Getting a Teaching Job.
If you have a teacher’s license and a college degree in the subject and grade level you want to teach, you are well on your way. There is, in fact, a teachers’ shortage in some areas of the country, but most of these shortages are in special education, STEM and ELL. That doesn’t mean you are doomed if you want to teach elementary school, or high school English or history. You will just have to work harder to find these positions, and you will have to be more patient with the process.
I was a high school English teacher for 19 years, but I started as a special education teacher, because I couldn’t find a job teaching English right out of college. So, if you had your heart set on working in the Boston area, but you can only find a job in Worcester or Springfield, take the Springfield job. If you had your heart set on teaching high school, but you get an offer to teach sixth grade, take what you can get. If you, see a lot of ESL jobs, and you have that license, apply for them, even if you really want to teach English or history.
You will end up teaching the grade level and subject you prefer soon enough, but take what you can get now.
How did I get my first teaching job?
My brother-in-law was the principal of a school, and he hired me to teach there. He wasn’t even my brother-in-law at the time. He was my girlfriend’s older brother. I was nervous calling him, but it was worth it.
I tell you this because networking is the key to getting your first job, your second job and all your jobs. Rarely do people get positions by applying for jobs blind. They almost always know someone on the inside. They are almost always connected. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply for jobs where you know no one. I got my second job that way. It just means that you should try to get connected or realize the connections you already have, as you send out resumes and cover letters to apply for any teaching job within an hour of where you live.
How do you get connected?
Well, start with your professors from college. They will help you meet people who might hire you. I got the job I have right now because my professor recommended me for it.
Now, I am a professor, and in the five — only five years — I have been here, I have directly helped a dozen students find teaching positions.
Next, network with family and friends. Tell them you are looking for a teaching job. Tell them what subject area and grade level you are qualified to teach. After that, do the same with your neighbors.
If you feel shy and don’t want to stop your neighbor as he is walking his dog by your house, even though you heard he is on the school committee in town, remember this: The worst thing he can do is say “no.” And, if you don’t like hearing that word, that’s ok. Do it anyway. And, keep in mind that when you hear YES, the no’s you had to endure, will have been worth it. Plus, you’re going to hear the word “no” a lot as a teacher, from your bosses and your students, so get used to it.
What else can I do to get a teaching job?
Go to Career Fairs.
This is how my wife got her teaching job, and she has been at that school now for two decades. Career Fairs are advertised in local newspapers, on monster.com, on LinkedIn and on the websites of school districts under their link employment. They are also posted on the bulletin boards outside the career services center in your college or at the college you graduated from, which — by the way — is open to alumni. Those people want to help you.
When you go to a career fair, dress as you would for an interview, and don’t forget to bring a dozen copies of your CV for the district representatives who are there.
Be sure to smile and make eye contact with everyone you meet. Use a firm handshake too. My wife walked up to a table at a career fair where a principal was sitting waiting to meet potential teachers. They had a positive conversation, which lead to an interview, which led to an offer. It isn’t always that easy, but it can be. However, that will NEVER happen to you at a career fair — that you don’t go.
Make a LinkedIn profile.
This site is like facebook for job seekers. It is the best way to keep in touch with your professors, colleagues and classmates from college or graduate school. And, one of those people might be the person who tells you about a job that you will apply to which will lead to an interview. Just make sure you have a professional looking profile picture, and connect with as many people as you can. There is also a recommendation feature. You and your classmates should consider recommending each other. Not only is LinkedIn free, but it is easy to use. And they have a smartphone app that makes checking for new posts easy.
Get on SchoolSpring.
This is a website that posts education jobs exclusively. You can set up the automated alert system that will email you when a job in your area is posted. So, sign up for an account and activate the alerts function, but also check the site EVERY DAY in the subject area that you are qualified to teach and the geographical area where you live. Apply to every job you are even remotely qualified for. If you set up your profile right, a school district might even find you. But, more importantly, the set up of a schoolspring profile saves you time in the long run. You will be apply for most jobs posted there with one click. If you are not confident about setting up or using schoolspring, the professionals at career center where you went to college will help you.
Use the Career Center.
The career center at the college you graduateed from will help you write your CV and your cover letter, too. You can also use that college’s Writing Center to help you improve both your CV and CL.
Call them both and make appointments to sit down with the people there. But, don’t just show up unprepared. Bring all your professional data with you — a working draft would be better.
And, don’t forget to thank those people for their help both verbally and in writing. If you get a job using a CV that a person at the career center helped you with, send him or her an email telling him or her the good news. You might be back there some day.
Clean up you Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter profiles.
Scrub these social media profiles for anything that makes you look in any way unprofessional. Pictures of you drinking alcohol, smoking, flipping a friend the bird in jest, comments that are angry, political or intolerant and LIKES or UNLIKEs that make you look mean or unprofessional need to go. Don’t delete the whole profile. It’s good to have a positive presence. Plus, use your fb to make yourself look like a teacher. Post, LIKE and SHARE articles about teaching, about your content area and about your alma mater.
Google yourself. Right now!
If you find something that makes you look bad, ask the admin of that site to take it down. If they don’t get right back to you, ask again. The worst they can say is no, and if they do, at least you know what potential employers might see, so you’ll be ready for that. Gulp.
Apply to and work at as many substitute teaching jobs as you can juggle as long as that doesn’t interfere with applying and interviewing. This will put you in contact with the principals of those schools, and then you might learn before other people of openings in your teaching area. If a teacher in one of those schools gets very sick or is having a baby or has a spouse who is sick, that principal might hire you as a “long term sub,” which will give you a chance to prove yourself. And, then if that teacher who is out sick, has to take the year off, then maybe the principal will ask you to stay for a whole year. Many of my former students have landed teaching jobs this way. If you become a LTS, ask the principal or front chair or both to observe you teaching. If he or she does observe you, then ask for advice about how to improve. That will put you in his or her office, in his or her head and in his or her attention, so when an opening comes up, he or she will more likely have just spoken with you. You will be the first person he or she thinks of.
Dress for Success.
If you don’t know how to dress for an interview, ask a teacher whom you know how he or she would dress. If you don’t know any professional teachers, make an appointment with the Career Center at the college where you went to school, and get the opinion of one of the career counselors there about what to wear. Most interviewers expect you to dress a little bit more conservatively than you would for the job which you are applying.
1. The day before the interview, drive to that school to see how long it takes you to get there. Do it at the Same time of day that your interview will be, if you can. Also, do some research about the school and even the person who is scheduled to interview you. That doesn’t mean you should say anything about the school during the interview. But, you should know the publicly available information and news about the school, so you can be ready in case they expect you to know.
2. Make sure you have an inflated spare tire in your trunk. Fill the fuel tank the day before. Missing an interview that could turn into an offer is tragic. Don’t let a flat spare stop you from getting a job.
3. Shower etc. There are some things you do not have control over, like whether or not the chair of the school committee has a son who wants the same job you want. But, there are some things like getting a haircut, showering, shaving and making sure you don’t have a flat spare that you DO have control over. Always do what your can. Amd, no perfume, but do, shave and get a good night’s sleep. Smile and have a firm handshake.
4. Eat a healthy breakfast or lunch but no onions. You don’t want low blood sugar or need to belch or use the restroom when you are in the interview. Seems obvious, right? I guess most of these things are. But, then again, why do so many people arrive late to their interviews.
5. Arrive 15 minutes early to any interview. This requires planning and prioritizing. If you get there 30 minutes early, sit in your car for 15 minutes. Being too early might hurt your chances.
6. Smile. Did I say smile? Make sure you smile and not just for the person interviewing you. Smile for the secretaries, the janitors and the security guards. Definitely smile for the students you meet.
7. Look everyone people in the eye.
8. Bring your resume, some teaching materials like lesson plans or lesson plan ideas with you.
9. Be ready to write. Sometimes candidates have to write during the interview.
10. If they don’t ask you to teach a demo lesson during the interview, go ahead and ask them if they want you to. If they say yes, ask them how long? Real students? What grade? What curriculum?
11. Turn off your device. If you forget to do this, and your phone buzzes, do NOT look at it. In that circumstance, the only reason you would take it out, would be to turn it off — and only if you can do so without looking at it.
17. Say Thank you for your time, when the interview is over.
18. Ask what the next step is.
19. Send your contact person an email THAT DAY, thanking him or her for the chance to interview. Also, send Thank You notes to anyone who interviewed you, right after the interview. Send them as emails from your car if you can. And, send a thank you text to any friends who may have set you up with the interview or who may have given you a tip about the job. If you get a job offer, send another thank you text to that person who was your connection thanking them again, sharing the good news.
20. If you get called back, ask who will be meeting with you this time and how many finalists there are. This shows you want it.
Here are some things NOT to do in the interview:
- Don’t brag.
2. Don’t be shy.
3. Don’t talk too long.
4. Don’t chew gum.
5. Don’t smoke before hand.
6. Don’t tell people you are pregnant.
7. Don’t tell people you have five children.
8. Don’t talk about your medical conditions.
9. Don’t lie.
10. Don’t look at your watch.
11. Don’t make assumptions.
12. Don’t swear.
13. Don’t wear jeans or sandals.
14. Don’t show up drunk or high.
15. Don’t ask to go to the bathroom during the interview, if you can help it.
16. Don’t eat during the interview, unless it is a meal, and then eat very little, just to be polite.
If you get an offer.
It’s ok to be excited, but it’s also ok to ask them for some time to think about it. If they ask you how much time you need, ask them if you can have a few days, especially if you may have other opportunities in front of you, like interviews coming up. Definitely ask for some time to think about it, if you have another offer.
This way you won’t rush into anything that you wish you could walk back.
If you don’t get an offer.
Don’t take it personally. There are many reasons why you might not get an offer. Maybe the person who did get the offer is the son of a school committee member. Maybe you were just not a good fit. Maybe they wanted someone younger or older. Many of these things are beyond your control. And, it’s possible that a school that did not make you an offer in June, because they filled the position may offer you a different position in July because a person announced his or her retirement, and you were #2 among the candidates.
Or. In August, the person who was #1, gets a better offer and walks away from it. The principal might very well call you and make the offer, so when you are rejected, make sure you thank the person who interviewed you for his or her time.
This is part of networking.
The secretaries, janitors and security guards in schools are obviously people who you should be polite and gracious too because you want to be nice, right? But, you are also selfish WHICH IS ok. Instead of selfish, let’s call this trait “hungry” or ambitious. Now, imagine, you are in line at the grocery store, and you sigh deeply at how slow the cashier is. The person standing behind you hears you sigh and you start to complain about that cashier. Then, a week later, you go to an interview for a teaching job. And, the principal who is interviewing you is that person standing in line behind you. Now, you are wondering if you made a bad impression, and just your wondering will affect your ability to make a good impression in that moment. Think about it this way, everyone you meet could be your next boss.
Who knows who?
You never know which one of your relatives or neighbors works at a school, so at every opportunity you can, tell people you meet that you are looking for a teaching job. If a neighbor tells you that she knows the principal of the local school, ask her if she would introduce you to that principal. If that neighbor is a close friend of your mother or borrows your dad’s tools all the time or parks his boat in your yard, give that person a stack of your CVs, just to have.
Getting a teaching job is not easy, but it’s not impossible. If you are willing to do the things above, if you are willing to travel a little, to compromise about precisely what you want and to treat your job search like a job, you will get an offer. I teach people who want to become teachers, and then they graduate. Most of them get jobs teaching in schools. But, those who get the best jobs and get them the fastest are willing to travel, willing to put themselves out there and willing to apply to a bunch of schools every day.