By Otis Kriegel, author of Everything a New Elementary School Teacher REALLY Needs to Know (But Didn’t Learn in College)
It’s stressful trying to find a job in any field, and teaching is no different. With budget cuts, school closings, charter schools popping up, and the ever-present political battles, it can be tough to find a classroom to teach in. Those graduating from teacher preparation can be easily overwhelmed: Where do I get a job? Where do I want to teach? What do I want to teach? What options are out there for me?
Here are a few tips to consider as you look for your first position.
1. Find a school you like
Think about your ideal work situation. There are a lot of schools out there, each one different from the next. The students, staff, community, and neighborhood all contribute to creating a distinct environment. Is the school highly organized with strict rules or one that appears more laid-back and casual? Do the students wear uniforms? Are there mostly new teachers or a mix of those new to the career and veterans? What’s the parent participation policy? Do they have free reign or are there designated times when parents are allowed into the school? All of these help create what is called a school’s “culture.” Find a culture that fits you.
2. Bring a portfolio
If you were lucky enough to have been a student teacher, then be sure to bring a portfolio of work samples to your interview. In your portfolio, include lesson plans, the lessons you taught, photos of you and your students in action, and any other activities that you planned, as well as multiple copies of a cover letter, résumé, and a statement of your philosophy of education. If you interned in a few different classrooms, bring work samples separated by grade, type of classroom (general education, special education, or inclusion), or subject area. Use this portfolio as a way to market yourself as a unique and qualified candidate. Your portfolio will demonstrate that you are proud of what you’ve learned and want to do more of it. And it will show that you are a well-organized professional.
3. Visit the school
No matter the industry, nothing beats meeting someone face to face. If you’re interested in a school, drop off a résumé with a cover letter. You might get a moment to meet the principal or assistant principal or have a positive interaction with the office manager, all of which will help when they’re looking through the pile of résumés to fill that position.
4. Know what you want to teach—but be flexible
It’s always good to know what grade you’d like to teach, but be flexible. If there’s a school where you’d love to teach but they don’t have an opening for the grade level that you want, apply for a job they’re offering and hope you can change grades after a year or so. It’s more important to teach somewhere you love than be stubborn about the grade level and end up in a place that isn’t a good match.
5. End of August
Many principals have to deal with last-minute shifts in staffing toward the end of August. Someone is pregnant, moves, or decides to pursue his dream of being a calligrapher. If you don’t have a job by late summer, don’t give up. Schools are always looking to fill positions. Be ready!
Of course, remember to be yourself in your interviews and ask as many questions as you are asked. This is the best way to find a good fit.
Teachers, what other advice would you offer new graduates? Please post your ideas in the comments. Graduates, if you have questions, please ask them in the comments and I’ll be happy to reply.
Otis Kriegel is a 12-year veteran elementary school teacher, having taught in dual language (Spanish/English), monolingual, and Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) classrooms. He received his M.S.Ed. in bilingual education from the Bank Street College of Education, and is adjunct faculty at the Steinhardt School at New York University. An experienced presenter, Kriegel has conducted this workshop with hundreds of preservice and new teachers and continues to present in universities and teacher education programs. You can reach him through www.otiskriegel.com and follow him on Twitter @mynameisotis. Otis lives and works in New York City.
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