Paraprofessionals, or paraeducators, are a vital component of a school’s teaching team. This is especially true when the position entails work with students in special education programs, as these children have specialized needs and typically have individual education plans. Paraprofessionals provide an extra set of eyes and ears for the teacher in charge of the classroom. They are also expected to report their measured observations of children’s progress to the supervising teacher. When you interview to be a paraprofessional, it is important to convey your understanding that a paraprofessional is a helper in the classroom and that you enjoy working with children. You should also come prepared to answer sometimes difficult questions and demonstrate your understanding of what the job entails.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Prepare for a paraprofessional interview by composing strategic responses to common interview questions, researching the school district and the community in question and paying special attention to your attire.
What to Expect in a Paraprofessional Interview
Your interviewer, who may be the principal of the school in question or a panel of teachers and administrators, essentially wants to know how well you understand the paraprofessional role in the classroom and whether you have the skills to fill that role.
They’ll pose questions designed to elicit this information, albeit in somewhat roundabout and sometimes indirect ways. Keep this overarching purpose in mind as you prepare for your interview and craft your responses to potential questions.
Your interviewer will also want to test your understanding of the individual education plan and its role in public education. Your best strategy is to demonstrate that you understand that your role as a paraprofessional in a student’s individual education plan is strictly one of support and assistance. Paraprofessionals are not involved in creating the individual education plan or changing it in any way. Rather, they help the supervising teacher and other faculty in executing that plan in a way that supports the student’s success.
Do Your Research
Research questions that are specific to paraprofessional interviews. You’ll find many lists of commonly encountered instructional aide interview questions and answers on the web.
Research the school, the school district and the general community as well. Browse through the local newspaper’s website for any mentions of the school or school district to familiarize yourself with recent topics and issues the school may be facing. Thoroughly review the school district website, as well as the school's own website. Think about the structure of the school, its organizational and physical layouts and what interests you about the school as well as the surrounding community.
Paraprofessional Interview Questions
If you reviewed commonly encountered interview questions during your research, now is the time to create and print out a list of the most common questions. Give this list to friends who are willing to help you prepare for your interview. Have the friend play the part of the interviewing principal or administrator, and work on your responses to these questions so that you’re not surprised by them during the actual interview.
Additionally, think about how to tell your interviewer why you’re interested in working at this school and for its community. Think about your past professional experience and create stories that highlight your accomplishments and demonstrate your readiness to step into the available position.
Don’t focus solely on professional experience. Think about any positions of leadership you may have assumed in volunteer or charitable organizations. If you have other experience with children outside the classroom environment, briefly consider how to describe those activities as well. You may find that writing out a short script can help you phrase the story in a more persuasive, positive fashion. Then practice delivering your scripts in a role-play interview or to a video camera so that you can see your physical mannerisms. While it may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first, watching video of your practice interview performances can help you ace the actual interview.
Dressing for Interview Success
Paraprofessional interview attire is an important point to consider prior to your actual interview. Plan to select two to three potential complete outfits at least a week before your interview. That way, if an errant stain or rip happens at the last minute, you’ll have a prepared alternative all ready to go.
For both men and women, a suit in a dark neutral color is a safe choice. Since teaching and paraprofessional positions are less straitlaced and traditional than some other careers (such as banking or law), you can give your suit a little personal flair with a brightly colored or patterned shirt, tie or scarf.
Don’t forget to give your shoes some extra attention. Use a shoe-shine kit to buff out scuff marks and polish the shoes well, leaving plenty of time for the polish to dry completely before you have to get dressed for your interview.
Annie Sisk is a freelance writer who lives in upstate New York. She holds a B.A. in Speech from Catawba College and a J.D. from USC. She has written extensively for publications and websites in the business, management and legal fields.