Oprah Winfrey once famously invited her fourth-grade teacher to be a guest on her show. "I always, because of you, felt I could take on the world. You did exactly what teachers are supposed to do, they create a spark for learning that lives with you from then on," she professed tearfully.
The point is: you never forget a good teacher.
Teaching is one of those rare professions where you can make a tangible difference in a person's life and who knows, maybe even inspire the next Oprah. So when it comes to recruiting these influential educators, it’s crucial to find people who see the magic in it.
But of course, teachers face a number of challenges. And according to the US Census Bureau, millions leave their jobs each year, leaving administrators with the daunting task of hiring tens of thousands of teachers to fill the gaps.
With so many positions to fill, it can be tempting to cut corners, but hiring the best teacher isn’t just about making sure they have the right qualifications on their resume. You need to know if they’re a good fit for your students and the school culture.
This means asking the right questions during the interview. We’ve put together a list of 10 must-ask interview questions to help you hire teachers who stay.
1. Tell me about a recent successful lesson.
This is a great question to ask because it gives the candidate a chance to showcase their pedagogical approach.
It also tests their level of engagement in creating their own lesson plans. Are they merely teaching by the book or are they responsive the needs of the students in the class? A good teacher will have a number of lesson plans at the ready so that they can always hit the ground running.
2. How do you prioritize resources and materials?
Here you want to find out if they're independent and resourceful, or if they're going to need a level of ongoing support that, depending on your circumstances, you may or may not be able to offer.
Can they generate and adapt materials on their own to make engaging lessons? Or do they rely on pre-written content? If so, how do they make sure they can tailor it to meet diverse needs in the classroom?
3. How do you ensure inclusion in the classroom?
We know unconscious bias exists, even in the classroom.
As an administrator, you need to assess your candidates' awareness of common biases that can harm a student's chances of success and uncover the practical methods they use to counter them. Look for candidates who are both sensitive and confident in addressing issues around this subject.
4. Can you give me an example of a time you had to change your teaching approach in order to meet the needs of students?
Does the teacher put the student at the center of the learning experience? Are they aware of individual learning needs? How do they test this learning in different students?
This question should also lead to a discussion about what success in the classroom means to them.
5. What measures do you take to evolve and develop your practice?
Interest in professional development and career progression indicates a longer-term commitment to teaching. And you want teachers who will stick around.
According to a Korn Ferry poll of 5,000 professionals, 32% reported feeling bored and unchallenged at work. If you want to keep a teacher, make sure they're committed to professional growth and of course, you need to also make sure you can provide those opportunities.
6. Can you tell me a time you had to deal with conflict?
Whether it's with students, fellow teachers or parents—disagreements happen.
It’s how you handle conflict that matters. Good negotiation and communication skills are a must for every kind of teacher. Look for candidates who have the ability to solve problems proactively and remain calm in challenging situations.
7. Why did you get into teaching?
Yes, this question is obvious—but nonetheless, really important.
Think of it as an opportunity for the candidate to showcase their passion and commitment to teaching. A teacher who is visibly excited about their role is as valuable (or maybe even more valuable than) as a teacher who can keep their class in line.
8. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Another classic, forward-looking question that can give you a great read on your chances of retaining this candidate.
Clearly, if someone says they want to go traveling, it’s likely they don’t see the role as a long-term prospect. But it’s not just about that. This is also a good question to find out about candidates interests and passions. For instance, if they enjoy painting as a hobby this might be a great skill to use in the classroom to help engage and connect with students while keeping the teacher excited to come to work.
9. Learning doesn't end in the classroom—what other skills can you bring to the school?
You want teachers to integrate with the entire school community.
If a teacher is an avid rock climber or musician, they can run extra activities with students teaching them new skills while increasing their level of involvement to one of not just an employee, but a friend and ally in the community.
10. What communication tools have you used to engage with parents?
IResearch indicates that children perform better at school when their parents or family are engaged in their learning. But not all teachers are willing or able to go the extra mile to connect with parents and guardians.
Likewise, a sense of support and autonomy is crucial for keeping teachers engaged. Screen for candidates who know how to communicate effectively and regularly with parents and the wider school community.