Just like athletes get ready for the big Friday night game, by running, throwing catches, and rehearsing plays, teachers who want to be an Instructional Coach should practice before the big game (i.e. interview) for the position. Sometimes the practice may be sitting in front of the mirror rehearsing potential “pushback” from teachers, leading a group of teachers in professional learning, or building a module for teachers who are struggling with some aspect of the game (i.e. Writer’s Workshop).
Well before any aspect of the “game” of coaching, there’s one hurdle everyone must pass- the interview. Here are 10 interview questions that you’re likely to encounter on the way to being a coach:
- What makes you want to be an Instructional Coach? This is a basic “warmup” question to allow the interviewees get a gist of a potential candidate’s intentions of being an instructional coach. Potential answer: Ever since I started teaching, I’ve always had a strong desire to work with teachers in a way that can transform teaching and learning in the classroom. Points to Remember: Lean on your experience in the classroom to discuss how coaching has transformed your practice and why you think you would be a great candidate.
- Name a time that you’ve lead impactful professional learning. This is a normal question that gauges if you’re comfortable presenting new information to teachers in an impactful way. Potential answer: In my previous experience, I’ve been lucky to lead training on (insert name) and it helped (the type of teacher) teachers really address the issues around (present problem). Points to Remember: Be clear, concise and as specific as possible in answering this question. Be sure to highlight the problem you helped solve by delivering the professional learning and even more important how you followed up on the learning.
- Describe your educational philosophy and how it lends for you to be an impactful coach. Potential answer: This is a basic question that many principals will ask for not only an Instructional Coach interview but also for any classroom position. My educational philosophy is grounded in the fact that all students can learn- under the right circumstances and I believe that those right circumstances directly relate to the type of teacher they have. Points to Remember: This can become long-winded and can make you forget everything that you know to be right. State your educational philosophy in under 2 minutes and use specific examples/research to support your philosophy.
- Talk through a time when you’ve experienced “pushback” from a fellow teacher. How did you handle it? This is a question that directly asks about how you would handle conflict within your department. Potential Answer: During my eighth grade PLC, there was a teacher who was unhappy that the department was moving toward Project Based Learning and she made everyone aware of her concerns. When her negativity didn’t deter the group, she started to avoid all meetings and hid anytime anything was due. Noticing this, I decided to speak with her 1:1 about her reservations and was able to come to an ‘agreement’ with her about how we could alleviate her concerns and how working as a team would make all of our work easier. Points to remember: For questions like this, be as specific as possible to show that you can a.) handle conflict with teachers b.) you’re focused on the work.
- How will you build a strong partnership with your principal in order to ensure teacher learning is effectively facilitated and leads to increased student achievement? Many times principals have NO CLUE on how to leverage their Instructional Coach to increase student achievement. This question directly asks those things. Potential Answer: Building a solid foundation with my principal is critical if I want to show the teachers and staff the collaboration is where the real work is done. I’d ask to sit down with my leader to get his vision for coaching and to ask him or her specifically what they want to accomplish with the teachers. Upon hearing their thoughts, I’d offer the ways that I can bring their vision to light. In addition to this meeting, I’d love to have weekly meetings with my principal to know what I’m working on with teachers to keep their goals in alignment. Points to Remember: At this point never discuss what a school is/isn’t doing. Instead be politically correct in always following the lead of your administrator.
- One of the primary areas of work for an instructional coach is to help teachers build their capacity and increase their ability to meet student needs. To accomplish this, an instructional coach must be able to identify the essential components of quality instruction. With that in mind, talk to us about what quality instruction looks like and please be detailed. This is a detailed question that will get into the heart of school values as ‘good instruction’. Possible Answer: Quality instruction is focused on ensuring that students are learning and teachers are facilitating during any particular class period. To achieve the goal of students learning, teachers can use a variety of resources, but I’d start with a basic understanding of gradual release and how teachers can still teach but can focus more on becoming the facilitator to assist students in the learning. In addition, I’d create a monthly Professional Learning calendar for my administration to look at to see the teacher learning in focus. Points to Remember: This question should be content specific and should include educational buzz words (not too many) so that it’s clear you understand ‘instruction and curriculum’.
- As a coach, how will you work to increase student achievement and close achievement gaps? This is a good follow-up question for number 6 and is used to see the specific strategies that an Instructional Coach would use to increase student achievement. Possible Answer: I’d have a two-prong approach that called for me to analyze classroom data from both formative/summative assessments and my classroom walkthroughs to see how learning is occurring in the classrooms.Then I’d work with the teachers and administrators to devise a plan that will help teachers teach the standards and address the learning concerns for the students who struggle the most. Points to Remember: Be specific with your ideas here and don’t be afraid to be aggressive in your suggestions to improve learning in their building.
- Teachers in your building will have various skill levels and different needs in regard to support and professional development. How will you determine the focus of your work and the strategies you will use when differentiating your work with adult learners? This is another question aimed to see how you can differentiate your support. Possible answers: At the beginning of the year as I get to know the teachers, I want to offer to help teachers in their class so I can get a ‘feel’ on how each of my teachers operate their classrooms. This purpose will be two-fold, I can get acquainted with all of my teachers and I can see the strengths and weaknesses of them so that I can better help them. After I’ve had a chance to visit each classroom, I’d ask to schedule meetings with teachers and get their feedback on what they want to work on for the year and offer some points to think about. In the end, I would also ask my administrator for their vision and from there, I’d be able to come up with a plan for each teacher. Points to Remember: Administrators want to see how you as an Instructional Coach can work with teachers with varying backgrounds, experiences, and professional needs.
- Please discuss the skills and dispositions (personality traits) that will ensure you are a successful instructional coach. Why are you the right person for this job? Everyone who’s a great teacher doesn’t mean they would make a great Instructional Coach- this question gets to that. Potential Answer: A good instructional coach is someone who is a content expert, knowledgeable in pedagogy, a relationship builder, and determined to do what’s best for students and teachers. I’m the right person for this job because for (insert number of years) I’ve been building my knowledge of delivering effective professional learning, working with teachers to improve practice, and being a change agent at my school. Points to Remember: Make sure to describe your qualifications that would make you a great candidate. It’s okay to BRAG!
- Tell us one thing about yourself that we may not know. This is a “feel good” question so answer it in a way that tells them something interesting about you but doesn’t reveal anything that may stop you from getting the job.
Interviewing to be an Instructional Coach is hard, so take your time and be honest and most importantly show that you can exact change in this position!