I was once asked, “How easy would it be if you had all the answers to the test?” I answered, “It would be a cinch.” “Well, it’s all in here,” the wise person retorted as they pushed the books and notes at me. Interviews are a bit in this vane, no? Sure, there are the surprise questions you might encounter but the vast majority of them are questions that can be anticipated and answers prepared and rehearsed. So, I pose some of the questions or types of questions you might be asked.
- The Vague Interview Starter
Possible Forms: Tell us about yourself. What made you want to become an art teacher? Give us your background.
Recommendations: Have your two-minute elevator pitch ready to go. I beg of you, don’t say, “Even as a child I always loved to draw.”
My pitch goes like this: “I was a teenager who really looked up and admired my high school art teachers. As someone who didn’t have access to art in elementary grades, I truly appreciated what art provided me. I was a student who valued their art period and never wanted to leave the art studio. Now, as a teacher, I get to spend all day there and I’m eternally grateful for a job that allows such joy.”
- The Diversity, Inclusiveness, Equity Question(s)
Possible Forms: Tell us how you support diversity in your classroom? Describe your experiences with diversity in and/or outside the classroom. Describe your understanding of diversity [inclusion] and why it is important to this position. How do you celebrate diversity, cultural differences, and global citizenship in your classroom?
Recommendations: Art always provides a unique answer in which we can talk about art as a way to explore identity and expose students to artists of color. Always recognize that a classroom reflects the diversity we encounter in life and we need to both model and teach respect. It’s important to understand that differences that can include culture, race, gender, physical ability, economic, situation, etc.
- The Match Making Question
Possible Forms: What makes you want to work for our school? What makes you the right fit for this position? Why (insert Middle school or High School)?
Recommendations: Know the qualifications for the job and be able to describe the ways you can fit their needs.
- Your Superpower and Kryptonite
Possible Form: What are your greatest strength and weakness professionally?
Recommendations: For your strength, give some thought and answer honestly while providing context. Maybe you are great at building relationships. Maybe you are a technological wiz. Provide for the interview what this looks like in the classroom. There is something called the STAR model of interview answers. Star stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. If being a technological wiz was your superpower you might say “By being fluid in traditional materials AND with digital art, I was able to take a photo of a student’s in progress acrylic painting and explore color theory with the students by dropping different colors in the background to quickly visualize choices which helped the student arrive at a successful finished product.” You had a situation where you were tasked to help a student make a decision. You described the action that resulted in helping students make a choice that lead to a successful result. For the weakness, find an area you feel you need further professional growth. One candidate I interviewed with said, “I’m a marshmallow when it comes to discipline.” She did not get the job. Generally, you need to instill confidence in your general teaching practices. You just need to show self-awareness of a professional weakness and how you are working to improve.
- The Flex Question
Possible Forms: How do you effectively reach learners of varying interests and aptitude? How do you motivate a reluctant artist? How do you differentiate instruction- I.e. how do you help support struggling students, how do you challenge advanced or gifted students? How do you feel about mixed classes together, say teaching Art I and Art II students in the same period?
Recommendations: It’s a reality of teaching art that art isn’t structured by ability level in most schools. Most schools have foundation courses that mix students who may stay with art for years to come with students who lack confidence or interest in art. They want to know how you can manage that. You can show how you challenge advanced students while supporting the beginner. I always loved using my ceramic classes as a successful model. Advanced students would often mentor beginner students. for more on differentiated art instruction check out this resource.
- Classroom Management
Possible Forms: What would your classroom discipline plan be? Describe a time when you had to manage a student’s behavior and the steps you took.
Recommendations: It’s always a good form to discuss setting expectations and classroom rules in the beginning of the year. Discuss reinforcing good behavior and redirecting less desirable behaviors. It’s also important to show that you would familiarize yourself with the school’s code of conduct and work within those policies.
- Be a Team Player
Possible Forms: Describe how you work collaboratively with your coworkers/department.
Recommendations: Teaching art often involves shared spaces, messes, filling public display cases, coordinating on art shows, etc. Work relationships can be challenging but no admin enjoys drama. Don’t dwell on any unpleasant experiences and focus on how you worked together successfully for a common goal or negotiated an obstacle.
- Are You Technologically Adept?
Possible Forms: Give an example of how you utilize technology in an art lesson. Are you familiar with… (insert Google Classroom, Zoom, Photoshop)?
They may ask if you are familiar with any number of possible programs, software, and learning management systems. If you haven’t used one, let’s say Blackboard, but you have used Moodle, let them know! Speak about how technology can aid art education and your willingness and confidence to learn something new. For something like Photoshop, it may be more of a curriculum need. Be truthful about what you are capable of teaching and always express willingness to take professional development to acquire necessary skills.
- The Interdisciplinary Question
Possible Forms: How do you collaborate with other subjects? How do you use writing skills in the classroom?
Recommendations: this is a time to prepare your lessons in your teaching portfolio with this question in mind. If you do radial design, talk about connections with Geometry. Talk about how artist statements create an opportunity for students to write in your class.
- The “We have an agenda” Question
Possible Forms: Have you done any mural work? How do you feel about advising an extracurricular club like the yearbook?
Recommendations: Say yes if you can. My experience is this will often give a candidate the edge.
Beyond preparing answers to these predictable questions, you also need to be able to deliver them in a confident manner and that comes easier for some people. The advice I give all the time is to practice the questions out loud to someone who can give you feedback. To slow down, take out the “Um” and “You Knows.” Be conscious of overtalking, a habit I have observed with interview candidates. The more you prepare, the more confident your delivery will be. Good luck!
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