What to Wear to a Teaching Interview: Top 5 Tips

Here’s a question from Emily, a Facebook friend of The EDU Edge and an aspiring teacher, about what to wear to a teaching interview / teaching interview attire:
“What are your top tips for what to wear to a teacher interview? I have been told to wear a business suit, but it is highly unlikely I would ever wear this for teaching so I am torn on what to do”

Emily- Thanks for contacting The EDU Edge. We shared this question with the administrators in The EDU Edge consortium who do the hiring to see what they suggested. They came up with the top five tips below. For additional tips specific to women and men’s clothing, we encourage you to check out chapter 6 of The Insider’s Guide to the Teacher Interview.

1. Become friends with your clothing– In all likelihood, the clothing you will wear to an interview is not your everyday clothing. For most of us, it is much more formal clothing or even brand new. When you put it on, it is going to feel a little foreign and possibly uncomfortable. The interview experience is itself likely to be foreign and uncomfortable. You don’t need your clothing adding to this equation. Be sure to put your full interview outfit on and wear it around the house for a few hours. Do this a couple times. Consider wearing it as you run some errands etc.. Stay away from the local BBQ joint to keep it in good shape, but get some mileage on it. This may seem a bit crazy, but trust us, while others are stiff and awkward in their interview best, it will feel like just another outfit for you.

2. Dress to interview, not to teach– Ok, so we do know some teachers who wear business attire to teach, but more than likely, even if you are wearing a sharp blouse or tie, you are not going to be in an expensive three piece suit everyday given that teaching is a physically active profession. However, these teaching interviews are a serious and formal endeavor. School districts will invest a ton in you if hired (over $3.5 million in a typical thirty year career) and don’t take this lightly. You need to be sure your clothing matches the moment.

3. Demonstrate your flexibility– Hiring committees know that you will not be wearing ultra slick business attire when you teach. However, the reality for all of these committees is that they want to know that you have the flexibility and good judgment to dress appropriate to the situation. Even when you are on the job, there will be parent nights, moving-up day ceremonies, special presentations at school board meetings etc.- times you will need to represent yourself in a manner of dress that speaks well to the school and school community. During the interview, you need to give them evidence that you have the flexibility and decision making skills to dress at this end of the range if the occasion calls for it.

4. Have a “Plan B”– Be sure you have more than one outfit to wear for interviews. From hems falling out, to coffee spills, to just not feeling the vibe of the outfit that morning, you want a second option. Things can happen right up until game time- so not a bad idea to keep the second outfit with you if you are driving there. It is unlikely you will need it, but the peace of mind will be an advantage. Another plus of having more than one outfit is that if the school you interview with uses multiple rounds to interview, you have a second look ready to go and do not have wear the exact same attire to both interviews or scramble to get one the night before.

5. Ask when in doubt– If you are required to do a teaching demonstration and business attire would not be compatible (such as a PE or visual arts position) it is likely the school will let you know to dress in attire typical to what you would wear on a teaching day. If there is any question in your mind, there is no harm in calling and simply asking one of the administrators helping to organize the process, “I want to be as effective as possible in my teaching demonstration but also want the committee to know that I certainly have the ability to dress appropriate to a formal situation. Can you share your preference for attire on the day of the teaching demonstration?” No harm can be done by this call. In fact, it is likely they will appreciate that you are conscientious of these issues.

Even more details about what to wear to the teaching interview can be found in The Insider’s Guide to the Teacher Interview. This handbook has shaken up the secretive world of teacher interviews. It has become the essential teacher interview handbook used by an increasing number of teacher colleges across the country. Busy teacher candidates will find it a quick read and well worth the modest investment for the insider information provided by school administrators that do the hiring. The more you know what to expect on the day of the interview, the more you will feel in control of the situation!

Good luck to you Emily! Good luck to all of you out there following The EDU Edge. Please be sure to share the information provided by The EDU Edge with another teaching candidate or those at you teaching college. We are on a mission to reduce anxiety when it comes to the teacher interview and make sure no one is a “deer in the headlights!”

Yours in a Partnership in Learning,
The EDU Edge

(Please feel free to contact us with additional questions … we’re on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and you can email us at info@theEDUedge.com. Tell us what interview obstacles you’re dealing with and trying to overcome. We’ll do our best to respond and try our best to help you.)

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Student Teaching

Here’s a question via Twitter from our new EDU Edge friend Elle a senior at Eastern Michigan:

“I’m going to be doing my student teaching next semester … any tips?

Elle- We’re thrilled to try to help. On December 13th our EDU Edge Twitter Tip was: “We cannot stress enough … your search for the job of your dreams starts the first day of student teaching. Take every day seriously!” Your high priority for your student teaching experience is right in line with our thinking. Because our mission is to help aspiring teachers successfully navigate the interview process, let’s focus on the things you can do during your student teaching experience to optimize your MARKETABILITY when you complete your degree in education.

The reason that we feel so strongly about the connection between student teaching and landing a job is because our network of administrators works with dozens and dozens of student teachers every year. Some student teachers maximize this opportunity and some don’t. Those that come to learn, work hard, listen, reflect, and connect with the staff and students in the school, in essence, the ones that do everything they can to go above and beyond and stand out, are the ones that get hired … plain and simple. One of the greatest dangers is to conceptualize student teaching as another task to check off your list and believe once you get to an interview or an actual job you’ll show people what you are made of and define your style. Moreover, we know that your student teaching experience is sooooo important because there are a lot of important “firsts” during this experience. How you handle them when they happen to you (trust us … they will) and how you build upon them matters when it comes time to apply for a job and be successful in the teaching interview.

First #1 – During your student teaching experience, you get your first opportunity to put into practice (with real children for multiple weeks) all the coursework and ideas that you have spent learning in your education program. This is the first time that you will (on a daily basis) build lessons, put them into action, feel the thrill of having spent hours planning a lesson and have it succeed with students learning and enjoying what you have created. It will also be the first time you feel the internal disappointment when one of those well planned lessons falls flat. This is the first time you will really feel a taste of the pressure that comes with being THE teacher. During this journey you begin shaping who you are as a teacher and what you bring to the profession.

First #2 – During your student teaching experience, you will have your first opportunity to develop contacts and get letters of recommendation. Principals are not going to read the letter from the pizza joint you worked at during the summer. At this point in your career you have very limited references that really mean anything to a potential employer. Consequently, your cooperating teacher and your college advisor’s recommendation COUNT! The educational community is a close-knit and people talk. If your cooperating teacher thinks you are stellar, she will let those in other districts know … the same goes for the principal and your college advisor. Their opinion of you and what they say about you matters. Do yourself a favor and do everything possible to ensure that these individuals see you for what you want to be- someone who will do everything they can to become a master teacher and will make a difference in the lives of their students. You want and need their recommendations to reflect this positive outlook (see our comments in Chapter 4 – Resume Advice in The Insider’s Guide to the Teacher Interview audiobook ©2011 – theEDUedge.com).

First #3 – Teacher Interview Portfolio. You get to put First #1 and First #2 into First #3 – your first complete teacher interview portfolio. During student teaching you will be designing lessons and assessments that will actually be implemented with students. When you do, think about your portfolio! Think about your future interview! What we mean is create great lessons, assessment, and tasks. Then take pictures of your students in action in the classroom (with appropriate school and parental permission of course). Keep copies of the lessons, the assessments, and examples of student work. Reflect on what worked and what didn’t work and put in writing what you would do differently in the future. When student teaching is over, you will have beautiful artifacts to add to your portfolio. Visual representations where individuals on interview teams can actually see you as a teacher and see the work that you have done inside the classroom with students goes a long way in the hiring process (see our comments in Chapter 12 – Portfolio Advice in The Insider’s Guide to the Teacher Interview audiobook ©2012 – theEDUedge.com)

Finally, during your student teaching experience you are constructing and framing your answers to future interview questions. You are dealing with difficult students, implementing successful lessons, giving different types of assessments, dealing with and managing parent communication, etc, etc, etc. All of these will give you a base from which to grow as a professional and most importantly a reference point on how to tackle the difficult questions that interview teams will throw at you (see Chapter 8 on how to master hundreds of interview questions through our ‘Umbrella Approach’tm). Keep a written or audio journal each night of the prominent students, events, successes and failures of your experience. Review these prior to each interview experience. Not only is it a great way to grow and reflect from your student teaching experience, when you get interview questions that ask you to reflect upon situations you have encountered in the past, you will not need to hesitate, search your memory or wander in order to find an applicable experience.

Good luck to you Elle! Good luck to all of you following the EDU Edge. Please come back after your student teaching experience and let us know how it went so we can all learn together.

Yours in a Partnership in Learning,

The EDU Edge

 (Please feel free to contact us with additional questions. We’ll do our best to respond. The EDU Edge community is growing on Blogger, Twitter, Facebook. You can email us at info@theEDUedge.com. Tell us what interview obstacles you’re dealing with and trying to overcome. We welcome dialogue from others going through the same process.)

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