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Teacher job interview soft skill: Culture Add.

"Culture" sounds a bit naff when you talk about it - and I'm not talking about Boy George and Culture Club (yes, I am that old)!

But it is really important in schools these days.

I really believe that it is the responsibility of all staff in a school to build a GREAT school culture.

Leadership can be top down, or bottom up.

Culture is created top down AND bottom up.


As Gandhi said, as a teacher you need to "be the change you wish to see in the world".

Teachers who think that school culture can't or won't change, are not trying hard enough. They do not have the growth mindset that we teach our students to have.

Building great culture is about supporting each other.

The whole team.

When you are asked in your job interview with the school that you are hoping to work at "how will you add to the culture of our school?" you had better have an answer ready!

And this means that you have already needed to think deeply about what school culture means to you, and how you contribute to building school culture.

Schools often claim that culture is defined by their vision, their mission and their values.

But as teachers, we know that is not true.

It doesn't matter what you write in your vision statement, or how you talk about your school's values.

What matters is how you treat each other.

Actions matter.

When leadership don't support their teachers, this breeds negative school culture.

When teachers don't feel as if they have the support of leadership, this breeds negative school culture.

When local teachers are not paid the same as expat teachers, for doing the same job, this breeds negative school culture.

I could go on, but you know all the things I am talking about.

As teachers, we are smart. We are emotionally intelligent. We know how people want and deserve to be treated.

And that's how you build a great culture.


So that's great - we know what builds a great school culture.

But how do we talk about how we can add to school culture in our next job interview?

BEFORE your interview, take some time to imagine your IDEAL school. What it look like? How are teachers treated? What opportunities do they have? How does leadership support them? How do teachers support learning, development and students?

Think about these questions deeply and imagine your ideal school.

Record and write down your thoughts.

Re-visit your answers in a day or so. Think about the language you use. Can you tighten it up? Refine it?

Answering this question is going to be extremely personal for every teacher.

The hardest part is - there is NO single right answer.

How you as a teacher will add to the school culture is very personal, and depends on your own skills and your own beliefs.

For me, I talked about how I believe in supporting my colleagues and developing my leadership skills. I believe in creating a culture of support, openness, striving to be better. I believe that teachers very much need to feel supported by their leadership to be their best.

If you are trying to find out about a school's culture, here are some questions to ask:

  • What ten words best describe the school and/or department?

  • How do they make decisions?

  • How are teachers selected for promotions?

  • Where do teachers focus most of their time/energy?

  • What types of behaviours does the school reward?

  • Describe the physical work environment.

  • How does the school share performance feedback?

Some culture fit questions you might be asked in the interview include:

  • Why do you want to teach at our school?

  • How would you describe the culture at previous schools that you have worked at?

  • Tell me about a time that you solved a problem at school, what was the issue and how did you approach it?

  • Tell me about a team project that you did at school - what was the project, what was your role and what was the outcome?

  • How do you like to be managed?

  • What does your perfect workday look like? Take me through it?

  • Tell me about a time when you went out of your way for students, or for the school?

  • Describe your preferred relationship with other teachers

  • How do you maintain a work/life balance?

  • What are your interests outside of school?

Schools are not looking for teachers who are identical to each other. They are looking for diversity.

There is strength in diversity.

The really great schools hire with an eye towards culture add. They are looking for employees who challenge their thinking and enrich their school culture.

This is how great schools with flourishing and diverse teacher teams are built.

Phew! That was a long one!

If you'd like to do some interview prep and focus on how you are going to answer questions regarding school culture and other things, then book in now!

Hope this information is valuable to you.

Tetap sehat! (stay healthy in Bahasa Indonesia)!


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