In my last post, I introduced the following 3 questions as important for you as a teaching job seeker to ask and answer for yourself. If you haven't read that article please do so before reading this post. Thanks.
So let's get to it. Did you take time to answer these three questions? You should. Here are my thoughts about why they are important to job hunting in the teaching world.
1. Where do I want to teach?
When I set out to become a teacher, I thought that everyplace needed teachers so I figured that I would deal with that when the time arrived. Well that time approached and I discovered that not all schools and school systems were the same. This is important enough to say twice, " Not all schools and school systems are the same." This statement has more to do with leadership practices and policies than it does with actual physical location. More on this in another post. Just know that there is a lot of research about a place that you need to do before choosing.
I also discovered that the wonderful saying, "If it is to be it is up to me" applied to the job search. There was very little that many of my colleagues could offer as help because I was moving away. My life's journey was not going to be with the local community of my student teaching or the university I attended. Once this was apparent the whole situation became a little overwhelming. I didn't know what I would use as criteria to reduce the number of places that I would seek employment. My soon to be wife helped because we had two states that she was looking at for her master's degree. When it became apparent that we were going to be in metro Atlanta (which at that time had somewhere around 21 counties and school districts that were considered metro-Atlanta) the task at hand had become a little simpler but still overwhelming. Where should I start?
For those of you who are thinking about staying in your community, that is awesome! Just remember that it is always a good idea to have a back-up plan because depending upon how small your local community is there may only be the need for one teacher who specializes in your content area and that person is not planning on retiring for a long time.
It is extremely important that you think about where you want to teach. Hopefully, you are planning on staying for awhile, becoming part of the community, and making it your home. If that is so, taking a position and then realizing "Wow! that was a mistake...think I need to go ahead and look for a different place to work." - can create many hassles that you don't need when maybe you could have eliminated these simply by thinking more in depth about where you would like to work.
So here are some suggestions that will help you narrow down your search:
- Look at a map (electronic or paper). Mark an epicenter. You know the place where you are now or will start from. This may be your permanent home, college, where you grew up, or where you have been living in current times.
- Decide how far away you are willing to go from where you are now. 25 miles, 50miles, 100miles, several states, etc. Just determine how far and make that a radius of a circle. Draw a straight line that far out. (sounding like a math problem, right?) Then from your epicenter use that point to make a circle that has radius of the distance you are willing to look. In other words what is in that circle 50 miles in every direction from the epicenter.
- So now you have this circle. What falls in that circle? Anything? Any place that you wouldn't mind calling home and working? Or do you have to expand your reach?
- Once you have a few places then start looking into what they have to offer. I will come back to several questions that might help your decision-making in another article. For right now, let's move on to the next informational point...Is content more important than grade levels?
2. Is content more important to me than grade levels?
If you are a teacher then what you want to teach must be important to you...right? So how important to you is it? When you look for a teaching job is the content a deal breaker or would you choose otherwise if the grade level is what you really wanted?
Have you given this any thought?
This is what I mean...When I became a teacher I was a history major not a social studies major. I wanted to be a history teacher not a social sciences teacher. I didn't want to teach sociology, psychology, or law. I wanted to teach history. I really wanted to teach US history but I was good with world history, if that was part of the deal. So what about you? I was fine teaching any grades as long as it was history. Now as a note, I really wanted to teach high school, but I would do fine at being in a middle school. So grade levels didn't matter but content did.
What about you? This may help you reduce the school systems and schools that you consider
3. What extra skills do I have that would make me marketable to a principal and a school?
Ok, let's talk about those skills that make you marketable to a principal. Even if you are going to be brand new as a teacher you have skills that you need to highlight to get the attention of a principal. Notice that I am talking about a principal not an HR representative. In this world of electronic forms, HR screenings, and A.I. (artificial intelligence) selection processes it is very important to think about what makes you more interesting than the next candidate. You need to think..."What does the principal need for their community?" I will talk in more detail about how to reach out to the principal in another post but if you know where the opening is, the exact school, it is a good idea to send your interest to the principal of that school while completing the district processes.
Back to the skills. Take a minute to identify the skills that make you special. Whether electronically or in a journal (I like using journals with pencils so I can erase and not tear out a page.) Start like this...
- Make a list of 5 skills that you think are important. (Here are some examples - Focus on academic/content vocabulary, develop personalized, engaging instructional activities, use formative assessment, utilize technology to assist students and parents with work assignments outside of regular school hours, and use stations and small group instruction to help differenitiate lessons. (Remember you can always come back and change these so just make your list and move to the next step.)
- Now (either in your journal or electronically) draw a circle on a page with the skill in the middle of it. Do this for each skill. Make sure that there is enough space to write in the circle around the skill words or phrase.
- In the circle write simple one or two words that help you know what this skill is or how you use it in the classroom or how you would demonstrate your knowledge of it. (See example)
Once you have these skills listed go the district website & school website - see what skills they value the most. You can typicially find these in letters from the superintendent to the community, letters from the principal to the parents, and school and system improvement plans that are commonly linked on the websites of the school and system. Do some of yours match what they emphasize? If you have some matches these are what will make you most valuable to the principal. Focus on these in your cover letters and in the comments about philosophy or responses about instruction, classroom management, lesson preparation and so forth on the electronic questionaires. By the way, you can always do this exercise more than one time.
As a note, if you want to be a teacher I would hope that you like to work with kids. This is not a skill. It is expected.
Answering the 3 questions will help you create your focus. They will help you narrow your search. They will help you understand more about what you want.
Till next time.
PS - Extracurricular activities are a definite skill to market you. Coaching sports and/or your willingness to sponsor clubs are needed. These skills will make you invaluable to a principal, but only if you can handle the work load. If you are a brand new teacher you want to make sure that you have the time and ability to commit, if you feel that you could handle it then by all means tell the principal and everyone else. Extracurricular activities are great ways to connect with the kids and build positive rapport. They also make you a functional part of the school and you will provide a service to the school, families, and community. Whatever you do don't say yes to an extracurricular club, activity, or sport you have no talent in or real interest in. You will regret that choice to no end.