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First interview for a high school physics teaching position tomorrow

  1. Apr 11, 2013 #1
    So, after quitting my physics Ph.D grad program last semester, I got my physics teaching license with the aim to be a high school teacher. Teaching and tutoring were my favorite things in undergrad and my one semester in grad school, so I've decided to do it for a living. I have a few months of experience teaching an SAT prep course, 2 years as a physics tutor, and a semester as a teaching assistant, but no formal teaching education.

    I have my first interview for a high school physics teaching position tomorrow at a charter school. Anything in particular I should expect? I've been on plenty of interviews in my life, but none of them have been for a teaching position like this.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 11, 2013 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    I got hit with a question related to students and not physics:

    A student comes up to you at the end of the last class and says they really need to pass in order to graduate

    My answer was well I can look at any past homeworks, quizzes or tests where you think I graded too hard to see if we can get some points.


    What they wanted to hear was that all students were appraised of their grades and that you talked to them earlier about the possibility that they may not pass and they need to either step up their game or drop out of the course.

    My somewhat lame recovery was true but there will still some student who will come up to you at the end and ask and then what do you do?

    So be prepared for trick questions like this,

    In my interview I had to present Newton's 3rd law to the three interviewers. The only nit was on one of my slides I left out a normal force vector which didn't really factor into the problem would have been helpful in understanding.

    I even created an on the spot joke:

    What govt agency is so strong that not even a hurricane can move it?

    FEMA aka F = M A
  4. Apr 11, 2013 #3


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    Good luck!! Unfortunately I have no advice I can give.
  5. Apr 12, 2013 #4

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    I would avoid getting into your "I don't give out 100%s" grading policy for labs. I don't think it is likely to help, so it's better to focus on other things.
  6. Apr 12, 2013 #5
    Lol, I reconsidered that policy anyway, and besides, that was for university engineering majors, not high school students.
  7. Apr 12, 2013 #6


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    Not giving 100% is a bit harsh, but it's an example that shows you have very high expectations of your students. That might be a strong selling point.

    Of course those high expectations should be obtainable, though.
  8. Apr 12, 2013 #7
    Not to rehash that thread, but it was more of a problem where the students abilities were often orders of magnitude apart. If I graded every student equally across the board, I'd either end up with a group of Bs mixed in with lots of 100%s, or most students failing with a few at 95% or more. I read each paper 3 times, grading more harshly with each pass. If a student lost a lot of points on the most basic stuff, I didn't take off additional points for the nitpicky things in the rubric. If a student nailed all of the easy and moderate things, I'd take off an occasional point for the more nitpicky things listed in the rubric, like organization. Put something in the conclusion that should have been in the body of the report, for example, that might be 1 point off.

    It was an exaggeration to say I didn't give out 100s, I gave out 3 during the semester.

    The main argument was if I took off points for something for one student, I'd have to take it off for every student. That would have resulted in far more failing grades. The alternative was to not take points off from any student if I gave any one student leniency. That would have caused actual flaws listed in the rubric that should have had points taken off and corrected in future reports to go unnoticed.

    So, I split the difference, and students basically "unlocked" harsher levels of grading by doing perfectly on the lower levels. Like I said, I don't mean to rehash that thread there, but yes, I did have high expectations of my students.

    Anyway, time for me to go. I'll post here how it went.
  9. Apr 12, 2013 #8


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    You can probably expect to be evaluated on your teaching style in one form or another - perhaps with a sample lesson, but let's assume that you know your technical stuff. Here are a few things that might come up on the non-technical side...

    1. What's special about the particular school that you're applying to? Why do you want to work there? How can your personal attributes build on the currently existing strengths?

    2. What are the most important issues facing young students today? If this position was in Canada, there's a big story right now about an unfortunate teen suicide in Halifax. I don't know if it has garnered much attention in the US, but it's drawing attention here to issues such as bullying and sexual violence among teens. I wouldn't be surprised if such issues came up in a teacher interview.

    3. How would you recognize a learning disability in a student? What resources are available to you to assist with teaching students with learning disabilities.

    4. All schools struggle with limited budgets. How can you "do more with less?"

    5. Do you have a teaching dossier? (Examples of lesson plans, projects that you've done, etc.)

    6. A teacher in Alberta was recently dismissed for issuing a grade of 0 on an assignment despite the school having adopted a "no zero" policy. How do you feel about such policies? How would you deal with a situation where school policy runs contrary to your own teaching philosophies?

    7. How can you fully engage students who learn in different ways?

    8. You realize you have given the students some incorrect information in a lesson and one of the students has called you on it.

    9. An irrate parent storms into the school one day upset that you have given her "straight A little angel" a C+ (on a paper on which the C+ was extremely generous).

    10. A student admits something personal to you (such as being gay, pregnant, suicidal, an abusive parent, etc.) in confidence and needs help.
  10. Apr 12, 2013 #9
    The interview didn't go badly, but it wasn't great either. My lack of formal teaching experience hurt me. I was asked questions like "what would your homework policy be?" I responded that I didn't have any strong feelings one way or another about various homework policies, and I'd seek the advice of more experienced colleagues to help me craft a specific policy.

    One thing I mentioned in my cover letter was I thought there was a problem with rote memorization in physics and "teaching to the test." This school is, in their words, a "data-driven school" where assessments are very important. So, how would I ensure high test scores without "teaching to the test?" I responded that physics education research has shown that inquiry-based learning leads to better outcomes, and as a bonus, the students will retain the information better, rather than just dumping the knowledge after the test. So, not only will they score high on the current test, but they'll be able to score higher on tests in the future.

    I'm reasonably happy with how it went, even if I don't get an offer. If I don't get it, I suspect it is going to be because of my lack of formal education experience and not my personality or anything along those lines.
  11. Apr 12, 2013 #10

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    Knew a teacher who addressed this by saying "I agree. It's not your son's fault. It's probably just genetics."
  12. Apr 12, 2013 #11


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    This is an interesting dilemma: Do you tell the truth or tell them what they want to hear?

    If you need the job then the choice is obvious but you can still work in your inquiry based strategy even as you teach to the test.
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