Landing a teaching job in these economic times can be a perilous task. Districts are facing budget cuts and hiring freezes galore. I’ve had the experience of moving around a bit over the past few years which has meant scrambling around for teaching jobs. Here are some things that have helped me find jobs. As always, use your discretion when taking advice. Job hunting and scoring is not a one size fits all task. Additionally, I’m posting this in the summer many jobs have already been picked over. This, in many cases, is an early bird gets the worm kind of field. If you haven’t been hired don’t give up. I’ve seen people hired as late as a month after school starts. Here are some simple things that might work.
This seems like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised. Find a general area where you’d like to teach and apply to everything within driving distance (You decide what driving distance is. If you can do an hour, do an hour). Clearly the more places you apply the better chance you have of landing an interview.
When applying, follow protocol—sort of. Most districts want you to apply at their central office or online. So they can call you. Do this. But don’t let that be it. I’ll talk about the next step in the next section.
Don’t worry so much about where you apply. We all have our “dream schools” where we’d like to teach, but those jobs are often rare. So, apply anywhere and everywhere. You can always turn down the job, but if offered be sure to decline with kindness. Education can be a small town. Every connection is important. Never burn a bridge.
2. Follow up
You’ve applied with district offices, or third party hiring firms (I hate these by the way, waste of district money and inefficient), what now? I’ve seen many people stop after applying. They put in their app and wait on a callback. This is protocol, generally speaking, but it’s not enough if you’re competing. In my experience, I’ve been best served by either calling the school to set up an appointment with the principal, and EVEN BETTER served by just dropping by unannounced. Of course, if you’re going to drop by, you must be as charming and polite as possible, and you’ll probably have to wait. When dropping by, whether you called ahead or not, you’ll need to take a few things: a resume, a teaching license (valid of course), and praxis scores can’t hurt (you’ve passed it or other like test right?). The resume shows you’re prepared, and it gives you something to talk about. Make sure your resume has relative work experience. The teaching license and the test scores are a big deal. They’re required. I’ve been offered jobs just because I had already passed the praxis II. There were no questions beyond that either. I didn’t end up taking the job, but it was offered.
Going to the school on your own shows initiative. People often wait to be called. By going, you’re also giving them a face, personality, and relationship to reference when digging through applicants. You become more than a piece of paper. They’ll often call central office for your file. You’ll at least have a better shot.
Additionally, education is a network. If one school you visit is not hiring the admin might know of another place that is. They might just pick up the phone and set up an interview for you. Anything can happen. Always be willing, polite, and flexible. This goes far.
3. If you have connections use them. If you don’t, make them. And, go easy on the name dropping.
If you know someone in a district or have a connection, say a professor, teacher, office worker, whoever don’t be afraid to ask of they know about an opening somewhere. Someone always knows someone, who knows someone. If you want the job do what you can to get it. Jobs are created through the grapevine in many places. Maybe not the best way, just how it is. Always value and nurture your network. You need help when you’re a teacher.
If you don’t have connections, you probably do and just aren’t being creative. Meet people. Seriously, I’ve met people standing in line at the grocery store who have given me the name of who I need to see about a job. I went to the place and was expected. Serendipitous indeed. So it pays to talk to folks. If that’s not your bag, find a way. Shoot me a message if you need to know more about networking (@educatedtodeath on twitter, or submit something here, also educatedtodeath@gmail). It’s trial an error.
Always, go easy on the name dropping. It can come off pompous. And, you never know who’s pissed off whom. It can help, but you’re better off finding a way to have someone else drop your name.
4. Be persistent, but not annoying
The key to landing a job is trying until you succeed. If you have to go to twenty schools. Go. You’re playing a game of odds in many cases. Try everywhere.
If a school shows interest, ask when they might know something. And for goodness sakes don’t stop searching until you’ve signed a contract. It’s now a done deal until it’s in writing. Also let them know you’re interviewing elsewhere if they ask. You’re A commodity they need. They should think they need to hire you before someone else does.
* to reiterate: Don’t quit searching until you have a contract. Words aren’t always solid.
5. Experience is an issue
Schools want experienced teachers. You may not have any official classroom experience. You at least have student teaching and some practicum experience under your belt. Be sure to share that. Keep track of what you do that might make you an asset to the school. Maybe you can coach. Maybe you could lead quiz bowl. Do you sing? Dance? Landscape? Everything can be an asset.
But back to experience. You need some. So this may speak more to those still in college, maybe not. Do everything you can that will function as experience. Volunteer in classrooms. Substitute teach (a perilous adventure for many). Tutor. Work with kids. Work in classrooms. Work with high stakes testing (that can be a selling point, bleak, but a selling point nonetheless).
Also, it’s a good idea to pick up an extra certification. If you’re an English major, take enough classes to get a social studies and history certification, or math, whatever. The better qualified you are, the better your chances.
Remembe: Be willing, polite, and flexible. Once you’re hired once it’ll be easier to get hired again.
If you don’t get hired this year, get on the sub-list. Work in classrooms. Do what you can to work in schools. But, if you’re persistent, and really put yourself out there you’ll be hired with any luck. Happy hunting.
Contact me if I can help in anyway. Again, be wary of advice. These are tips, not rules. Do what you know and can. You’re ready for this. Cheers.