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How to Answer About Diversity in an Interview for Teaching

by Morgan Rush

Teachers are expected to respond to the needs of all students, not just the needs of students whose backgrounds are similar to their own. Being attentive to issues related to diversity can help teachers engage students more effectively and create a positive, inclusive learning environment. During teaching interviews, be prepared to answer questions about your ability to work effectively in a diverse environment. Being honest about your previous struggles and challenges helps create a more convincing portrayal of authentic interaction than merely stating that you treat all students the same.

Addressing Previous Experiences

Some interviewers will ask you to identify previous successes or challenges when working with students or colleagues in a diverse setting, according to the University of Alaska Anchorage. Don’t squander precious interview minutes providing a detailed play-by-play of past events. Instead, prepare several succinct sentences that describe the situation and how you handled it. When discussing mistakes, focus on what you would do differently in the future. For example, you might say, “I once worked with a migrant student who arrived late in the year and was struggling academically. I made a home visit, bringing a translator along with me, and was able to brainstorm with her family for solutions. Next time, I would schedule that home visit even earlier.”

Commitment to Professional Development

Employers care about your previous teaching experience, but they also want assurance that you’ll continue to develop your understanding of diversity issues, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Before the interview, prepare a list of conferences, trainings or publications you’ve engaged with to learn more about serving diverse student populations. This information will be fresh in your mind when asked about previous trainings. Additionally, making a list of potential trainings and conferences you would like to attend will help you sound prepared when you’re asked how you plan to continue your professional development in the future.

Description of Strategies

During a teaching interview, you might be asked to explicitly describe strategies you’ve used to support a diverse learning environment, according to Westminster College. You can talk about using a mixture of visual, oral and hands-on instruction to support students who speak English as a second language, according to Columbia University. You can also talk about how you invite and facilitate classroom discussions that invite differing opinions. Planning lessons that incorporate multiple perspectives is another effective technique.

Diversity in Your Background

Potential employers cannot ask you certain questions about your own background, even if they’re framed within the context of welcoming diversity, according to the University of South Florida. Such questions are illegal because of the possibility of discrimination. If you’re asked how you acquired a foreign language other than English, you can smile and say, “I always think of my ability to speak Farsi and English as an enormous professional asset. I’d rather focus on student needs during our discussion together. Can you tell me if there are other foreign language clubs on campus?”

About the Author

Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.

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