Thursday, October 31, 2013

Things to Consider When Preparing for Your Special Education Job Interview


by Tim Wei

Candidates who are seeking a job in special education face unique challenges because they need to present themselves as more than a general teacher.  They need to prove they are true specialists in the education field.   Principals will be looking for special education teachers who are masters in developing differentiated lessons, experts in child disabilities, advocates for students, and able to work cooperatively on a team of professional educators.

When you interview for a special education job, it is likely you'll be asked many of the standard questions that are presented to all teacher candidates.  This includes questions about classroom management, parent communication, technology, and your philosophy of teaching.  But, you will also be faced with additional questions that are specific to special education.  You answers to these questions will help you prove your dedication to and background knowledge of special education. 

I always recommend candidates familiarize themselves with possible interview questions beforehand.  Most teacher interview questions are relatively predictable and, if you think about what might be asked, and develop possible answers in your mind, the actual interview will seem routine and familiar.

Below are a few thoughts for special education candidates who are preparing for their next interview.

Know your future students.

Special education teachers are specialists in a huge variety of academic, emotional, and physical disorders that students have.  You'll need to know about and discuss specific disorders.  Know what the symptoms of the disorder are, what types of services might be available for these children, and be armed with some effective teaching strategies. 

A few of the many specific classifications you might want to be sure you're familiar with are:

  • speech disorders
  • language and processing difficulties
  • autism and Aspergers disease
  • emotional and behavioral disorders
  • ADD and ADHD
  • physical handicaps
  • Tourette's Syndrome
  • Cerebral Palsy

Don't be the candidate who
doesn't know an IEP from a CSE.

A special education candidate should realize that the job will require more than just teaching students.  There will be lots of meetings to attend in which you discuss student needs, goals, successes and failures.  There will be plenty of papers to fill out which document student progress and plans for future instruction.  And you'll be the go-to person when other teachers have questions about a student's needs or abilities.  Be prepared to discuss the job requirements that go "beyond teaching", including:

  • IEP (Individualized Education Program) - Know what an IEP is and how to write one.  When you become a special education teacher, it may (at times) seem like your career revolves around IEP paperwork, so be prepared to talk about this in-depth.

  • CSE (Committee on Special Education)- Know what an CSE meeting is, how they're conducted, and what the role of the special education teacher is.  If you have ANY experience being a part of a CSE (or other special ed.) meeting, please emphasize this at your interview as it will give you an edge over many more inexperienced candidates. 

  • Prepare yourself beforehand by studying up on the school district's process for referring students.  They may have a Child Study Team or other type of group for determining which students need special education services and which students do not.  Do your research to figure out what tests are administered to determine eligibility for the program.  Also, it can be especially helpful if you know what services are available within the school and which are not.

  • Be prepared to talk about how you'll be able to help school faculty members who need guidance in dealing with special education students.  Many students will be pushed into regular education setting for all or part of the school day.  When other teachers have questions or concerns about a special education student's achievement, you'll be the one they turn to.  You may be asked to help them adapt the curriculum so students can reach their fullest potential.

It takes a team to educate a child.

You'll definitely want to emphasize your ability to work cooperatively with other teachers and support staff.  There is a team-approach to a special education student's successes.  You'll be required to work closely with regular education teachers, PT and OT teachers, speech teachers, counselors and social workers, special education administration, and resource teachers.  Be ready to discuss your role on the team of educators who will be responsible for the success of your students.

In many situations, special education students will have a teacher aides or  you may even be given an assistants to help you out through the day.  Be prepared to discuss how you might use the support staff in a way that benefits the student.   Remember:  You do want to foster independence in your students, so you won't want them to be overly-dependent on an aide or assistant.  However, the student will have very specialized needs which may require an extra pair of hands.  At your interview, you may be asked how you will use support staff to balance the ability and limitations of your students.

Strive for Least Restrictive Environment.

One of the goals of special education should be to ensure that all students learn by being challenged, but not overwhelmed.  While some students may be in a self-contained special education program, others may be mainstreamed or a part of an inclusion program.  Your goal should be to ensure that no student is ever over-classified.  He/she should always be given as "normal" of a school experience as possible. 

In the United States, students with disabilities are legally entitled to be educated alongside students without disabilities, whenever possible.  You'll want to ensure that your students have access to the regular education curriculum, regular extra-curricular activities, and any other programs regular education students participate in, as long as the student does not have a disability that requires his/her exclusion.  You'll want your special education students should feel as through the fit in with the school community, not alienated from it.

Know the secret to being a successful Special Ed. teacher!

What is the key to being a successful special ed. teacher?  It's being an expert in differentiated instruction! Yes it's true that all teachers need to differentiate their lessons to meet the learning styles, academic needs, and interests of their students.  But in special education, it's not only a recommended teaching technique, it's essential!

Unlike other teachers, you'll never be able to open a teacher resource manual and begin teaching the lessons as-is.  You'll need to adapt each lesson so that the children in your class are learning as much as possible, given their own personal strengths and limitations.  It is important to show how you will use differentiation to adapt the curriculum to meet the individual learning needs of your students.

About the Author

Tim Wei is the author of the eBook, Guide to Getting the Teaching Job of Your Dreams. It's a helpful, instantly-downloadable book that guides you through the process of finding a teaching jobs.  It includes teacher interview questions and answers, resume and cover letter advice, how to find unadvertised jobs, what to do when you apply but school districts aren't calling you back, what questions YOU can ask the interviewers, buzzwords and jargon you need to know, and lots more!

This is Tim's first guest post for SchoolSZ.  Disclosure notice - I will receive a commission on any of Tim's books sold through this page (please know, I wouldn't offer it if I didn't stand behind the information). 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Top 5 Elementary Teacher Interview Questions

I know October is not traditionally the 'teacher hiring season' but this is the time of year to land those long-term substitute jobs and the rest-of-the-year-because-someone-had-a-baby jobs.  So for those of you interview in the off-season, I thought I'd pass on some of the basics.

#Edleaders - this list is pretty basic - what would you add to the list?

Today's guest post was written by Anny Thomas

If you are a teacher and looking for a job in elementary school, than it would be advised that you go well prepared in advance, at least be geared up to answer common elementary teacher interview questions. Remember these questions are formulated keeping in mind that the interviewer wants to know more about your personality and get acquainted with your real nature and your strength and weakness. Read on to get into the furrow and crack the elementary teacher interview like a professional:

Top 5 Common Elementary Teacher Interview Questions & Answers:

Q1- Tell us about you? Like all the other professional job interviews this is also a common question asked during an elementary school teacher interview. Generally it is the first question or we can even say an ice breaking question.Keep the answer to this question, short and to the point. Talk about your professional profile and your achievements. Do not talk about personal life. You can even include your educational qualification, but remember to keep the answer short and precise. In just few lines the panel should be able to get the core information.

Q2- What Do You Know About This School? Now, this is a tricky question and is basically asked to understand how excited you are about the job opportunity. You are accepted to do some homework here. Look at the schools website and learn about their mission statement. Compliment the authorities, for the kind of work they are doing for the future of the nation, to develop and nurture real good and smart citizens for the future. In a line or two do not forget to mention, that you are very much thrilled about the opportunity and would like to contribute towards the right growth and bright future of the kids.

Q3- What are some of the key strengths of an elementary school teacher? This is a very common question asked during a teacher interview. So you should certainly go well prepared with the most suitable answer. You may answer this question by saying that the teacher should be able to understand the need of the child and should be able to communicate to him her in the most suitable manner. While doing so she should understand the child's strengths and weakness and handle the situation serenely.

Q4- How do you communicate with the child's parents? Today, teacher's communication with the child's parents is absolutely important. Several parents judge teacher by the way they treat them and communicate to them. So many of the school authorities are very much concerned about the strategy you follow to handle parents. Here you can answer by saying that communicating to parents is absolutely important for all teachers, because it not only help them understand the child nature and attitude individually. But also help parents develop a sense of satisfaction and confidence that their child is in the right hands, who would help their child develop a bright future and perception.

Q5- How did you help a student who was struggling and how you helped him overcome the situation? This is yet another commonly asked tricky elementary teacher interview question. Here they are looking for a real life case scenario. Everyone has a success story and you might be having it too. Don't hesitate to boast about your accomplishment here. Talk about how the child was struggling and how you (without handing the child over to someone else) help the child overcome the situation and how he was successful. If possible talk about a strategy that you follow.

Quick Tips to Keep In Mind While Attending an Elementary School Teacher Interview:

- Be confident
- Keep a positive tone and attitude.
- Keep reminding yourself that you are a superb teacher.
- Mind your body gestures.
- Remember the achievements and awards you want to highlight during the interview.
- If you are not sure about the question, do not hesitate to ask for a clarification. It is better to be clear about the question rather than answering the question incorrectly.
- Do not fumble.
- Before leaving the room do not forget to Thank the panel.

Article by Anny Thomas of Gigajob UK

Friday, October 25, 2013

4 Down-To-Earth Career Lessons From Gravity

4 Down-To-Earth Career Lessons From Gravity 4 Down-To-Earth Career Lessons From Gravity
By Adrienne Johnston
Have you ever seen a movie that you just couldn't stop thinking about because of the abundance of ideas that were embedded in it? That's how I felt after I saw the film Gravity this weekend. I was amazed by what a gripping tale Alfonso Cuar�n delivered in less than an hour and a half.
The opening sequence of Gravity finds two astronauts, novice Ryan (Sandra Bullock) and seasoned captain Matt (George Clooney), fixing a satellite in outer space when fragments from a nearby explosion wreak havoc that ultimately untethers them from the space station. As in any classic action adventure, they confront harrowing obstacle after harrowing obstacle in their quest to find a way to safety.
In addition to its awe-inspiring special effects and star-studded cast, Gravity also provides us with insight into the characteristics that make us successful in business and in life. Warning: potential spoilers looming.
1. Teams Achieve More than Individuals
Matt and Ryan are a dynamic team. Matt is a conversational, farsighted captain, while Ryan uses her attention to detail to refurbish the satellite. Their skills compliment each other perfectly. Matt is the epitome of an ideal teammate, in spite of his longwinded stories.
After the accident, as Ryan flies through space, unable to modify her trajectory, she gets overwhelmed. But Matt uses his leadership abilities to calm Ryan and help her focus on identifying her location, so that he can rescue her. Through his ability to paint a compelling vision for how they will get home, he is able to inspire Ryan to fight for their lives.
Being part of an effective team and being a solid team player are essential to having a rewarding career. Being part of a team allows us to capitalize on each team member's unique strengths to achieve greater results than any single individual could alone. But even more importantly, teams also give us focus, motivation and a sense of belonging that enable us to overcome the tough times, as Matt and Ryan's teamwork demonstrate.
2. Taking Breaks Improves Productivity!
After surviving multiple suspense-filled, near-death experiences to reach the re-entry capsule, Ryan realizes that the re-entry capsule has no fuel left. Not seeing any alternatives to get back home, Ryan resigns herself to face her untimely death and suspends the oxygen in the re-entry capsule.
But, in an oxygen-deprived vision, she has a moment of extreme clarity about how to use the re-entry capsule, without fuel.
When Ryan has this realization, I smiled to myself at how often I have struggled to solve a problem, only to have the perfect solution, almost miraculously, occur to me in the shower. When we are trying to solve a problem, we have a natural tendency to fervently seek a solution. But studies indicate that taking a break can increase dopamine levels, distraction and relaxations - all of which contribute to increasing your creativity and ultimately, your ability to solve your problem.
So, when you're struggling to find a solution, while it's counterintuitive, take a break. (However, I advise against oxygen deprivation as a means of finding a solution!)
3. Creating Goals Keeps You Motivated
I was genuinely moved when Ryan, reinvigorated by the reality that she could overcome the re-entry capsule's fuel deficiency to return to Earth, enthusiastically began talking about her desire to make her daughter proud. What is that goal that motivates you? What is that beacon that inspires you to persevere, even in the toughest of circumstances? Maybe it's being successful, making your friends or family proud, or making the world a better place.
Whatever your goals are, if you can clearly express them, then you can leverage them for motivation when you need to persist in the face of adversity. As Ryan demonstrates in Gravity, goals can keep you motivated and focused - giving you more strength than you may have ever thought possible.
4. Determination Is Essential to Success
In spite of a multitude of obstacles, I was amazed by Ryan's sheer determination to get home. While the challenges she faces are more dramatic than most of us will experience in our career journeys, the concept is similar. We will continuously have hurdles to overcome. Hurdles that will test our resilience and determination to succeed like layoffs, unhappy customers or projects that we're just not excited to partake in.
But by being part of a strong team, taking breaks to recharge and being focused on your goals, you can find the energy to be completely determined, even under the worst of circumstances. With that determination comes creative solutions, more experience and success in your career.
While the backdrops are juxtaposed, these tenets that allow us to be successful in our careers are the same on Earth as they are in Gravity.
If you are interested in improving your career by participating in online professional development courses, visit You may use the discount code EZINE for a 25% discount on your subscription.
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