Many special education services have transitioned from isolated, self-contained classrooms to mainstreamed ones. In doing so, students receive the benefits of special education resources while remaining in the traditional classroom setting. Because of the complexity of this arrangement and the heavy assessment and documentation associated with special education support, interview questions should gauge an individual’s understanding of the role as well as experience.
Fitting in With the Team
Candidates should be asked about their ability to provide special education resources within the context of a school's broader professional team. Special education professionals need to collaborate with the traditional classroom teacher, school psychologists and liaisons at the district office. Interviewers can ask for examples of previous successful case management and teamwork experiences, strategies used to increase efficiency and communication among team members and how the candidate would address disagreements about the best way to serve a child’s needs.
Every Child Is Special
Excellent special education professionals don’t just see a jargon-heavy individualized education program (IEP) loaded with assessment results or legally mandated modifications and accommodations. They take all of the child's needs into consideration, including working with other students to develop positive, warm and professional relationships with them to help the special education child learn better. Interview questions might ask educators how to build relationships with students or to discuss how they overcame significant challenges with an uncooperative child or reluctant learner. Special education teachers might be asked how they would provide support in the classroom without making students with IEPs feel uncomfortable around their peers.
It’s the Law
Principals want to hire friendly, compassionate special education professionals, but they also want employees who are familiar with complex laws and regulations governing special education resources and IEPs. Interview questions might focus on specific components of the IEP, rules about assessment frequency or legally mandated meetings that include parents, educators, special education staff and school administrators. Professionals might also be asked to comment on how they plan to incorporate mandated strategies or processes issued by the U.S. Department of Education.
Grace Under Pressure
Special education professionals might sometimes face children struggling with emotional turmoil or cognitive disabilities which result in outbursts that could disturb other students. Additionally, children could potentially harm themselves or others. Interview questions might ask a special educator to describe how they would handle a volatile situation to keep children safe. Questions might focus on how to de-escalate an emerging situation or calm a child who has lost control of her emotions. Professionals might also be asked how they would handle an irate parent who believes her child’s needs are not being appropriately met.