Whether you want to be hired for your first teaching job or simply find a different teaching position outside of your current school, in a different district, or another grade level, it’s essential that you understand the common weaknesses of teachers.
I know this sounds ridiculous, but as you seek employment even as an experienced teacher, you be required to be interviewed. And with that interview you will be forced to answer the two trickiest questions in the world…What is your greatest strength? and What is your biggest weakness?
The truth is…your answers to these two questions could be the deal-makers or the deal-breakers.
And while many articles you read (or podcasts you listen to) focus on how to answer the strength part of the question, I want to dig into the weakness question because I want to help you…
- honestly answer these questions without sounding totally arrogant or completely spineless,
- strengthen some of these weak areas (before you interview),
- know how to prepare exactly what you will say ahead of time (with sample answers), and
- increase your confidence before you step foot into the interview.
Before we start digging into all of this, I want to make sure you understand a vitally important fact.
We are going to be talking about weakness as it relates to your skills and NOT your value or worth as a person.
Let me repeat that…weakness relates only to your skills, not your value or worth as a person.
If you allow yourself to think of weakness as a character flaw or a reason others should devalue you or not hire you, then you will have a hard time during the interview when this question surfaces.
So should you find yourself being triggered by the idea of pointing out your weaknesses, please talk to someone. There is definitely an underlying issue that you need to address and I want to encourage you to find a good counselor who can help you unpack some of the issues.
Now that we’ve clarified the fact that weakness is skill-related and not character-related, let’s look at why employers ask these questions.
The Dreaded Weakness Question
The most difficult part about answering this question is the fact that you have to say something. You can’t simply deflect it hoping to skirt around this one.
Obviously we would like to think of ourselves as having no weaknesses, but if we want to become better teachers (or just better people in general), we have to acknowledge our weaknesses.
Now this question may not be asked outright. You might hear the teacher interview questions about weakness phrased a few different ways.
- What is the biggest challenge you have faced and how did you resolve the issue?
- What is your greatest weakness?
- What would you say is an area with which you struggle?
- What would your co-workers say is your biggest struggle?
The point is that all of these weakness questions are driving to the same outcome.
At the end of the day, employers want to know if you are a total hot mess with poor time management skills and lack of respect for authority (and obviously the person they want to avoid hiring like the plague) or if you are an excellent potential employee who has taken the time to thoroughly reflect on areas that can be strengthened.
Once you realize why employers are asking the question, it becomes so much easier for you to answer it objectively. So let’s look at some of the most common weaknesses of teachers.
Common Weaknesses of Teachers
Typically, this is an area we consider a strength because problem solvers make effective teachers. But this becomes a weakness when we don’t give students space to learn how to become problem solvers themselves.
Because our communication skills are well-honed, we can sometimes be too quick to solve the problem for them, therefore allowing no opportunity for our students to learn and grow.
So take some time to reflect on whether you are a model of appropriate problem solving techniques and a catalyst for helping your students and coworkers learn to solve problems themselves or simply the one everyone comes to as the final decision-maker.
There will always be problems facing children and adults alike, but it isn’t ALWAYS your job to be the problem solver. Sometimes your role is to simply be a listening ear and help facilitate the decision-making process.
Realizing that this “would be” strength isn’t helping your students or co-workers makes it the perfect weakness to share.
Example Answer for Problem-Solving as Your Weakness
“My biggest weakness is my problem-solving ability. I know that sounds strange, but let me explain. Because I have an innate ability to make decisions and solve problems, I am the go-to person for others who need problems solved.
This becomes my weakness when I don’t have the capacity to facilitate the decision-making of others so I simply make the decision for them. I don’t always give them the space to make their own decision.
I have been actively working toward giving students and coworkers time to externally process the issue and then providing helpful options to solve their problems instead of immediately giving them the solution I think is best. This is the best way for them to flow through the learning process naturally.”
It is so hard not compare ourselves with others and this becomes an almost insurmountable task if you are part of a grade level (or even team teaching) with those whom you view as perfect teachers.
We know that no one is perfect, but there are always teachers who seem to have everything together. And this comparison can become a slippery slope.
It’s important that we learn helpful hints and new ideas from other teachers who have strengths we would like to possess.
But if we find ourselves becoming bitter towards another teacher because we “just don’t measure up” then we need to take a step back and determine from where these feelings are springing and how to do something about them.
If you think comparison is a weakness of yours, consider how you could use your struggle as a learning opportunity for your students.
Recognizing comparison as a personal weakness of yours while simultaneously using it as a springboard for conversations with your students is the ideal way to showcase your weakness in a positive light.
Example Answer for Comparison as Your Weakness
“I would say my biggest weakness is comparison. I strive each and every day to do my very best, but when I am learning a new skill or deepening my knowledge it can be difficult to be less than expert-level. I always want to showcase my very best and sometimes being in the middle of learning something new can be messy and less than picture-perfect.
But I’ve actually been using this revelation as an opportunity to teach my students about learning from others and how comparison can cause us to lose our joy, friendships, and even our love of learning.
It is important we acknowledge that even those who seem to have everything together struggle, too. There will always be areas where certain people excel and others struggle. It’s what makes us human.
And helping my students make that connection has helped me get to the core of my own struggle as well.”
Mistakes are normal. But being afraid to make a mistake makes us prime targets for burnout and overwhelm while also leading us to become fearful of trying new things.
This is the cliche answer that tops the list of common weaknesses of teachers. However, the difference in this being an answer interviewers tune out versus one that seals the deal for you getting the position is how you explain this weakness in your teaching interview.
Interviewers aren’t interested in your feigned humility or the fact that you use this as a way to prove you are perfect.
…But, that’s what most interviewees are trying to get the interview panel to believe.
So if you choose this as your weakness, the most important thing you can do is follow it up with some specifics.
Example Answer for Perfectionism as Your Weakness
“My biggest weakness is the one many of the other candidates probably said was their weakness as well. In fact, I was hesitant to mention it because I figured you might just tune out my answer.
However, I want to be completely honest and tell you that perfectionism is my biggest weakness and here’s why.
Perfectionism has caused me to avoid setting appropriate work boundaries to the point that I’ve pushed myself directly into burnout simply because I wanted everything to be perfect. It has also kept me from accepting the constructive criticism of a colleague who wanted to share relevant truths with me.
But this realization has made me a better teacher. I’ve used my personal experience to be vulnerable with my students about how debilitating perfectionism can be and how I am embracing a growth mindset.
It has allowed me to teach from a place of empathy and also of ongoing improvement in my own life as I increase my personal skill set.”
4. Lack of Knowledge or Skill
This is probably the LAST thing you thought you’d find on a list of common weaknesses of teachers, but before you tune me out completely, let me explain what I mean by this one.
Lack of knowledge as your weakness can manifest in two different ways including lack of content knowledge and lack of technical skill.
Lack of Content Knowledge
If you’ve always taught 3rd grade ELA, but you are extremely interested in teaching Science and Social Studies, perhaps your your weakness is your lack of content knowledge in those particular subjects.
Maybe you’re a good teacher in ELA, but you know you’d be an excellent science teacher.
Explaining how you’re excited about learning new content directly aligned with your personal interests and stretching yourself as a teacher overrides the fact that you don’t have much experience with the subject matter.
Your lack of subject specific knowledge is a weakness, but your enthusiasm is your strength for overcoming that weakness.
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Lack of Technical Skill
On the other hand, maybe you have a lack of technical skills.
When I left the classroom the first time, Smartboards were just being introduced at my school. But because I left before actually having one in my own classroom, I missed learning about this vital piece of teaching technology.
However, when I returned to the classroom several years later my lack of experience became glaringly obvious.
Thankfully, I was blessed with amazing colleagues who helped me learn this new skill quickly. Within a short time, I discovered I could be a much more effective teacher with this cool piece of technology.
Yet again, the key here is all about spinning teacher weaknesses into growth opportunities and showcasing your teacher strengths.
So if lack of subject matter knowledge or technical knowledge is your weakness, make sure to focus on how you’re already taking professional development classes at your local library or how you are in an online cohort learning about this specific topic.
Remember, potential employers want to know that you are aware of your weaknesses and that you’re taking the initiative to learn to strengthen that particularly weak skill.
Example Answer for Lack of Knowledge as Your Weakness
“My greatest weakness is my lack of content knowledge. I realize that after teaching ELA for the last 10 years, there will be a learning curve I must overcome as a new science teacher.
However, I’ve been working closely with the 4th grade Science Teacher of the Year in my current district to understand and unpack the 4th grade science standards.
She has given me a wealth of insight into how I can set up my learning environment and structure my time blocks in order to help my students achieve greatness.”
5. Time Management
The last in our list of common weaknesses of teachers is time management. Many potential employers are looking for employees who can take the initiative to manage themselves fairly autonomously.
Therefore, if you choose to use this as your weak skill, be sure to preface it by talking about how focused you become on the project you are tackling or the task you are trying to accomplish.
Make sure you point out that because you are so detail-oriented you want to make sure any task you complete is done to the best of your ability. Then you can discuss how you use timers to help you stay on track for meetings, appointments, and class changes.
Obviously, if you’re a self-contained teacher, this won’t be as problematic as it would be for departmentalized teachers because there are specific times you will have to switch classes.
But whether you’re departmentalized or self-contained, you still have to get to lunch, special classes, and recess on time or many others are negatively affected.
You might be the absolute best teacher in your school, but if you cannot complete tasks on time or if you are consistently late to meetings, classes, etc. you’re going to be viewed as a liability to potential employers.
So let’s look at how you can take your weakness of time management and turn it into something good!
Example Answer for Time Management as Your Weakness
“I believe my greatest weakness is probably time management. I get very focused on a task or project and tend to tune out the rest of the world.
However, I’ve found that using timers is the ideal way for me to stay on task for the appropriate amount of time needed for each task. Alarms also help me know when I need to switch classes, go to special classes, etc.
While I am not naturally wired to be a strict time scheduler, using timers and alarms has allowed me to continue using my strong focus skills to attend to necessary tasks completely while also being considerate of the time constraints of my day.”
Discovering Your Weakness
As we have spent time looking at five of the most common weaknesses of teachers, you may be wondering what to do if you are struggling to determine which teaching skills are your weaknesses.
My first suggestion is to start by asking those who know you best (like a close friend or family member) what they think. They will probably be able to give you a good answer from a variety of different perspectives that you might not have considered without their insight.
Then move on to current faculty members (including your school principal) who have seen you teach or have evaluated you in some capacity. These individuals can probably enlighten you on things you haven’t even considered.
But just remember, what they say might hurt your feelings or make you angry. Therefore, it’s important that you ask them to “gently” share so you don’t become defensive or unwilling to hear what they have to say.
Then try to take a step back and objectively review their assessment.
The best part is that once you know where you struggle, you can start making strides toward strengthening that particular area. This will allow you to adapt the example answers I have provided for you into your own answer that evolves into a carefully crafted masterpiece.
Then by the time you go to your interview, you will be able to confidently share your weakness in light of the positive strides you’ve made in that area.
The key to every single one of the common weaknesses of teachers is mentioning a skill that isn’t a natural area of strength for you while simultaneously focusing on how you are working to strengthen that particular skill.