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Interview Questions for a Special Ed Teacher

Updated on March 14, 2017
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Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.

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Whenever you are preparing for a job interview, it can be helpful to review potential questions related to your particular field of special education, general questions, and other considerations for topics ahead of time. It can also be beneficial to consider what to bring, such as a portfolio with examples from school and/or previous teaching positions. All of the credentials in the world will not compensate for a mediocre interview. It's important to be well prepared.

I have broken this article down with specific sample interview questions and some of the most common answers for them. I have also included other considerations and tips for a special education job interview. Best of luck!

What is the key to being a great special education teacher? / Describe how you use and adapt lesson plans and materials.

This is one of the few special education interview questions that has one consistent answer: differentiated instruction. No matter what level of special education and age group you will be working with for the given position, differentiated instruction will be a huge component of the job. Be prepared to talk about specific adaptation methods, such as creating modified materials with pictures, and how you will incorporate these materials into various types of lesson plans.

Who are your students? Know your special education classifications and jargon.

There are a wide variety of special education classifications, such as ADHD and autism. There is also a lot of frequently used special education jargon, such as IEP. Some terminology will vary in different states, such as the terms used to describe the special education referral process. You are certainly not expected to have a wide understanding of every term under the sun. However, you should be familiar with many of the most commonly used terms.

Why do special education teachers need to work well with others?

Collaboration is a key aspect of any teaching position. This is especially true for special education, as teachers frequently collaborate with teacher aides, general education teachers, speech-language pathologists, and more every week. Emphasize your cooperation and team skills during the interview and give specific examples of positive collaborations that you've had in previous positions.

INCLUSION: Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT) in 3rd Grade

What is an IEP?

If you are coming into an education interview out of state, you don't need to sweat the specifics for topics like IEPs that will have some differences in different areas. Instead, focus on the basics of all IEPs, including the following:

  • a general understanding of how to write an IEP
  • why you need to understand the needs, goals, strengths, and weaknesses of a student to write an effective IEP
  • how IEPs impact the general education setting and how you will structure this general education setting time

Writing a Measureable IEP

What types of assessment have you used?

There are numerous possibilities for assessments, many of which are valid and reliable. Whenever it is possible, bring examples of assessments. If you haven't had a teaching position yet, bring school assignments in which you designed assessments and any student teaching work that includes assessments.

Describe both successful and challenging experiences that you've had with general education teachers.

Be honest about the difficulties and challenges that you've had with general education collaboration in the past. If your new principal or boss (i.e. special education coordinator) is part of your interview team, hopefully he or she will be able to help advocate for you and decrease such problems in your new position.

I had a student who loved bowling.  One way that I made curriculum accessible was with bowling materials.  As there are not a lot of bowling teaching materials, I made many of my own.  Thankfully many of my other students didn't mind using them.
I had a student who loved bowling. One way that I made curriculum accessible was with bowling materials. As there are not a lot of bowling teaching materials, I made many of my own. Thankfully many of my other students didn't mind using them. | Source

Describe one of your most challenge students and how you dealt with him/her.

Again, be honest about your difficulties and challenges. Good administrators understand how challenging some of your students will be and will do their best to provide the support that you need for them. Also, clearly illustrating how you rose to these challenges and had successes with these students will be a big asset for you.

Watching students progress from simply copying the date to writing it all on their own and then reading it back to you is very rewarding.
Watching students progress from simply copying the date to writing it all on their own and then reading it back to you is very rewarding. | Source

Why did you choose a career in special education? / Why do you want to work with special education students?

Many teachers are very idealistic. There is nothing wrong with expressing your idealism, but you also need to be realistic about your expectations for this job and your students. Just a few of the reasons that people choose a career in special education include wanting to help others, assisting students with reaching their goals, and watching student progress.

Source

What skills and qualities will you bring to this job? / What are some of your strengths as a teacher?

Some of the most important qualities of the special education teaching position include flexibility, organization, and keeping an open mind. If you believe that some or all of these qualities are your strengths, make sure to highlight them. If they aren't your strengths, be honest with yourself. There are lots of other qualities, such as focused and hard working, that you can choose to highlight instead.

Leave simple photocopying and material assembling tasks for aides to complete when they have down time (i.e. a student is taking a test independently or listening to a book on CD).
Leave simple photocopying and material assembling tasks for aides to complete when they have down time (i.e. a student is taking a test independently or listening to a book on CD). | Source

How will you utilize and assess your teacher aides effectively?

Effective strategies include creating schedules, creating a work basket that aides can take from as they have time, and keeping the lines of communication open. Give your aides the opportunity to talk to you 1:1 without any students around as needed. Discuss specific examples of techniques that you have used before or will use the future whenever possible. Additionally, don't be afraid to discuss techniques that weren't effective and why you'll be using different strategies in the future.

Describe your methods for communicating with parents.

Most teachers are not expected to communicate with parents on a daily or even a weekly basis unless there are ongoing problems. However, as many special education students have difficulty communicating or cannot communicate verbally, special education teachers are often expected to provide regular communication. Consider what will work best for both you and your parents. You don't necessarily need to use the same method will all parents. For example, some may prefer to write in a communication notebook while others may prefer to communicate via e-mail.

Popular Parent-Teacher Communication Methods

 
 
 
Communication Notebooks
E-mailing
Texting
Phone Calls
Form Letters to Customize Each Day
Newsletters

How will you stay up to date in the field of special education?

Be realistic and only discuss the handful of items that are applicable to you and/or that you anticipate doing during the next couple years. Methods for staying up to date in the field of special education can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Conferences
  • Workshops
  • Graduate school/higher education
  • Other classes
  • Networking with other special education teachers
  • Professional organizations
  • Professional journals

If your most current portfolio is pretty outdated, consider making some updates so you can use it for your interview.
If your most current portfolio is pretty outdated, consider making some updates so you can use it for your interview. | Source

Other Considerations

While there may not be questions that directly address the following aspects of special education, it is good to keep them in mind for the interview.

  • Knowledge about the referral/staffing process for special education. If possible, talk about your past participation with this process.
  • Stress Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). LRE may come up during a variety of interview questions. Be prepared to talk about how you will support it.
  • If you completed student teaching recently, be prepared to answer questions about it. Be honest about your experience. Share specific examples whenever possible.

Additional tips:

  • Don't be afraid to share stories about particular students and specific events. Giving clear cut examples is more credible than providing vague generalizations.
  • Keep in mind that most questions don't have a single right answer. This article is designed to be a guide for helping you to prepare for an interview. You don't need to memorize the exact information here.
  • Whenever possible, bring a portfolio and/other examples. Discussing specific lesson plans, materials, etc. is great, but if you can show examples in person, that's even better. Portfolios may be able to highlight other aspects of your professional life as well.

Teaching Special Needs Children : Tips on Teaching in a Special Education Classroom

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    • profile image

      kelleyward 4 years ago

      Randomcreative you blew me away with this hub. My mom was a special education teacher for decades and I remember her talking about many things you highlighted here. Voted up and useful! I'm sharing this also! Take care, Kelley

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks Kelley! That's awesome. :) Thanks you for the votes and shares!

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country

      As a sub teacher for about 12 years I often got called for Special Ed classes. Not every sub was willing to do them, but I actually found that most of the time they were very interesting assignments. Also, they were usually relatively easy, because the aides and assistants were so capable.

      I was exposed to students will all degrees of mental, behavioral and physical challenges-- as well as all kinds of strategies to help and cope with each individual situation. It was a great experience and helped me a lot when I was in a "normal" class all on my own.

      I was always glad when I was requested to return to a Special Ed class.

      You have done a great job of outlining things a prospective teacher needs to consider in this field.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Rochelle, that's great that you had good experiences subbing for special education. It's wonderful when classrooms have helpful aides and assistants.

      Thanks for the feedback!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

      WOW-I've got to share this on pinterest for sure. Lots of teachers on that site who could benefit from this great hub.

      I noticed, and followed, the highlighted hub about hyperfocus and autism. I wrote one on identifying girls with ADHD, which is often missed in school. Feel free to add that to your hub if you'd like.

      Voted up and IMPORTANT (oops, no button for that so I just hit the useful and interesting buttons, LOL)

    • krsharp05 profile image

      krsharp05 4 years ago from 18th and Vine

      Your hubs are always thorough and well put together. Excellent questions and suggestions as well. -K

    • meloncauli profile image

      meloncauli 4 years ago from UK

      This is an excellent hub.My sister is a teacher's assistant helping children with special educational needs. I'm sure she will find this interesting too. Very useful article.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Great hub. I am interviewinf teaching assistants in the next few weeks for posts at my school and their knowledge of SEN will be a key thread of my questions. I am fortunate to already work with some gifted Inclusion Support Assistants.

      Voted up, etc

    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 4 years ago from Malaysia

      Another great hub from you. Nice formatting and your iconic 'button', loves them..there are in most of your hubs now! Voted up Shared.

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 4 years ago from Texas

      A wealth of fabulous and helpful information for anyone seeking a position as a Special Ed. teacher. All of your tips and suggestions are valid and important. Special Ed. teachers have quite a busy and challenging undertaking. All of the Special Ed. teachers I have worked with have been incredibly keen to the needs of their students, great communicators and have had a determined perspective for their students success. Great hub.

      Thank you very much for including my autism hub, Tip Toe Walking and Autism. I greatly appreciate you sharing the interesting information I found. Continued best wishes to you.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Denise, thank you for sharing this hub! I hope that it will helpful for lots of teachers and future teachers. I'll go check out your ADHD hub and link it up here.

      Haha we need more button choices! I'm still waiting for the Delicious button for recipes.

      krsharp, thanks so much!

      meloncauli, I hope that your sister does find this interesting.

      Jools, good luck with your interviews! That's awesome that you already work with a lot of talented teaching assistants.

      greatstuff, thanks! Do you mean my dividers? I am trying to use them in most of my articles now.

      missolive, thanks! I appreciate your feedback on this topic. It's great that you've been able to work with such wonderful special education teachers.

    • leahlefler profile image

      leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      This is an amazing hub - your sample questions and ways to answer them are simply fantastic. I don't work in special education, but I do have a child in the system and also volunteer as a parent advocate on our school's CSE team, and these questions and answers are all excellent!

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Leah, thank you! It's awesome to get that validation from someone who works so closely with the special education system.

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 4 years ago from Clinton CT

      Your hubs are incredibly thorough, and I have a question about those cute dividers. How do you make those on your hubs?

      Great work as always...

      :)

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing this fascinating (for me)information

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks Julie! You can make those dividers in any word processing or Photoshop program. There are also a number of sites where you can download them. Just add a photo capsule wherever you want a divider and upload the file.

      Thanks Mhatter! I'm glad that it was interesting for you.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

      This is fantastic. What excellent interview questions! I've also learned a lot about special education teachers from this Hub- I hadn't known about the special certifications one might have, for example. Thanks for sharing this!

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks Simone! I'm glad that you were able to learn something from this.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 4 years ago from Western NC

      You hit the nail on the head here. :) It's so beneficial to be able to "show" your potential employer what you've done, portfolio stuff, and more. Awesome! Great tips and ideas.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks, Cyndi! Yes, for sure.

    • aparkhurst7 profile image

      aparkhurst7 4 years ago from Wilkes Barre, PA West Hartford, CT

      Really helpful! I'm majoring in Special Education now and I hope to get more experience and knowledge.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks, aparkhurst! Best of luck to you. :)

    • profile image

      fvdfsdf 4 years ago

      Really good one - for a layman also its understanding of special education & childrens as well.

      God Bless.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I'm so glad to hear that, fvdfsdf! Thanks.

    • laercio159 profile image

      laercio159 3 years ago from Palmas, Tocantins

      I've also learned a lot about special education teachers from this Hub- I hadn't known about the special certifications one might have, for example. Thanks for sharing this!

      http://www.i7sites.com.br

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I'm glad to hear that, laercio! Thanks!

    • annitakison profile image

      Anni Takison 3 years ago from california, USA

      hello randomcreative,

      Your hub provide useful suggestions and tips to those who find out best job in their fields. I've learned a lot new tips regarding interviews queries faced during interview from your hub. Thanks for sharing such informative information!!

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      It's great to hear that, annitakison! Thanks! :)

    • Tracie Bruno profile image

      Tracie Bruno 3 years ago from Delaware

      Great information, and nice links on the the side. I would also stress two things.

      1. Be positive - when sharing examples of things or experiences that didn't go as planned, emphasize what you learned from it.

      2. Be professional - when sharing past experiences, don't share names. Sharing case studies discretely shows you understand and respect privacy laws.

      I plan to share your hub with some friends who will be interviewing soon. Thanks for creating a valuable resource.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks, Tracie! I agree with both of those points. :) I hope that this article is helpful for your friends. Best of luck to them.

    • Cody Hodge5 profile image

      Cody Hodge 2 years ago from Rochester, NY

      Good work! Teachers certainly have a lot on their plate when dealing with special needs children.

    • randomcreative profile image
      Author

      Rose Clearfield 2 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks, Cody! Yes, for sure.

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