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Teaching AssistantInterview Questions

Position Summary

Teaching assistants are responsible for aiding teachers in the classroom. This can include grading tests and homework, proctoring exams, and recording grades on a computer or in a grade book. Teaching assistants may also assign materials and assignments in class as needed to help the teacher. 

Other job duties they may encounter include tutoring and mentoring students, setting up and cleaning labs, and obtaining materials for classes. After the teacher introduces new materials to the class, the teaching assistant may help reinforce the lessons with small groups of students or on a one-on-one basis. 

Responsibilities

Teaching assistant responsibilities may include:

  • Providing additional tutoring for students
  • Setting up materials for the teacher
  • Grading homework, tests, and reports
  • Uploading grades online or in a grade book
  • Lecturing in the teacher's stead

Skills

Teaching can be an overwhelming job. In order to help reduce a teacher’s workload, a skilled teaching assistant will:

  • Stay organized to keep on top of their work
  • Communicate appropriately with students
  • Utilize creativity to keep students engaged
  • Communicate effectively with their supervisor and other administration members
  • Maintain a professional demeanor at all times

Qualifications

To secure a position as a teaching assistant, candidates will need a bachelor’s degree in education or graduate from an educational certificate program. In addition, it is recommended that candidates apply for internships to receive on-the-job training. Candidates will need to pass a background check.

If you’re getting ready to interview for a position as a teaching assistant, you can prepare by researching the company as much as possible. Learn about the 9 things you should research before an interview.

Salary

Salaries for teaching assistants range between $11K and $25K with the median being $17K. 

Factors impacting the salary you receive as a teaching assistant include:

  • Degrees (associate's, bachelor's, educational certificate)
  • Years of Experience
  • Location
  • Reporting Structure (seniority of the teacher, department head or school administrator you report to, and number of direct reports, such as volunteers and other teaching assistants or aides)
  • Level of Performance - exceeding expectations

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Teaching Assistant Interview Questions

Question: Can you describe why you believe you’re qualified to be a teaching assistant?

Explanation: This is an opening or general question which the interviewer will ask to start the conversation, learn more about your background, and collect any information they can use for subsequent questions.

Example: “While still in high school, I volunteered at an after-school program for primary school students. I enjoyed the work so much that I decided to pursue a career in education. I learned a lot during college, but my experience with student teaching is what really prepared me to become a teaching assistant. I love being in the classroom, and I enjoy working with the students.”


Question: What role does a teaching assistant fulfill in the classroom?

Explanation: This is another general question which the interviewer is asking to gain an understanding of your idea of what a teaching assistant does. By describing the role a teaching assistant fulfills, you’re telling the interviewer what you believe you will be doing on the job. You can use the job posting to prepare for this question.

Example: “The primary role of a teaching assistant is to free the teacher from the mundane tasks required to run a classroom. This enables the teacher to spend more time instructing the students and providing one-on-one assistance. The teaching assistant helps with grading, distributing materials, and maintaining discipline in the classroom. They also assist individual students with additional work or during group projects.”


Question: How would you handle a situation which involved a group of students disrupting the class by laughing, talking, and other misbehavior?

Explanation: This is your first operational question. Operational questions help the interviewer understand how you go about performing the duties required by the job. Operational questions are best answered succinctly and directly with little embellishment.

Example: “When any type of disruption occurs in the classroom, I follow the protocol which I already established with the teacher. In the case of a disruptive group, the first thing I would do is separate the students. I’d then assign them tasks that align with the lesson plan and would require their attention. This normally takes care of this situation.”


Question: Do you think it is important for children to find school fun and enjoyable?

Explanation: This is a general question that will give the interviewer an idea of your teaching philosophy. Teachers know that school is a balance between learning, socialization, and fun. Getting the right mix will provide the students with the environment in which they can learn and thrive.

Example: “I believe it is critical for students to enjoy school. This doesn’t mean it should be one big party followed by recess. Creating lesson plans which teach a topic while having an element of fun will be more effective than rigorous lessons which the students don’t enjoy. Like adults, children do best at what they enjoy doing. School can be fun while still being successful in educating the students.”


Question: How would you handle a situation in which the teacher was doing something you strongly disagreed with?

Explanation: This is a behavioral question. Behavioral questions seek to determine how you reacted or will react to a situation you may encounter on the job. Behavioral questions are best answered using the STAR framework. You state the Situation, describe the Task you are trying to accomplish, discuss the Actions you will take, and then describe the Results you hope to obtain.

Example: “While this has never happened to me, if a teacher were to do something I disagreed with, I would take steps to better understand why they were doing this. At the first opportunity, I would have a private conversation with the teacher regarding their actions. This may resolve the situation. However, if it didn’t, I would then address my concerns to the department head or the school principal after the class had concluded. I would anticipate that they would intervene to either correct the teacher’s actions or my understanding of the situation. In either case, the issue would be resolved, and the teacher and I would continue to work together.”


Question: How would you convince a student to complete an assignment they didn’t want to do?

Explanation: This is another behavioral question about a situation you’re likely to encounter in the classroom. Students don’t always want to complete an assignment and may resist following instructions. Your job is to convince them that the assignment has a purpose and that by completing it, they can progress to the next activity.

Example: “If a student resisted completing an assignment, my role would be to determine why they were resisting and get them to finish the assignment. I would ask a couple of questions to determine why they were reluctant to do the work. I would then have a conversation with them, expressing why the assignment was important and what benefits they would receive by completing it. If necessary, I would develop an extra incentive I could offer them to finish the work. Once they did, I would reinforce the importance of what they did and how proud I was of them for having completed the assignment.”


Question: Describe a time when you worked with a group of children in a classroom or coaching setting.

Explanation: This is another general question. The recruiter can ask any type of question at any time during the interview. They will often circle back and ask a question similar to one you’ve already answered. This helps them calibrate your answers and ensure you are consistent.

Example: “As I mentioned earlier, I have spent a lot of time working with children in the classroom. This includes my work in the after-school program during high school as well as my student teaching experience. During this time, I received a great deal of coaching from the teachers and administrators I worked with. I am extremely comfortable in the classroom and enjoy working with students.”


Question: What are the elements of an effective lesson plan?

Explanation: This is a technical question that seeks to understand your skills, qualifications, and experience related to this position. Technical questions are best answered directly and succinctly with little embellishment. The interviewer will ask a follow-up question if they need additional information.

Example: “An effective lesson plan has several key elements which include a specific objective, the steps needed to present the subject matter, resources such as examples, references, visual aids, and other items which will reinforce the lesson, a time frame in which the lesson will be presented, and a backup plan in case one of these elements is not present or something else occurs.”


Question: What steps do you take to ensure the classroom is a safe environment for children?

Explanation: Creating a safe environment for learning in the classroom is critical to teaching, especially when working with primary school students. As a teaching assistant, you should have been trained in how to create a safe, secure, and nurturing environment in a classroom. Remember, since this is an operational question, you should keep your answer brief and allow the interviewer to ask a follow-up question if they need additional information.

Example: “First and foremost, creating a safe environment in the classroom involves following school policy and procedures. Beyond this, I believe you need to be alert to any bullying or intimidation which may occur. You also need to monitor the students to see if any of them are uncomfortable or feeling insecure for any reason. Many times this involves something that is occurring outside the classroom. Addressing these issues and maintaining a nurturing environment not only helps the student with the issue but also the entire class.”


Question: What suggestions do you have to help a pupil struggling with a particular topic?

Explanation: This is another operational question asking you to address a specific situation you’re likely to encounter in a classroom. Although this responsibility falls under the purview of the teacher, as a teaching assistant, you must be able to recognize and address it.  Provide the interviewer with a brief description of how you would go about accomplishing this.

Example: “Each student is an individual, and they learn differently. Sometimes, even the best students struggle with a specific topic. The key is for a teaching assistant to recognize when this is happening and immediately address it. I would do this by first confirming that a student is having trouble and then asking them a series of questions to determine the cause. Once I identified the cause, I would provide the student with some additional coaching either during class or afterward. Naturally, I would discuss the situation with the teacher before taking any of these steps.”


Additional Teaching Assistant Interview Questions

  • In your opinion, what is the hardest part about teaching? How can you offer assistance to help with this aspect of teaching in the classroom? 

  • What techniques do you use to motivate your students?

  • How have you handled a difficult student in the past?

  • What is one piece of tough feedback you've been given about your teaching? How did you respond and implement that feedback?

  • Have you ever given a class lecture in the teacher’s stead?

  • Can you prepare a sample lesson layout for me?

  • How would you help students enjoy learning?

  • How would you welcome a new child to the classroom?

A word of warning when using question lists.

Question lists offer a convenient way to start practicing for your interview. Unfortunately, they do little to recreate actual interview pressure. In a real interview you’ll never know what’s coming, and that’s what makes interviews so stressful.

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