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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Certainly a teacher can 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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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 home works, and doing other clerical duties.
During the lessons, however, you plan to focus on your main duties–helping the students to understand the instructions, and maintaining order in the classroom.
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:
- How to overcome interview nerves – Learn how to calm down before your interview, and deliver your best in your meeting with the interviewers.
- Follow-up letter after the interview – Understand the most important sections on your letter, and make a final push towards a coveted job contract of a paraprofessional. Inspire yourself with the sample letters.