Unraveling “the Puzzle” of Landing a Music Teacher Job
Assembling the pieces: Interview Questions and Assessment Criteria
Soon it will be the season of new school district postings of employment openings and opportunities to be hired! Hurray! At long last, college music education majors have made it through all of the music and methods courses, recitals and concerts, competency exams, field observations, student teaching, and Praxis testing. Or, perhaps you are a veteran teacher looking to relocate and find a new job? You’ve come to the right place!
With rumors of retirements, sabbaticals, teacher shortages, and HR staff and administrators scrambling to find people to fill positions, NOW is the time to “bone up” on marketing yourself and practicing your interviewing skills – to get together with your friends and fellow “rookies” and schedule mock interview sessions to interrogate and evaluate each other. Record your mock interviews and sit back, watch, critique, and learn.
A large number of past blog-posts within this “jobs/training” section were provided to assist prospective new or transferring music educators in preparing for the often-stressful job search process. Scroll down for a summary of “the basics” to help you gain the tools, knowledge, competence, and confidence to succeed at your next interview!
Good luck! PKF
Let’s put the pieces together to ace those employment screenings!
How would YOU respond to these interview questions?
Special thanks to Michigan State University: https://www.music.msu.edu/assets/SampleMusicInterviewQuestions.pdf
- Tell us something about your professional strengths, challenges, and goals for the future.
- Who had the greatest influence on you becoming a music teacher and why?
- What are the most important qualities of an outstanding music educator?
- Describe a successful lesson plan you have developed and how did you assess the learning?
- How will you accommodate students with special needs or varied interests in your music program?
- How would you recruit/encourage students and “grow” interest and participation in the music program?
- Why is it important for students to be actively engaged in the performing arts?
- What is the role of sacred music in the school choral program?
- Describe the ultimate choral program in your school – types and make-up of ensembles.
- You are meeting a middle school student for the first time How would you convince him to join your _____ (band, strings, choir)?
- There’s a guidance counselor who is not a supporter of the ___. He discourages students from including music in their schedule. How would you try to improve the situation?
- How important are competitions and festivals to you?
- How do you select soloists, leadership positions, or rank seating in your ensemble?
- Discuss your approach for teaching improvisation for the first time.
- Discuss your background in Orff, Kodaly, Gordon, Suzuki, and Dalcroze.
- Give some examples of materials you would use to build a diverse repertoire.
- Discuss the process you use in developing the singing voice.
- How do teach a group of 5th graders who are having trouble mastering dotted note values?
- Describe your classroom management procedures. What kind of discipline do you require?
- What personal qualities do you have that would make you an effective leader… team member?
- If offered the job, how do you see your involvement in our district (both music and nonmusic)?
- Name 3 vital emphases in your teaching. What is most important: content, outcome, or process?
- How would your students describe you? How would your friends and/or colleagues?
What are the interviewers looking for?
Actual sample candidate rating form
This form was used at the school district from which the author retired:
During the mock sessions, here’s an assessment tool you (and those observing your “performance”) can use. For emphasis, place the letter of the criteria under either the “good” or “bad” column.
Are you missing any more pieces of the puzzle?
The ultimate outline interview primer for pre-service music teachers
- Overall marketing skills – “the science” of finding a job https://paulfox.blog/2015/07/08/overview-strategies-for-landing-a-music-teacher-job/
- “But you got to know the territory…” (The Music Man)
- Making connections
- Branding yourself
- Storytelling about the challenges and triumphs you faced in life
- Proving that you have “what it takes” and your skills/experiences would be a “good fit” to the needs, goals, and values of the institution, employer, and position to which you are applying
- Being persistent and well-organized
- The “alphabet soup” of educational terminology, jargon, acronyms, etc. https://paulfox.blog/2015/07/18/the-alphabet-soup-of-educational-acronyms/
- In PA, training and assessment in the criteria of Charlotte Danielson’s “Four Domains” from the Framework for Teaching. https://danielsongroup.org/framework and https://paulfox.blog/2015/08/09/criteria-for-selection-of-the-ideal-teacher-candidate/
- Types of music teacher employment screenings https://resumes-for-teachers.com/blog/interview-tips/the-most-common-types-of-interviews-in-the-education-sector/ and https://paulfox.blog/2015/09/01/a-blueprint-for-success-preparing-for-the-job-interview/
- Panel or Group
- Audition/Performance (on major and minor instrument, singing, piano accompaniment)
- Lesson Demonstration
- Types of interview questions
- Music and music education content and methods
- General education terminology and concepts (see #2 above)
- Past experience and education (avoid an emphasis on a specialty) and personal philosophy and goals https://paulfox.blog/2015/07/04/marketing-yourself-and-your-k-12-music-certification/
- Personality traits, social skills, and habits of “professionalism” https://paulfox.blog/2015/07/01/the-meaning-of-pro/ and https://paulfox.blog/2015/08/09/criteria-for-selection-of-the-ideal-teacher-candidate/
- Interview questions
- The “ABCs” of additional employment marketing topics
- Branding https://paulfox.blog/2015/12/16/tips-on-personal-branding/
- Body language https://paulfox.blog/2017/01/27/body-language-interviewing-for-a-job/
- Dress https://paulfox.blog/2017/07/22/dress-for-success-at-teacher-interviews/
- e-Portfolio https://paulfox.blog/2015/11/15/planning-the-perfect-professional-portfolio/
- Networking https://paulfox.blog/2016/04/04/networking-niceties/
- Professional website https://paulfox.blog/2018/01/14/the-professional-website/
- Resume https://paulfox.blog/2016/01/12/music-teacher-resumes-revisited/
- Story-telling https://paulfox.blog/2015/08/02/when-it-comes-to-getting-a-job-s-is-for-successful-storytelling/
- 21st Century employment search strategies https://paulfox.blog/2016/08/14/21st-century-job-search-techniques/
- Membership in PCMEA/PMEA and other professional associations
- “Have resume will travel”
- E-portfolio and professional website
- Electronic business cards
- Hiring agency sites and job bulletin boards
- Additional interview assessments https://paulfox.blog/2019/05/14/job-interview-rubrics/
- Other websites to peruse
- Majoring in Music: https://majoringinmusic.com/music-teacher-job-interviews/, https://majoringinmusic.com/essays-personal-statements-and-resumes-for-music-students/, https://majoringinmusic.com/7-things-music-education-majors-can-do-make-themselves-more-employable-2/, and https://majoringinmusic.com/finding-first-music-teaching-job/
- NAfME: https://nafme.org/interviewing-skills-the-rules-of-the-road/ and https://nafme.org/checklist-intelligent-interviews/
- Edutopia: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/rock-teaching-job-interview-heather-wolpert-gawron
“You can take it with you…” The above list is available here as an easy-to-print PDF file.
© 2021 Paul K. Fox