Teaching belongs to the most popular careers around the world. No doubt about the impact you can have as a teacher. Spending long hours with your students, you can easily become their role model, or perhaps their first platonic love… What’s more, giving them some food for thought, and asking the right questions in your lessons, you can help them to form a healthy opinion of the world, and of their position in it. And of course you can teach them to read, write, speak a foreign language–all these skills are vital for their success in life.

Before it can happen, however, you have to get the job in an interview. And one of the most common questions the school principal (or a head department, or a small hiring committee) will ask you is the dreaded one: What are your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher? They may also split it to two questions, first inquiring about your strengths, and just then about your weaknesses. But it really doesn’t matter whether it’s one question or two. You will have to talk about both.

Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to the question. Below the answers you will find some additional hints and explanations that should help you pick the very best answer for your teaching job interview.

 

7 sample answers to: “What are you strengths and weaknesses as a teacher?” interview question

  1. The passion for my profession is undoubtedly my greatest strengths. I believe it reflects in each lesson, in each talk I have with the students. They can feel that I really want the best for them, and try my best in each lesson, which of course motivates them to also try hard, or at least to stay disciplined. And to be honest, the same attitude–or to say it more precisely, the consequences of such an attitude to teaching, is also my biggest weakness. Because I care so much that I struggle to maintain professional distance. I often take the problems from classroom home, and cannot get them out of my head. This is definitely a problem I am aware of, and try to eliminate.
  2. My communication skills, and understanding for the emotional world of children–especially at elementary level, is my greatest strengths as a teacher. I do not find it hard to gain trust of the students, because I understand how they feel in different situations and can choose the right words in my lessons. My biggest weakness is definitely lack of experience. I taught as a part of my studies, but that was only six months and always in the same classes–students were not disruptive at all in these classes. I am aware that I lack experience with some tricky situations. And they will happen, sooner or later. I will have to adapt, and hopefully I can learn from my more experienced colleagues how to deal with the tricky situation in the classroom.
  3. In my view, nothing can beat the twenty years of teaching experience. That’s my greatest strength. I’ve seen it all–good students, bad students, violence in school, chicane, but also strong friendships and students who excelled on a national level in various competitions. I’ve tried both conventional and unorthodox teaching methods. My experience is vast, and hardly anything can catch me off guard in the classes… During these long years I also understood my weaknesses, and eventually got rid of some. But there is still something I’d like to improve on. Sometimes I talk too much in the lessons, and do not involve the students as much as I’d like to. That’s not the way to help them improve on their communication and interpersonal skills, something we have to work on in the 21st century.

* Do not forget to check also: Why do you want to become a teacher? 7 sample answers.

  1. To be honest, I cannot tell. This is my first job application. I’ve never taught anywhere before, and though I have some expectations and good understanding of the job, I cannot really tell how I’d do in a real classroom setting. I believe that I have to do the job first, at least for a few weeks, to understand in which areas of teaching I excel, and which areas I have to improve on. Certainly I won’t excel in everything and it’s a process–one does not become an excellent teacher by earning their degree. We need practice, and a desire to constantly improve on our skills…
  2. I’d say that my greatest strength is an ability to build respect in the eyes of the students. I know that your school faces a lot of problems with discipline, that it is your biggest challenge. Under my leadership, however, even the most disruptive students eventually started to behave, or at least they did not disturb other students anymore. As it often happens, however, this strength sometimes turns into a weakness… Because I like to have strong rules of discipline in classes, not tolerating any misbehavior. This is good in some cases, but in some classes it can “scare” some students, and eventually they will not express their opinion, or feedback on my teaching, for example when they do not understand something. So it’s about finding the right balance, something I still struggle to do effectively, lesson after lesson.
  3. If I should point out one thing, I will go with creativity. Students definitely won’t get bored in my lessons. I do not stick to lecturing, at least not all the time. Learning by playing, using interactive technology in the classes, changing roles of teacher and students–are just some of the teaching methods I use. So far the feedback has been great. The children pay attention in the classes, because they enjoy them.  My biggest weakness is probably being impatient. I am sometimes concerned about staying on schedule with the lessons, and progress to quickly for the students. I definitely have to work on this, asking for their feedback, avoid rushing things.
  4. As we speak about University teaching here, my greatest strength is definitely my expertise with the subjects I teach. I’ve published dozens of research papers, and continuously work on keeping my knowledge up to date. If the students really want to learn something from the subject, to rise above the rest of university students, I am the right person to lead the lessons. On the other hand, and that’s my biggest weakness as a teacher, I sometimes overestimate the abilities of my students. Sometimes my lectures are just difficult, at least for the majority of the people in the audience. Not sure how you look at such an issue, but I try to find a good balance between teaching something extra, and at the same time ensuring that students are getting it.

 

Your biggest strength can be your greatest weakness, or a reason for it

You do not necessarily have to look for opposites in your interview answer, some yin and yang. What makes you an excellent teacher in general, can make your life difficult sometimes.  For example your passion and commitment to your teaching mission (definitely a strength) can make you feeling miserable, when you do not achieve the desired results with your students. See sample answer no. 1 as an example.

Or you have an ability to maintain discipline in the classes–perhaps with an iron fist, which is indeed needed in some instances, when students won’t obey you otherwise. In some school settings this can be the most important strength. However, it can turn against you. Afraid of your reaction, students may struggle to express their opinion on your teaching, and you lack feedback. Check answer no. 5 as a good example.

* Read also 7 sample answers to other tricky teacher interview question: Where do you see yourself in 5 years as a teacher?

Lack of experience or vast experience –  your safe bet when you aren’t sure

Just like with everything else in life, experience helps. If you have ten or twenty years of teaching experience under your belt, you can definitely point it out as your greatest strength. It is a safe bet when you aren’t sure, and you can elaborate on it, explaining how the experience helps you in the classes. See sample answer no. 3 as a great example.

You can also turn this around, and, when you are just starting out your teaching journey, say that lack of experience (and everything it means for you in the lessons) is your biggest weakness. Or you can add another twist, saying that due to the lack of real teaching experience, you cannot really point out your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher. See sample answer no 4. as a good example.

 

Show your desire to improve on your weaknesses

Perfect teachers do not exist, and each of us has some weaknesses. It is completely fine for the hiring committee, and they won’t send you hope empty-handed just because you reveal some significant weakness.

What matters for them is your attitude. As long as you can admit having a weakness, and show an honest desire to improve on it (perhaps even describing how you want to do it), they will be satisfied with your answer, and your weakness certainly won’t be a showstopper…

Ready to answer this one? Great. But it won’t be the only difficult question you will face in your teaching interview… If you want to get ready for every challenge you may face, impress the hiring committee, and sign the coveted employment contract, have a look at my eBook, the Teacher Interview Guide. Multiple great answers to all questions you may face in your interview will make your life much easier on the big day. Thank you for checking it out, and I wish you best of luck!

Glen

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Glen Hughins
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