Who would not love to work at elementary school? Becoming the second role model for the children, helping them to learn the very basics, and at the same time the most important skills of all–reading, writing, counting, because without having them they can hardly learn any other subject. Elementary school teacher belongs to popular job choices all around the world, and no doubt you won’t be the only person interviewing for the job. But what will happen in the interview?
They will inquire mostly about your motivation, attitude, goals, and how you’d deal with this or that challenge an elementary teacher may face in the classroom. Personal impression also matters a lot, because school principal or one of their assistants (who may lead the interview with you), is not a professional interviewer. They often follow the “gut feeling”. If they get an impressions that you’d be a good colleague and teacher, they will give you a chance. Let’s have a look at the questions you may face.
What motivates you to work as an elementary teacher?
You can speak about your desire to teach, about your teaching mission, a calling you feel inside. You can say that you want to be a good role model for the children in school, because you understand the importance of such role models in 21st century.
Alternatively you can say that you feel like a fish in the water while wandering in the school corridors, that you enjoy being around young people, and want to have a job that allows you this luxury though you aren’t in your teens anymore.
You can even say that you had a great elementary teacher when you were young, someone who influenced you and helped you to become who you are today, and that the experience with them motivated you to pursue teaching career.
I believe that children need good role models and leaders, in order to create healthy attitudes, opinions and formulas of thinking. Too many children come from divorced or incomplete families, and it is not easy for them to find their place in life, their leading figures. They struggle to live well. I want to help them to find their place, and teach them all they need to know in order to make right decisions. I consider this my mission, and that’s why I decided to pursue career in elementary teaching. I can’t imagine doing anything else for a living, unless I have to, unless I cannot get this job.
What characterize a great elementary teacher in your view?
First of all they should love their job. They should be ready to deal with all kinds of challenges that teaching presents, facing them with enthusiasm and courage. They should have good knowledge of teaching methods, and a good level of understanding for the children, and for their emotional world.
And they should also understand the philosophy of the school, and try their best to help the educational institution to reach the goals the school leaders set each year. Show the hiring committee that you know what makes a good teacher, and want to become one.
Good teacher is passionate about their job, they do it with love, care for the needs of the students, as well as for the goals of the school. They are empathic, good listener and always try to improve their teaching skills. They pay attention to individual needs of each pupil, and strive to become a good role model for their students. I know that I do not fulfill some of these characteristics, but I try my best to improve every day, and become a better teacher.
What teaching methods do you prefer and why?
You should list at least two or three methods, for the hiring committee members to see that you can apply a variety of techniques in a classroom, and do not stick to lecturing only.
Then you can elaborate on your answer, pointing out one or two methods that work great at elementary level, at least according to your experience. You can even say that you plan to decide on the fly, and according to the situation in the classroom, and the discipline of the students, choosing always the most appropriate teaching method for the given lesson.
I believe that demonstrating and collaboration are the most effective teaching methods. The side benefit is the development of communication skills and teamwork. However, I have experience with all main teaching methods, including explanation, demonstration, learning by teaching, as well as some unorthodox methods, for example learning by playing. When I prepare my lesson plans, I always think carefully about that and try to apply the most suitable methods in each lesson. I always try to mix it up, so the students experience the unknown and the lessons are not routine, or boring.
Do you think we should treat all students equally, in terms of grading?
A good answer depends on your philosophy of teaching. If you prefer to motivate the weak students with good grades, you can say that. But you should not forget to explain why you prefer to follow this philosophy.
Oppositely, if you prefer an egalitarian approach, because the grades should reflect the differences of the students, go with this answer. Alternatively you can say that you will follow the guidance of the school administrators, doing what the other teachers are doing. Showing some flexibility and willingness to co-operate with the administrators is always a good idea in a job interview…
Each student is different and therefore I approach everyone individually, in terms of communication and explanation. In terms of ranking, however, I treat everyone equally, because it would be discouraging for the best students to get the same rankings as the average students get. On the other hand, I am open to follow your standards, because I believe teachers should be unified, and students should know what they can expect from us.
Special Tip: Do you like my advice, but struggle to think about some great answers that will impress the hiring committee on a big day, and help you get the job? You can find multiple excellent answers to 25 most common elementary teacher interview questions in an eBook I wrote for you, the Elementary Teacher Interview Guide. Check the book page to see whether it could help you succeed. Thank you!
What is your opinion about information technology at elementary school?
You should do some research to find the right answer to this question. Do they have computers in each classroom? Do the children use the computers? If you can not figure it out, you can say that you support IT in the classes, but only when the school has clear rules in place, and use computers to the benefit of the children, instead of their distraction (which is the case more often than not).
Alternatively you can turn things upside down, speaking about how you can use the technology, saying how interactive presentations and other tools help you to explain the lesson in a more entertaining and engaging way for the students.
I like to use technology in my classes. Pictures, videos, and presentations help us to demonstrate the subject, and they also improve the engagement of the children, since most children like visual aspect of teaching. On the other hand, we should monitor the content they see on their screens, and block certain websites, so they can not reach them. It is not easy to find the right balance when it comes to technology in the classroom, but I hope that with the help of more experienced colleagues I will eventually figure it out.
Special Tip no. 2: Download a full list of questions in a one page long .PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later:
How would you handle a conflict between two students?
Conflicts belong to every classroom, and you should show your readiness to deal with them. A good answer is to say that you would approach each conflict individually. Listening to both conflict parties, and questioning witnesses, you will try to gather enough information and always decide according to your best consciousness.
You can also elaborate on your answer, saying that you would try to lead the children to respect each other, and to have a healthy level of self-confidence, as a prevention of conflicts. the most important thing is to show the hiring committee that you aren’t afraid of dealing with conflict situations, and will try to lead your pupils in the right direction.
First of all, I would try to create friendly atmosphere in a classroom, by applying collaboration during lessons, in order to strengthen the relationship between the students. Prevention of conflicts is the best resolution strategy. But if I experienced a conflict, I would listen carefully to both parties and try to solve the conflict without harming the emotions of anyone in the class.
What are your expectations for the students?
At one side, you should have some expectations for your students, since it would be difficult to build discipline in a classroom without having expectations, and you’d also struggle to set goals for yourself as a teacher. But on the other hand, the greatest teachers are focused on their own job, trying to be the best, do the most for the children, and they do not expect much from their students.
Whatever you say, make sure that your interviewers do not get an impression that you rely on children to make your job easier.
To be honest, I do not have any extra expectations for my students. It’s an elementary school, so it’s natural that the discipline won’t be excellent all time. I just expect them to respect each other, be on time and give me a chance as a teacher. I will do my best in every lesson and I am sure that I will convince them that it is worth to pay attention to my words, and to actively participate in the lessons.
Other personal and behavioral questions for elementary teacher interviews
- What would you do to improve the study environment in a typical classroom?
- Imagine that a father of a students complained about something which was untrue. How would you react? (What would you do? Have you experienced the situation before?)
- Teacher interview – Tell me more about your teaching experience.
- What do you consider the toughest aspect of this job? (Is there anything you hate about teaching?)
- Tell us something about your hobbies. (What do you like to do in your free time?)
- Talk about games you’d play with your students, and why you’d choose these games, and not other games.
- Where do you see yourself in five years as a teacher?
- What are your salary expectations?
- Why should we hire you, and not one of the other job applicants?
A job, or a mission?
Elementary teacher–a job, a mission, sometimes an immense pleasure, and on bad days a heavy cross you have to carry on your shoulders. What does this job mean to you? What attitude do you have to children, teaching, and to different tricky situations that can happen in a classroom?
They will test exactly these things in an interview. Your attitude, as well as your personality, and your way of thinking. Try to convince them that teaching is your personal mission, that you are in the school for the children, and not the other way around. That’s the way to win your interviewers over.
Conclusion, answers to the questions
Elementary teacher interview does not belong to the most difficult interviews, especially because you won’t compete with many other applicants for the job. There are many schools, and plenty of vacancies. There is a room for each great teacher.
Having said that, you should not take success for granted. You will still have to convince the hiring committee of your readiness for the job, and the right attitude to your teaching mission. This depends mostly on your interview answers.
If you struggle with the answers, or feel anxious before the start of your interview, have a look at the Elementary Teacher Interview Guide. Multiple brilliant answers to all questions (including the dreaded scenario-based questions) will help you make a great impression, and say exactly what the principal (or the hiring committee) wants to hear from you. Thank you for checking it out, and I wish you best of luck in your interview!
Glen Hughins, InterviewPenguin.com Expert
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