Good scientists do not necessarily excel in teaching science. And an excellent science teacher does not have to conduct scientific experiments, or come up with some groundbreaking discoveries.
But they have to know how to explain complex subjects in a simple way, one the students will understand, and how to connect theory with real-life applications to make the lessons engaging and interesting for their students (or at least for most of them, because some students simply hate natural sciences and it is impossible to engage them in the lesson).
Let’s have a look at 12 questions the school principal (or a small hiring committee) will ask you while you interview for this interesting job.
Why do you want to work as a science teacher?
Try to focus on the future, and not on the past. Saying that you want to teach science because you earned your master’s degree in science, or in teaching, would indicate a must, something you have to do (because you’ve already spent a lot of time and money studying), and not necessarily want to do.
On the contrary, if you say that you understand the importance science plays in the life of children, that they should understand how our world functions, in order to be able to fully appreciate it, and to protect it, and that you see teaching science as your personal mission, and as something you enjoy doing, and say all of this with enthusiasm in your voice, you will immediately win a favor of your interviewers.
You can also add that you believe to have an ability to lead engaging lessons that induce creative thinking, and that you are confident you’ll do a good job as a science teacher.
Why this grade level (secondary school, high school etc)?
You have several options for a good answer at this point. One is saying that you believe that your teaching style, and level of knowledge, matches perfectly with the particular grade level (you can say that you prefer certain teaching methods, for example, that work better with secondary school students).
Another option is referring to their school. You can say that you do not care much about the grade level, but you really want to work at their school in particular. Maybe their reputation stands out, or they have excellent equipment in the lab, or you know some teachers at the school and they said nice things about the atmosphere in the staff room, or about anything else at school.
Sciences do not belong to popular subjects. What do you plan to do to make your students engaged in the lessons?
You can talk about innovative teaching methods, such as learning by playing, or interactive education, or even educational games. Doing a lot of experiments in the lab (when you teach Chemistry, for example) is another idea. Most students enjoy being in a lab more than being in a classroom.
Another option is saying that you prefer individual approach to each student, or each classroom. You do not have a one-fit all recipe for success. On the contrary, if a student (or an entire class) struggles with engagement, you will question them and try to find the reason. Then you will address the problem, if that’s possible, of course, because there will always be some students who won’t cooperate or enjoy the lessons, regardless of what you do. You should count with that and accept it as a part of the job.
One of your students is failing to pass the tests, and it seems they will drop out because of failing in your subject. What will you do?
This is a tricky question. First of all, you are a teacher, and not a savior. You should try your best in each lesson, but it’s not your goal to ensure that everyone will pass and progress to the next year. At the end of the day, grades should reflect the differences between the students, and someone has to be the worst.
On the other hand, you should show some interest to help the student, to guide them in the right direction. You can say that you will try to talk to their parents, or suggest a visit to a school counselor. You may also suggest employing a teacher assistant in your classes, especially if you have a feeling that the student can be eligible for special education.
To sum it up, you will try to help them, but you won’t give them good grades just because you want them to progress to the next school year. You are ready to see some of your students fail–that’s simply a part of the job, and one cannot take it to heart, or consider it a personal failure.
You are explaining a difficult subject in a classroom, and students are not getting it. What will you do?
Just do not say that you will continue explaining, to meet your lesson plans. If they are not getting it–and you will always observe their reactions and non-verbal communication, to notice as soon as possible when they struggle to comprehend the lesson, you will explain it again.
You will use demonstration, practical examples, you will simplify your language, you may play them a video on YouTube that demonstrates the lesson, and so on. You’ll do everything within your power to get the message over, at least to the majority of students.
Because obviously if you waited and repeated the same thing until everyone gets it (including the weakest students in the classroom, who simply won’t get it), you would not get far with your teaching…
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How would you deal with a disruptive student?
Doesn’t matter how hard you try, they will typically always be at least one disruptive student. Someone who doesn’t like you, or makes problems simply because that’s what they do in all other lessons–they enjoy making problems, building an image of a bad guy (or girl).
Discipline is a major issue at most schools in the Western world, and you should ensure the interviewers that you count with experiencing this challenge. But how do you want to address it? You can suggest several things:
- Setting clear rules of discipline at the start of each school year, and clearly communicating them to the students, including the punishment for disobedience of the rules. And invariably sticking to them throughout the year.
- Trying to make your lessons as engaging and interesting as possible, to minimize the occurrence of disruptive behavior. If children enjoy their time in the classroom, if they find your teaching engaging, they are more likely to pay attention instead of making troubles.
- Involving school counselor or paraprofessional in the classroom, to work with the disruptive student. At the end of the day, you are a teacher, and not a counselor. Other staff members have a better qualification to address the problem, and you do not feel ashamed asking them for help…
Some other questions you may face in your science teacher job interview
- What are your expectations on fellow teachers, and on administrators working at this school?
- Where do you see yourself in five years time?
- What do you want to accomplish while teaching science at our school?
- What is your opinion about having special needs students enrolled in regular science classes?
- Describe the role technology plays in your work of a science teacher.
- After everything that we’ve discussed in this interview, do you want to add something or do you have any questions?
* You can download all questions in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview questions anytime later:
Conclusion, next steps
Interview for a job of a science teacher belongs to interviews with average difficulty. You may face some tricky behavioral questions, and you have to demonstrate motivation and right attitude to work with your answers, but you typically won’t compete with many other people for the job. Often just two or three people, which makes your situation much easier…
Try to prepare for the questions, and do a good research about your prospective employer, the school where you want to teach. This isn’t a particularly difficult interview, and if you do not underestimate your preparation, you should make it and succeed. Good luck!
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