I opened up my email this week and was thrilled to read the following message:
I wanted to thank you for your post regarding portfolios and interviewing. I was recently hired at a fantastic school, and the interview wouldn’t have gone well without your advice about preparation.
Yay! I love it when someone finds something useful in something I’ve written! The post she was referring to was Art Teacher Portfolio Ideas. Later, I posted an article about digital portfolios. I haven’t interviewed since digital portfolios became the trend, but in that post I explained how I might incorporate a portfolio using technology if I were to interview now.
Between now and the start of school is prime interview time! However, even if you don’t land your dream job before the start of the school year, don’t worry, full-time and long term substitute positions open up throughout the year. I was hired for my first teaching job in the middle of the school year, where I stayed for 3 1/2 years.
Now, let me preface this post by saying that I am not an expert on interviewing for a teaching job and if you ask 10 different teachers you are likely to get 10 different opinions on everything. I have gone on job interviews at 3 different points in my teaching career: first, when I was looking for an initial teaching job; second, when I was moving to another state; and third, when I wanted a position with more hours. During that time, I read a LOT of books and articles about preparing for interviews. Also, the surprising thing was that many of the interviews used practically the exact same questions!
Tips for Interviewing
- Dress for success! I would always recommend to err on the side of too dressy rather than too casual. First impressions do matter and I would run your outfit choice past someone else to get their opinion. Art teachers have a bit more leeway and can let their personality shine through a bit more, but I would still avoid jeans and more casual attire. Make sure you look and smell clean!!
- Come prepared with a well-organized portfolio. Flip to pages in your portfolio to use as talking points in your interview.
- Prepare ahead of time. When I was actively interviewing, I looked up potential interview questions and literally wrote out word-for-word what I would answer. Then, I practiced my responses to make sure I touched upon the important points. Don’t just assume you will be able to “wing it” and come up with everything you believe off the top of your head. I’m sure some people can do this, but I know myself better! I know that I need to be able to organize my thoughts ahead of time and think through my answers. The good thing is that most schools will ask the same questions or variations on the same questions. A fellow teacher told me about an interview where the candidates were asked to name a teacher or student who was influential in their life. Two of the four candidates could not come up with any answer! Maybe they got nervous and froze. I don’t know, but with a little preparation, you could think about what you would say in that situation and be ready with a response.
- Know the buzzwords and the current trends in education. I’ll admit, I don’t fully know the scope of how common core works with art, but at my school we are not following common core. If I were interviewing now, I would research the schools I am interviewing with and find out how they set up their curriculum, how they use technology, what are their priorities, what kind of discipline system they use and anything else I can glean from their website or by talking with people who know the school.
- Arrive within plenty of time before the start of the interview. Find your directions the night before (if you haven’t been to the school yet) and add about 1/2 hour to the time you will need. Better to hang out in a parking lot down the street for a few minutes than to be frantically rushing in at the last minute.
Sample Questions for Art Teachers
As promised, here are some sample questions that I have had in real life teaching interviews. Be sure to look up other lists to get more ideas of the kinds of questions you will be asked.
- What is your educational background and experience? (Why did you want to be a teacher?) Be thorough, but also keep it to the point and don’t ramble!
- Why do you want to work at this school? Do your research ahead of time! We are lucky to have the internet now that allows you to find out all kinds of things about each school before you even visit.
- What makes you stand apart from other candidates? (Why should we hire you?) Now is the time to toot your own horn! Bring up all the wonderful qualities you have.
- What is your teaching philosophy?
- What is your biggest strength? What is your biggest weakness? Do. not. say. classroom. management. Even if that is the case, you need to be able to manage a classroom to be an effective teacher. Also, being a perfectionist is a “cop-out” answer in my opinion. What I’ve usually answered was a certain area of art (like printmaking, in my case) that I wasn’t an expert in, but had a little bit of experience. For example, I would say printmaking was my weakness, because I had never taken a full printmaking course in college. I explained that I had been exposed to basic techniques in my art education classes, but I did not have extensive training in that area. Then, I would also say that I am currently learning more about how to use printmaking techniques in the classroom (which I was learning about through research on the internet and books.) So, my advice is to pick a weakness (could even be something like assessment) but explain how you are going to learn more about it.
- Explain your classroom management plan.
- Describe your student teaching experience. (Now is not the time to bash your student teaching adviser.)
- What kinds of extracurricular activities are interested in or have experience in leading?
- How do you use technology in the classroom?
- Say a student is not working on his art project, what would you do?
- Do you display artwork from an entire class or only select some of them to hang?
- What are 4 important parts of a lesson plan?
- How do you feel about diversity at a school?
- How do you feel about talking in the classroom? (Yes, those last two are pretty vague!)
- Describe a time you have collaborated with another teacher.
- Tell us about a time when a lesson did not go well and what you did when that happened. (This one I was completely unprepared for and had a hard time thinking of a good answer on the spot! We all have lessons that flop.)
- How do you communicate with parents?
- What would you do if a parent was angry with you?
- How do you differentiate for various levels of learning in the classroom?
- Describe a time when you have had to deal with misbehavior of a student.
- Do you have a particular area of art that you work in most?
- What questions do you have for us? (Again, research the school to find out a little more before coming up with some questions for them.)
So, what have your interviews been like? Do you have any advice to add? What other questions have you been asked?