Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Music Maternity Leave- Questions for the Interview

Sitting here on Maternity Leave I thought I would make a few posts about finding and working with my substitute (she is wonderful!) because I know I had A LOT of questions when searching and planning.  This will be a 3 part series: 1. The Interview 2. What to Communicate To, and Leave for, the Sub and 3. Planning For your Absence

For me, certain questions in the interview were VERY important and telling.  My principal and I ended up interviewing 3 people for the position.  Obviously things like experience, degree, etc. are very important but I found that I was more interested other, less typical questions, when choosing someone who was going to be with my kiddos for 2 months!

Some of the most important questions I asked were:

1. Sing something for me- My principal and some interviewees were surprised when I asked this - but I am SO glad we did. One candidate, even though they had a music degree, would not have been able to lead a class of elementary students.  This question also shows confidence and preparedness. Only one candidate (the one we hired) had something prepared- and it was actually part of a chorus piece she was hoping to use with our chorus.  Awesome!

2. Tell me about a time that teaching music brought the children JOY- This one was another great question.  I loved the answers I got. You could really tell if a candidate was in the profession for the kids. 

3. What is your knowledge of the Kodaly/ Orff (or whatever you use most in your classroom) ways of teaching??- I definitely live in Kodaly world so I wanted someone who would at least respect that there are often unknowns in my teaching so that students can discover solfege and rhythms organically.  One of the candidates was VERY surprised when I said that I do not name concepts immediately and I felt that they would immediately try to teach all the unknowns as soon as I was gone.  The Substitute we chose, while not super familiar with Kodaly was very receptive and expressed that while she was new to it, she was eager to learn more and would respect my way of teaching, while still putting her own spin on it.  

4. How will I know what you have accomplished upon my return?- While I am not back yet, my sub is very organized and assured me she would take thorough notes, grades, etc. and since we have been in communication the whole time (one or two emails a week) I have no doubt that she will do just that.  She is also planning on helping with our spring musical and other things after I am back so we will be able to discuss her time with my students thoroughly while working on other things.

5. What are your strengths as a teacher/ what are your favorite things to teach?-  If you are interviewing for an elementary GM position and your candidate says they love to teach marching band they might not be the best fit (yep, it happened). I wanted someone who, while I knew they wouldn't teach just like I do, found joy in being with students from 1st grade through 6th.  Who wasn't afraid to be silly with the littles and more serious, yet still fun, with the older kids. 

6. What is the big picture goal of Elementary Music Class (or whatever level of music you teach)?- This one is important because I wanted someone with a similar goal of  instilling a LOVE of all types of music in students so that they can go out into the world with an appreciation of music and be, as John Fierabend says, Tuneful-Beatful-Artful and doing this through teaching music literacy.

I hope that when looking for a long-term sub for your music room these questions help!


  1. Wow! Great post! When I was gone for the first 7 weeks of the school year the year Ellie was born, I had a long term sub who did have an education degree and could play piano but not a real music sub. I wrote out every plan before for every grade and every day of those 7 weeks. It was really hard because I would write pages and pages just for one lesson, but I wanted them to do everything a certain way! I would have loved to actually interviewed a music teacher to take my spot while I was gone. That is a cool opportunity and surely better for you and your kids.

    I wonder what the norm is.

    1. I am so happy I was able to have a music teacher! My principal was really adamant about having someone qualified to be there. I also only had to plan 2 weeks but I am sure I would have planned much differently (and much more) if my sub was not a music specialist and just a Gen. Ed. Teacher. I am now curious what the norm is as well!