Your application for a teaching assistant post has been successful, and your chosen school has invited you for an interview. Congratulations! That’s one tough hurdle overcome. Now let’s look at the next important step and consider what you should expect at your teaching assistant interview.
Though each school will have its own interview style, the format will be broadly similar. Usually, the only major difference between schools is that some are very relaxed, whilst others may appear quite formal.
As a general interview rule, you should always be prepared for a more formal approach even if you are really confident, adopting an ultra-casual approach would generally be interpreted as unprofessional, and is best avoided.
The interview process can usually be broken down into two parts:
1) An interview panel session with two or three interviewers. The purpose of this session is to gather information about you from several different perspectives.
2) Some kind of more practical discussion which will focus on the classroom environment. Here, it is quite likely that you will be asked to complete a task with a group of students. The purpose of this activity is to allow you to demonstrate how you interact with children in a teaching assistant role.
You won’t know precisely what to expect at teaching assistant interview until afterwards, but the key is to prepare thoroughly. Most interview panels will probably comprise a school governor, a senior teacher, and perhaps a teacher or a classroom teaching assistant.
The panel’s job is to assess how well you fit the published person specification for the role, and also whether you will be able to carry out the specified job description.
Studying these two formal pieces of outline information will give you an idea of the likely focus of questions. If the post requires someone ‘reliable’, or ‘responsible’, or mentions that ‘a patient, caring attitude is more important than experience’, these keywords and phrases will signal the information the school is seeking.
So what have you done previously which confirms you are responsible and reliable? What evidence can you offer to show you can be patient and sympathetic?
Afterwards you will be invited to ask a couple questions of your own. Use this opportunity to make the panel aware you have researched the school carefully by framing positive questions accordingly. For example, if you know the school is seeking to develop its use of technology, you could ask if the post will allow you to use your computer skills.
The school should brief you about the kind of task you will be asked to complete. If not, prepare a short (10 minutes) task appropriate to the age and abilities of the students, just in case.
Where you produce your own activity, remember to bring along whatever materials you need – don’t just rely on the school. Be sure to observe any instructions or guidance you may be given. For instance, you might be asked to read a short passage to the children in your group and follow this with some questions to check their understanding.
Even where you are not asked to fulfill a task, remember to bring some examples of previous work you have completed with other students.
After you have completed the task you may get the chance to have a less formal debriefing with your observer to discuss how it went. This is yet another opportunity to show your knowledge and experience by asking focused questions.
And once again, your background research will help your cause if you can introduce relevant topics which also relate to the school’s interests or concerns.