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What is your teaching philosophy?

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When you apply for a job as a teacher, you may be asked about your teaching philosophy. This is not the sort of question you should fumble or improvise on the fly, you’ll look unprepared for the job if you don’t have a ready answer. On the other hand, if you have a succinct and clear philosophy, the hiring manager will be impressed by your ability to think about the methods and goals of your teaching practice.

Before the job interview, make sure you have a philosophy that you can neatly articulate.

What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know

The interviewer wants to know that you have a teaching philosophy, that you can articulate it, and that your beliefs about teaching and learning are a good fit for the school.

What is a teaching philosophy? It’s an explanation of your values and beliefs as they relate to teaching. Your philosophy is often a combination of methods you studied in college or graduate school and lessons learned during any professional experience since then. It may also draw upon your own experience of childhood education either as a parent or as a child yourself.

If you don't know what your teaching philosophy is, try writing down a few key statements you believe to be true about education, and then proceed from there.

Think about the methods you apply in the classroom, and your goals for your students. Also consider how you've put your ideas about education into action, and what principles are demonstrated by your work in the classroom. What makes you proud to be a teacher? What lets you know you’ve done a good job? What standards do you set for yourself and why?

A personal teaching philosophy is different than a pedagogic theory, although the two are related. Waldorf or Montessori education, for example, involves very different approaches to teaching (pedagogies) than the mainstream American public-school system utilizes, and yet teachers from each system might articulate very similar philosophies.

Teaching styles and methods often change over a person’s career, so review your philosophy from time to time, update it, and make changes when necessary.

How to Answer “What Is Your Teaching Philosophy?”

If you’ve never put your teaching philosophy into words, this three-step process can help you articulate your beliefs.

Begin simply with one or two sentences that neatly encapsulate your thinking.
Then Elaborate on what your philosophy means in practical terms.
Then include an example of how you apply your teaching philosophy in the classroom. This will help make your philosophy even more concrete.

However, only share an example if you have enough time. If you have already been speaking for a couple of minutes, or if you feel that the interviewer wants to move on, you can skip this part.

Examples of an answer

Now, let’s apply our three-step system and look at some sample answers.

I believe the classroom is a living community and that everyone, from the principal to the students to the parents, must contribute in order to maintain a positive atmosphere.

Why It Works: This statement is simple, straightforward, and easy to absorb. It takes a position, the classroom is a living community and everyone contributes, and conveys it well. While you don’t need to fit everything you believe about teaching into a single sentence, it’s important to be able to express the most central part of your ideas and priorities as a teacher. Let the rest be implied.

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