When you can read, you can learn almost anything. Regardless of whether you actually attend a school or not. With the internet and libraries at our disposal, one can access information on any subject, at any time. It is indeed wonderful, because knowledge and understanding of the world marks an end to ignorance, and opens doors to a better future for everyone.
Regretfully not every child can read. Outsiders may find it surprising that over 20% of American adults fall into the illiterate/functionally illiterate category. Many of these people live in poverty. And while it certainly isn’t easy to escape poverty once you are born into a poor family, the relation goes both ways: People who cannot read will find it hard to get a job and integrate into a society in a meaningful way.
What can we do about it? We certainly can do something, especially while the children are still young, attend public schools, and do not need to worry about earning a living for themselves and their family. As a reading specialist, you will identify children who need help with reading (in cooperation with teachers), and then you will work with them one-on-one, or in small groups, making sure they progress and eventually learn to read. In some places you will also coach teachers on effective teaching of reading in their classes. Let’s have a look at the questions you will face while interviewing for this meaningful and interesting job.
Why do you want to work as a Reading Specialist?
I suggest you to focus on two areas in your answer. First one, the meaningful purpose of the job and the difference you want to make in the lives of children, and in the local community. Second one, your skills and personality that make from you an excellent match for the job. Let me elaborate on both briefly.
Talking about the meaningful purpose, you can stress the vital role reading plays in life of every single person. How it impacts their success at school, but also their ability to earn a living and support a family later on. You are aware of the numbers, and know that many children need special attention when it comes to their reading skills. And it motivates you to help them, because you know what a difference it will make for them down the road.
In terms of your skills and personality, you can refer to excellent listening skills and patience. Show confidence in your ability to work with all sorts of children, as well as to cooperate with parents, teachers and other professionals working at school (administrators, counselors). You can also say that you prefer one-on-one teaching. Considering everything, the job of a reading specialist seems like a great fit for someone like you. And that’s why you decided to pursue this career path, instead of another one in education.
How will you determine which kids need help with reading?
The keyword to remember is proactive approach. Ensure the hiring committee that you do not plan to rely on teachers only. On the contrary, you want to be out there, present in the classes, observing the lessons, talking to students and teachers, and actively look for children who may need your help.
Obviously you can integrate the teachers into the process, especially if you work at a big school, coaching them on some simple assessments that will help them determine which child may need an assistance of a reading specialist. You can elaborate on this, for example with a description of such an assessment. The key is to show proactive approach to your work.
How do you imagine your cooperation with the teachers?
You can, and perhaps even should, expect something from the teachers. More than anything else though, you should focus on your role in the relationship. You have some knowledge they lack, and you understand that coaching them on effective teaching methods when it comes to reading, you will immediately make sure that less children will struggle, and eventually need one-on-one assistance.
I also suggest you to emphasize open communication, providing and receiving feedback. Of course, a teacher may feel ashamed if some of their pupils struggle with reading. They need to feel that you aren’t there to criticize them, but to help, both them and their students. And it goes both ways. Providing feedback on how different students improved, or didn’t improve their reading after your intervention, helps you understand the effectiveness of your own teaching methods.
How do you feel about teaching in the afternoons?
Each job has some drawbacks. When we talk about special education or literacy teaching, the schedule is perhaps the major drawback. Because in most cases, it makes little sense to take a child from a Math lesson (or any other lesson) to help them with their reading skills. Skipping one subject to learn another isn’t a meaningful way of addressing the issue. Hence most of the time you will teach also after school.
The key is to show some flexibility and willingness to sacrifice something for the job–because you see the meaningful purpose in it. Sure enough, you’d love to end teaching at 1:30pm like many teachers do. But you understand that it won’t be always possible here, and are ready to teach until 3pm, 4pm, or even later on some days. That’s the attitude they seek in good job candidates.
How do you integrate technology in your classes?
Things have changed a lot in the last fifteen years. Nowadays, you will find modern applications and educational games that will actually help you with your work. Regardless of whether you like them or not, preferring the “old school” way of teaching, you should actually embrace the technology while interviewing for the job. And you should explain why.
Whether we like it or not, children love screens. Tablets, computers, smartphones. Games, applications, videos. Integrating them into the lessons, you make your teaching more interesting and engaging for the children. And while I am not expert on games and apps for reading specialists, I am sure you know about some of them, and should explain how they help you with the educational process. I also suggest you to emphasize finding a good balance when it comes to technology. Without a doubt it can help us in the classes, in many ways, but children should not lose their contact with typical books and publications, reading from actual paper instead of some digital screen….
Other questions you may face in your reading specialist job interview
- Tell us about a successful experience you had with one of your students who struggled with reading.
- Why do you want to teach here, and not at some other school?
- What do you consider the toughest aspect of this job?
- Where do you see yourself in five years time?
- In your opinion, what is the role of whole language and phonics in the teaching of reading?
- How do you assess student’s progress?
- What motivates you the most in this job?
- Some students may fail regardless of your intervention. How will you cope with such a disappointment?
- How would you handle a student who is constantly disruptive and defiant?
- After everything we discussed here, do you want to add something, or do you have any questions?
Interview for a job of a Reading Specialist definitely isn’t an easy one. And while you typically won’t compete with dozens of people for the job–which makes it easier to succeed–they will test you with some tricky questions, just as I described in my article. Try to think about each one for a while, and make sure to show confidence in your ability to handle the challenges of this job.
I also suggest you to spend at least couple of hours researching about your future place of work. Focus particularly on special education, and the role of a reading specialist. The more you know about their programs and values, the easier it will be for you to come up with great answers, and to connect with your interviewers. I hope you will succeed, and wish you best of luck in this tricky interview!
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