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Middle School Teacher Interview

30 Questions and Answers by Clara Canon
Updated November 21st, 2019 | Clara is a career coaching expert and has supported individuals landing positions in education, nonprofit, corporate, and beyond.
Job Interviews     Careers     Education    

Question 1 of 30

Describe a time you navigated disruptive behavior in the classroom.

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Describe a time you navigated disruptive behavior in the classroom.

This question encompasses a few things: thinking on your feet, diffusing conflict, and facilitating a resolution. The interviewers are looking for the candidate's ability to be aware of these layers as well as what strategies they use to successfully support the students and resolve the situation. To answer this question, it can be helpful to share context prior to diving in to describe the behavior. Did students miss recess and have a lot of pent-up energy? Was there a fight at lunch? Set the scene, share the behavior, and then go into the steps of identifying, diffusing, and resolving.

Clara's Answer

"One of my favorite classes was my 6th-grade group right after lunch and recess. They were always mentally re-energized from the break, and they'd gotten a lot of the built-up physical energy out of their systems. One day, we were in the middle of a great lesson when one of the students began calling out and interrupting my instruction and any students that spoke up to answer questions. It was unusual for her to shout out, particularly so consistently. Her behavior became more and more attention-seeking, so I chose not to address her directly after asking twice that she raise her hand to share. Instead, I moved around the classroom as I spoke, asked students to continue what they were sharing, and finally pulled out my mini football. When the football came out, the students knew that they would have to raise their hand and have the ball in-hand to speak. They were inclined to follow the rules in order to have a chance to catch the ball, so this diffused the situation for the remainder of the class. When class was dismissed, I made sure to address the behavior with the student individually. As a result, I had an opportunity to connect with her and learn why she was expressing herself in that way, and we came up with a plan together to make her feel supported while respecting others in the classroom."


Have you ever been a substitute teacher? Describe that experience.

Substitute teachers don't always know what to expect when they walk into a classroom, so they have to balance confidence, flexibility, and boundaries on the fly. It can be known to be a difficult position, and the interviewer is interested in your ability to navigate complicated classroom circumstances.

Pro tip: you might go a step further and add that you are very intentional about setting substitute teachers up for success with a well-outlined lesson plan. This will show that you are aware of how difficult subbing can be, and you plan ahead to ensure that every day in your classroom is valuable - even when you aren't there.

Clara's Answer

"I have stepped in for fellow teachers on several occasions to teach their classes, and each time I've been reminded of how challenging stepping into another classroom can be. From quickly catching myself to speed on the lesson for the day to attempting to remember names, I found that I had to be even more focused and 'on it' than I might need to be in my own classroom where things are more familiar. The experience has given me a great deal of respect for substitute teachers, and now I create thoroughly detailed lesson plans complete with alternate instructional options so my substitutes are as prepared as possible."


Are you actively involved in any type of community service?

Elements of philanthropy and learning to 'give back' are showing up more and more in schools, so be prepared to have some variation of this question. If you aren't currently involved in any sort of community service, then think about how else you might be able to contribute to this answer. Are you donating to a charity because your schedule is a bit too tight to donate your time? Were you involved in a service day several months ago that inspired you? Are you not involved now, but you are actively seeking out opportunities in certain industries?

Clara's Answer

"I previously served as a volunteer ESL tutor for adults at the local community center, though recently I've been better able to donate my money than my time. I plan to re-invest my time at the community center when my schedule better aligns with their class schedule. Additionally, I recognize the value of instilling a community-oriented mindset in youth, so I would love to explore ways in which my students can get involved in a project or community engagement."


What is the last book you read? When did you read it?

Be honest. It sounds a lot more interesting and compelling to hear someone explain an unexpected response, like a children's book or how to crochet a dog sweater, because you have room for a creative - and memorable - story. Don't feel like you need to respond with something likely found on the school's reading list if it isn't true or of interest to you. They want some insight into your interests and how you might be able to show your students that reading practice at home is valuable regardless of the content.

Clara's Answer

"Honestly, the most recent book I read was Llama Llama Red Pajama. My sister recently had a baby, so I went to her house just last Tuesday to read to my new nephew. I was pleasantly surprised at how great of a book it was and how much I was able to learn from it. I can't wait to discover more great children's books to read to him!"


How do you develop self-esteem within students?

At the middle school age, youth are navigating a lot of change - new schools, new teachers, new social pressures, and so much more. Middle school teachers have to be cognizant of what their students are going through and provide them with tools and support to navigate the change. Confidence and self-esteem play a huge role in their development and ability to learn in and out of the classroom. The interviewers want to make sure that you have this in mind as you approach your students and planning, particularly as social-emotional learning becomes further integrated into the current learning curriculum. Consider how you might help to build confidence and self-esteem in students that are transferable to other areas of their lives.

Clara's Answer

"Confidence and self-esteem don't often come easily - especially at this age. As a result, I find it valuable to integrate confidence boosts in multiple parts of the day. Even something as simple as acknowledging a student and telling them that I'm glad to see them can offer a needed boost to their self-esteem, so I greet every student that comes into my classroom each morning with a high-five, fist bump, or wave. I make sure to repeatedly give praise and recognition when it is earned, no matter how small; for example, if I have a student that has difficulty speaking out in class, then I will thank them for sharing each time they speak out - even if the answer might be wrong. I'll also tailor growth areas for each student and have them track their own progress; so, when we review what they've tracked, they can visualize progress from their very own data."


When do you typically find a need to connect with fellow teachers?

It can be easy for teachers to become siloed in their classrooms, and more schools and districts are looking to collaborative solutions that will encourage more connections between teachers. The interviewers are interested in learning how open you are to connecting with other teachers and what motivates those connections. Consider framing how you want and enjoy connecting with fellow teachers, then address when you 'need' to connect.

Clara's Answer

"I believe that I have something to learn from all of my fellow teachers, so I enjoy regularly connecting with them to share best practices, discuss how our students are doing in different settings around the school, and learn new ways to jazz up my approach to a subject. I've found that when teachers have a greater sense of communication and collaboration, the emotional and physical load of our work feels lighter. That said, I definitely begin to feel more of a 'need' to connect with fellow teachers when I have had a particularly challenging day, like after a difficult parent-teacher conference or a behavioral situation in the classroom. I think it's important to remember in those moments that I have a very understanding support system just a classroom."


What does a model classroom look like to you?

More and more schools and teachers are beginning to re-think how they structure their classrooms to better align with youth development stages and maximize learning potential. That said, not all schools are on board with the changing environment. Do your research on the school to help frame your answer, or feel free to engage with the question more by asking about their own environment.

Clara's Answer

"I appreciate the benefits of structure with the freedom of choice. I like to set up my classrooms so that we may have a central place to come together and learn with mixed desk options to accommodate a variety of learning styles. For example, I might have a couple of taller tables along the side for more active or fidgety students to stand and complete their work, while other students might work best seated. I also like to ensure learning, even for a wandering eye, so I will post colorful and educational visuals all around the room to secretly engage a disengaged student. I'd love to learn more about how you've found your students to respond to different classroom structures within this school specifically."


Would you say that you are a tough teacher?

When faced with this question, you'll want to define what 'tough' means before elaborating. 'Tough' can have varying meanings and connotations for different people, so make sure that the interviewers are on the same page as you are. The interviewers are interested in discovering what 'tough' means to you and to what degree you deem tough to be useful.

Clara's Answer

"Well, first I'd like to define what I believe 'tough' to be in the context of teaching. When I think of a 'tough' teacher, I think of one that sets clear boundaries and doesn't bend them. I think of a teacher that might be fun and lighthearted but doesn't allow that to interfere with instruction and learning. I would say that I am tough-adjacent. I believe in boundaries and setting high standards for my students to rise to, and I also believe in the need for contextual adaptation and flexibility. For example, if my students have been working really hard and just completed a lengthy standardized test, then I would encourage them to take a 'brain break' to re-charge prior to jumping back into the material."


How do you make learning fun?

Every teacher has a different way of engaging students and making content more enjoyable to digest. The interviewers want to know that you balance content with creativity when it comes to delivering a concept to your students. Consider how you make learning fun and engaging in structured - and unstructured - ways.

Clara's Answer

"Learning can be stressful and really impact a student's confidence. I like to integrate humor, lightheartedness, and some active engagement in my lessons and teaching style to make learning disarming and memorable. Sometimes, I'll act out what I'm teaching with grand gestures and emphatic speech. I often include silly examples that are relevant to youth today. When it's review time, I'll turn it into an educational game prior to each quiz and exam. In general, I've found that youth are responsive to fun and friendly competition; so, if I see that my lesson is falling flat, then I'll pause what I'm doing and have the students get up to play a quick game to get them moving and more engaged with the content."


How do you feel about supporting various roles at school?

School teachers are often needed to support in additional roles around the building, such as lunch/recess supervisor, pick-up and drop-off monitor, and after school safety point. Some schools might need teachers to support in more capacities than others. Your interviewers are likely looking for a collaborative individual who might be open and interested in supporting the school beyond the classroom alone.

Clara's Answer

"I welcome the opportunity to engage with my students in capacities outside of the classroom. When I have the chance to get more involved in other areas, I feel better integrated into the school community and have a greater sense of camaraderie with my co-workers as well."


Have you taught classrooms with bilingual students? If so, how have you supported them in their learning?

Some schools offer additional assistance for bilingual students beyond the classroom teachers, but not all. When working with bilingual students, teachers must be mindful of the fluency levels of their students and adjust their instructional volume, tone, and pace to allow all of the students to follow. Beyond the classroom, bilingual families might need support with communication that is sent home, school meetings, or even helping their kids with their homework. The interviewer is interested in whether or not you are aware of these nuances and will provide the students and families the considerations and support that they might need.

Clara's Answer

"I have had the opportunity to teach a few classrooms with bilingual students. I've learned from my experience so far that I need to be mindful of how I support the students in the classroom as well as the families at home. As far as the day-to-day learning of my students, I will periodically check in one-on-one with my bilingual students and ask how they feel about the pace and what they need from me to better support them. For example, one of my students mentioned that the pace of instruction was a little fast, and it was hard to keep up. I admitted that I sometimes speak quickly when I get excited, so I made sure to slow myself down following that conversation. When it comes to families, teachers often send homework home without questioning a parent's ability to help their child, and that's simply not always the case. I try to maintain open communication with all parents, accept feedback, and offer supports where I can, even if I might need to explore translation and interpretation services to ensure appropriate communication."


What is the difference between a good teacher and an outstanding teacher?

When preparing for this question, consider teachers you've had throughout your life. Which teachers stand out as having been amazing? Which ones do you sometimes forget about, because they were good but not 'outstanding?' Outline a few of the qualities and practices of those teachers and identify commonalities.

Clara's Answer

"When I think about good teachers I've had, I recall each of them focusing on instruction and making sure we were ready for quizzes and tests. They did things by the book and made sure we were on the right path. While I certainly learned from them, nothing else really stands out about my experience in the classroom. When I think back on outstanding teachers I've had, I have no trouble picking them out. They all went beyond basic instruction - they were intentional about timing and activities to keep us engaged and excited about learning. They took time to get to know each of the students and set individual goals which made us feel seen and important. An outstanding teacher is continues to care long after a student leaves their classroom. In fact, when I visit a few of my outstanding teachers 15 years later, they still remember me and show interest in my growth."


How would you describe your teaching style?

The interviewer is interested in understanding not only how you teach, but how you might handle group dynamics in a classroom setting. Use this opportunity to share what teaching methods are most natural for you and how you adapt your approach in a dynamic environment.

Clara's Answer

"My teaching style follows the 'Warm/Strict' methodology in that I maintain a consistent balance of kind, empathetic approachability with firm and predictable boundaries. I believe that young learners thrive best in an environment that meets them where they're at while stillguaranteeing reliable structure and routine."


What was the most difficult child you have ever dealt with?

The interviewer is looking for certain behaviors that could easily be found in any middle school classroom, and they want to get a gauge on how you view the behavior and manage the situation. Begin by providing an objective overview of the child, then share a specific example of a difficult situation as well as how you handled it. They will be looking for your desire and ability to navigate challenges and provide positive solutions for the school and the students.

Pro tip: do share the context of how you know and interact with the child, but do not share the child's name. Go a step further by drawing a distinction between the behavior and the child - the behavior is what is difficult.

Clara's Answer

"First, I'd like to make a distinction between the child and the behavior. I've dealt with a lot of difficult behavior out of many children, and I remind myself that difficult behavior in children can often result from something else. So, I try not to blur the lines between the child and the behavior, though I know sometimes that can be challenging! That said, one of my very first 6th-graders routinely exhibited difficult and disruptive behavior in the classroom. Nearly every day, he would try something that would taunt and distract other students in the class. One day, he pulled matches out of his bag and began trying to light them, then threw his full bookbag at the closest student who tried to stop him. Talk about a difficult situation! After any one of these incidents, he would prepare himself to go to the office or to detention, knowing that one of those options was inevitably his fate. Many people would likely write this student off as a 'lost cause,' and many of them did. When I saw how he prepared himself to go to the office, I knew there was more to it. I offered to go to the office with him if he felt more comfortable having me there, whether to simply be present or to help mediate. He was surprised to be offered help and support given the circumstances, and he took it. I realized that he had no choice but to internalize much of what other teachers and students had thought of him, and he was performing to the expectation. Since then, I've had an entirely different perspective on 'difficult children' and behavior."


How do you manage students with different reading abilities?

Every classroom is bound to have students with a variety of skill levels and challenges, particularly in reading. The interviewer is looking for ways you ensure that all levels are supported at the same time, which can be tricky! Don't be afraid to point out the difficulty in this as long as you express the importance of 'meeting students where they're at' and creating unique goals based on the needs of the student. This can be applied to any number of school subjects.

Pro tip: reference the 'Confidence/Competence' loop when answering this question. Note that supporting a student's confidence in a particular subject can carry just as great an impact as growing their competence.

Clara's Answer

"My primary goal is to ensure that all of my students are set up to succeed, and sometimes the road to success looks different from one person to another. In order to balance the confidence and competence required for a student to thrive, I work with them to create custom goals and achievable benchmarks. I offer multiple ways for my students to learn, observe, and practice their skills, from storytelling to peer-to-peer reading to independent reading time. Each student and I will check back in with one another at each benchmark to re-evaluate progress and goals."

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30 Middle School Teacher Interview Questions
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Interview Questions

  1. Describe a time you navigated disruptive behavior in the classroom.
  2. Have you ever been a substitute teacher? Describe that experience.
  3. Are you actively involved in any type of community service?
  4. What is the last book you read? When did you read it?
  5. How do you develop self-esteem within students?
  6. When do you typically find a need to connect with fellow teachers?
  7. What does a model classroom look like to you?
  8. Would you say that you are a tough teacher?
  9. How do you make learning fun?
  10. How do you feel about supporting various roles at school?
  11. Have you taught classrooms with bilingual students? If so, how have you supported them in their learning?
  12. What is the difference between a good teacher and an outstanding teacher?
  13. How would you describe your teaching style?
  14. What was the most difficult child you have ever dealt with?
  15. How do you manage students with different reading abilities?
  16. How would you react if a parent complained about your class?
  17. How do you engage parents in their child's learning?
  18. How do you cater to different learning styles in your classroom?
  19. What has been the most challenging thing about teaching for you so far?
  20. What book best describes you and why?
  21. Why are you a good fit for this job and our school district?
  22. Do you want students to like you? Why or why not?
  23. What type of student were you in middle school?
  24. Are you a flexible person?
  25. What part of teaching do you look the most forward to?
  26. Name three of your weaknesses.
  27. Name three words that describe you.
  28. What was the most useful college course you have taken?
  29. Why did you choose to become a middle school teacher?
  30. What makes you qualified for this teaching position?
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