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Going into an interview is exciting and nerve wracking. Knowing about your potential employer can help ease fears and give you a chance to show your fit with the position. Having a few questions ready can show that you have given the position thought and can demonstrate your desire to contribute to the team.
Before moving schools, my questions were mainly about programs that existed, discipline plans, and what was expected of me. Now, I know better what to ask to make sure the position will be a fit for me, not just ensure I'm a fit for the position.
Here are a few questions to consider asking:
1. What I want to know: What kinds of professional development (PD) exist, and am I free to make choices about what I attend? Will I be supported in going out and finding opportunities to grow in my passion?
What I should ask: What is your stance on professional development? How much PD is offered, what is the expectation in terms of required PD, and are teachers free to pursue opportunities on their own? What kind of support is there for attending PD that is not district or school initiated?
What you want to hear: Required professional development is in general part of the deal. You want to know the time commitment to any major programs. My first year teaching, I was required to complete the New Teacher Academy, which was a significant commitment after school each week. The last few summers, my school has committed all classroom teachers to a week of unpaid summer development necessary to teach our programs. If you like to attend conferences, seek out opportunities, or tend to present, knowing what kind of support you will have is important.
2. What I want to know: Are there policies and procedures that have been thought out ahead of time? Is there a clear leadership plan and way to address problems as they arrive?
What I should ask: What is the current schoolwide discipline plan? Is there a standard procedure for referring students to the office? Is there a teacher handbook that details the policies and procedures for things like fieldtrips, discipline, and lock down procedures?
What you want to hear: There should be clear policies and procedures in place for safety and for discipline. You want to work somewhere that is proactive and thinking forward, rather than reactive. You might not need every detail in the interview, but knowing that systems are in place is reassuring.
3. What I want to know: What do you truly want from me at the end of the day? Are you hoping that I will be the peacekeeper on a volatile team or do you think I will be the kick in the pants someone needs?
What I should ask: Outside of the obvious duties of this position, what role do you see me playing in this team? What are you hoping that I can accomplish in the first six months in this position?
What you want to hear: This depends on you and your personality. You may want to hear that the position will be leadership and to direct or guide others. You may want to be assured that you will have time to adjust and just find your footing in a new situation. You may hear that this position is temporary and there is an ulterior place for you in the future, which would be good to know now.
When considering what to ask in an interview, think of how you hope to serve the team, be it a grade level, school, office community, or district. Questions should ensure that you and the employer are expecting the same thing from the job.
Don’t be afraid to dig in and find out what you can. An employer wants a happy well-adjusted employee just as much as you want a job you love. Interviews work both ways, so make sure you exercise your right to ask questions and see if the job fits you as well.
Meghan Everette is a 1st grade teacher in Daphne, Ala. She is a member of the ASCD Emerging Leaders class of 2014 and was the 2013 Alabama Elementary Teacher of the Year. Everette blogs for Scholastic's Top Teaching site and is a trainer for the state DoE web portal, ALEX . Follow her on Twitter @bamameghan.
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