Today I wanted to take a slightly different approach to this blog post and share with you some interview tips I have tried over the last 16 years, and hopefully, they will help you land the art teaching job of your dreams. I have successfully landed jobs in elementary, middle school, and high school, but now that I teach future teachers in college the one thing my students always ask me is, “How do I get a job?”
First thing, it is a numbers game. Apply for everything that interests you. When I was in grad school in New York City, I knew that I could not afford to continue to live in that expensive city if I wanted to teach. I applied to every school that was hiring from Juno, Alaska to Dodge City Community College. I had an accordion file folder that I kept all of my application materials and correspondence from each school so if they called for an interview; I would be ready. There were over 50 schools that I applied to from my little apartment in the city. I got several phone interviews and a couple of on-campus interviews before landing my first teaching job 20 miles away from my family in Kansas City, Missouri.
1. Edit your social media
Back when I was first applying for jobs, social media was not a thing. Fast forward till today when before you start the application process you need to take a good look at all of your social media accounts. I have looked up applicants I was interviewing, so trust me when I say, administrators will look you up on social media before your interview. Edit everything that could be questionable. Edit every picture or post of you with a drink in your hand, wearing a bathing suit, or anything that shares your political opinions. You are going to say that you are of the legal age of 21, it was your wedding toast or a vacation in the Bahamas and you look good in that red two-piece bikini. All of these counterpoints are true, but while you are landing your dream job, be ultraconservative online.
2. Do your research
I did not do my research on all 50 schools I applied to that year, but now that I narrow down my search for future jobs I research the job extensively. I like to know it the school is rural or inner-city. I plan how long it will take to drive there for my interview and then because I do not want to be late, I add 30 minutes for traffic. If the interview is close by, I will do a drive by the day before, so I know exactly how to get to the school and what the school looks like.
You can find out a lot on the internet, so check out the school. What are the names of the administrators? These are most likely the people that will be interviewing you so look at their photos so you will be able to identify them. Will you be the only Art teacher in the building, or in the district? If there are several art teachers in the building see what you can find out about the other teacher(s). Many times, teachers have webpages linked to the school’s website that would give you an idea of past projects.
Knowing about the school and district shows your level of interest in the job and is always impressive to people interviewing you.
3. Gather your resources
When I went to my first interview for a teaching job I had a huge three-ring notebook that chronicled all of my lesson plans, bulletin board displays, and my teaching philosophy. Now future teachers in Art Education programs at my university and others across the country create websites to house all of this information, and more, electronically. These are great resources and so easy to attach to online applications or link on your resume. The only problem with these or even bringing an iPad to show your website during the interview is that only one person can look at it at a time. You can provide your website beforehand, but the day of the interview I like to show up with packets for my interviewers. I am visual, and after all, I am applying for a visual teaching position, so I want people to be able to see what I do. Sample lesson plans, or bulletin board displays can be color copied and you can make three packets to put something in the hands of the team interviewing you. I would save pictures of your own artwork for later, focus on community projects, classroom management plans, letters from parents or professors, and possibly your transcripts to compile this packet of your resources.
4. What to wear
I have taken students all over the world on study abroad trips and while in Italy most of the artwork we want to see is in churches or cathedrals. The churches in Italy have dress codes so even though it was hot on the streets of Florence we would all have an extra scarf in our bag to cover up with when we went inside. Those are my general rules for what to wear to an interview. The old signs that say, “No shirt, No shoes, No service” My rule is: “No shoulders, No toes, No thighs.” You should dress one level above the position you are applying, so if you are interviewing for a teacher position, ask yourself what a vice principal or principal would wear. Be conservative, but a little artsy. I love a colorful scarf or an interesting pin but remember that the people interviewing you are not fellow art teachers that appreciate your “wild and wacky” style, so tone it down. You want your interviewers to focus on the words coming out of your mouth, not your funky-felted brooch.
*Side note- If dressing in a Rembrandt costume or a full color wheel skirt ties into how you approach teaching, include photos of these in your packet.
*Side note- Most of my students ask me about my tattoos, do I cover them up when I go for an interview? My tattoos are quite extensive and hard to cover. I do not reveal them all, just as I wouldn’t reveal them all to my elementary students the first day of class. Following my own conservative dressing rules, one or two of them will peek out. My thoughts are if a school does not want to hire me because of this tattoo on my arm, I most likely would not like to work for that school.
5. Arrive early
I do not like to arrive frazzled and stressed out. I like to get to the school at least 30 minutes early to avoid any traffic delays, and I either drive around the surrounding area or wait in my car. I check my teeth for lipstick and walk in 15 minutes early to show I’m punctual, and I care about this interview.
6. Leave your cell phone in the car
It is tempting to bring in your phone when you know you have to wait for the interview. Leave your phone in the car! Bring a book that makes you look like the intellectual teacher of their dreams! I suggest the book, Teaching with Love and Logic by Fay and Funk.
7. Know the questions
Review some possible questions that they will ask you and practice your answers. You will not know everything, there will most likely be a curveball thrown in there but at least you will not be going in blind. Administrators know if you are a first-year teacher or if you have taught for 20 years before they interview you. Even if you are a first-year teacher, you can still have a packet of things from classes or your student teaching experience, and you can show that you are capable of doing the job. Never say, “Well I don’t know because I’ve never taught before.” The questions will most likely be related to classroom management, encounters with a problematic or unmotivated student and how you handled that situation, and why you want to be a teacher. Practice your answers. Practice your answers in front of a mirror to make sure that your face matches your enthusiasm for what you are saying.
Reach out to fellow art teacher friends for some advice on answers to prepare. Most will tell you that during their interview administrators asked about their willingness to collaborate with other teachers. If asked, say Yes! You can do a great lesson on tessellation shapes that ties in with a math unit. Also, state that you have National Standards and a curriculum that is important. You are hired as the Art Education teacher not the supplemental craft helper for the classroom teachers.
8. Don’t make promises you can’t keep
If you are asked during your interview about a community-wide mural project that needs to be completed on the weekends and over spring break, or to decorate every bulletin board in the school, or to decorate the cafeteria every month, be honest with them. It is okay to say, “I don’t think that would benefit my students.” Most administrators like an annual art show, and that is something that you should expect to do. It is okay to say no to other opportunities that do not involve displaying your student’s artwork but instead you being the decorating committee for an alumni luncheon. Be polite, but be honest. If this is a deal breaker, you might not want that job. Don’t say things just to get the job because they will remember and be holding you accountable for those extra duties.
9. Ask questions
At the end of your interview, they will be asked if you have questions. Come with questions in mind, in fact, a whole list in case they already answered several. Possible questions are:
10. Send a thank you note
Within 24 hours of your interview ending, you need to send a thank you note. I always preferred a handwritten thank you note, but an email seems to be the current and fastest way of communication. If multiple people interviewed you, send a thank you note to each person. Explain that it was nice to meet them and how much you enjoyed the school.
I wish you well in landing the gig of your dreams! Please post any questions you have in the comments, as I am happy to help.
I teach future art teachers at Emporia State University. Here is what is going on in my classes.