The Interview Process

Bryce Hedstrom has given us a good framework for interviewing potential candidates for WL positions. Bob Patrick referred to it here in a comment a few days ago, but it is the time of year for interviews so I post it here again as an article, in case it can be of any value to any of us. Bryce shares:

I dug this up the other day. These are the interview questions that we asked applicants for a Spanish teaching job at my school a couple of years ago. I wrote most of the questions and the committee took turns asking them. The committee consisted of two foreign language teachers and one social studies teacher. we reported our findings and gave our recommendation to the principal, who had his own interview and made the final decision. The answers are those of the candidate that got the job–my student teacher that year.

A blog entry like this may be timely with interviews coming up at this time of the year. The interview is not perfect, but at least it will give teachers some ideas and may spark some good discussion and the generation of ideas.


1. What role does grammar correction play in your classroom?

I think that most student take a foreign language class because they want to learn how to speak. Learning another language can be a daunting task and that desire to learn can be squelched if grammar is constantly corrected. Instead, I like to focus on communicative language teaching techniques.

2. What is your opinion about grammatical accuracy vs. fluency?

Using correct grammar is important, but even native speakers of a language do not always use proper grammar when they speak. Fluency is extremely important: in context, meaningful language.

3. On what research or model do you base your teaching methods?

Much of it is based on the research of Dr. Stephen Krashen of USC, which indicates that people learn language mainly by Comprehensible Input. This kind of input happens in the classroom by communicative teaching (speaking) and by emphasizing reading.

4. Describe a typical day in your classroom

Variety is important, and every day is different, so it is difficult to describe a typical day, but there are some commonalities in every class period. I greet students in the hall on their way to class. There is always a “Repasito” (a bell-ringer activity) on the board, so the students have a task to complete right at the beginning of class while I am attending to other duties like taking role. Reading is a part of almost every class—even in Spanish I. But in every lesson I incorporate the four language skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing, which are the core of the Colorado Model Content Standards for Foreign Language.

5. How did you learn Spanish?

In high school, and at UNC. I also lived and studied in Mexico and in Costa Rica.

6. How do you maintain and increase your own language proficiency?

By speaking Spanish daily and by reading, also by corresponding with my “family” and friends in Costa Rica, by watching movies and television in Spanish.

7. Should students with learning disabilities be included in world language classes?

Yes, definitely. In fact, students with learning disabilities can excel the most. I have seen these students have a lot of success in Spanish classes. They bring a lot to the class, they are excited.

8. How do you do that?

I look at the students’ IEP’s and accommodate where needed. I differentiate my instruction. I give them preferential seating, like in the front of the class, if they need it. I also give them more time.

9. How do you accommodate the various learning styles of students within a class?

I use different techniques to give comprehensible input to students with visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles such as gestures, acting, role playing and drawing, as well as reading and writing.

10. Describe your preferred system of classroom management.

I am pro-active in my classroom management style and I try to head off problems before they begin. By being involved with students and showing them that I care, I find that there are fewer problems to begin with. I use ideas from the book Tools for Teaching by Fred Jones.

11. What inspired you become a teacher?

I love the language. I have connections with the language working at our family business. My family also took many vacations to Mexico as I was growing up. I took Spanish in high school and I loved the language but the Spanish program was weak. After three years of taking Spanish in high school, even though I got good grades, I couldn’t really speak the language. I wanted to try to see if I could find a better way to teach kids Spanish than what I experienced.

12. What do you like about Roosevelt?

The staff, the students, the positive environment.

13. What are some of your biggest strengths and weaknesses? My attitude is one of my biggest strengths. Attitude affects everything.

One of my weaknesses is that I am a perfectionist. I tend to spend too much time on things.

14. Was there one person that steered you into teaching?

It was a compilation of people in my life.

15. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Working at a quality school, teaching Spanish in a program that is developing students that can speak Spanish at a high level.



10 thoughts on “The Interview Process”

  1. What to say and what not to say at an interview…

    I was recently turned away, “We decided to move ahead with other candidates,” after interview with 3 Spanish teachers at a school I was hoping to land a job at, and I’m left thinking about how I might have sounded either coo-coo or threatening to them. For one, when they asked me about classroom management I showed them my jGR/ ICSR rubric, and went into some detail. I wonder if they were thinking things like, “So, they just sit there and listen to you?” I probably should have answered the classroom management question saying first, “When students feel like they are learning something in class; that the classroom experience is valuable to them; that they are following along and participating and engaged, your classroom management issues are solved.” Then I could list a few things that I do to keep kids engaged; Partner Pairs / Reader’s Theater / Movie Talk / Role Playing / TPR / reading authentic texts / Choral reading / Choral translating / etc. Just list some of these fancy sounding activities and let it be. I think my in-depth description of how jGR came about and it’s representation of Krashen and ACTFL and comprehensible input, made me sound like a fanatic, and that I wouldn’t fit in their department.

    Also, they asked to see some examples of student work, so I brought in a folder of my students most recent Free Writes. I bet ya that as these teachers were looking through the Free Writes, they were probably thinking, “Boy, these students’ grammar is atrocious!” Next time I’m asked to bring in student work samples I’m going to bring in some of my students’ English translations with a copy of the Spanish story attached. That’s probably safer.

    Finally, one teacher asked me, “What do you do when your CI instruction doesn’t work?” I answered by giving just one example of how I did an extended dictation once with a class that wasn’t feeling it that day. I really should have listed a few things I could pull from a “teaching tool box” when the CI lies flat; SSR, various brain breaks, Look & Discuss, TPR exercises, 10 min translation session of a previous story, (I could bs a couple more). The reality is that since nothing beats good PQA and Story-Asking for SLA, that’s what I push my students to sit down and listen to everyday for as long as they can. But I realize I shouldn’t say that.

    Give me an interview with an administrator any day over sitting me down with a group of foreign language teachers. It’s much easier for me to talk about how I meet standards and use data and use research-based practices with administration who usually eat this stuff up than try to figure out how I can fit-in with a clique of foreign language teachers who may or may not do CI.

  2. well, I was told this past week that my job may be cut. But, on the bright side, the school that I have been WANTING to move to is hiring!!! Also just posted THIS week! So, please wish me luck, and any more pointers on here this week would be most appreciated!!! (oh, yeah! it’s a CI school! – that’s why I want it so bad!!!!) Thanks.

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