Why do you want to be a teacher?

How you do the work matters more than why you do it. But unless you know why you want to be a teacher (or anything else you want to be in life), you may struggle to overcome the challenges and difficult moments teaching presents. And you will quit. Or you will burnout and hate your job. None of that is good either for you, or for your employer.

At the end of the day, interviewers always want to know your motivation. Are you in for money? Prestige? Power? Or do you want to make a positive difference in your life, and believe that teaching children will allow you to do so?

People have all sorts of reasons when they decide to study teaching, and later apply for a job of a teacher. But not all of them represent a good choice for your interview answer. You should think twice about the message you convey while explaining your decision to teach. The goal is to convince the principal (and other people in the interviewing panel) that you know what you are doing, and see teaching as your personal mission going forward.

Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to one of the most typical teacher interview questions. My list contains both conventional and unconventional answers–hopefully at least one of them will resonate with you. In the text below the answers I explain some important nuances of this question. Do not forget to check it out as well!


7 sample answers to “Why do you want to be a teacher?” interview question

  1. I want to have an impact on the young generation. Seeing what’s going on in the world, and the uncertain future we face, teachers who help their students develop the right values and creative thinking are as important as ever. I believe to have the capacity to make this happen, and I enjoy teaching. That’s why I am here with you today.
  2. I want to be a teacher because I find the job an excellent match to my strengths and personality. I am a great listener, can explain difficult things in a simple way, and my patience has no boundaries. In my opinion, these are important abilities for every good teacher. Of course, I could have pursued another career with my skills. But I see meaningful purpose in teaching, and hope to become a great teacher one day.
  3. My teacher at elementary school made a real difference in my life. I come from a difficult family background, and I was just a shy kid, barely speaking to anyone in the classroom when I was seven. But they helped me to gain confidence, to open up, and to develop my abilities and skills. The impact they had on my life was just tremendous. And I would like to pay back the favor, in my own way. It would be amazing to play a similar role in lives of children, to help them conquer their own demons and fears.
  4. My ultimate goal is to follow in the steps of my parents, and lead our family language school one day. We have seven teachers onboard and several hundreds of students. In order to be able to recruit the right teachers in the future, to lead them and evaluate their performance, I firstly have to understand teaching myself, and teach people. That’s why I am here today, trying to get to your college, so I can earn my teaching degree and gain the teaching experience, before eventually taking over the family business.
  5. To be completely honest with you, I am not 100% sure about my reasons yet. I enjoy teaching, I feel great around children, and I believe I have something to give them in the classroom–not only in terms of the lesson we cover. But I am still young, trying to understand my place in the world, and the direction I’d like to take in life. At the moment I definitely want to study teaching, but whether I end up a teacher at a school, or do something else after graduating, I haven’t decided yet.
  6. I want to teach PE because I understand the importance of physical education and love for sports and movement in the lives of children. I also see that the majority of them lacks movement, and the impact it has on their lives, and the impact it will have on our society. Healthy mind and healthy body go hand in hand. We cannot expect a generation of obese and sick take this country through the challenges of 21st century… Of course, I realize that I won’t change the world as a teacher. But I can certainly have an impact on my students, on the local community, and at the same time do the work I enjoy doing. This is my motivation.
  7. I have a child with genetic disorder, and my career choice is a personal matter. Originally I started as an elementary teacher but after my child was born, I realized that special education is the career I want to pursue. I believe that my experience makes from me a good candidate for this job, and that together with other staff members at school we can do something great for students with special needs.


Talking about the past is good, but you shouldn’t neglect future either

At the end of the day, we make our decisions in a certain time. In one such moment in time you decided to submit your job application (or apply for a place in a study program). And you have your reasons, and hopefully you can explain them in your interview (finding some inspiration in my sample answers).

However, in a truly great answer you should refer also to the future. You want to be a teacher because you want to achieve this and that with your students. You want to have a positive impact, change something in the local community, play a vital role in someone’s life. Such a vision will help you navigate the difficulties, and enjoy your teaching routine. Make sure to have it ready for your interviews.

The more specific you are the better

Physical Education, Math, Piano, English, Special Education. Have you already picked your teaching specialization? Do you know whether you want to teach at elementary school, secondary school, high school, or perhaps in some private institute? Try to think about it for a moment.

The more specific vision you present in an interview, the more it will resonate with the hiring committee, and the easier they will find to imagine you in such a position. Keep it on your mind. Give them some details, talk about a specific teaching job, and improve your chances of actually succeeding in the interviews.


Non-verbal communication matters

The way in which you present the vision of your teaching career can make all the difference between getting a job, and walking away empty-handed. Are you truly enthusiastic about your future as a teacher? Can they hear that enthusiasm in your voice? Does this feel like one of the most important meetings in your life?

Make sure it does. Because if you speak rather bluntly and they get an impression that you simply prepared your answer in advance, not really believing in what you are saying, they will hire someone else for the job…

Ready to answer this one? Great! Do not forget to check also sample answers to other tricky teacher interview questions:

Glen Hughins
Latest posts by Glen Hughins (see all)