Primary School Teacher Interview Questions
Elementary school teachers work with children between the ages of five and twelve and teach basic elementary school subjects, such as reading comprehension, arithmetic, and beginner science. They are responsible for creating a curriculum for young students to follow throughout the school year as well as monitoring their progress and providing feedback along the way.
In addition, elementary school teachers also play a large part in the emotional development of their students. Being an elementary school teacher is a hands-on job that will require you to not only provide structure but to also foster healthy social relationships and an inclusive learning environment.
Elementary school teacher responsibilities may include:
- Developing a quarterly curriculum
- Assigning/grading homework and classroom assignments
- Monitoring student progress throughout the school year
- Preparing progress reports on a quarterly basis
- Meeting with parents to talk about student performance and behavior
Making sure young students are properly educated is an important task and one that will have a great impact on the rest of their lives. In order to ensure students are getting the most out of their early schooling, a skilled elementary school teacher will:
- Exercise patience and empathy when handling students
- Find innovative ways to keep students engaged with the material
- Maintain a friendly but professional demeanor at all times
- Stay organized to ensure the curriculum is followed smoothly
- Communicate effectively with administration and parents
To secure a position as an elementary school teacher, candidates must possess a bachelor’s degree in education as well as a state-approved teacher certification. In addition, they will typically be subjected to a background check. After qualifying for a position as an elementary school teacher, candidates will need to regularly renew their teaching certification.
If you’re getting ready to interview for a position as an elementary school teacher, you can prepare by researching the company as much as possible. Learn about the 9 things you should research before an interview.
Salaries for elementary school teachers range between $40K and $83K with the median being $61K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as an elementary school teacher include:
- Degrees (bachelor's, master's)
- Years of Experience
- Reporting Structure (seniority of the department head or school administrator you report to and number of direct reports, such as teacher aids and counselors)
- Level of Performance - Exceeding Expectations
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Elementary School Teacher Interview Questions
Question: How would you describe your teaching philosophy?
Explanation: This is an example of an opening or general question. The interviewer will ask this type of question to start a conversation, learn a little bit more about you, and gather information they can use for subsequent questions.
Example: “My approach to teaching is I assume students are anxious to learn and curious about a variety of topics. To be an effective teacher, I need to address their curiosity while also instructing them in traditional subjects. The more interesting I can make the subject, the more they will want to engage and learn.”
Question: Can you tell me about your strengths as a teacher?
Explanation: The interviewer will ask you this question to determine the teaching qualities you value most. They want to make sure your values align with those of the school. Value-based questions should be answered honestly because if you’re not a good fit during the interview, you will not be a good fit once you get the job.
Example: “I believe my strongest qualities as a teacher are compassion, empathy, and caring. I invest in my students' futures and go out of my way to make sure they succeed in my classroom. I seek to understand their learning styles and motivations and adapt my teaching style to them. If they succeed, then I am succeeding.”
Question: What are the things you like best about teaching?
Explanation: The interviewer is continuing to explore your values and qualities as a teacher. You can anticipate questions like this throughout the interview. Because you are certified, they assume you have the skills needed to teach. They’re now exploring whether you would be a good fit in the classroom and for their school.
Example: “The thing I like best about teaching is when the lights go on and I can see a student who was struggling with a topic finally getting it. It’s a eureka moment, and there’s nothing that compares to it. I don’t mind putting in extra time with an individual student who is struggling with something if I know I will eventually break through and get them to understand the lesson. I can’t think of anything that would be more rewarding as a career.”
Question: What is your time management strategy to ensure you get all of your teaching done on time?
Explanation: This is an operational question which the interviewer will use to determine how you go about doing your job. Operational questions address the tasks required to complete the work for the job for which you are interviewing. Operational questions are best answered directly and concisely.
Example: “Time management is a critical skill that all teachers must have. We’re continually being asked to do more with less. My strategy involves dividing the task into things that need to be done in the classroom and things that can be done outside of the classroom. I then prioritize what needs to be done, addressing the most important things first. I also look for shortcuts and ways to delegate, as long as it doesn’t compromise the quality of the work and my teaching.”
Question: In your opinion, what is one of the biggest challenges today’s students are facing?
Explanation: While it appears the interviewer is asking for your opinion with this question, what they are actually seeking to learn is what you feel are the most critical issues in the current education system. By identifying them, you are indicating what is important to you. However, you should also have a strategy to address these issues in case the interviewer asks a follow-up question.
Example: “Probably the biggest issue today’s students are facing is balancing their home life and their time in school. Today’s society places a lot of pressure on families. Both parents are often working outside of the home and have little time available to support the child’s educational pursuits. There is also the impact of social media and the distractions it provides to the students. I try to mitigate these issues by engaging students in non-technical activities and providing parents with study guides they can use to work with their children after school and on weekends.”
Question: Tell me about your worst day in class and what you did to survive it.
Explanation: An interviewer will ask this type of question to determine the scope of your experience and the type of situations you may have encountered as a teacher. The key to answering this question effectively is not to describe a terrible situation, but rather to focus on results, describing how you reacted to the situation and overcame the challenges it presented to you.
Example: “The most challenging situation I’ve faced in a classroom was when one of the students unknowingly brought a weapon to class. Somehow, one of their parent’s knives had gotten into their backpack without their knowledge. When they discovered it in the classroom, some of the other students became very upset. Protocol required me to lock down the classroom and notify the administration. While doing this, I also had to keep the students calm, including the one involved in the incident. Fortunately, I was able to accomplish all of these objectives, and we got through the incident with minimal impact on any of the students.”
Question: What techniques do you use to keep your students motivated and interested in learning?
Explanation: This is another behavioral question in which the interviewer is asking you to define the process you use to accomplish the task they are asking about. As a reminder, behavioral questions are best answered succinctly and directly with little embellishment. The interviewer will ask a follow-up question if they need additional information.
Example: “I have learned that students perform best when they are genuinely interested in a topic and motivated to learn. The technique I use to get them motivated is to get them engaged as quickly as possible. I start the school year by questioning them about their interests and what they want to learn. I let them help me design the lesson plan, as long as it complies with the school’s teaching objectives. By giving them ownership of the lessons, they work harder to make sure that they and their classmates succeed in learning.”
Question: What do you want to know about your students so you can help them as best as you can?
Explanation: This is another operational question. The interviewer is seeking to learn how you engage with students and to what lengths you’re willing to go to understand them and align your teaching with their individual personalities and learning goals.
Example: “I believe it’s imperative to understand my students’ learning styles and educational goals in order to be an effective teacher. While you can’t customize the lessons for each individual student, you can teach to the majority and then spend additional one-on-one time with students who are challenged or need extra help. My objective is to get all students to the finish line concerning their learning during the school year.”
Question: If we hire you, what will you contribute to the culture of our school and its students?
Explanation: By the time you get to an interview, the employer has already determined that you have the skills and experience to do the job. The interviewer wants to determine if you will be a good fit for their organization and contribute to the culture. Being able to state how you can do this is critical to a successful interview and you being offered the job. Your pre-interview research should tell you about their culture and allow you to answer this question effectively.
Example: “I believe I will bring a great deal to this job and the culture of the school. I believe my personality and sense of adventure will add an element of fun and excitement to the school. While in college, I worked as an event planner and was responsible for creating some memorable events for my sorority and other groups on campus. I can use the same skills to help create experiences for the students which they may not normally get to enjoy.”
Question: What is the most frustrating thing you don’t like about teaching?
Explanation: This question seeks to understand some of the things you don’t like about the job for which you are interviewing. Answering that you like everything about the job would be insincere. Being too negative would be just as bad. Finding the right balance for your answer to this question involves stating something you genuinely do not like and then describing what steps you take to overcome this frustration.
Example: “Probably the most frustrating thing about teaching is all the paperwork required. While I understand the importance of it, I also know it doesn’t directly contribute to the quality of lessons that children learn. The way I overcome this is to schedule time early in the morning to complete my paperwork. This is when I am fresh and able to think clearly. It also helps me plan for the day by identifying any issues I may need to circle back to or teaching objectives I need to be aware of.”
Additional Elementary School Teacher Interview Questions
Why did you decide to go into education? More specifically, why did you want to become an elementary school teacher?
How do you foster healthy relationships with the parents of your students?
How would you handle having a classroom with more students than you are used to?
How do you build a creative environment in the classroom?
What would you do if a child was misbehaving in class?
How would you handle a student who refuses to do their assignment?
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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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