There are strategies in answering the most frequently asked interviewers’ questions. It takes some work, but these strategies can readily be mastered. First, you need to think through your narrative — the story you want to get across about who you are. You should always assume that the first question is going to be, “Tell us about yourself”. The second piece of advice is to formulate a set of your professional guiding principles. Actually write them down. What do you believe to be the most outstanding practices and what are your deeply held beliefs? Your guiding principles will morph into the central themes of your answers along with examples and your experiences that relate to the principles.
Let me lay out a few sample model answers to some of the most frequent questions.
Q: “Why do you want to be a school leader?”
A: “As a teacher, others see me as a teacher leader in the school. My reputation is that I ‘m someone who has good judgment, a moderate point of view, and a steady and consistent performer. I serve on many committees, including curriculum, wellness, and school safety. I find that when I speak, people tend to listen. Growing up, as an athlete, my teammates looked to me to be a leader. Leaders effect change and bring about improvement in conditions. I aspire to impact, not just what happens in my classrooms with my 120 students, but to leverage my influence in what happens throughout the school with over 1,500 students.
Q: “What do you know about our school district, and why do you want to work here?”
A: “I like being associated with excellence and that’s why I want to come here. I have researched your student achievement results, and they are very good. I have spoken with several of your staff members and they told me about your initiatives in literacy, your fine special education support, the training they received when you started your IB program. I know of your athletic teams’ recent accomplishments in volleyball, track and field, and basketball. I have family and friends who live here, and they are very satisfied with the high quality of education that their children receive, and the quality of colleges that your kids get into. I’ve also driven around to see your schools, and have been impressed with the maintenance of the facilities. This all speaks well of you. I want to be part of this tradition.”
Q: “How can the use of technology enhance teaching and learning?”
A: “Computers are powerful tools. I think that having a variety of instructional modalities is beneficial to students. When technology is used in its powerful forms it can be really advantageous. As a science teacher, putting up a simulation on how a complex organ system works with all of its interactions and movements captures so much more than I could ever do by putting up a two-dimensional drawing. I’m also a proponent of project-based learning, meaning you give students projects to explore and they become researchers. They gather information and data and they create their own knowledge. Students should be able to create data bases. They can use the technology to create reports and generate presentations. Knowledge work and technology is a wonderful approach to project-based learning.”
Q: “How do you know, what evidence do you seek, that students are learning the concepts and skill that are being taught?”
A: “We shouldn’t confuse student learning with how they do on teacher-made tests or scores on achievement tests. The question is, how do you know that students are actually learning? To me learning means student understanding. How do you know they understand the concepts or skills you are teaching? I know that there is understanding when I ask a question, have all students independently write out their answers, and then walk around the classroom checking answers. This approach is far superior to the teacher asking a question, students raising their hands, and then one student answering correctly. Student learning grows out of maintaining high student expectations. Demonstrations of student understating include the student: explaining, generalizing, transferring of knowledge, applying skills and knowledge, providing evidence and examples, and creating an analogy or metaphor. That’s how you know students understand.
Q: “How would you learn to become an effective instructional leader, if most of your time is spent on student discipline and managing buses and lunchrooms?”
A: “All the responsibilities you just cited may not be glamorous, but they are essential in running the school. Somebody needs to do them, and they need to be done well. Someday I would like to become an instructional leader, and I would like to become a principal. I will do whatever the principal needs me to do, but I would really appreciate any opportunity to learn more about the instructional side of things, which would lead to improvement of instruction. I would like the principal and the other supervisors to act as my mentors. I’d also appreciate any available opportunities to receive state-of-the-art training.”