn’t the time, however, I ask a good selection from each of the sections so that I can get to know you (the candidate) better. It is worth noting that I will also be looking at how you carry yourself as I want to know that you are authentic and aren’t just regurgitating a prewritten response but rather evidencing reflection upon your journey and learning to date.
- Are you a reflective practitioner? Can you give an example where you have been reflective.
- Why is education important?
- What strategies do you use most frequently in teaching and why do you think you’ve been successful using them?
- You have a class of 24 students, you assess them midway through a lesson and find that 18 completely understand the content and six have no idea – what do you do next?
- Tell me about a lesson that went really badly and why it went badly.
- In three words, how would your colleagues/students describe you?
- Please can you spend two minutes reflecting on your lesson from this morning/afternoon.
- How do you create an environment where every pupil has a voice and feels valued?
- What is the most dangerous practical you’ve carried out?
- How can we incorporate more STEAM into lessons?
- Tell me about your educational journey thus far.
- What is the most challenging/rewarding aspect of teaching?
I ask these questions as I want to know that you are reflective in action (during the situation) and also reflective on action (post the event). It can be very easy to stagnate in teaching, thus it is of vital importance that we take some time to look back down the telescope at our own selves to see how far we have come. Whether this is weekly, monthly or termly is dependent on what you are reflecting on. Take time out to reflect on your own journey as an educator once a term, however, I would hope that each week you at least reflect on the weeks work in the classroom and look to make a marginal gain in your teaching the following week.
- What does meaningful feedback look like?
- How do you cater for all learners in a mixed ability classroom?
- How do you assess students?
- What educational research have you engaged with recently? How did this change your practice/thinking?
- What is your favourite teaching and learning strategy and why?
- What is your view on educational technology?
- What #edtech tools do you use and why?
- Tell me about the best CPD you’ve received and what made it so good.
- How do you challenge high achievers?
- What strategies do you use for reluctant learners?
- What strategies do you use for EAL/ESL learners?
- What is the difference between formative and summative assessment?
As an educator, pedagogy is key. I find that Twitter is a resounding success when it comes to this as it gives us access to a wealth of knowledge, educators sharing their findings/thoughts/experiences/ideas and information that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to access in our staff rooms. Set up an account and learn, find some blogs to digest or simply a tweet with an idea you like the look of and try out a new technique to expand your repertoire. These questions are also geared towards getting an understanding of your own situation within education; some questions are open while others require a fine tooth comb to wade through the accumulation of knowledge. I don’t mind if you make a mistake, just tell me the context while making your point and back it up with some evidence.
- Why are you a teacher?
- What do you love about science?
- Knowledge v skills – which is more important and why?
- Why this school and this department?
- How do you demonstrate passion for your subject in lessons?
- Who was the biggest influence on you becoming a teacher and why?
- How do you ensure your own wellbeing?
I think that all too often, perhaps it is situational too, we can lose sight of why we got into the profession in the first place. These questions hopefully enable you to talk about a wide enough variety of facets of our wonderful profession so that you can let your ‘why’ shine through. With respect to question number 4 in this section, show me that you’ve done your research….there’s nothing worse than someone trying to make it up or worse still trying to google information during a Skype interview.
- How do you stay up to date in a constantly evolving profession?
- How else do you upskill yourself?
- What have you read that has had the biggest influence on you? Why did it influence you and your practice?
- Apart from the TES, what educational material do you read?
- What can you bring to the department?
- How do you want to be developed as a teacher/leader?
- What leadership skills do you currently have and what do you feel need developing?
- Are you a member of any societies? For example the ASE, CCT etc.
By our very nature, educators are reflective people. At least this has been my experience to date when thinking of the colleagues who I’ve worked with along the way. Leader or not, we all need to ensure we reflect and take steps to develop ourselves. Attuned to this, I want to know what you do in order to progress yourself and seek to improve as a practitioner along with the impact/influence you will bring to the team/school/students.
- Where do you see yourself in one, three and five years time?
- What skills do you need to be a good teacher/leader?
- If you were the Head for a day, what would you do and why?
- How do you promote a positive learning culture in your classroom?
- If you could change one aspect of education, what would it be and why?
- If you were to take over this department tomorrow, what would you do first?
- What’s the most ambitious lesson you’ve tried?
- How do you promote learning in a wider context?
- Give me an example of where you’ve coached a student to a positive outcome.
While not everyone wants to lead, we are in fact all leaders anyway; we lead students on a daily basis as educators. It’s the conversations we have, noticing changes in effort and attitude, positive (and negative) rewards, the emails and phone calls home, the supportive network we provide; we are architects of the future. At times this can be challenging, however, it is a marathon not a sprint and requires an enduring quiet commitment. So the questions above aim to find out what you want for yourself, your students and why you want it.
Finally, you’ll be given the chance to ask questions so make sure you’ve done your research on the school and ask something that hasn’t been made clear either during the interview, the day itself or on the school website. If you’re really struggling because everything really has been answered, then ask the interviewer why they enjoy working in their school and what makes it different from all the others; let them sell their school to you, it’s a symbiotic process after all!
I hope that this blog post proves useful to you and at the very least serves as a tool to enable you to reflect on your own practice. If it does also help you with your next interview preparation then I am glad that this has served as a pathway into the mind of a middle leader seeking to expand his team.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post and all the best in your next interview!