Interview for a job of a paraprofessional educator belongs to interviews with average difficulty. You will typically interview in front of a small hiring committee (principal, VP, someone for the district, senior teacher, sometimes even a parent of one of the children with special needs), and face between fifteen and twenty questions. In some cases the school principal may be the only one you will talk to.
They will inquire about your motivation, goals, education, and most importantly about your attitude to various situations that may happen in the classroom (conflict with the teacher, disruptive behavior of a group of students, stressful situations, etc). My name is Glen Hughins, I worked in educational administration for 15 years, and I will help you prepare for this interview. Let’s start directly with the questions you may face.
Table of Contents
Why do you want to work as a paraprofessional?
Try to talk about qualities that make from you a good applicant for the position. You have decent understanding for the emotions and needs of young students, and enjoy being around children. Flexibility and patience will help you to handle the demands of the job.
While you weren’t lucky enough to earn a degree in teaching yet (due to economical or other reasons, or you simply took a different path in life), you would love to be in a classroom anyway. Career of a paraprofessional is an ideal choice for you at the moment. You believe that you will enjoy the job, but also bring some value to the classroom, and help the students understand the instructions of their teachers.
Before anything else, I see a meaningful purpose in this job. There are so many children with special needs in the US, and it is hard to say if a single one is “guilty”, if they bear responsibility for their situation. I honestly think that they deserve a chance to study, and to lead a decent life as adults. But they need help of someone in the process. Someone empathetic, someone with good understanding for their situation, a good listener, someone who can help them bridge the gap, and eventually graduate. I feel to have these qualities, and that’s the second reason why I want to work as a paraprofessional.
How do you imagine your role in a classroom?
Try to focus more on students than on the teachers. You can try to list a few things you’d do, such as repeating the instructions to slower students, ensuring that students are on task and understand everything. Obviously what exactly you’ll do depends on the type of a classroom, number of students with special needs and on other things.
You can also summarize your role into one sentence, saying that your role is to provide personalized instructions to students and help maintain behavioral standards and order in the classroom.
In my view, role of a paraprofessional is to provide personalized instructions to students, and help maintain behavioral standards and order in the classroom. Of course, what exactly I will do depends on the classroom setting, the number of para educators, the number of students who need assistance, their special needs, and other variables. But the main focus is always to help the students, and to maintain the behavioral standards.
Have you undergone any training as a paraprofessional or teacher?
Training is not necessary, but it definitely helps. If you completed any online training modules, read some books on special education, or attended classes for teachers or paras, you should definitely mention it in an interview.
And if you did not have a chance to do any training, ensure the hiring committee that you’d love to. Most schools help paraprofessionals with their education. You may get an opportunity to attend some courses for teachers, and in some cases the school will even help you to get a certification. Regardless of your current situation, you should ensure them that you understand the importance of continual education, and are eager to work on your skills.
I got my certificate from XYZ College, two months ago. I scored 95% in the assessment test, and enjoyed the courses we had as a part of the training. And while it helped me to understand the basics of the job, and how one can address different situations in the classroom, I still feel there’s much to learn. One learns a lot directly in the classes, but I also hope to get a chance to participate in workshops and continue my training, in order to be the best paraprofessional educator I can be…
What are your expectations on teachers you’d work with in the classes?
This is a tricky question. You should not interfere with teaching, or give advice to teachers, since it isn’t within the scope of your responsibility. Having said that, a teacher can certainly make your job easier, or more difficult. For example, if they explain a difficult lesson way too quickly even for average students, you will find it hard to attend to all students who struggle to get the point–because it can be half of the classroom… And still, you can’t do much about it.
Say that you expect teachers to let you do your job, and hope for an open communication. At the end of the day both of you are in the classroom for the students. Constructive criticism (delivered in a proper way) can only help both of you to do a better job.
To be honest, I do not expect much from them. Look, each of us has their role in the classroom. It is not my job to evaluate the quality of their teaching, or to tell them what they should do. I want to focus on the students, and on my job. Having said that, I still hope for a good and open communication. If they do not like something I do in the classroom, they should tell me. I embrace constructive criticism, because I am new in this field, and hope to learn from more experienced colleagues.
You repeat something to a student two times, but they still fail to get the point. What will you do?
Patience and persistence are words to remember. Say that you will rephrase the message several times, and (when applicable) you will use demonstration or practical examples to help them get the point.
Simply you won’t give up easily. You will continue trying, using different methods of explanation. At the end they may still fail to understand, but you will at least know that you tried everything within your possibilities.
I definitely won’t give up. There are many ways to explain a lesson to a student. If they do not understand the first time, we have to try other way around–perhaps with a demonstration, simplifying things, using some example from real life–it really depends on the subject we try to explain. Having said that, there is a certain limit, since the class continues, and other students may need our attention. Hence at some point we may have to move on, and perhaps return to the problematic subject later on.
Special Tip: To know how to answer the question, and to come up with a great answer on a big day, when siting in front of an interviewing panel, are two different things. Check my new eBook, the Paraprofessional Interview Guide, for multiple great answers to all 25 paraprofessional educator interview questions. Streamline your interview preparation, and in a few hours from now you can have an amazing answer ready for every question you may face in your interview. Thank you for checking it out!
What would you do if you had a conflict with one of the teachers?
Conflicts belong to every workplace, and classroom is not an exception. Teacher is not your superior, the two of you have different roles in a classroom. You may not like something they do, and they may not like something you do. All of it is a completely normal situation between two human beings, and two professional who try their best for the children in the classroom.
Tell the interviewers that you will try to communicate everything with the teacher first. If it doesn’t work, however, you may talk to a head of a department or even to one of the administrators, and ask them to help you solve the conflict. You won’t simply obey the orders of a teacher. You are in the class for the students, and should advocate for them, and for your work.
I will try to communicate the problem with them, but of course not in the lesson, and in front of the students. Once the lesson is over we can talk about it, and if we cannot come to a consensus, we should perhaps involve our superior in the discussion. In any case, it is important not getting emotional or making enemies. We should all strive for the best education of the children, and conflicts may happen. But the key is to make sure they do not turn into personal ego wars, if you know what I mean…
If we hire you, what will the first thing you’ll do in your new job?
Typically they will assign you a contact person. This can be one of the administrators or teaching personnel. They will let you know your schedule, classes, etc. You can say that you will try to learn as much as you can about the students (especially students with special needs), try to remember their names, and also talk to teachers to introduce yourself and make a good connection.
Then you will simply start with your work in the classes, and move on from there. You can also add that you are aware that beginnings won’t be easy, but once you understand the routine in the classes and teaching methods of different instructors, things will get easier for you.
I know that you send all new para educators for an extensive training for two weeks, which includes shadowing more experienced colleagues in the classrooms. I honestly think that it is an excellent idea, and the best way to ensure the smooth transition from theory to the reality of the job. I cannot wait to join the training, and learn from more experienced colleagues.
How do you plan to include parents in your work?
In most cases you will know more about special needs students than the teachers, because you will work with them closely, and understand better how they react to different situations in a classroom.
Therefor it makes sense to have a close contact with their parents. You may give them advice on effective teaching methods (when they help their child with homework), and you may also discuss any behavioral issues of their child with them. But it is important to ensure you won’t say something that can be used against the school.
Parents can make a big difference in an education of a child with special needs. Tell the interviewers that you understand their role. You plan to have regular contact with parents, and tell them things, as long as everything adheres to the policies and regulations they have in place at the school.
I definitely want to include them in my work. We should be on the same page with them, because while I spend time with their child at school, they spend the majority of time with them at home, and during holidays. If we cooperate together, perhaps following the same strategies when it comes to education, we can achieve better results. Having said that, I understand that many children with special needs come from broken families. In some cases we cannot count on any support from their parents. Therefor I prefer to address each case individually.
Do you think that para educators should help with clerical duties in the classroom?
Say that it is not their primary role. If there is time, however, for example at the beginning of the lesson, when you have no other duties, you can help with tracking student attendance, checking homework, and doing other clerical duties.
During the lessons, however, you plan to focus on the core of your job–helping the students to understand the instructions, and maintaining order in the classroom. You are no lazybones though, and plan to help the teacher, as long as it does not interfere with your primary role in the classroom.
They should help, if it does not interfere with their primary role in the classroom. First and foremost, we should take care of our work with the students. If the situation allows it, however, we can help with distributing materials, tracking attendance, or even with making some reports. But as you know for sure, many students with special needs are unpredictable. When you work one on one with a student with a severe disability, or a behavioral disorder, I think you should always keep your eyes on them. And I am not sure if that’s possible to do, while tracking attendance or distributing materials.
Other questions you may face in your paraprofessional interview
- Do you imagine participating on any activities that take place outside of the lessons?
- Is there any kind of student (disability) you would find it difficult to work with?
- What is your philosophy when it comes to inclusion and segregation? Please share your opinion with us.
- Imagine that you work one on one with a student with ADHD. What will you do to ensure they stay at least relatively calm in the classroom?
- Imagine that you work in a classroom of ten students with behavioral disorders. What are the most common problems that can occur in the classroom, and how will you address them?
- This job can be quite stressful, as there is always something happening. How do you want to deal with that?
- Do you have any strategies on making your communication with the teachers more effective?
- Imagine that a situation in a classroom escalates, and you feel like screaming at the students. What will you do to stay calm?
- What suggestion will you give to a kid while sending them for a break outside of the classroom?
- What is your opinion on ignoring the student behavior? Can it be an effective strategy and in what cases will you use it?
- Do you prefer proactive or reactive behavioral management in a classroom?
Conclusion, great answers to all 25 questions
Interview for a job of a paraprofessional educator belongs to interviews with average difficulty. You won’t typically compete with many people for the job (most school districts are understaffed when it comes to paraprofessionals and special ed. teachers), and it definitely makes your situation easier. On the other hand, you will have to convince the hiring committee of your motivation, and especially of the right attitude to various situations that happen in the classroom. In my experience, many job applicants fail at this point, providing poor answers to behavioral questions.
If you are also not sure how to answer the behavioral (scenario-based) questions, or experience anxiety, have a look at the new eBook I wrote for you, the Paraprofessional Interview Guide. Multiple brilliant answers to 25 most common interview questions for paraprofessionals (including the dreaded scenario-based questions) will help you calm down, and get ready for every challenge you may face in your interview. Thank you for checking it out, and I wish you good luck!
Glen Hughins, InterviewPenguin.com Expert Writer
May also interest you:
- Special Education interview questions.
- Teacher Assistant interview questions.
- Why do you want to work as a teacher?