Even though this question has the ability to create a somewhat negative tone, you can still answer it in a positive way.
"When I first started my career, I wasn't as focused on a speciality and ended up spending a lot of time working with students who had more low-incidence disabilities. I wish I had been introduced to more specific work, with individuals affected by Autism, sooner in my career."
"I would've focused on special education much earlier. When I first started my education, I only knew that I wanted to teach, but I didn't know what population was most suited to me yet. Now that I know that special education is what I enjoy the most, if I could go back, I'd specialize in that from the beginning."
When answering this question, be sure to draw on your special skills, interests and training that others may not have. What makes you unique?
"I believe I stand out among other applicants because I have taken additional training in managing students with behavioural disorders. My experience so far has included work with a lot of students who are severely disabled and some with multiple challenges. Also, my passion is in true alignment with your program and I feel it would be a seamless move."
"I think that I stand out through a combination of my character traits, my abilities, and my experiences. There are plenty of people who are compassionate, and plenty of people who have teaching certificates, just like I do. But not everyone has had the experience of building meaningful relationships with parents. I did that when I was working at Red Apple Education, because I genuinely care about my students, the families of my students, and the community that they live in. In fact, it got to the point where people were asking for me specifically, which made me very happy because it told me that I'm doing a really good job."
This is a great opportunity to tie in your skills and comment on the connection you feel with the program/school/facility. You can finish up by asking the interviewer if they have any concerns or objections.
"When I initially saw your job posting I began to research this facility. What I found was a group of people with a genuine passion for what they do. I know I would be a great compliment to your team because my interests are strongly aligned with your mission. I also bring the education, experience and background that you are looking for. Is there any reason why you feel that I would not be a fit?"
This can be answered briefly by telling the interviewer about your first exposure working as a Special Education Teacher with autistic students.
"Working with autistic students wasn't always my area of focus. I was first exposed to it with school ABC and since then, it became my primary focus. I was passionate about it and did really well with that area of special education."
This can be answered briefly. It is smart to also tie in qualities that you feel you possess.
"I believe that the most important qualities in being a good teacher are patience, genuine interest and attention to detail. The reason being is that if we are patient with our students and show that we are also engaged in their learning, they will be more driven to do the same."
"I believe that a good teacher is patient, has excellent communication skills, and has a wide range of teaching tools to draw from. I'm a very compassionate person and I do communicate well, but I do know that I have many more years to grow before I can be considered an expert. So I'm constantly learning more about pedagogical methods and reading about teaching."
This question is more geared to the personal side of your life. You will want to answer it honestly, still tie it in with your career, and not have a case of the "TMI's" (Too Much Information).
This is a good time to give an example. Be sure to talk about the outcome as well.
"I recently had a student lose complete control of his emotions during class. I was able to calm him down by talking very gently and creating strong eye contact. This particular student will have outbursts from time to time so I am well versed on how to manage that type of situation. After class, I was sure to document the incident in his file and report it to my supervisor."
"I had one student get very angry when we were going to the cafeteria to see a presentation. He refused to enter the cafeteria. So I had to figure out why he was so angry. I found out that he thought that we would be going to the auditorium, and that he was expecting to be in a dim room. So I got him a pair of little sunglasses. He watched the presentation and got along with everyone else happily."
You can answer this question using an example of a time when you were assigned an extraordinarily difficult classroom or specific student.
"Last year I had a student come in part way through the year. In addition to being diagnosed with autism, the student was also highly OCD. I spent a lot of my spare time doing research and reading case studies so that I could best be equipped if this student had an outburst in the classroom. I do appreciate the challenge this situation brought to me because it pushed me to further understand the needs of this unique student."
This can be answered more factually but you can also let the interviewer know if you have experience with both IEP an CSE.
"From my understanding, an IEP lays out the goals and objectives the child and school staff will work to achieve at school during the school year. A CSE is the initial step in determining whether a child is eligible for special education."
How you answer this could also determine where the interviewer would like to place you within the organization, or what areas of continued education/training they may require of you in the future. Again, even though this question has the ability to create a somewhat negative tone, you can still answer it in a positive way. Show that you are making steps towards improvement as well. Interviewers do not want to hear "I care too much." or "I work too hard." They want a genuine answer.
"I care too much."
"I think that I could be a little more organized and that I can balance my work and my life better. I tend to get very focused on the day-to-day work, and I lose sight of the bigger picture. So now, at the end of the the work day, I write down a list of things that I accomplished and what I'll do the next day. That way I can focus on my personal life once I leave work, which refreshes me for the next workday."
Take time to prepare yourself for this question. Who is your mentor? What type of role models have you had in your life? Your reply should include why or how this role model helped you direct your career to Special Education.
"My greatest role model has been my father. He is a therapist and, growing up, I would see how much pride he took in his work and the joy it brought him to know that he was making a difference in people's emotional lives. This always inspired me to follow a career where kindness was a valued attribute."
This is a good time to talk about why you do what you do and what your favourite aspects of teaching are.
"My passion for teaching children comes from the feeling of fulfillment I had when first teaching my autistic nephew how to read. Seeing his eyes light up and knowing that I was able to make a difference by spending one on one time with him was really incredible. Now I see every student in that light. This is someone's child, brother, sister, cousin. They need to be cared for and educated by people who want to be there. That would best describe my passion. It's not only what I do - it's what I need to do."
"Teaching children is my life's mission. This is not just a job to me. This is something that I need to do on a daily basis. All children are precious, but I'm particularly drawn to helping those who need it the most, and children with intellectual disabilities needs someone who cares about them and is invested in their growth and education. I don't think that most people have that capacity for patience and compassion, and I do, so I think it's my calling, a chance to do good in the world using something that I have that others don't."
Be sure to have taken the time to research the educational program online, check reviews and any social media presence they may have. This is an answer that you are best to rehearse prior to the interview. "From the research I have conducted, I see that your educational program is heavily hands-on based with a strong tie to the community. Your focus has been primarily on students affected by Autism which is a large reason why I was so drawn to your program."
"From the research I have conducted, I see that your educational program is heavily hands-on based with a strong tie to the community. Your focus has been primarily on students affected by Autism which is a large reason why I was so drawn to your program."
"I've taken a look at your program and, to my understanding, at this school, we have a 12-to-1 student ratio, and that we value community engagement and do our best to ensure that the students are still integrated with the community. That's very much why I decided to apply to this specific program. I have experience in working with the community to encourage a safe environment for the students to engage with their community."
This can be answered very simply and specifically.
"I have a great deal of experience creating and maintaining student documentation in a variety of programs. I have mainly used the SAP based program called "
Talk about a specific time when you were asked to collaborate with others in your faculty. What was the outcome, and how will you implement that collaborative mentality in this new position?
"In my previous role I was known to be an educator with a very strong ability to work with extreme levels of Autism. One of my colleagues was really well versed in the benefits of art therapy for Autism and another, in music therapy. We worked together to ensure that all 3 of our strengths were being used in order to provide the best level of education to our students. I enjoy that type of collaborative environment because everyone wins."
"I always listen to other people very carefully and I ask questions to get more detailed information that I need in order to serve them better. To me, these students are the top priority, and I will always ask for everyone else's advice and viewpoint on how we can serve them better."
This is a more personal question that is best answered using a specific life event.
"When I was in junior high, our class had two special needs students. I would see their aids assisting them throughout their day and it was really beautiful to see how important their role was in that student's life. I had always wanted to be a teacher but this opened my eyes to the opportunity of specializing in Special Education."
"When I volunteered as a job coach helping developmentally disabled individuals, I got a lot of satisfaction teaching my clients how to do a job that they enjoyed. I realized that I wanted to do more than that and to help more individuals at once."
Be sure to have researched the educational facility before the interview. You will want to answer this based on how your career goals, interests and abilities best align with their specific mandate.
"I am most drawn to working with students on the Autism spectrum. Finding unique ways to work with individuals with neurodevelopment disorders is an important challenge and one that I am happy to take on. One of the reasons I was so thrilled to be shortlisted for this position is because of the strong work you do with students with Autism."
When you answer this question be sure to answer it by using examples of feedback you've received from a colleague or former supervisor.
"I feel that my 2 greatest strengths are my ability to patiently listen and my inquisitive nature. My colleagues have told me previously that they appreciate how calm and collected I can stay throughout a challenging situation. Also, my previous supervisor complimented me on my inquisitive nature because she was very impressed with my willingness to research topics new to me."
"My colleagues have always said that I'm very compassionate and patient, and that I make a very good teacher. I think that teachers in special education need to be especially patient with their students, and it's easy for me to be this way because I care a lot about children, especially those with intellectual disabilities."
This question is best answered by using examples of compliments your friends have given you. You can keep it brief.
"My circle of friends is very close and we spend a lot of time together. I believe they would say that I am thoughtful, generous and kind. I am sure to surround myself with people who will challenge me and bring out the best in me."
"I made a lot of close friends when I went to school for education, and they'd describe me as a very kind person with a very positive outlook. I think most of us are, the ones who are drawn to teaching."
This question should be answered from the heart since the interviewer would really like to know where your passion for this job comes from.
"I feel that the best thing about being a Special Educator is the ability to change the lives of people who are often forgotten or brushed aside. The feeling of knowing that I have made a difference for a person and/or their family is what drives me to do what I do."
"I think it's incredibly rewarding to see just how far my students have come at the end of the school year. Knowing that I had the privilege of being a part of their lives in such a crucial role gives me such deep personal satisfaction. Even if they don't remember me, I'll remember each and every one of them."
This can be answered by following along with your resume. Starting at the beginning of your career can sometimes make this easier to answer.
"My first teaching experience was the internship with school ABC while finishing my 4th year of my Education degree. From there, I moved into a position with school XYZ as the teachers' assistant for a Grade 5 class..."
"I was a volunteer tutor at the Red Apple Tutoring Center for 2 years. I taught first-grade children English and math skills. In addition to that, as a part of my coursework and initial certification, I was required to participate in a program where I observed and assisted a teacher in a public school for 8 weeks. During that time, I had valuable exposure to how teachers applied the things I learned in school in a real classroom."
Because it is a high stress / high demand career path, you will want to show the interviewer that you have a true passion for what you do. Talking about a person or life event is a great way to show that genuine passion.
"I did not know much about Autism until 7 years ago when my nephew was diagnosed. Back then, there wasn't a strong understanding of Autism and what types of programs worked best. I did a lot of reading on the disorder and collected ways to work with him, and to help his mom be better equipped. That is where my initial interest in working with special needs children came from."
"Yes, definitely! One of my clients was an individual with moderate intellectual disability. I was talking to her about what kind of jobs she wanted to do, and she had such zeal about stamping books in the library. She was so happy and excited to do that and she even said that she likes the idea of serving people. That's when I realized that everyone deserves to achieve something that gives them a strong sense of fulfillment."
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Special education teachers receive special training that equips them to work with students who have a wide range of mental, emotional, learning or physical disabilities. These specialist teachers may adapt general lessons or develop personalized teaching plans for their students after assessing their skills and determining their educational needs. They may teach their students as a class or they may mentor them in small groups or on a one-on-one basis. Liaising with parents, counselors, and teachers and updating all carers of their student's progress is a big part of a special education teacher's responsibilities.
A bachelor's degree is the minimum educational qualification required to become a special education teacher. This could be a degree specifically in special education or in elementary education with a minor in special education. Some schools may also require their special education teachers to be certified or licensed. Patience, resourcefulness, empathy and excellent communication, interpersonal and critical thinking skills are essential attributes for this role.
At the interview, your interviewer will listen carefully to your replies to determine whether you have what it takes to work with children with different types of disabilities. It is a challenging role and very few people can measure up to it. To get the job, you must be able to convince your interviewer that you have the skills, the experience and most importantly, the resourcefulness and aptitude necessary for this role. At Mock Questions, you will find a list of interview questions that are typically asked at interviews for special education teachers. As part of your interview preparation, give some thought to how you would answer these questions.