After officially submitting my application through the Teach Memphis website, I prepared myself for a whole lot of waiting. To my surprise, just a few weeks later, I received a call to schedule a phone interview with the principal of a high school. Never having interviewed for a teaching job before, I read through the interview preparation document Teach For America Memphis had sent out, and I took meticulous notes, wrote out lengthy, thoughtful responses to all the “typical questions” and the “questions that have surprised our corps members,” and thoroughly researched the school. Not only was I grossly overprepared (but really, is there such a thing?), but it turned out I was also grossly overprepared two days ahead of time, as my interview was pushed back two days. When I finally got on the phone with the principal and a current math teacher at the high school, I felt pretty confident that I could handle anything they threw at me.
Still, I was surprised by most of the questions and didn’t really end up using my notes much. There was what I imagine is the obligatory classroom management one (like anyone who’s been through RA training, I said something that included “It’s easier to get more lax than it is to start lax and have to go back on things you said before”), but nothing regarding my motivations to be a teacher, my strengths or weaknesses, my organizational style, what I anticipate to be challenges, etc. Perhaps because they already knew that I had been accepted by Teach For America, these were all predictable. It was slightly disappointing, though, because I had such great answers (at least, I thought they were great) to all those questions and more!
What they did ask about was how I would integrate technology into my lessons, how I would lessen students’ dependency on calculators, how I would teach students to use calculators if they weren’t familiar with them. One question I particularly liked was, “As a student, what kind of teacher did you want to have?” The teachers I had who pushed me, who taught me to love learning, who themselves had a genuine love of teaching and a love of their subject are a huge inspiration to me, and of course that’s the kind of teacher I want to be. The last question was basically “Why should I hire you?” and while it seems pretty obvious as an interview question, I’m not sure I’ve ever been asked that before. It gave me a final opportunity to work in my motivations and strengths, and after asking a couple of my own questions, I hung up feeling pretty good about it. And even if I didn’t get an offer out of it, I would have the experience under my belt – along with copious notes – for the next one.