What are Principals Really Looking for in a Teacher?

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An interview question often asked when looking for a teaching job is "What are principals really looking for in a teacher?" It is important to understand what school principals want in a teacher in order for you to meet those needs and get hired. Here are some of the most important skills that principals look for in a teacher.

Teaching Skills

The first and most important set of skills are teaching skills. This includes your education and training, as well as any previous teaching experience you have had, and your knowledge of teaching techniques and strategies that foster learning in students. While teaching skills are not the only things that matter in getting a job, they are vital in securing the job. If possible, you should have a B.A. and your completed teaching credential. If you have had student teaching, that is a big plus. Prior experience can also help you get a job, especially if you have good recommendations from your former principals.

Communication Skills

Communication skills are an important part of being a teacher. You need to communicate well with your students, students' parents, administrators, and other teachers and staff. You should have excellent written and verbal communication skills and be able to demonstrate that you can effectively communicate with all types of people, from many different cultural backgrounds. 

If you are bilingual in English/Spanish or English/Chinese, you have an extremely valuable ability that will open many doors for you. Make sure your resume is free of errors. Use perfect grammar during the interview. Prepare to answer interview questions without saying "Um..." or "I don't know." Speak up in an interview!  You have to sell yourself and your abilities.

Passion and Enthusiasm

Every principal wants teachers to have passion and enthusiasm for teaching.  Passion is a desire to teach that goes well beyond just a career choice or job. It is a genuine interest and enthusiasm for teaching that invigorates your teaching style and gets you noticed. It is also a willingness to handle the stresses of teaching with grace and common sense. This passion and enthusiasm must be obvious in your voice, body language, and eye contact when you interview.

Lifelong Learning

The best teachers are those who not only thrive on teaching others, but also continue their own learning throughout their lives. Principals love teachers who learn new teaching techniques, keep current on technology changes, continue their university coursework, and develop better communication skills. The best teachers are those who understand their own behavior and abilities and are willing to improve. This teaching philosophy means that you will be a great role model for students. When you are interviewed, mention your future plans for ongoing learning.


Principals want teachers who are flexible. In education, change is constant and teachers need to be willing and able to "roll with the punches" as they occur.  This is especially important when modifications to curricula occur or when a reassignment of teachers is necessary. It's also vital that you can stay calm and adjust when chaotic things happen in the classroom. Those who are happily willing to accept new challenges are more sought after than those who get stuck in a rut. Be prepared to describe how you will control and manage your classroom to the interview team.

Functioning as Part of a Team

The principal looks at the teachers, administrative staff, and support staff as a team. The team needs to be able to function well together and enjoy collaborating to maximize student learning and developing a positive school community. You probably have heard the old adage that "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." This is especially true in a school environment. A united staff creates the best learning environment and exciting things happen as a result. You must convince the principal that you are ready, willing, and able to function as part of the team. One way to do this is to have one or two experiences to describe to the interview team about how you have functioned as part of a team in the past.


One of the simplest attributes a teacher needs, yet one of the hardest to understand is attitude. Your attitude goes a long way in making you a great teacher and team member. A teacher with a good attitude understands his or her obligations to teach well, provide a role model for students, and get along well with other faculty members. Your attitude is important in portraying the type of school that the principal desires. Make sure that your positive attitude comes through in your resume, cover letter, and interview. 

You should now have some idea of what school principals want in a teacher. If you are prepared to meet those needs, you will be hired. 


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