Preparing for an interview at public high school
October 8, 2013 8:45 PM   Subscribe

I am a US university instructor who has an hour-long phone interview with an inner city public high school. Please help me prepare for the questions they might ask.

I have several years' experience teaching at the university level in the US but I have never taught in a high school.

I haven't interviewed in years and I have never done well in a phone interview format. What kinds of generic questions might they ask me and how can I prepare for them?

I'm also interested in finding forums for teachers of high school students and websites for learning how to make high school lesson plans. Thanks for your help.

My throwaway email is
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
For a public high school job, you will absolutely be asked how you will manage your classroom and what your plan is for disciplining and working students who are not doing their work, are actually impossibly rude to you personally, chronically truant etc. You probably have not thought about this nearly as much as a university instructor as you will have to as a a public high school teacher.
posted by charmedimsure at 8:50 PM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

You will most likely be asked how you will assess your students, both formally and informally. I was asked to describe a successful lesson plan and then to explain how I assessed students learning during said lesson.
posted by figaro at 8:54 PM on October 8, 2013

It would help to know whether you have passed preliminary screeners, who is interviewing you (principal? lead teacher? HR?), for what role you are being interviewed (apparently teacher, but in what subject?), whether you are certified (and, if not, if this is a charter school?), and, if you know, what the hiring philosophy of the district is. If you don't know the last, you can usually find out online, and questions will usually be tailored to one of a handful of specific philosophies about what makes for a good inner-city teacher. If you could give a few more details through the mods, the answers will be much more helpful.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:10 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I presume that if you're interviewing with a public high school you have the proper certification? They'll probably ask about your familiarity with the state and federal testing standards for your discipline. They'll also want to know if you can and are licensed to teach multiple disciplines or run any extracurricular clubs/activities/sports as well.

You'll be asked about any prior experience with impoverished and low-income families and with diversity in your student population. They may ask if you're fluent in Spanish depending on the student population.

I'd also study up on IEPs if you're not familiar with them.

They will ask you about past times in which you have encountered a student who does not want to be in your class, and how/if you turned that around.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:27 PM on October 8, 2013

If it matters to you, incidentally, I am often on interview committees in my district for openings in my subject area districtwide. We ask a lot of subject-specific pedagogical questions but also ask quite a few open-ended generic teaching questions with lots of room for potential teachers to run with a question and tick a lot of our boxes or give us a one-sentence answer and...not. My district requires that we ask all interviewees the same set of questions, which means that if I'm concerned about something with a candidate particular to that candidate, I can't always find an answer to that question unless the candidate uses those open-ended questions well.

If I were you, in any open-ended questions I would try to

-use any question about your experience to convince the interviewers that not only do you understand that the high school will be different but that you understand the specifics of those differences and are prepared to deal with them effectively

-try and find a way to convincingly talk about your enthusiasm for your subject (if you can't convince an interview committee it matters, you're probably not going to be able to sell it to 15 year-olds, and teaching is often a sales job)

-talk about how you will work with parents and students, and keep both groups informed of student progress or lack thereof; when we have hired people without public school experience, this is often a sticking point later on and if I were interviewing you this is something I would want to know

-address what you will bring to the school community (this matters more if you are interviewing with a principal and not a generic district lackey). Do you want to work on the school musical? Start a knitting club? Assistant coach the running team? What can you bring to the school community that is outside of your classroom?

-talk about what strategies you will use to effectively teach students with a variety or learning disabilities and/or limited English proficiency who may be placed in your class

-explain in detail what you want a student to know and be able to do after a year in your classroom studying X. If you can look up state subject standards or district curriculum guides in advance of your interview this can be a huge help.
posted by charmedimsure at 9:37 PM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mod note: This is a followup from the asker.
Thank you all for your answers.

In reply some questions that have come up here:

It's a phone interview with a charter school. I haven't gotten certified in my subject yet but I indicated in my cover letter that I would take the subject exams by the end of December. I passed the practice tests without any problems. I also said in my cover letter that I would start learning Spanish in January (the school has a significant number of Hispanic students).

I'm not concerned so much about demonstrating my interest in the school or my ability to work with students like this because I have a lot of experience with historically-underrepresented students in high pressure environments.

I'm worried about how to talk about strategies for communicating with parents and assessing students. I expected to learn this stuff in the course Texas requires for teacher certification. Before I could do that course, I found this job opportunity. Since the job is exactly what I want to do it's making me even more nervous.

Basically I need a crash course in talking convincingly about the actual work of teaching this age group. I am looking for sites on the internet with an overview of assessment strategies, communicating with parents and writing lesson plans.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:44 AM on October 9, 2013

Here's a nice overview of the different types of assessments focusing on classroom based (formative assessment) strategies.
posted by statsgirl at 8:23 AM on October 9, 2013

You may also be asked how you plan to differentiate a lesson, especially if you teach a sample lesson for them. Basically, that means students who are gifted, ESL, special ed, visual learners, kinesthetic learners, etc etc will all be in the same class. What is your strategy to make sure each student learns that lesson?

There is no perfect solution to this question. Every teacher struggles with this daily. They want to know how YOU are going to address it.

There are many approaches to writing lesson plans. Do a search for Madeline Hunter, which is what we use in my school. That should get you started, but it is by no means the only method out there.

Also, read Harry Wong's book "The First Days of School". It gives a basic overview of classroom management and is a good place to start (but is only the BASICS).
posted by rakaidan at 4:16 PM on October 9, 2013

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