Finding an Education Job
You've completed your degree for a teaching career. You have your credential and your teaching certificate. Now you need to find out what job openings might match your skills.
First, start early. Don't put the job search off until the last minute. Most positions begin at the start of the academic year, so you need to be available August 1. That means you should start your search the previous November.
Have clearly in mind what you are looking for. What is your ideal balance between classroom and prep time, administrative duties, and parent conferences?
Have clearly in mind what you have to offer. What skills and experience do you possess? Are you completing additional certifications or a postgraduate degree? Do you speak more than one language?
Don't miss deadlines. Submit your application at least two weeks in advance. Follow up with a call to make sure the school has received it.
Keep your résumé current, short, and job specific. Include only relevant details. Compile a professional portfolio to bring to your interviews. Triple-check your résumé for typos.
Network constantly. Your colleagues, friends, and family are among the best ways to find a new job. Check with your professors about job openings. Talk with your college career office about listings in education.
Become a member of a professional education association and check out its website to find job openings. Arrange to attend regional and national conferences, and get all the interviews you can.
Decide on the area where you want to teach, and check with districts about their openings. Check with each district's human resources department to learn about their application procedures. Gather human resource contact information for the schools and districts at the top of your list.
Attend job fairs. Investigate virtual job fairs. Browse education employment postings on the Internet.
Be flexible. No job will meet all your needs or expectations. Decide what you can and cannot live without. Be prepared to negotiate. Set realistic salary expectations. Check on salary scales in the area.
Be patient. Because of staff changes, many districts do their hiring at the last minute.
Consider substitute teaching until the right opportunity arises. If you are substitute teaching, submit résumés to principals and invite them to observe you in the classroom. Use your substitute teaching opportunities to make a great impression. Keep your eyes and ears open for long-term possibilities.
Your résumé is your personal advertisement for prospective jobs. A résumé for a teacher career doesn't have to be flashy. Make it look professional. Use a résumé template; you can find them free on the web.
- Think about yourself—what are your priorities? What are you looking for in a job? Challenge? Life-work balance? Career advancement?
- Collect your accomplishments and list them in chronological order.
- Organize your résumé under the following main headings: Objective or Position of Interest, Summary of Qualifications, Brief Profile, List of Strengths, Professional Experience, Education, Licenses and Certification, Computer Skills, Languages, Community Involvement, Extracurricular Activities, Honors, and Professional Affiliations.
- Don't feel tied to particular headings. Create your own to fit your needs and reinforce your strengths.
- Focus on your teaching experience. List education and experience starting from the most recent and moving back. Document the hours you spent in practica, volunteering, student teaching, and aiding. Experience doesn't have to be paid experience. Choose the areas that most reflect your abilities and interests in the teaching field. Indicate your membership in teaching organizations. Add a section on your professional goals. If you're in your last year of college and haven't had a teaching job, consider a summer job working with children or attending an educational workshop to show your commitment to the field.
- Include any special training, curriculum and educational program development, workshops, and committee involvement, as well as any grant writing experience. Also include achievements and skills, responsibilities, and student outcomes.
- Secondary teachers should focus on their ability to develop students' knowledge in their specific subject, to adapt teaching to divergent needs, and to prepare students for the workforce.
- List the subjects you teach on the résumé, the type of school you've taught in, and the breadth of abilities, needs, problems, and cultural diversity encountered.
- You might want to list related experience educating young people and special skills.
- Share your evolving document with people in the teaching field for feedback and proofreading assistance. Keep the completed résumé between one and two pages in a 12- or 10-point font. Edit out less important items. Check grammar and keep phrases short and simple.
- Print copies of your completed, corrected résumé on high-quality bond paper using a high-resolution laser printer.
- Add a cover letter to let the administrator know the kind of job you're looking for, your connections to or interest in the particular school, and to point out why you are the teacher to hire. Keep it very short, refer to your résumé, and indicate where and when you can be reached for an interview. Specifically request an interview, and write the letter as if you anticipate talking with him or her soon.
If you've met the administrator, refer to the contact.
If your résumé for an education career is a standout with prospective employers, you will be invited to participate in an interview. Interviews in education can last 45 minutes or longer. Research the district and/or the school's needs to respond thoroughly and competently.
Dress professionally, portray confidence, and smile.
Be honest in answering all questions. Organize your thoughts in advance by writing down potential questions and coaching yourself on them.
The following are some typical questions asked of applicants for education careers:
- What are your biggest weaknesses?
You should reply with a challenge from the past that you've taken steps to rectify. The key is to turn a negative to a positive.
- How do you handle classroom discipline?
The interviewer is looking for a plan, the know-how to implement it, and for whether you think discipline is an important part of the position. Don't just talk in generalities. Use specific examples. You might mention setting ground rules the first week of class and your philosophy of classroom discipline. Have an example of your plan—a situation that shows your expertise in this important area.Explain how you handle disagreements between two students, listening to both sides, getting the students to discuss their own approaches, and suggesting compromise. (Always ask students how they'll handle the situation next time to ensure that learning has occurred.)
- Why do you want to work for our school district?
Research the district to be able to answer this question. Give a few reasons you're interested in the school or district. What in particular sparked your interest? What is your personal experience? What do you know about the students, faculty, reputation, community involvement, goals and objectives, demographics, or extracurricular activities of the district?
- How would you describe a successful principal?
A response to this question might include that a successful principal has a vision and a plan to reach it. In addition, a successful principal has the ability to bring faculty together to reach district goals and objectives, is visible, a continual presence, and is easily accessible to students and teachers. A successful principal also can relate to diverse individuals, has a sense of humor, and genuinely cares about the students, teachers, parents, and district.
- What are your thoughts on team-teaching?
The interviewer wants to know whether you are flexible, enjoy working as part of a team, experienced in team-teaching, and whether you have extreme viewpoints about it.
- It's wise to talk about positive aspects of team-teaching - its effectiveness for teaching large groups, for example, or the opportunity to collaborate in coming up with ideas. You can talk about positive results of team-teaching experiences you've had or mention that you enjoy working as part of a team and are excited about the prospect, or that you've been reading on the subject and think. . . .
- Do you have any questions for us?
Demonstrate that you've thought about the position, that you're interested. Ask questions that you can't answer through research. Examples might be about team sports, parent involvement, integrating computer technology, opportunities for professional development, or teacher/student ratio.
Student teaching is a college-supervised, field-based instructional experience. It is usually the final course in an undergraduate or graduate program leading to teacher education and certification for an education career.
Student teaching is required of all students who aren't yet certified to teach. The unpaid internship usually lasts a semester and gives the prospective teacher a chance to teach under the supervision of a permanently certified Master Teacher.
The student teacher is placed in a district near the college and is monitored by a teacher from that district. Over the course of the semester, the student teacher progresses from shadowing the monitor to assuming most of the teaching responsibilities, including classroom management, lesson planning, assessment, and grading.
Student teachers receive a grade of pass or fail. Passing, together with satisfactory completion of the college's education program, can lead to recommendation for certification.
The following suggestions will help you have a successful student teaching experience:
1. Go above and beyond the basic requirements. Jobs are competitive, so you'll want to do everything you can to stand out. Attend every meeting, whether it's required or not. Volunteer to help with clubs. Get involved with activities outside of school. Help the teacher after school. Go everywhere with the teacher. Sit in on parent-teacher conferences and see whether it's okay to observe a child study team in action.
2. Call your Master Teacher a few weeks before your assignment begins so you can get acquainted. Network with various teachers, staff members, and administrators.
3. Be original. Show your unique personality. Be friendly, and be happy. Have a sense of humor. Don't gossip; you might say something you'll regret later. Be professional with fellow teachers. Treat your coordinating teacher and other teachers on campus with respect.
4. Be flexible. Always plan too much, incorporating a variety of skills such as forming learning centers and group activities. Use as many resources as possible. Show that you know what you're doing.
5. Communicate. Ask a lot of questions, especially about how the school prefers to handle various situations. Stay in contact with your professor or adviser on a regular basis, not just when either is there to observe. Get student input about your lessons. Befriend the office staff, especially if you want to stay in the area and try for a job at the school where you are teaching. They could have an impact on whether or not you're hired, and they can make student teaching easier. Don't wait to call in sick.
6. Be innovative. See what works best for you and the class you're working with. This is the time to take all you've learned and apply it. Don't be afraid to experiment. Don't be afraid to integrate some of your own teaching techniques or classroom management skills. Keep a notebook for each subject, and file in it everything your cooperating teacher is willing to share.
7. Be dedicated. Show a passion for what you do. Be on time, dress appropriately, and follow school rules. Maintain confidentiality. Don't use student names in discussions with colleagues; change names to protect student identities. You never know the relationship a student might have with your instructors and coordinators.
8. Have fun. Enjoy the students; they will make you smile every day. Enjoy your colleagues; they are wonderful role models. Enjoy the experience; make special memories to carry into your teaching career.
People serving as references for a candidate for a career in teaching should know about the candidate and be able to evaluate the candidate's work-related qualities. Past and present employers, faculty members, advisers, and coaches should be asked to serve as references, as well as people who hold positions similar to the one being sought. Family or friends should not be included.
Don't include references on your résumé. Create a separate sheet for references, including name, title, company, address, phone number, and email address.
Make a list of references to carry with you to interviews in case someone requests them.
Always ask the people you're using as references if you can include them and how they prefer to be contacted. Let them know the position you're applying for and the skills that are needed for that position.
Contact references before submitting them so that they know to expect a phone call from the potential employer. Your references will answer with more certainty if they've had time to think about what they will say.
In an age of increasing telephone fraud, your references might be reluctant to give out information unless they have been given the names of persons or schools who might call.
Letters of recommendation often are the first independent assessment of the candidate's capabilities, performance, and potential that a search committee will see. It's important that they are first-rate.
You should include letters from faculty familiar with your scholarship and employers who have supervised your work. Include a letter from your dissertation adviser. In most cases, a minimum of three letters of recommendation from faculty with whom you have studied, conducted research, or taught are required.
From time to time, you might wish to add letters of recommendation from employers or other professionals familiar with your accomplishments. Letters can be removed as they become obsolete.
Don't obtain letters from family, friends, or associates who are not in a professional position to evaluate your work critically. Letters with specific information, including personal descriptions and examples of your excellence, are best.
Prepare your references in advance of asking them to write a letter for you. Provide them with a current copy of your C.V. or résumé, a sample letter of application, syllabi from courses you have taught, and, if possible, a list of schools to which you have applied. Ask them to mention your teaching as well as your research. Offer to provide a written statement of your goals and accomplishments. The recommender can use this material in his or her letter for you.
Tailor your written statements to each recommender. One faculty member might have observed your teaching; another might know you only from your dissertation.
Give your recommenders plenty of advance notice—at least a month. Be sure they have everything they need to write the letter, and that you identify the deadline clearly. When you make the initial request, explain that you will send a reminder a week or two before the deadline.
Don't forget to show your gratitude by sending a thank-you note.