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Secondary School TeacherInterview Questions

Position Summary

Secondary school teachers educate students between the ages of 11-19. They teach specific subjects that typically have nationally approved curriculums. This is an especially important phase of education because students are preparing to go on to higher education. Secondary school teachers must prepare lesson plans and teach students as well as use interactive and creative teaching methods to engage students in their lessons. 

Secondary school teachers also help prepare their students for admission tests and college exams. This can include providing additional tutoring outside of class and providing assistance with taking the SAT and ACT.

Responsibilities

Secondary school teacher responsibilities may include:

  • Developing classroom curriculums
  • Assigning homework and study materials
  • Creating tests and other assessments
  • Directing teaching assistants to assist with their workload
  • Providing quarterly progress reports
  • Participating in parent-teacher conferences

Skills

A good teacher can make all the difference in a student’s life, impacting their success outside of school as well. In order to help students realize their full potential, a skilled secondary school teacher will:

  • Maintain a professional, friendly demeanor at all times
  • Be able to encourage students and provide support and guidance
  • Provide guidance and leadership to their students and teaching assistants
  • Be dedicated to putting in the extra effort required to make sure students do well
  • Bring creativity to the classroom to ensure students are engaged with the material

Qualifications

To secure a position as a secondary school teacher, candidates will need to possess a bachelor’s degree in the field of study they wish to teach in. It is recommended that they participate in a student-teaching internship while completing their degree. Afterwards, candidates will need to take an exam to obtain a teaching license as well as pass a background check.

If you’re getting ready to interview for a position as a secondary school teacher, you can prepare by researching the company as much as possible. Learn about the 9 things you should research before an interview.

Salary

Salaries for secondary school teachers range between $41K and $69K with the median being $54K. 

Factors impacting the salary you receive as a secondary school teacher include:

  • Degrees (bachelor's, master's)
  • Years of Experience
  • Location
  • Reporting Structure (seniority of the department head or school administrator you report to and number of direct reports, such as counselors, teacher aids and administrators)
  • Level of Performance - Exceeding Expectations

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Secondary School Teacher Interview Questions

Question: Can you describe your teaching philosophy for me?

Explanation: An interviewer will ask this type of question early in the interview to get you talking and discover a little bit more about your background. They are also looking to collect information they can use for subsequent questions.

Example: “My teaching philosophy is centered on identifying each student's passion and teaching to that. While I cannot customize my lessons for each individual student, I can try to find a consensus and make that the theme for the lessons.  Also, if I can get at least one student excited about the topic, it often becomes contagious, and the other students will get on board.”


Question: Do you feel it is essential to know your students well in order to work with them, and why?

Explanation: This is the first operational question. Operational questions seek to discover how you go about doing your job and the steps you take to accomplish a specific task. The best way to respond to operational questions is succinctly and directly with little embellishment.

Example: “I believe that the better I know my students both inside and outside of the classroom, the more effective I will be in instructing them and helping them achieve their educational objectives. Like most people, students bring their own perspective to the classroom. This is based on their life experiences as well as their previous education. If I can tap into this, I can tailor my teaching to each student and respond to them in an appropriate manner.”


Question: What contributions can you make to our school and students based on your background and experience?

Explanation: This is another operational question. The interviewer is seeking to understand how your talents, skills, and experience will contribute to the educational objectives of the school. They also hope you will bring something unique to their culture and enhance it. Your ability to describe this will demonstrate how you can contribute and your communication skills.

Example: “I believe my background, experiences, and related educational skills will contribute to not only the success of the educational program at this school but also to its culture. Growing up, I traveled all over the world with a military family. This exposed me to experiences that gave me the confidence to navigate unfamiliar territory and interact with people whose language, histories, and cultures were different from my own. Not only did I learn a lot of things I now incorporate into my lessons, but I am also tolerant of people from different backgrounds and am able to communicate with them effectively.”


Question: What is the most frustrating thing about teaching high school students?

Explanation: The interviewer is asking this question to discover weaknesses you may have. Any job has its frustrating moments, but they are probably more common in the field of education. High school students can be disruptive, uncooperative, or just tune out. Getting them engaged and cooperating with the class is a challenge. As a teacher, you could probably describe any day you have as being frustrating. However, you should avoid being negative. Pick one frustrating issue which you overcame.

Example: “My biggest frustration is when intelligent and capable students become bored and don’t apply themselves. I hate to see talent wasted and become frustrated when I know the student can accomplish much more than they are demonstrating in the classroom. I try to recognize this situation and work with a bright but unmotivated student as much as I do with the ones who need additional help or have learning challenges.”


Question: Do you feel it is important to teach life skills in school, and how do you incorporate this into your classroom?

Explanation: The purpose of this question is to determine whether you focus simply on academics or are willing to broaden your lessons to incorporate life skills. At the secondary school level, students need to begin preparing to launch into their adult lives. This requires skills that are not formally taught in the classroom and may not be taught in the home as they traditionally have been. Being able to speak to how you incorporate these skills into your teaching is an important quality and will separate you from the unqualified candidates.

Example: “I have always strived to incorporate life skills and the real world into my lessons. Teaching students academic lessons are important, but preparing them to operate independently after they graduate is our mission. The more we can help them relate to life outside of the classroom and what they will be facing after they graduate, the more successful I feel I’ve been. The feedback I receive from students who have graduated and gone on to live successful lives has reinforced this for me.”


Question: What methods do you use to evaluate your students other than grades?

Explanation: Traditionally, educational institutions have placed a significant emphasis on grades when evaluating their students’ performances. The reason for this is because it is straightforward and objective. It removes any guesswork and subjectivity from the student evaluation. However, it is also important to evaluate students using some subjective methods. This also identifies any learning deficiencies or special needs they may have. Additionally, teachers are people too and subject to making judgments about their students. Being able to discuss subjective evaluations positively will demonstrate your qualifications for this job.

Example: “While grades and standardized tests are important means to evaluate a student’s capabilities and performance, I also feel strongly that students should be evaluated by other means. including the level of participation in the classroom, how well they interact with their peers, their ability to complete assignments on time and per the instructions, and in other areas as well. These evaluation methods are important because the same criteria will be used to evaluate them in whatever they choose to pursue after they graduate from school.”


Question: Can you explain differentiation and universal design and how these concepts are applied in secondary school education?

Explanation: This is a technical question. Technical questions ask you to define concepts used in your profession and discuss how they are applied. Technical questions are similar to operational questions in that they should be replied to succinctly and directly with little embellishment. The interviewer will ask a follow-up question if they require additional information or want to explore the topic in more detail.

Example: “Universal design is a learning technique that involves a proactive approach to designing learning activities that are accessible to all the students in a classroom. Differentiation, on the other hand, involves customizing the learning experience for each student. I believe in using a combination of the two. I try to design lesson plans that are accessible to the entire class while also recognizing when adjustments need to be made for an individual student or students to help them access the information and apply the lessons.”


Question: What is your strategy for working with students with both identified and unidentified disabilities?

Explanation: Working with students who have learning disabilities has become a standard practice within secondary school classrooms. You should understand this is important and have a strategy to deal with it. As an experienced teacher, you should be able to address those questions efficiently and provide an explanation of your strategy. Since this is an operational question, make sure to keep your answer brief. You should also anticipate a follow-up question from the interviewer.

Example: “When dealing with identified learning disabilities, I try to spend additional time with the student, reduce their classroom requirements, and take advantage of additional resources such as teacher aides and after-school programs.  My strategy for addressing unidentified learning disabilities is to maintain my awareness about them and look for indications that a student may be struggling. If I suspect this, I spend extra time with the student to confirm if they have a learning disability, what it is, and how it should be addressed. Once the disability is identified, I then use the same strategy I employ with students who have identified learning disabilities.”


Question: How do you interact with the parents of your students, especially if they are demanding?

Explanation: Much of a teacher’s job occurs outside of the classroom. This includes lesson plans, department meetings, continuing education, and parent conferences. Describing how you work with parents is integral to demonstrating your qualifications to teach at the secondary level. You should be able to talk clearly and concisely about how you accomplish this.

Example: “A big part of my job is working with my students’ parents. This often involves students who are struggling or challenged in the classroom. It can also involve students who are high achievers and whose parents inject themselves into the learning process. In both cases, I express my empathy with the parents’ concerns, coach them on how to be engaged at the proper level, and then reinforce my authority in the classroom and my professional skills which make me best suited to determine a student’s educational needs specific to what I am teaching them.”


Question: What is your approach to classroom management?

Explanation: In addition to providing instruction, a significant responsibility for a teacher is managing their classroom. This requires teachers to maintain the structure of the classroom, create an environment that is conducive to learning, and ensure the safety of the students and themselves. Every teacher has a unique style and a different approach to managing their classroom. You should be able to easily discuss this with the interviewer and help them understand how you accomplish it. Please note that your approach should adhere to generally accepted standards as well as policies and procedures specific to the school with which you are interviewing.

Example: “I take a great deal of pride in my ability to manage the classroom and create an environment in which the students are safe, comfortable, and can learn the lessons I am teaching. I establish unambiguous and firm ground rules at the beginning of the semester and reinforce them as the school year progresses. I have zero tolerance for disruptive behavior or anything that puts the students’ safety at risk. However, I am tolerant of minor breaches of protocol and any behavior which helps create a culture of fun and innovation.”


Additional Secondary School Teacher Interview Questions

  • What would you do if a student decided to get up and walk out of class and the building?

  • What challenges do you think you will face by taking this job?

  • How would you assist an underachieving student to help them succeed?

  • How would you meet every student’s needs in a large class?

  • What would you do if two students began to fight in your classroom?

  • Students today are more accustomed to learning with technology. How do you incorporate technology into your lessons?

A word of warning when using question lists.

Question lists offer a convenient way to start practicing for your interview. Unfortunately, they do little to recreate actual interview pressure. In a real interview you’ll never know what’s coming, and that’s what makes interviews so stressful.

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