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Interview Questions - Part I, Engagement Through Instruction

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As you start to prepare for an important interview, take your time and thoughtfully consider questions that you may be asked.

To help get your head in the right "space," here are some questions regarding your ability to engage students and lead instruction. While suggestions are listed for formulating your response, ultimately the answer will be uniquely yours. Stay focused, positive, and honest. Try to avoid vague or ambiguous responses. Ideally, you should substantiate your answer with solid examples whenever possible.

Since there will never be just one "right answer" and each person has unique circumstances, prepare your answers and/or comments as they pertain to you and your experiences. These notes will prove useful when you do a run-through or practice interview with a friend or colleague.

Describe what a typical lesson looks like.
• Discuss the purpose of an anticipatory set and closing activities.
• Define clear objectives and give examples describing how you teach to various learning styles using real-world connections.
• Discuss the importance and your implementation of individualized instruction.
• Show the importance of resources being well organized and available.
• Discuss how you engage students in meaningful lessons.
• Give examples of how you check for understanding during lessons.
• Talk about how homework is assigned and how it will be evaluated.

Describe a skill in your curriculum area in which students often struggle. How do you overcome those challenges?
• Explain the skill and why it is a difficult skill for students to understand.
• Discuss how you teach the skill engaging different learning styles, making real-world connections and checking for understanding regularly.
• Discuss only best practices and strategies.

In what ways can a teacher connect more effectively with a student through multicultural awareness?
• Demonstrate the importance of understanding the individuality of children.
• Demonstrate an understanding that cultural context is a factor in student learning.
• Cite examples of how you build relationships with students from various backgrounds.

What kinds of multicultural activities promote tolerance and diversity in your classroom?
• Show an understanding that tolerance and diversity are not only demonstrated through activities but through climate and behaviors as well.
• Cite examples of activities that you have taught in your classroom that teach about cultures and regions.
• Discuss opportunities in your classroom that you use to embrace other cultures.
• Demonstrate "naturalness" of this process, i.e., gestures, body language, tone, etc.

In order to enhance your curriculum, list examples of enrichment activities you use in the classroom.
• Demonstrate your understanding that this is not about EXTRA work. This is about building on already mastered skills through enrichment activities.
• Cite examples that prove depth of learning in activities you use/have used.

Through questioning, how do you increase depth in learning?
• Discuss your use of higher-level questioning. Cite examples.
• Discuss how you respond to incorrect answers. For example, if a student answers a question incorrectly, do you help the student discover the answer by asking probing questions?
• Talk about the need for "wait time" and individualized questions for students.
• Discuss the importance of asking a variety of closed- and open-ended questions as appropriate.
• Demonstrate the importance of building on answers that lead to higher-level questions.

Describe your most successful unit and why.
• The interviewer does not want to hear about the unit you love to teach, necessarily. The interviewer wants to hear about the unit that achieves the best outcomes and meets curriculum standards.
• Give an example of a challenging unit to show your expertise.
• Talk about what makes your unit so engaging.

Explain what differentiation looks like in your classroom.
• Provide a clear definition illustrating your complete understanding of differentiation.
• Discuss ways that you have met the needs of a range of learners.
• Give examples of how you engage all students to ensure that no child is anonymous, i.e., individualized instruction, modified assessments, etc.

Convince me that you are an innovative classroom teacher.
• Discuss how you keep up with latest trends and developments in your curriculum area.
• Demonstrate that you are a critical thinker and leader.
• Demonstrate that you never teach the same lesson or unit twice. Reflection is a valued characteristic.
• Talk about how you collaborate with your colleagues to provide challenging ideas and concepts.
• Stress that your innovative ideas enhance mastery of curriculum; they are not a distraction from it.

How do you communicate learning objectives with students?
• Discuss how you develop objectives that are driven by curriculum and give examples of how the objectives are communicated to students and parents.
• Talk about different ideas you implement in your classroom to ensure that objectives are meaningful to students, i.e., students understand the purpose of the lesson, students create their own objectives, etc.
• Cite examples of how you assess that objectives were mastered.
• Provide details about what mastery of an objective looks like.

How do you monitor authentic engagement in your classroom?
• Provide specific examples of how you monitor this.
• Demonstrate the importance of proximity, asking questions, checking for understanding, assessing quality of work, providing individualized attention and instruction, etc.

How do you make real-world connections in your subject area?
• Discuss how you involve students and community in the planning.
• Talk about how you refresh each lesson and unit regularly.
• Give examples of your use of technology and other resources.
• Cite examples of how you connect lessons to the real world, i.e., guest speakers, real-world problem solving, etc.

How do you transition from one activity to the next?
• Stress that your methods focus on the least amount of lost instructional time.
• Demonstrate the need to keep students engaged during transitions.
• Demonstrate knowledge that planning should allow transitions to happen in a natural way.

Describe the key characteristics of a highly-effective classroom environment.
• Show the importance of highly-engaged students, quality instruction and using a wide range of learning styles to reach all learners.
• Illustrate the importance of student work displayed in the classroom.
• Demonstrate understanding that a safe learning environment where students can take risks must be fostered.
• Demonstrate the importance of teacher and students modeling respect.
• Reflect on your own classroom and the things that make it highly effective.

Shanna Mack
Co-Founder and Director
Global Services in Education, Ltd.

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