When you're applying for a teaching position, a typical job interview question is, "What type of classroom management structure would you implement if you were hired?"
This question is one that's easier to answer with some teaching experience under your belt. That's because, as a teacher, you've implemented classroom management every day that you've taught.
If you’re just launching your career and looking for your first teaching job, you can use your knowledge of best practices and developmentally-appropriate planning to discuss your classroom management approach.
If you've participated in student teaching, you can share that experience as well.
Types of Classroom Management Styles
Most leading education organizations recommend some combination of assertiveness and flexibility in classroom management. This helps create a learning environment where the students feel respected by their teacher and, in turn, reciprocate that respect—ultimately reducing undesirable behaviors.
Your strategy on classroom management might include both proactive and reactive approaches. Many teachers find that vigorously implementing proactive approaches reduces the need for reactive approaches.
Proactive Classroom Management
Proactive teachers create a feeling of community in the classroom by modeling and encouraging positive behaviors, by creating opportunities for meaningful peer-to-peer or student-to-teacher interactions, and being aware of students who may need additional support through challenging times in the school day.
Creating a classroom environment where children feel motivated to engage in only positive behaviors will reduce disruption and create little need to apply reactive strategies.
Proactive approaches may include students co-creating classroom rules, or having students create and sign a learning contract at the beginning of the year.
Reactive Classroom Management
Some effective reactive strategies include pre-planning alternate activities for students who finish early and become bored, having a redirection strategy to use with students to switch bad behaviors into good, and responding quickly to an upset child or mediating issues between two or more children so that undesirable behaviors do not escalate.
How to Prepare a Response
The interviewer may focus on your teaching philosophy, your use of different teaching modalities like visual, auditory, movement, etc., and your approach to classroom management. To ensure you give your best interview, think about and prepare your answers ahead of time:
- If you have teaching experience, consider how you have implemented, reflected on, and adjusted your teaching practices to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
- When you’re at the beginning of your career, think about the classrooms you worked in during your student teaching and refresh your knowledge of planning practices and theories you feel are important to consider.
Define Your Personal Teaching Philosophy
You most likely thought long and hard about your philosophy as you completed your education degree in college or graduate school. Most programs ask students to include a typed version of their philosophy in a final project or portfolio as part of the culminating coursework for the college or university.
The interviewer will most likely want to hear about your teaching philosophy, because it is your interpretation of what you think teaching and learning mean. It will also include a brief description of how you teach and why.
Part of your philosophy should address your approaches to classroom management, using examples of successful strategies you’d use at certain times (like transitions between activities).
Learn About the School's Policies and Procedures
You should also take time to become familiar with the classroom management and disciplinary policies of the school district in which you're interviewing.
Those policies may vary depending on the students' education level. There may be different policies for elementary, middle, and secondary classrooms.
While teachers often have the freedom to develop their own personal classroom management strategies, many school districts have clearly defined consequences regarding student infractions.
A district may also have guidelines for what type of negative consequences, if any, a teacher can enforce in their classroom. Increasingly, you will find schools encouraging their teachers to use more strength-based approaches with their students.
If presented with this interview question, a well-informed, intelligent response will demonstrate your knowledge of the school’s (or district’s) disciplinary guidelines and how you plan to incorporate them into your own classroom management style.
If you're unable to find out much about the school’s disciplinary policy beforehand, be prepared to ask your interviewer how the administration supports teachers in regard to classroom management. By asking this question, you will gain insight into the school’s support system and whether your personal classroom management style aligns with its policies and principles.
Share Examples With the Interviewer
The best way to illustrate your classroom management style is to describe specific examples from your past experience. Even if this interview is for your first teaching position, you probably have experience as a student teacher.
Back up your examples by explaining how they are developmentally appropriate for the age group you will be teaching.
Show your interviewers that your approaches are well thought out, that you respect your students, and that you truly care about their social, emotional, and intellectual success in your classroom. Also, it’s fine to say you plan to follow your mentor teacher’s approach—as long as you truly agree with the theories used to create it.
Examples of the Best Answers
When you give personal examples of one of your methods, be sure to describe specifically how the approach has worked well for you. Here are a few examples:
Proactive Strategy Responses
In my third-grade classroom, we created a classroom rules poster together. When it was complete, the whole class brainstormed ideas for a title. The winning title was, “Cool Rules for Cool Kids”—they all signed the bottom of the poster and we hung it in our room.
I feel children should be moving, so we have “Stop, Drop, and Dance” sessions throughout the day. Movement can wake up a child’s brain and it also reduces fidgeting (and other distracting behaviors that come from asking a child to sit still all day). Furthermore, movement is a way to work through difficult situations: often I will “dance it out” with a student who is upset about something. Dancing to upbeat music just makes everyone happy!
Reactive Strategy Response
In my first-grade classroom, I implemented a system whereby students were each given a clip on a chart. For each infraction, the students would move their clip through a progression of colors. The disciplines ranged from a yellow warning, to losing half of their recess, to losing all of their recess, to a red warning, which meant a phone call home. Using this simple and effective color-coded approach, I made very few phone calls.
Review More Teaching Interview Questions
When you're interviewing for teaching jobs, you'll also be asked about why you decided to become a teacher, your teaching philosophy, the experience you have with technology, and job-specific questions related to the position for which you're applying.
Before you head out to an interview, review the questions you will most likely be asked and tips for responding.