The hiring committee will ask you a variety of questions, trying to understand whether you have the right personality for this job, whether you understand what will be expected from you. They will also try to assess your attitude to special needs students, and to various situations that happen in a work of a teacher assistant, virtually on a daily basis, in a typical classroom setting. Screening, behavioral, and technical questions (all of them related to the job) will help them to create a good picture about you, and to decide whether it makes sense to hire you, or to prefer someone else for the vacancy. Let’s have a look at the questions you will face.
Tell me about yourself
Often the first question you will face, especially in the early stages of the hiring process. It is an icebreaker really, and your chance to calm down and set the right tune for the rest of your interview. Remember that at this stage of the interviews, they do not want you to talk for 20 minutes about your studies, career, family, and what not. With the first question they just want to get a basic idea of your communication skills, personality, and motivation.
What exactly you say them does not matter much at this point. You can say where you are from, the highest education you achieved, what your career aspirations are, what attracted you to the job of a TA, and it is also a good idea sharing something from your life outside of work, such as a hobby you have, or an activity you dedicate yourself to in your free time. Your answer should not take more than two minutes.
Why teacher assistant, and not a teacher?
You can refer to shorter education program, your preference to individual work with students, or your desire to work with special needs students. You can also say that you consider the position as your first step on your career journey, and may become a teacher, or even an assistant principal down the road, once you have the chance to progress with your education and gain the necessary working experience.
Why do you want to work at our school, and not at another one?
Focus on their reputation, goals and values they have, study programs they offer, or the location of the building of the school—near to your place of living, in a community you know well, and so on.
You can also praise them for their work with the students with special needs, if they run any special programs for them, or for example employ plenty of instructional assistants to help the students in question. One way or another, they should feel that you genuinely want to work for them, and did not apply by a chance, or did not care where you will work for as a teacher assistant.
Why this grade, and not another one?
Tell them that you believe that you have the right personality to work with elementary/secondary/other grade students, that you understand their emotions and challenges they face. Alternatively you can say that you feel ready to work with any grade, and simply applied for the available vacancy in your area.
You can also point out specific classroom setting, or subjects specific for each grade level, explaining how teaching them (or helping with teaching) is your strength, and hence you logically prefer it to other grade and setting.
What teaching methods do you prefer and why?
You can say that you prefer individual approach to each student, because that is mostly what you will do as a teacher assistant–helping individual students during the classes, or students with special needs.
You can also emphasize that you have a knowledge of various teaching methods, and will try to always choose the most appropriate method for the lesson and the situation in the classroom, as well as the individual student. Of course, if you apply for a place at a school which follows certain methodology in their classes (think Montessori as a good example), you should praise their teaching methods, and either call them your favorite, or ensure them that you want to follow such methods in your teaching.
What do you consider the main duties of an instructional assistant at our school?
Job description should help you to find a good answer. Try to mention a variety of duties, demonstrating your proactive approach to work. You can also approach the question from a different angle, saying that you plan to help the main teacher with anything they may need during the lessons.
Alternatively you can focus on the students, and separating your role from a role of a teacher in the classroom–which should actually be the case in an ideal scenario. Your main duty is to ensure that individual students, who need special attention and help, manage to keep pace with the lesson, and do not have a negative impact on the general pace of teaching in the classroom.
How do you feel about special needs students? Do you have any experience working with them?
In many cases, you will work primarily with children with special needs. Tell the interviewers that you feel for them, that try to understand how to work with them in a best possible way, and actually look forward to working with students who need your help.
Of course, you can mention any relevant certifications you’ve earned, books you’ve read on the subject, or seminars you’ve attended, simply anything that demonstrates your interest in students with special needs, and your willingness to do your best for them.
Is there any subject you do not like to teach?
Each of us has their most favorite and their least favorite subject, and you can definitely say it in an interview. But you should emphasize that you understand the importance of the entire curriculum, and will try your best in every lesson–regardless of the subject you’d teach.
Remember that your attitude matters more than anything else for the interviewers. As long as they feel that you really see a meaningful purpose in the work of a teacher, and want to try your best for the children, they will be satisfied with your answers.
Describe a time when you didn’t know what to do in the classroom (problems with discipline, or another situation).
Problems with discipline happen in every single classroom, and in some cases they will form your daily bread. The key is to show the interviewers that you are not afraid of the situation, and have an idea about how to address the most common problems in the classroom. You can also emphasize the lessons you learned while facing the problems, and how they helped you to become a better teacher or teacher assistant.
Other questions you may face in your teacher assistant job interview
- Why should we hire you, and not one of the other applicants for this job?
- Describe a conflict you had with one of your colleagues (students). How did you solve the conflict?
- How will you motivate the students in the classroom?
- In your opinion, what role does technology play in education nowadays?
- Can you name the main problems teachers face nowadays? How would you address them?
- How would you deal with a disruptive and defiant student?
- What do you expect from the administrators and from the principal?
- What are your salary expectations?
Answers, presence, connection
Success in an interview does not depend only on your answers to their questions (though it depends mostly on them). What you do, and how they feel with you in an interview is also important.
Most people who sit in the hiring committees at schools aren’t professional interviewers–they are teachers and education administrators. Bearing it in mind, personal preferences will always play a role in this interview. If they feel good with you, if they can imagine sharing the staff-room with you, and if you give them good interview answers, they will hire you.
Great eBook with answers to all difficult teacher interview questions
Do you find it difficult to answer the questions from this article? Do you experience stress in job interviews (or before them)? One eBook can make things 100 times easier for you. Teacher Interview Guide, an eBook (PDF) from Glen Hughins, a reputable interview coach from Philadelphia who co-operates with us and writes for Interview Penguin, will show you brilliant answers to 28 most common teaching interview questions (and much more).
You can see the samples from the book, and purchase it for a special price, on the following page: eBook, discounted copy. Thank you for checking it out, and good luck in your interview!
May also interest you:
- Teacher interview questions – Many questions overlap with the position of teacher assistant.
- Salary negotiation tips – Learn how to negotiate the best possible salary in your interview.
- How to overcome interview nerves – Get rid of anxiety and improve your chances of succeeding in an interview.