The Head Start federal childcare program caters to children through age five from low-income families. Employees in such programs include teachers, teaching assistants and other support staff. When you interview for a position as a teacher's assistant in a Head Start facility, preparation can help build your confidence and increase your chances of landing the job.
Familiarize yourself with the goals, philosophy and standards of the Head Start program (See Resources). Head Start not only educates preschoolers, but also fosters social and emotional development. Part of the program's purpose involves identifying and preventing children's health issues. Staffers encourage parental involvement in activities and growth, and families often work with various social services agencies to assure proper care. Expressing your understanding of the importance of these issues and addressing how you would uphold such concepts in an interview illustrate your fitness for the job.
Display professionalism during the interview. Dress in an outfit that would be appropriate to wear at the job — nothing too revealing or difficult to move around in. Create a portfolio if you have any appropriate work or educational experience. In a portfolio, you might include a list of children's activities you set up, leadership positions you've held, teaching coursework you've completed and letters of recommendation from preschool parents and teachers. Arrive about 10 minutes before your interview time to demonstrate your ability to be prompt.
Prepare answers for often-asked questions about preschool assistant teachers before the interview. Expect questions about how your educational and work experiences prepare you to work in a Head Start program, your strengths and weaknesses associated with the position and how you might handle difficult situations. Support your response about weaknesses with information about how you can overcome them. For instance, if you say your weakness is that you don't have formal education in teaching, you might add that you are patient, a good observer and willing to learn. Assistant teachers may help children with daily tasks such as feeding and grooming, so you may be asked if you would be comfortable with such a role.
Think of your interview as your chance to sell yourself as the best candidate for the assistant teaching position. Avoid expressing the attitude that you need the income or will use the experience as a stepping-stone to a better position. Instead, discuss how much you enjoy working with children and the positive qualities you can bring to the school and staff. End your interview with a comment about how much you look forward to being able to work in the program.