How to Get Your First Teaching Job
So you’ve passed the Praxis with flying colors and fulfilled all the requirements for becoming a teacher in your state. Now it’s time to put all of your learning into practice.
Finding the Right Position
It is common knowledge that more good teachers are needed across the country. But finding the right job can be a daunting process. Luckily, there are some simple best practices that you can prepare to help stand out, such as following professionalism and ethics guidelines to distinguish yourself from other amateur teachers, making sure your license is up to date, and having ready examples of strategies and methods for instruction. Use the following tips to help narrow your focus and streamline your applications.
1. Do Your Research
First, determine the grade levels and/or subjects you are most interested in teaching. Make sure you have fulfilled all the qualifications for the state in which you wish to teach. Keep in mind that different states may have different requirements for licensure, while others have license reciprocity. Some schools may even give you a provisional license to start teaching while you complete the necessary test or coursework.
Check the testing requirements for your state at ets.org/praxis or by contacting the governing body directly using the State Certification Information that we provided in the prior section of this book.
2. Identify Where You Would Like to Work
Make a list of the districts and/or schools where you would most prefer to work. Many school districts have websites on which they post job openings. In addition, you should call the district office to find out whether there are any positions open that may not have been listed yet and what the district’s application procedures are.
Use the Internet as a resource. In addition to the many general websites for job hunters, there are websites devoted solely to teaching jobs. A few websites will ask you for a subscription fee, but there are many others with free listings.
3. Attend Job Fairs
While many regional schools may not attend job fairs, they are still a good way to learn about openings and to network with other education professionals. Several of the websites for job- seekers listed at the end of this section also have job fair listings by state. Having a resume and broad cover letter in-hand is a good idea in general, and can make you stand out from the crowd.
Remember that you are assessing potential employers as much as they are assessing you. Consider asking the following:
- What is the first professional development opportunity offered to new teachers?
- What additional duties outside the classroom are expected of teachers?
- What is your teacher retention rate?
- When can I expect to meet my mentor? And how long is the probationary/observational period?
- What is the top school-wide priority this year? Countywide? Statewide?
- What kinds of materials or resources would be available in my classroom? (if applicable)
- What is your policy on lesson planning?
You may also want to ask about the demographics of the student population, the kinds of unique challenges they present, and what supports the school has in place.
4. Sign Up for Substitute Teaching
Substitute teaching can be another good strategy for getting your foot in the door in a particular school or district, even if there are no permanent jobs available. Think of this as an opportunity to impress principals and to learn from other teachers about possible openings. You can even submit your resume to the principals in the schools where you are substitute teaching and give them the chance to observe you in the classroom. While substitute teaching can be one of the most difficult jobs, it allows you to network and prove yourself in the classroom.
Your Resume and the Interview
For many people, writing down all of their accolades and crafting a thoughtful resume can be tedious and stressful. If you find a fulfilling position, though, this may be something that you’ll need to update only once or twice a decade. Remember, not everything has to be in the resume and cover letter: you’ll have the chance to fill in any additional details during the interview. Our recommendations below are designed to help you focus on these two aspects of landing your teaching job.
Building Your Best Cover Letter
The cover letter should let prospective employers have a glimpse into your character beyond the numbers and scores and snippets from the resume. Keep it professional, but don’t be afraid to use a few colloquial words or expressions that let your voice shine through.
- Read about the school you are applying to. What are their current programs, policies, and mission? Specifically mention the experience you have with those programs directly, how your related experience can translate, or how excited you are to learn more about them.
- Use educational buzz-words, list other educational programs that you have used, and try to cover as many of the job description points as possible.
- Don’t be afraid to name-drop. If you have been networking in the school, use your connections.
- Remember, many schools accept hundreds of applications for a teaching position. Keep your cover letter as brief and punchy as possible. Avoid formulaic phrasing or drawn-out sentences.
There are many excellent templates to build your resume. Choose one that is clear, easy to follow, and isn’t overly artsy or cutesy. The resume should be essentially a cheat-sheet for your school to use and get an instant snapshot of what your training and experience is.
- Use active words that tell exactly what you did, rather than simply listing the item. “Developed and Implemented a Writing Center Training Program to 15 tutors,” is more precise and impressive than “Participated in Writing Center Training Program.”
- Narrow down accomplishments to 3–4 per job/position if you have many. Stay focused on the job you’re applying to and which of your accolades will be most impressive/applicable.
- Remove the fluff. If that summer wait staff position didn’t impact your ability to teach directly, it doesn’t belong in this resume! Similarly, long-winded explanations of the programs you participated in, or language that’s unnecessarily verbose, is off-putting to someone who may be reading hundreds of these.
- Try to stick to the two-pages rule. If your resume can’t fit on one page (this would be ideal), cut back where possible to make it a maximum of two pages so that the hiring team isn’t flipping through a half-dozen pages to find what school you went to.
So you made it through the first round and they want you to come in and speak with their team. Whether this is a one-on-one, or group, or a series of short interviews, the general recommendations are the same. Be natural and true to yourself, and be confident and clear in your answers. Remember, we are all just people; the person interviewing you was once in your shoes too.
- Project a relaxed confidence, no matter how you may feel inside. Smile, look them in the eyes, sit up straight, don’t fidget, say their name when responding, talk clearly.
- When answering direct questions, such as who you worked with at your last substitute teaching job, answer quickly to reinforce your preparedness. If the questions are more broad or conceptual, pause for a count of 2–3 seconds to show that you’re putting real thought into each answer, even if this is a question you were already prepared for.
- Be ready to give specific examples of the teaching you have done. It’s a good idea to bring a teaching portfolio, but don’t be surprised if they don’t want to review it. Schools may ask for sample lesson plans and newsletters, or ask you to teach a lesson as part of the interview process.
- You are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. Ask directed questions about the culture of the school, retention rate, and support systems for new teachers. Having no questions at all may seem like you aren’t invested in learning about the school, and fluff questions that could have been answered by simply visiting the website comes off as amateur.
Once you’ve gotten your first teaching job, check out these tips for new teachers.
[ TRY KAPLAN’S FREE PRAXIS PRACTICE QUESTIONS ↓ ]