Becoming a Teacher - The Interview: High Anxiety (page 2)
There is so much at stake professionally and financially in your first interview that you probably will be very nervous. In fact, few other experiences produce such high levels of anxiety. To complicate the situation, many people are uncomfortable talking about themselves to others without coming across as too shy or too egotistical.
The interview is usually a multiple-step process, not a one-time experience. Many districts require the candidate to interview with several different individuals. Some interviews are conducted by a single school representative, and others are conducted by a team, which may include classroom teachers, curriculum specialists, special teachers, administrators, and even parents.
Do Your Homework
Before you go for an interview, research the school district. Many districts will provide you with information about the school system. Many local real estate agents in the school district have information about schools for prospective homebuyers and might share it with you, too.
Local libraries also have demographic information about surrounding school districts. Recently, school districts have been creating web sites where they post information about student achievement, curriculum, and staffing. Most state education departments have web sites for each school district. You might also take a drive around the school district to see what the community looks like.
Tips for a Successful Interview
The following simple tips can reduce your anxiety and help you focus on presenting your qualifications to the interviewer.
This statement seems obvious, but many candidates believe they have to put on an act to be hired. If you want to act, join the theater; if you want to teach, be yourself! Your personal happiness depends on finding the right match between your personality, strengths, and skills and the school district. That decision is complex and involves many factors; do not complicate it by not being true to yourself.
Prepare, Prepare, and Prepare Some More
The best thing you can do to ensure a successful interview is prepare yourself as well as possible. What does this mean?
Keep the purpose of the interview in mind. This exercise helps you organize your thoughts. Then, anticipate the kinds of questions the interviewer will ask during the session, and practice your responses with a friend.
Review your qualifications. Recall experiences that support your qualifications for the position, and rehearse answers to practice questions.
Think of ways to dissipate the stress of the interview. Sit up straight, breathe deeply and slowly, and smile. Teachers work in a stressful environment in which they are expected to manage student behavior, respond to multiple stimuli, and communicate well. Your composure during the interview reflects how you might handle the stress of your classroom.
Focus on Knowledge, Skills, and Experiences
The interviewer's main goal is to determine whether you can teach. When you answer questions, provide relevant information that demonstrates you have what it takes to be a good teacher.
If you are asked, "How would you teach reading to a second grade class of at-risk students?" do not respond with "Well, I was student teacher of the year," or "I attended the International Reading Association's state conference and sat in on a workshop about at-risk readers." These answers do not answer the question. Being named student teacher of the year is nice, and attending a conference may be important in acquiring new knowledge and skills, but this information is not relevant to the question. An appropriate response would be, "When I was student teaching, I used_______________, which was successful with these second grade at-risk students. Other methods that were successful in the classroom were _______________." Responding to specific questions by citing personal experiences demonstrates your knowledge and teaching skills.
Your interview is not a time for colored or spiked hair, outlandish clothing, or a nose ring. Selena Smith, a middle school principal, reported that a recent male applicant for a position in her building (located in a conservative suburban school district) came to the interview wearing a hot pink shirt, loud plaid jacket, and makeup. We could not invent a story like this. Personal preferences in your appearance and style of dress may be appropriate in some settings but rarely are accepted in the mainstream employment world.
The interviewer expects you to be at your best, in terms of both appearance and presentation. Researching the school district can provide you with ideas about how you should dress. Your best bet is to be conservative in terms of clothing, makeup, and accessories. Your credentials will get you the interview, but your interview will get you the job.
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