Interviews: Listening for Teacher-Character

Categories: Stories,The Rice Process

In my role as a school administrator, I interviewed hundreds of prospective teachers.  I enjoyed the interview process and exchanges with the candidates.  Sifting through my notes, I uncovered a pattern.  Generally, the veteran teachers wanted to discuss what worked for them in the classrooms and why they were so successful. The novice teachers wanted to share their recently refined portfolios and talk about their philosophy of education. The mid-life career changers wanted to share how their real life work experiences inspired them to switch tracks and become a teacher.

Most teachers were well prepared for interviews with resume and sample projects in hand; they were well versed in classroom management, learning styles, and teaching strategies. I appreciated their efforts to impress and earn a position.

I was able, with some degree of certainty, to identify the stronger candidate by only asking two simple questions: Describe a teacher in your past that you would want to imitate as a teacher yourself. What traits did you admire? Describe a teacher from your past that you would never want to become and would rather leave the profession then continue teaching.

Their responses provided their own analysis of a highly effective teacher. The candidates described compassionate, caring and inspiring teachers who were well prepared for class and wanted to help their students. These teachers earned respect because they respected their students.  The difficult memories shared by the interviewees described sarcastic, uncaring, and boring teachers.

There is a vast amount of resources available that offer prospective teachers advice and strategies on how to prepare for a successful interview.  I submit that the interview process should go beyond questioning. The interview session should allow the candidate to frame a personal story, provide all the elements of a good story. Include the characters, the conflicts, the resolutions and the lessons learned. As the listener, the interviewer imagines being the protagonist, engaging on a new level and asking himself or herself, “How would I have responded?”

Storytelling is an important communication tool that I recommend as part of the interview process.  It provides a narrative for a prospective teacher to showcase and reveal their teacher-character.

The selection process calls for finding the right candidate who convincingly demonstrates excellence, compassion, and the promise to educate.  At the end, the interviewer hopefully recognizes the quality and effectiveness of the story and knows that it is a story worth repeating!



Author: Marian Dondero

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