You’re sitting in a teaching interview. Question after question comes your way, and you nail it! You’re feeling good about things. Then, you get to the end of the interview and the interviewer asks if you have any questions for them. Uh-oh! What should you say?
The following 25 questions will help you get a strong sense of the school’s environment, culture, and operations—and will help you decide if it’s a good fit for you.
Keep in mind, of course, that you don’t want to bombard the interviewers with all of these questions. However, choose a few that are the most compelling or important to you. Some will likely come up organically as the conversation flows. If the question doesn’t get answered in the course of the interview, make sure to ask it at the end. You can also send a couple follow-up questions in your thank-you email after the interview.
#1 Is there a set curriculum?
One of the most important things you should determine in an interview is how much freedom you’ll have in your curriculum. The answer also impacts how much original content you’ll have to create. Will you be given specific text books, syllabi, rubrics, etc. to use? Typically there is some standard curriculum to adhere to, but how much input will you have about what you teach?
#2 Can I incorporate my own materials and lesson ideas in the classroom?
Similar to #1, make sure to ask about what you're allowed to incorporate into your teaching. Can you show movies, for example? Teach books that haven’t necessarily been taught before? Can you conduct a science experiment that involves going outside, or do you have to stay in the lab?
#3 What resources does the school provide to help teachers?
Knowing what you’ll be provided will help give you a sense of the overall learning environment and how well you’ll be able to do your job. Will you be given art supplies? Are basic office supplies (file folders, staplers, white board markers) provided or will you have to supply your own? What will students have to purchase versus what will be supplied?
#4 What technology is available in a standard classroom for teachers to use?
This is a big one, since so much communication and learning takes place digitally now. Will you be issued a classroom computer or personal laptop? Are classrooms equipped with Smart Boards? Will you have a working projector to show videos or demonstrate work?
#5 Do you have a teacher-mentor program for new teachers?
Being a new teacher in a particular school or district (or a new teacher entirely!) can be incredibly overwhelming. What kinds of structural support systems are in place to help support new teachers? Is there an open-door policy with the principal? Is there an academic committee to help ease your transition into the community? Is there a specific colleague you can go to to receive mentorship? You won’t always know the answers as a new teacher, but if you know you’ll be supported in finding them, you’ll fare much better.
#6 What opportunities do you offer for professional development and growth?
To stay certified and in good standing with the Board of Education in your state, you’ll need to participate in professional development. Professional development is important for staying up to date on current teaching trends and continuing to grow as an educator. Will this school provide you professional development opportunities (e.g. conferences, seminars)? Will they fund these opportunities and/or provide transportation to them if necessary? Are any professional development opportunities offered on-campus?
#7 What kinds of staff development opportunities do you offer?
A positive working relationship with the entire faculty and staff is paramount to creating an ideal working and learning environment for all. How does the administration foster and support the staff and its relationship with the faculty?
#8 Do you encourage teachers to pursue a graduate degree? How does the school district support teachers who pursue a graduate degree?
If you’re considering continuing your education while teaching, this is an important one to ask. Some schools offer financial assistance to teachers furthering their education and others offer a pay increase for additional degrees.
#9 How often are faculty/staff meetings held?
As we all know, the duties and responsibilities of a teacher are much farther-reaching than just the classroom. You’ll certainly be required to attend faculty/staff meetings, but it’s a good idea to get a sense of how often these occur and if/what you’ll be expected to contribute at them (e.g. an overall update on your department, issues concerning students, etc.)
#10 How does the administration support teachers to fulfill the mission statement of the school?
This is a fantastic question if your school is particularly mission-driven and if the mission has already been discussed in your interview. In what practical ways does the administration show up for the faculty when it comes to core values of the school? (This question is also a good way to find out what the core values of a school are).
#11 How many teachers stay long enough to become tenured at the school?
Faculty retention and attrition will give you a strong sense of the morale of the school community and how much people like working there. If there is tenure offered, how long does it take to achieve and what other criteria must be met? How many current teachers are tenured?
#12 What is the makeup of the student body?
Knowing a bit more about the student body is super important because the bulk of your time will be spent with students! What is the demographic breakdown? How do the academics and test scores of this study body stack up compared to national averages? You can also lean in and ask what the administration does to foster and celebrate diversity at the school.
#13 What are your favorite things about the school and/or district? Why do you like working here?
Find out directly from the source what it's like to work at a particular school. Hearing what current employees love about their jobs will give you a very strong sense of whether or not you would enjoy working there.
#14 Are there any major issues that the school is addressing this year? What are the district’s crucial issues this year?
This is a biggie. It may feel a little intimidating to ask about, but as a potential teacher, you have a right to know what challenges or issues the school and/or district is up against. Have there been budgetary issues? Previous hiring freezes? Strikes? What are their biggest goals for the future? (For example, implementing tighter safety measures, improving the technological resources on campus, building new wings, etc.)
#15 How does the school district stand out from other districts in the state?
Give the interviewers a chance to brag about the school. What makes this school shine? Do the students perform higher on the ACT and SAT compared to state averages? Does the school have a particularly robust art or STEM curriculum in place? Has the school been issued any awards?
#16 Where do you want this school (or district) to be in 5 years?
This question is great because it shows that you have vested interest in the long-term success of the school, and you'll get insight into the administration’s concern for the school’s evolution and wellbeing. It will also give you a sense of what life will be like down the line for you if you stick around, which is super important.
#17 What are the average class sizes in the school? What is the teacher-student ratio?
This is perhaps the most important question when it comes to determining what your days will actually be like and how you’ll have to implement instruction. How many students are you realistically comfortable teaching in one class period? Do you have the option to co-teach classes? Are any classes combined grade levels?
#18 What is the school’s perspective on discipline?
Knowing a bit more about the school’s rules and disciplinary processes will give you glimpse into school values and culture. Do teachers have any say about classroom rules (e.g. eating or using cell phones in class) or are there school-wide policies to adhere to?
#19 How involved are parents in the school?
Every teacher knows that parents or guardians are a huge part of the job, but to what extent are parents involved at this particular school? Are you encouraged or required to reach out to parents regularly? Are there many parent volunteers? Do most parents attend parent-teacher conferences?
#20 Is there great community support for education?
How does the overall community (e.g. the town the school is located in) support the school? Do community members attend football games or school plays, for example? How engaged are the students in their local community? Do teachers engage the students in the community through field trips or volunteer work?
#21 What is the school and district policy on homework?
One thing is for sure: homework policies vary dramatically school by school (and sometimes even teacher by teacher). Will you get to choose how much homework to assign (or not), or will you need to adhere to set policies about how much to give nightly or weekly? To this point, you can also delve a little deeper into grading policies if you’d like.
#22 What extracurricular activities are available for teacher participation?
Will you have the opportunity to interact with your students outside of the classroom through clubs, sports, and other activities? For example, could you serve as an academic advisor for the school newspaper? Coach soccer? Can you bring your own ideas for extracurricular activities to the table? Also, some schools provide financial compensation for this extra work; how does this particular school handle outside-of-the-classroom student support?
#23 Are there any extra assignments that teachers are required to do, such as lunch duty?
What will you be required to do beyond the classroom? It’s a good idea to find out about office hours, lunch duty, after school tutoring, etc. It’s no secret that teachers are incredibly busy, so how will you be filling your days at this particular school?
#24 What qualities, skills, and personality would your ideal candidate have?
The job posting will have a list of criteria for an ideal candidate, but you can probe a bit deeper than that. Sure, you may need a teaching certificate and two years teaching high school math minimum, but what kind of person is this school looking to hire? Do you have other skills that could strengthen your role as a teacher in this particular environment?
#25 What are your expectations for a teacher who wants to be a long-term employee?
Hiring boards love to see candidates who demonstrate an interest in setting up post at a school for the long-haul. Conversely, it’s important for you to know how your position may grow and change over time. Will you possibly move departments? Change grade levels or subjects? Be promoted to department chair? What does this position look like, potentially, down the line?
Remember, at the end of the day, you aren't just trying to impress the interview committee and land the job. You want to make sure this is the right academic fit for you too. Teaching is a calling, and you’ll serve your students best if you’re in the right place!