As I'm typing up this post, I myself am still in the awful stages of the job search. For teachers in Ohio, jobs don't come easy.. especially when you're surrounded by small towns that haven't passed school levees in years!
At this point in time, I have a small glimmer of hope for a job next year. I've been subbing in the school I student taught in and have put a lot of time and effort into building relationships with the staff and students there. We will see what the future holds!
Here are the tips that I can share with you that may help you boost your chances for success and (hopefully!) land your first teaching job!
Substitute Teach in the School You Want To Teach in
Where I live, it's so hard to come across openings.. and when those openings do pop up it's even harder to grab an interview. If you are able you should definitely try to substitute teach in the school where you'd love to land a job. The more the staff hears your name.. the more likely they will be to recommend you or remember your name when resumes start pouring in.
Treat Every Moment in that School Like an Interview
This past week, I stopped in to the school I most want to work in to drop off my mini portfolio and the principal said, "Mrs. Taylor, while you're here I want to go ahead and talk to you about next year.." good gosh my heart started pounding. Long story short, I know that he can see me in his school but the district is struggling for money and positions simply might not be available. But they could. His guess is as good as mine right now! What he did tell me that stuck was something like, "I'm not sure if you're aware, but every day that you've been here and that I have had the chance.. You've been having mini interviews. I've had the chance to pop in and watch you teach and I've asked other teachers to kind of observe you and it's always been great. It's been really great so that is good news for you."
I had noticed every time the principal walked in and watched me teach for a few minutes. Sometimes he'd stand and look busy, sometimes he'd pop his head in and give me a wave and a thumbs up, and sometimes he would take a seat for a while. While it's nerve wracking to be observed.. it felt good. I know I'm a great teacher and I admire him as an administrator. He shows great leadership and I know that if he found that I wasn't doing things effectively he would let me know.. not to be harsh or mean but to help me be the best teacher that I can be. One day.. he walked in during a math lesson about doubles facts. I had sung a little "doubles rap" to help the students remember the facts and had just asked if the kiddos wanted to learn it too. They all shouted "YEAHHH!!!" and right on cue the principal walked in. They shouted to him that they were going to learn a doubles song and I asked if he wanted to learn with us. I started, "It's the doubles baby let's go, let's go! It's the doubles baby and we'll start with zero!.." and they echoed. It was embarrassing to sing in front of him by myself but it was also really awesome. He echoed the words after me with the kids and they thought it was the greatest thing. As a teacher, I'm going to keep lessons interesting. I'm going to sing and risk embarrassing myself in order to help reach every student. I'm glad he got to see that. I can tell him in an interview that I like to make lessons interesting but now he can draw from a real experience he had from watching me.
Other teachers watch you, too. Be on your best behavior. Dress professionally. Act professionally. Give 110% to those students even if it's for one day. Doing one thing well on that one day could be the defining moment when your principal knows he wants you on his staff. That can be reversed though, and one bad judgement call could blow your chances to smithereens.
Learn School Procedures and Routines
This will help show how sincere you are about becoming a part of their team. If you're subbing and you know the routines, procedures, and rules.. the day will continue flawlessly in the absence of that teacher. But if you don't know what you're doing everyone will see that. It's also a good idea to know these things so that you can answer "situation questions" in an interview. If a principal asks what you would do if a child was misbehaving and you reply with "give a detention" when the school doesn't do detention... you probably won't get the job.
Build Relationships with the Other Teachers and Staff
This is SO important. As you sub, make a conscious effort to get to know teachers, aides, and office staff. Be friendly, smile, and ask questions when you aren't sure about things. Teachers like that you trust them to help you out and will be more than willing to give you guidance. If you do a good job and then talk with a teacher that you subbed for on another day.. they will be more inclined to ask you to fill in for them in the future. Teachers love their students and they want to have the best person possible cover them when they can't be there!
Also, don't underestimate the power of a secretary. They spend all day in the office with a principal. They know if you come in on time, send in the attendance and lunch count, and send students late to the bus. Be nice and do things properly. The secretary will love you if you make her life easier by not forcing her to waste her time tracking down attendance and stopping busses.
Perfect Yourself on Paper
Never be satisfied with your resume, cover letter, reference sheet.. ect. Always update. Change references as you build relationships with other educators. Look for ways to stand out while doing so in a professional manner. I've probably had 7 different resumes in the past three years and I have about nine references that I rotate for different districts. Tailor yourself on paper to fit that schools' mission. Don't change yourself, but accentuate the qualities you posses that a particular school is looking for. Don't just bank on winning someone over in an interview. If you don't look desirable on paper they probably wont waste their time with meeting you in person.
Create a Rockin' Portfolio that Lets You Shine
I have not yet had the chance to use a portfolio in an interview but I am anticipating the day that I get to show mine off. I've had 4 different portfolios since the start of my first education courses. Finally, I have a professional, unique, well thought out, and prepared portfolio that showcases me. I broke "rules," added personal touches, and organized my portfolio in a way that makes sense to me. I read my portfolio every day. I want to know it like the back of my hand. When I'm nervous.. my voice shakes and I start talking with my hands and tapping my feet. I don't want to self destruct in an interview, so I'm preparing myself to use my portfolio as a sidekick. It can take the pressure off of me and help me shine when I can't find the words to do so.
Make a Resume Packet
You should have a template saved on your computer and ready to print at any moment.
This should include:
a cover letter [adapt it to address the specific school/district you are applying to]
resume [two pages is an acceptable length for teachers!]
reference sheet [ I have six references, which I'd say is max]
3 letters of recommendation
Some districts will also ask for transcripts, praxis scores, a copy of your license.. ect. Be sure to give each district what they ask for, but don't feel like you need to leave a thirty page packet with every school. You can also include some pages that you feel allow them to see you as a teacher. I decided to attach the reflection paper I wrote during student teaching that I shared on my blog a few months ago to my resume packet. You can read that here.
Personally Drop Off Your Resume Packet
Again, pay attention to what the district asks for in their job posting and send the information how they ask you to. However, if the posting asks you to send your information to Human Resources, the superintendent, or assistant superintendent, I would personally take the extra step to drop off the same information to the principal of the school with the opening. The only thing I would change would be my cover letter. I'd address it to the principal and specifically his or her building.
When in the office, ask the secretary if the principal is busy and explain that you sent your resume packet to whomever but also wanted to personally drop off a copy for the principal to look over. This allows at least the secretary to put a face to your name and she can let the principal know how polite you were. Who knows what could happen from there! Like I said above.. secretaries have more pull than you realize sometimes!
Spend the Extra to have "Mini-Portfolios" Made to Leave at Your Top Schools
This past year, I went the extra mile and created "mini-portfolios" that I have left with the principal's of schools that I really want to work in. I created all of the documents I wanted to include, changed them to PDF files, put them on a flash drive, and headed to staples. The man that helped me was so friendly. He printed off the pages and I had him add a clear plastic cover, a vinyl back, and had him bind it all together with a small coil. I was really proud of the way they turned out. I think this little portfolio really showcased my personality and allowed the principals to see how truly serious I am about my desire to work with them.
Apply to Openings
When searching for jobs, decide where you'd be willing to drive to and keep an eye out for postings within your desired region. Granted, don't spend all of your time and energy on a district 40 minutes away.. but take the time to apply anyway. The worst that can happen is they don't give you a call, but at least you still took the chance incase it was where you were meant to be!
Practice Answering Questions
I don't care if you are the most eloquent, charming, and convincing speaker in the world.. you need to practice and prepare for every interview. There are a handful of questions that perspective teachers are bound to be asked such as why you went into teaching and what's your educational philosophy. Know what you'd say! It's a better idea to be ready for questions that might not be asked rather than leaving the interview wishing you had said something you didn't think of off the top of your head.
I just read Ron Clark's book, The Excellent 11..., and one of the qualities he mentioned was being prepared. It is so very important when going into an interview! If you want to land that job you have got to know what you're talking about. You have to fight for that position actively.. not go into it blindly and hope it will all work out which leads me to my next piece of advice.
Some of my favorite sites to use for practice questions:
Know the School
Do your research when applying to a school. This can be extremely helpful when trying to land an interview and a job. If you see on their website or have heard from other teachers that they are hoping to include more technology in their school, you should probably talk about how great you are with incorporating technology and tell them about your skills. You should include this type of information in your cover letter to help you get the interview and then talk yourself up in these areas once you get that interview. The interviewers want to know that you care about their school and doing your research beforehand proves that you do. They also want to know that you will fit their school's needs and bring something to their school that other candidates may not be able to.
Send a Thank You
I've only had one interview for a teaching job and it was so very spur of the moment. The school I student taught in had an opening a week into the school year. The new principal called me on a Friday while I was babysitting and asked me to come in that afternoon for an informal interview. Thank God I didn't wear sweats or booty shorts to babysit! I had to race from babysitting to get their on time!! Looking back, I think they already knew who they were going to hire but had a few people come in anyway. The person they did hire has been subbing in the district for years. The whole situation was so unusual.. I knew I didn't have time to send a thank you card in the mail but I wanted to make sure I did something! I decided to send a thank you email. I wanted the principal to know how appreciative I was to have even had the chance to come in and I wanted to make sure I stuck out in his mind. When he called me to let me down, he mentioned how thoughtful my email was and that he appreciated that I took the time to thank him. Even though I didn't get the job, our line of communication was opened up and allowed the professional relationship between principal and substitute to grow positively.
The next chance I get, assuming it will be a more normal situation.. I will send a thank you through the mail and I plan to address specific things that stood out in my mind about the interview. Choosing a candidate can be tough especially when everyone is qualified on paper. Many times, it boils down to who has more experience and other times it boils down to personality and who will just "fit" better with the school. Being willing to show your gratitude and wishing the interviewer well with the selection process says a lot about your seriousness and character and it might just be that "sign" the interviewer needed to choose the final person.
I would love to do a more in depth post on my portfolio, mini portfolio, and resume packet if anyone is interested. If you are.. please let me know!
Hope you all enjoyed this post and GOOD LUCK with finding that job!!