A job interview is a moment you get to shine and show the qualities that make you a great special education teacher that can’t easily be found on a resume.
Yet if you aren’t prepared for the potential questions you may have to answer, your interview (and chances of being hired) can quickly go sideways.
Here are six special education teacher interview questions that will help you prepare, along with a few tips on how to land your answers.
1. Describe A Lesson Plan You Created And Implemented. Was It Successful?
Creating and implementing lesson plans are tasks you will do as a teacher daily. However, as a special education teacher, you will work with students who have a variety of disabilities, many of whom likely have individualized education plans (IEPs).
What is an IEP? An individualized education plan, or IEP, lays out the instruction and support services a student who has disabilities needs to be successful in school. Special education services vary, from speech therapy to occupational therapy and one-on-one teaching and tutoring.
This interview question allows the interviewer to get to know the process you used to develop a lesson plan and how you were able to customize it based on a student’s individual needs.
When answering the question, provide a brief overview of the lesson plan, the methods you used to implement it and whether you had success. It’s also a good idea to mention anything you would do differently if given a chance to repeat the experience. This shows your growth as an educator and your ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
2. How Would You Handle A Student Who Is Being Disruptive?
A one-size-fits-all approach often doesn’t work in a general classroom, let alone a special needs classroom. Students react to situations differently, and some students with special needs require a different approach to discipline.
A principal wants to hear how there is a need to use different methods for different students and the importance of identifying the root of the problem.
When answering this question, offer some examples of times when you’ve encountered behavioral problems in the classroom and how you found a solution.
3. What Steps Would You Take To Integrate A Special Needs Student Into A General Classroom?
The ultimate goal of special education services is to integrate students with disabilities into general classrooms. In fact, one of your primary roles as a special education teacher may be to work alongside general education teachers to assist an assigned student in a public classroom.
In Texas, an estimated 65% of students in special education programs spend 80% of their day in the regular classroom, according to a Houston Chronicle report that takes a closer look at special education programs in the state.
While a student’s IEP determines the exact mix of general and specialized education, there often is an effort to mainstream students as soon as possible with the right level of support.
When answering this question, focus on the process you use to provide this support so that a student receiving special education services can thrive in a general education classroom when ready. This may involve performing an assessment, evaluating how students learn best, meeting with the teacher to discuss any challenges the student may face and offering suggestions to help a student achieve success.
4. How Do You Deal With Parents In Challenging Circumstances?
It’s not unusual for teachers to face the challenge of working with a difficult parent. This could mean several things, from a parent who does not agree with the educator’s teaching methods or teaching style to a parent who isn’t as involved with the child’s education as the teacher would like.
Because this is common in schools, a hiring principal may want to know how you would handle a similar situation. After all, establishing supportive and healthy relationships with parents is important and plays a significant role in a student's success, which is why many principals will ask about this topic as part of their interview questions for special education teachers.
Avoiding friction is important, but so is advocating for students. When interviewing with a principal, stress the importance of both by talking about the need for a balance of empathy and assertiveness.
Also, describe ways you have worked to include parents in your teaching plans so that everyone is on the same page about what is expected and so everyone’s viewpoints are represented.
5. How Do You Stay Organized?
As a special ed teacher, you will likely have several students all with individualized educational plans in place. Managing a classroom full of students takes a high level of organization, and when managing multiple IEPs are part of your daily tasks, you’ll need effective strategies in staying organized.
Hiring principals are looking for teachers who do not get easily flustered and are adept at using tools that help them stay organized and on top of classroom management. They will also want to know that you can effectively monitor students’ progress.
Be prepared to share examples of strategies or tools you use to plan your day. Because circumstances can change quickly in a classroom, share how you adapt when plans change.
6. Why Do You Want To Be A Special Education Teacher?
This may seem like a straightforward question, but it’s often one of the most important to nail in your interview. That’s because the field of special education can be incredibly rewarding, but incredibly difficult as well. Principals want to know you are committed, and that often is apparent in what drives you to be successful as a special ed teacher.
The answer to this question will vary. It may be because you have a child or other family member who has special needs. It may be because you love working with children and want to take on the challenges that come with ensuring special education students have their educational needs met.
No matter how you choose to answer, make sure you show that you are empathetic and show why you have a passion for this work.
Tips To Land Your Answers
While these questions above can give you a head start in planning for your special education teacher interview, keep in mind that in an interview, you truly never know what’s coming.
The best thing you can do is prepare by having examples ready of different scenarios where you either excelled or learned a lesson, whether it was during a student teaching experience or during another classroom experience.
Another tip is to research the school with which you are interviewing. This will give you some background on items like student demographics, curriculum development, policies in place, administration and leadership, and the overall culture at the school.
Finally, practice, practice and practice some more. Enlist the help of a friend (or even better, a fellow teacher who has experience in the classroom) to go over common teacher interview questions with you.
If you don’t have someone who can play the part of the hiring principal, you can still benefit from asking yourself these questions and answering them out loud. Although it’s likely your answers will never be the same twice, practicing can give you the boost of confidence that you need to nail your interview.
For more advice on what you should know before you head to an interview, check out our article, Consider This Before You Interview For A Teaching Position.