Teaching for ten or more years, specializing in certain subject, or a certain grade level, you often come to a point when you feel you should progress in your teaching career. Understanding the ins and outs of teaching, you feel ready to help other teachers (especially newcomers) to do their job better. Observing the lessons they lead, making notes, identifying areas of improvement, you guide them on their own journey of becoming great teachers. Besides teachers you work with parents. Creating action plans and addressing issues in behavior or academic progress, together you try to help their children reach their educational goals. It is indeed a great job, and one can easily see meaningful purpose doing it. Before you can start, however, you’ll have to pass a tricky interview.
Hiring committee (typically consisting of several leadership figures from both the school and school district) will inquire about your motivation, experience, goals, and especially about your attitude to challenges and situations you will face while working as a lead teacher. Situations such as having to criticize a veteran teacher, having a conflict with the parent, struggling to progress with a student, or address their behavioral issues, and so on. Let’s have a look at some of these questions in detail, one by one.
Why do you want to work as a lead teacher?
Just do not say that you deserve it after all those years teaching, or something similar. You’d be surprised how many applicants actually make this mistake! Try to focus on the value you can provide to teachers, students, and parents. You’ve been through a lot as a teacher, and have experienced almost every challenge one can face in this profession. You’ve seen teachers excel and fail, including yourself, and after all those years the pieces of the puzzle started to fall in place, and you understood what works and what doesn’t in this or that situation.
Now, with years of experience under your belt, you simply feel that the school (and all stakeholders) can benefit from your skills as a lead teacher in a big way. Sure, you still enjoy teaching, but what matters the most for you is to have a positive impact on the quality of education in their school, and you can achieve so much more as a lead teacher. That’s why you decided to apply for the job. Of course, you have read the job description, you understand the role well, and believe you will enjoy doing the job–which is also very important.
Please tell us more about your teaching experience
They have typically read your resume beforehand (though it is not always the case, considering how many people can sit in the hiring committee). In any case, your main goal is to demonstrate your expertise in a field in which you will specialize as a lead teacher. It can be a certain subject, a certain grade level, or even certain area of education.
Elaborate on your experience in the field, and try to use as many numbers and facts as possible in your narrative. Tell them how many years you taught this or that, explain successes you’ve achieved with your students, any innovative teaching methods you’ve implemented, and biggest challenges you’ve faced.
In a typical scenario they will come up with follow-up questions, asking about specific things from your resume or a specific challenge you faced in your teaching career. It’s important to get ready for such questions, so make sure you spend enough time thinking about your teaching career, and the most important events that took place–simply anything they may inquire about.
How do you imagine your typical day in a job of a lead teacher?
Two crucial points to remember here. First one, show proactive approach to your work. A good lead teacher does not wait for some problem to occur, or for a knock on their door. On the contrary, they actively talk to teachers, observe them in lessons, have conversations with students, and simply try to identify any minor issues before they have a chance to grow into a much bigger problem. This is something you should point out when explaining your idea of the job.
Second point to remember is talking about the variety of the job. Best lead teachers understand that school is like an ecosystem. If one part starts to struggle–be it teachers, students, parents, or even administrators, it impacts everyone else at school. Hence you do not want to focus on one area only, such as guiding other teachers on how they can do their job better. On the contrary, you hope to spend some time with all stakeholders.
Meeting with parents and discussing the needs and goals of their children, coordinating with administrators while creating educational plans, observing the teachers in the classes and subsequently helping them to improve on their teaching, tracking the academic progress of students, and of course also taking care of all the paperwork that simply belongs to this job…
Tell us about a last time you had to give someone a difficult feedback
Let’s be honest--you won’t be unanimously loved while working as a lead teacher. And that’s because you will criticize others, while trying to help them improve on their teaching. It is important to demonstrate that you do not mind giving someone a difficult feedback–be it a student, a teacher, a parent.
More important than the situation itself, however, is your attitude to it. Ensure the hiring committee that you always tried to pick the right words, that your aim wasn’t to patronize the teacher or make them feel bad about their teaching… On the contrary, you talked to them in private, explained what they could do better–and how, and you never forgot to also praise them for something they did well, because at the end of the day you do not want to discourage people from trying.
You can also elaborate on your answer, saying that you know you’ll have to give difficulty feedback to many as a lead teacher, and that you know it won’t always be well received. But it doesn’t discourage you from doing that, because success of the students and the school matters for you more than anything else. What’s more, you are also receptive to constructive criticism. giving difficult feedback to others, you are ready to receive such a feedback yourself.
Imagine that a parent is in a strong disagreement with you when it comes to educational needs of their child. How will you react?
You will certainly experience this situation on a regular basis. Parents, often too busy with their own lives, often have no idea about what their children do at school, what challenges they face. They may have their idea, dream, or illusion , simply their own truth. However, you should say that you’ll try your best to avoid any heated arguments with parents.
On the contrary, you’ll focus on facts, simply explaining your take on the situation, without unnecessary emotions. At the end of the day that’s the most you can do. Some parents may simply stand up and leave, continuing to believe their own story. But that’s something you have to accept as a professional educator. Even when we give our best effort, we won’t always reach our goals with the children…
Other questions you may face in your lead teacher job interview
- If we hire you for this job, what goals will you set for yourself for the first year in the office?
- Imagine that you are observing the teacher in one of their classes. You immediately spot how unnaturally they behave, apparently disturbed by your presence. How will you react?
- Where do you see yourself in five years from now? Have you considered applying for a position of a school principal?
- In your opinion, what are the main challenges we face at this school (in this district)?
- What are your salary expectations?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher?
- How do you imagine your cooperation with counselors, psychologists, and other professionals at school?
- Why do you want to work for our school district in particular?
Interview for a lead teacher belongs to interviews with average difficulty. In some cases you may spend 30+ minutes just talking about your experience, with hiring committee members asking you one follow-up question after another. In other cases you will face plethora of situational interview questions, just as I described in this article.
In order to maximize your chances of landing this job, you should prepare for both scenarios. Spend some time thinking about your teaching career. Point out the biggest milestones, and also the greatest challenges you faced. At the same time try to prepare for the questions, making sure you show the attitude they are looking for in a great candidate for a lead teacher job. I hope you will succeed, and wish you best of luck!