Studying to become a teacher takes a considerable amount of effort. From studying A Levels or an Access to HE Diploma (Education) to an undergraduate degree and PGCE, the journey to NQT status is long.
But worth it.
However, qualifying only gets you as far as the school gates. To get a job as a teacher you need to ace the interview.
Any interview is difficult but getting a job as a teacher is often far more involved. For a start it doesn’t follow the usual negotiating and game playing in the private sector.
When you interview at a school you are required to let the head teacher know that day if you don’t want the job. Equally you’re expected to tell them that you do.
The reason for this is simple. In the private sector, a business can cope with staff shortages. It can be painful, but it is doable.
Schools can’t function without teachers, so they need to know you would take the job if you were offered it. They also need to be confident that you’re a good fit for the school and for the pupils or students.
You will often be asked to deliver a sample lesson so the headteacher can see if you’re right for the role.
You will also go through a more formal interview process which will be familiar to anyone who has worked in a more traditional role. To get the job you need to perform well in both parts of the interview process. Which is why we’ve summarised some of the more common questions below and how to answer them.
Why do you want to work in this school?
Every interview for every job will ask you a similar question and therefore coming up with a unique response can be difficult.
Research is key to answering this question fully. Learn about the school’s history, the kind of extra-curricular activities the school offers, the head teacher’s background and work experience.
It’s also useful to know how the school performed during its last Ofsted inspection.
All this information will help to shape your answers. From where you can put your skills and experience to most use. Or clubs or activities you can set up and run.
Also, understanding the school’s development/improvement priorities will allow you to be specific about how you can contribute.
This question allows you the opportunity to demonstrate your personal skills and attributes in relation to the school you’ve applied to.
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question as everyone’s motivations are different.
The important thing here is to be honest, any head teacher worth their salt will see through a wish-washy cliché. No one is disputing your desire to make a difference, but it needs context.
Essentially – what’s your origin story? Were you inspired by a teacher? It doesn’t have to be one you were taught by. It could be a teacher in a school your children attend.
Perhaps a news article motivated you to make the change. Regardless, make sure you have a short anecdote prepared so you can answer fully – and set yourself apart from the other candidates.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
This is another interview question that’s been doing the rounds in both the public and private sectors for years. It can often catch people out, especially if they feel uncomfortable talking about themselves.
As before, honesty is key here. Think about how you approach teaching, your soft skills and communication skills.
Identify ahead of the interview what you feel you’re really good at. Whether that’s lesson planning, empathising with the children or communicating complex ideas clearly and simply.
Then reflect on what you could do better. That could be time management, not responding to parent queries as quickly as you should or losing things.
Whatever your strengths and weaknesses are, it is helpful to have examples prepared as well as what you could do to improve.
What makes a great teacher?
The head teacher is giving you the opportunity to toot your own horn with this question, so take advantage of it.
While you can – and should – talk about communication and other practical skills, the soft skills are equally important. Qualities like relatability, trustworthiness, humour and empathy are all essential personality traits for a teacher.
As with the other questions, make sure you have examples to demonstrate that you are a cut above the rest.
What would you do about a student who always hands in work late?
A similar question could be ‘how would you handle a student or pupil who was regularly challenging in class.
This is all about how you handle unacceptable behaviour and resolve conflict. Provide examples of how you dealt with this kind of challenge during your training.
Give any anecdote context (what happened), how you handled the situation professionally, and the resolution. Also reflect on what you could have done better.
How would you manage an angry parent/carer?
This will inevitably happen at some point in your teaching career, if it hasn’t happened already.
If you haven’t had to deal with this situation yet do your best to answer the question based on the most relevant situation you have experienced.
Regardless – things to consider should be the context, the pupil or student involved, the nature of the parent’s grievance and the school’s involvement.
As with other examples, make sure you have an anecdote prepared. Also explain what you could have done differently or handled better.
This question is about how you handle confrontation and stress. Two things that feature regularly in teaching. You need to be able to keep your cool, even in the face of angry parents.
Why should you get the job?
This is your last chance so be honest and be direct. Think about what qualities you could bring to the role, your ideas and how you can make a difference to the school and the children.
It’s also a good opportunity for you to ask any questions that you have prepared or that have popped into your head throughout the day.
Having a few questions prepared will tell your potential head teacher that you’re taking the opportunity seriously.
If you’re considering a career in teaching but you don’t have the relevant qualifications, Stonebridge Associated Colleges can help.
As a leading UK distance learning provider, we offer a wide range of courses that will allow you to work towards your learning goals.
Click the link below to learn about the Access to Higher Education Diploma (Education) and enrol today.