Because a special education teacher's job requires far more than just teaching, administrators will seek candidates who are true specialists in the field. If you're hiring to be hired as a special ed teacher, you need to be an expert at the art of adapting lessons, an active advocate for student needs, a professional IEP writer, a wealth of information on student disabilities, and a dedicated individual who is 100% committed to doing whatever it takes to help all students reach their full potential.
As with any teaching interview, I recommend you familiarize yourself with possible questions beforehand. This will make the interview questions seem familiar so you'll be more comfortable answering them. You will be asked a series of general teaching questions as well as questions that specifically relate to special ed.
Below are a few thoughts on ways to be prepare for the special education questions that will be asked.
- Be prepared to comprehend and respond to all of the jargon, acronyms, and special requirements of special education. You should know exactly how an IEP and / or CSE meeting is conducted. You need to speak and act as though you are very familiar with IEP meetings, CSE meetings, child study meetings and any other special education committees the school may have. Understand how least restrictive environment works. Know what services and support the school district does and does not offer.
- Be sure you understand and are able to talk about a wide range of disabilities. Familiarize yourself with Asperger's / autism, ADHD, emotional disorders, processing delays, speech disorders, physical handicaps, and every other common disability children may be classified with in the district.
- Emphasize your ability to work cooperatively with collections. Special education teachers are usually required to work closely with and / or team teach with regular education teachers. They'll also be communicating regularly with special education administration, social workers or counselors, PT / OT teachers, and resource teachers. There's a lot of specialized teamwork involved in educating children with special needs. You need to understand your role in acting as an advocate for each of your students and in meeting their social and academic needs.
- Learn how to utilize support staff. Oftentimes special education students will have teachers' aides or assistants. Be sure you know how to use the support staff in a professional way the benefits the student. You do not want the child to become dependent on a teacher's aide for doing simple tasks that he / she can perform himself. On the other hand, you want to be sure the student is receiving the full support he / she needs.
- Be sure you're an expert in differentiation. While all teachers should differiate their lessons based on their students' needs, special education teachers need to be especially confident in their ability to adapt lessons to meet the very unique needs of their students. You simply can not teach a concept and expect every child to be doing the same work, the same way. You need to individualize instruction so that it is presented in a way that all of your students can learn. You will not be able to look at the school's curriculum or instructional materials and use them as-is. You'll need to show that you can adapt your resources to meet the learning needs of your students.
Final thoughts: To succeed in a special education interview, you need to be able to talk-the-talk, understand how to be an advocate for special needs students, fully understand responsibilities associated with the job, and be willing to go above and beyond to meet the unique instructional needs of qualified students.