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10 Questions I Didn’t Hear (But Wish I Had)

So, my job search has come to a short, but fruitful end. This week I’ll be signing the documents and I will officially stop worrying about where to report come September 8th (that is the day they finally decided on, right?). Although my search only consisted of three interviews, it was enough to hear a few good questions and plenty of bad.

Obviously in the interest of time, administrators have to stick to a certain script, but I would have appreciated a curve ball or two thrown in there. In my opinion too many questions sought to quiz me on the proper logistics of a reader’s workshop or Everyday Math.

The favorite questions I heard were mainly in the course of the interview that got me my new job. These were questions that were open-ended and sparked more of a conversation as opposed to questions that simply sought a “correct answer.” The latter rarely reveal details that say much about a teacher’s actual abilities and value to a school. Without further ado, ten questions, in no particular order, that I wish I had a chance to answer:

  1. What is your educational philosophy? Sure, it’s simple, but more meaningful than, “Why did you decide to be a teacher?”
  2. What after school programs did you take part in? I don’t think extracurricular involvement should be required of teachers, but it’s definitely worth finding out if a teacher’s willing to put in some extra hours.
  3. What is one thing you would change about the school you’re leaving? In addition to testing a candidate’s creativity, it would also separate those who would you this as a chance to complain or badmouth their former school from those with actual solutions.
  4. If you had $5,000 to spend on your classroom, how would you spend it? Again, I think creativity goes a long way in the classroom. This question would also probe a candidate’s resourcefulness, as well as their priorities as an educator.
  5. What is one way you prepared students for state exams that didn’t involve a mock test or test prep book? Test prep usually focuses on test-taking skills, but it can be viewed very differently. This difference says a lot about a teacher.
  6. What do you see as the biggest obstacle to our students’ academic achievement? In a high need school there are so many things a teacher could single out to answer this question. What would be especially interesting is whether how much responsibility a teacher accepts for overcoming these issues, or whether they view them as excuses.
  7. What’s the last book you read? What book(s) are reading now? A good teacher should still be learning and practicing the skills and strategies they are responsible for in the classroom.
  8. Who was your favorite teacher and why? Many teachers are in the profession because they were inspired by someone else along the way. Who it was and how it happened says a lot about a teacher.
  9. What is your biggest weakness as a teacher? Honestly, I probably heard this question, but I would have liked it candidly.
  10. What is the biggest risk you have taken as a teacher? If a teacher can’t answer this question, they probably shouldn’t be teaching in NYC.

Okay, now it’s your turn. What questions would you ask a teacher before you hired them at your school?

Ruben Brosbe just finished his second year teaching in the Bronx. He is writing about his experiences looking for a new position after being excessed this spring. He also blogs at Is Our Children Learning?

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