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How to Nail the Interview for a Teaching Position – Nail #7: The Plan to Save the Failing Student.

Here is the seventh Nail in the Nail the Teacher Interview series.

Have a plan to save the failing student.

In some form or another, there will be a questions that will ask you what you would do if you notice that a student is failing your class.

To me, as you know if you have read by blog, this is a big one. I have always said that if a student fails my class, it’s not the student’s fault. It’s mine. The student did not pass my class, because I did not give the student the support he/she needed to be successful.

I know many teachers say, “The student earned his F.” Others will quote the saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’ make him drink.”

I believe that you can’t put the education of a 13-year-old in the hands of a 13-year-old.

It’s the teacher’s responsibility to find a way to get that student to be successful.

If a student fails a class, it’s because the teacher failed the student. Tweet that. I dare you.

So, if you are asked about your plan to save a failing student, here is how I suggest you answer.

  1. Update grades often, so you can identify the struggling students early. Students will dig themselves into a hole pretty quickly if you let them. If you update your grades on a weekly basis, you can make a list of students who are falling behind before it’s too late to save their grade.
  2. Have one-on-one conversations with the identified students about their grades. Let them know that you are concerned about their success in your class. Find out what it is that is keeping them from getting better grades. Sometimes it could be that they don’t have a quiet place at home to do the homework. It might be that they didn’t understand the assignment and were too shy to ask. Make it clear to them that you are sincerely interested in them and that you believe in their ability to be successful. You might be the first teacher who has ever believed in them.
  3. Be willing to spend extra time to help students succeed. Let the panel know that you are willing to stay after school for some extra tutoring time or even open your classroom at lunch to help these struggling students. I know teachers who make students come in at lunch to finish their homework, so they get the credit. For the students, it’s a consequence, but it’s really an opportunity for the teacher to keep the students from falling further behind. I admire teachers who are willing to give up their personal time to help kids.
  4. Get the parents involved. Most parents want to be involved with their child’s education. They want their son or daughter to get good grades. The last thing you want to do is surprise a parent with an F on their report card. I don’t know how many times, as a school administrator, I received phone calls by upset parents who received their child’s bad report card, asking me why the teacher never informed them that their kid was failing. Those were tough conversations, because I didn’t have an adequate answer. Although a teacher is only required to send out one warning that a student is in danger of failing by mail, a successful teacher recognized the importance of keeping the parents involved, and will contact parents frequently for those students who are not being successful. There should be no surprises when the grades come out.
  5. Accept late work. I know that some will argue that when you accept late work, you’re not teaching the student responsibility. I understand that side of the debate. I have always argued, however, that if a student digs himself into a homework hole, and he/she sees that there is no way out, he/she will just give up – give up on your class, on school, on life. There always has to be a way to keep the lights on. Here’s what I mean. If we as adults don’t pay our light bill, we get our electricity cut off. Does it get cut off forever? Do we have to start stocking up on candles? Of course not. We pay a penalty, and the electric company turns our power back on. It’s the same for students. When they don’t turn their work in on time, and we don’t accept it late, it’s like cutting off their hope for a good grade in your class. This is like turning off the lights forever. As a teacher, I would take off some points as a penalty, but accept the work and keep their chances of getting a good grade possible – keep the lights on. Feel free to use that example in your interview.

The main point here is to demonstrate to the interview panel that you are willing to do whatever is necessary to make sure that students pass your class. Let them see that you are taking on the responsibility of the education of your kids. You are in partnership with their parents to help each student be successful, even the ones who don’t want to learn.

There you have it, the seventh Nail in the Nailing the Teacher Interview series – Have a plan to save the failing student.

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Until next time, here’s to your Success in the Classroom!

Thank you,


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