One of the most important steps in the NYU Teacher Residency admissions process is the school interview. As a prospective teacher resident, this interview gives you an opportunity to learn more about the school and the community in which you’re interested in teaching, and it gives school leaders a chance to learn more about you and why you’re passionate about learning to teach in their school.
We spoke with Kevon O’Rear, NYU Teacher Residency national director of recruitment, who provided more insight into the process and tips for having a successful interview.
Q: Why is the school interview an essential part of the admissions process?
One of the biggest differentiating factors of the Teacher Residency is the fact that there is a true partnership between the schools we partner with and the University. It’s important that the district and charter schools have a say in who will become part of their community. The rigorous academic course work for the one-year master of arts in teaching (MAT) is completed at the University level, and the work of preparing to become a teacher takes place on the ground at the schools. In order for this immersive model to work, we include the schools as an essential stakeholder in the admissions process.
Q: What is the experience like? Is there anything that is unlike other professional interviews?
The experience is quite diverse as it truly depends on where you are interviewing. We afford the schools the flexibility to come up with the interview process that they wish to pursue. For example, many accommodate a virtual interview, while others may want you to come into the classroom and do a mock lesson plan.
One common thread throughout the interview process is that you will interact with school stakeholders at various levels. Sometimes school human resources (HR) departments drive interviews, while other schools have HR do the coordinating and the principal conducts the actual interview. What they all have in common is that they are people who are skilled at hiring teachers, substitutes, and principals. They look at the interview from an academic perspective. The school partners recognize that our residents are just beginning a program to become excellent teachers, but there is always that desire to understand how you’ll work with students. School stakeholders want to have clarity around your previous experiences, whether formal or informal, that can provide insight into your mindset as a future teacher. Everyone has a set of authentic experiences that contribute to why they want to become a teacher. Think about those and how to communicate them to a hiring manager; think about your personal “why” and what experiences are relevant for these stakeholders to understand.
Q: What types of questions should I be prepared for?
Everyone is looking for individuals who are excited to work with their students and be part of their community. School principals, teachers, and HR teams are looking for prospective teachers who are reflective in their quest to become a teacher. They will want to understand what you think you can provide as a participant in the Teacher Residency as compared to other preparation programs.
I like to think about the types of questions in the following three buckets:
- General: These are the types of interview questions that get to the heart of professional experiences and interpersonal relationships. These might include:
- Tell me about a time when you worked with someone who was difficult or you did not see eye-to-eye with.
- How do you approach your work?
- What is your organizational style?
- Teaching-based questions: Interviewers will want to get to the heart of the experiences you have had working with students as well as what you have done in the past that makes you think you’ll be successful in a teaching role. A couple questions to consider include:
- What experiences have provided you a foundation to work with students from a range of personal and cultural backgrounds?
- Is there a time when you’ve had to help someone learn something new? What was most challenging?
- Specific location-based questions: Community is such an important aspect of the Teacher Residency and to education, in general. Interviewers want to know that you have been thoughtful about their district or charter school. You should prepare for the following questions:
- What do you know about the school where you’re interviewing?
- Why did you select this location?
- Why do you want to work with these students? Why this community?
Q: How do I think about past experiences, especially when they are outside of teaching and education, to demonstrate my skills?
Our residents enter an experience that is unique; they are beginning a new career and they may be coming from undergraduate environments where they’ve had internships and part-time jobs, or they may be someone who has 20 years of industry experience. Regardless of the years that you have spent in professional fields, it is most important that you communicate the skills, abilities, and mindsets that you believe make for great teaching. Consider what in your past has prepared you to do well at teaching.
Think about the role of a teacher. For starters, they speak in front of a class and they work one-on-one with students of varying abilities. Have you done any public speaking? Have you been in a role that has had to make people feel comfortable? How have you worked with individuals and built their skills or helped them understand a concept? Students require teachers who are responsive to their individual needs and there are many experiences, including those outside of teaching, which showcase the ability to do this. I always tell prospective residents that there are many parallels of skills from the professional world outside of education that translate to good teaching. Take some time to explore what these mean to you.
Q: How do I craft a unique pitch about myself?
Let’s first consider that you probably won’t give a 45-second pitch about yourself during the interview, but it doesn’t make this exercise any less useful. If you had to describe yourself in 45 seconds, what are the most interesting things about you? Why are you the right fit for the position broadly? What do you want to communicate to someone about your experiences, your mindset, or the “why” behind what you do? Distill that down to the most important details. It should be engaging and fun, but it should be professional and related to the work you will accomplish as a teacher. This will help you bring these ideas into your various answers throughout the interview.
Q: What if I get multiple offers?
When you start the application process with the Teacher Residency, you can indicate your preference for as many school locations as you want. One you pass the faculty acceptance milestone, you have the opportunity to interview with as many schools that are interested in interviewing you. This means that we sometimes have candidates who receive multiple offers.
It’s up to you to identify which is going to be the best. That may be based on the rapport you find with staff during the interview or the life experience and logistics of moving to a specific location. Ultimately, you’ll want to explore and understand where you believe you’ll be most successful. Consider the qualities and school environments that are important to you, especially as you begin your career.
Q: Can I ask questions during the interview? And if so, where should I focus my questions?
If there is time and space to ask questions, I recommend that you think of these beforehand. These questions should be meaningful; not ones that you can simply answer from their website or a search on the internet. You want to demonstrate that you’ve been thoughtful. Perhaps you want a deeper understanding of the school community, or maybe you want to understand the school vision and trajectory. Your goal is to imagine what it’s like to be part of the staff. Once you reach this school interview stage, we hold office hours and virtual hiring workshops to help you prepare. Contact your enrollment specialists for more information.