What to Expect for Your First Music Teacher Job Interview
As my wife is at home stressing about her job interview in the morning, I was inspired to write this post about preparing for a job interview in the teaching profession. More specifically, music teaching job interviews. It is that time of year when soon-to-be music teachers all around the world are looking for their first job interview to begin their new journey in life. As someone who was lucky enough to land a job right out of university, I realize that this is not the case in some jurisdictions. Many places too, don’t have enough music teachers to go ’round which does cause its own problems like schools opting to not offer music or a non-specialist teacher or homeroom teacher delivering music curriculum. Not only was I able to land a job pretty quickly, I have been on 3 interview panels for music positions specifically. So I have a pretty good idea of how to get a job and what interview panels are looking for. Before you even get the interview there is one thing I need to tell you. TAKE WHAT YOU CAN GET. There are too many fresh-out-of-school music teachers who think that just because they have the degree that they can get what they want. This is simply, not the case.
As a trained 7-12 band teacher, I was waiting for that perfect dream job right off the get go. If this is your mindset, you will soon realize that a) That only exists in a very few schools, maybe even 1 – maybe none! and b) If you wait, you won’t get a job. I, unfortunately, missed out on a few opportunities that could have been good because they weren’t what I “wanted.” What I “wanted” in the end, was a job. So, let go of the ego and apply for every music job you can. My first job was a 20% music position at a small grades 1 – 4 school in Eastern PEI. Of course it wasn’t my dream job, but I soon noticed that teaching grades 1 to 4 was really great. Also, if I hadn’t have taken that job and if my girlfriend at the time who is now my wife hadn’t told me to take it, I definitely would not be at the 100% permanent job at a large K-6 school that I am at today and have been for almost 9 years. If it gets your foot in the door, it is a good job, even if it is a very small percentage. TAKE IT!
Now that that is out of the way, here is what you need to know about the interview:
What to Expect for Your First Music Teaching Job Interview
Be yourself – I know this is easier said than done and it is so cliché but it is so true. A panel can smell if you are not being genuine from a kilometre away (0.6214 miles for you Americans). On this same note, don’t sound too rehearsed. For practice, just have a conversation about your teaching philosophies and “talk shop” with your fellow music teachers or soon-to-be music teachers. When you go into the interview just imagine you are having a conversation about your passion with the panel.
Brag – I know this sounds counter-intuitive to what the rest of society wants you to believe is socially acceptable, but in an interview it is important that you brag. Yes, they will have your resumé and cover letter, but all that does is get you the interview. What gets you the job, is the interview itself. Assume they didn’t read your resumé or your cover letter at all. Tell them anything you think is relevant, they want to know why you’re great. If you won’t tell them how great you are, who will? That doesn’t mean that when they ask you to “please give an overview of your background and experiences that would make you a good candidate for the position” that you tell them your life’s story about how you became a musician when you were 4 years old and that you joined a band when you were 11, it just means that you need to tell them what is relevant up to that point. Start at your B.Mus or B.Mus.Ed and go from there. Keep in mind, there is such a thing as talking too much, but there is also such a thing as not talking enough. You just need to strike a balance without going overboard or holding back.
They will not ask to see your teaching portfolio – “I know, but my prof said…” – sorry, they won’t. However, bring one with you and be prepared to show examples from it at any time throughout the interview. Create opportunities for it to be showcased. If you don’t do this, they won’t see it. YouTube links of your teaching in action and sound files of your groups performing are also great to include. Leave it with them, if it comes down to you and another candidate, they will take a look at those.
They will not flat-out ask you what your philosophy of music education is – This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t think about what you believe about music education, it just means you need to have a good grasp on it so that you can integrate it into the answers to the questions that will likely come up. Heads up! – Your teaching philosophy is not set in stone right now. It will change, and that is OK.
There will likely be a question asking you to describe a typical lesson for your particular grade level – This is where your teaching philosophy comes in to play. Or, if you have a lesson plan or description of a lesson in your portfolio, this is your time to bring it out.
Discipline is a thing – I know you haven’t learned about it in your degree, and it might not even have come up, but classroom discipline is a real thing that can blow that carefully-laid-out lesson plan out the window and the s*** will hit the fan. Quite literally sometimes actually… (nothing surprises me anymore). Most interview panels will ask a discipline related question, so be prepared. Your best themes to stick to in this instance are: co-created expectation, consistent but flexible to the situation at hand, collaborative effort, mutual respect, relationships with parents, communication with home room teachers, and admin support as a last resort.
There is a good chance that there will be a question about your experience with *insert successful school music ensemble* – Every music program has a particular musical strength based mostly on the previous teacher and once they find it, they don’t want to lose it. This is where researching the school before-hand is important so you are prepared for whatever music ensemble they may ask you about.
In the end, it is important to change your mindset to think “They need me more than I need them.” This is similar to #2 but if you go in thinking that you need this job, you will likely not get it. But, if you go in thinking that they need you and that you will make their school more amazing, you stand a much better chance. Start thinking this way now. Confidence and passion is key. Something else to keep in mind is that, in my district, the interview is based on a rubric that judges how well you answer the questions. After this, candidates are given a mark for each question and then an over