The adorable mess header

The adorable mess header

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

So, You Want to Be an Elementary School Teacher After Graduation? What to Expect on the Job Hunt

"What do you plan to do after graduation with your degree" is the exciting question that you answer during your freshman year...and the dreaded one you answer during your senior year of college as you wrap up student teaching and start facing the dreaded job hunt for a position in the fall.  You're probably a little anxious, as many of your friends with non-education majors are starting to nail down jobs for their post-graduate life and you, well, you're just hoping and praying a teaching position will come open at ANY school so that you can start your dream of changing the world. Things seem a little ominous at this point, as many adults are talking about the condition of the job market, teacher pay, job shortage and the never ending conversations that have to do with paying back student loans, but there is hope! I've been there and am happily standing on the other side with some thoughts and ideas to make this job hunt and this season of waiting a bit more bearable.

My Personal Story  
I remember my graduation.  I had to drag myself out of bed the morning of graduation because I wasn't ready to leave school yet.  I had reveled in my four years in college at Elon University.  They were almost everything I'd hoped that they would be and I'd been able to attend the college of my dreams, study abroad and participate in some really unique experiences that many of my fellow friends at other universities had not had a chance to do.  I had a killer resume, with some really unique internship and study opportunities, plus I was loaded with tons of experience with children: tutoring and summer camp littered my resume, along with 5 internships.  And, to beat all, I had some great educational fraternities on my resume thanks to my suma cum laude grade point average...but still no job.  Some of the teachers in my cohort had already been offered jobs, though all of them were in year round schools, which are looking to hire in May.  My rather competitive self was a little miffed at the fact that I hadn't been one of the first hired and that I didn't have a job to boast about after graduation.  You see, I've always liked being a step ahead of everyone else, especially when it came to academic work.  However, I found myself marching across the stage with my suma cum laude degree in Elementary Education and a minor in Spanish without a prospect of a job in sight and well, it hurt.  It also didn't help that I wanted to be on a traditional calendar and that traditional calendar schools hadn't even started hiring yet.  The ominous waiting period began.

I emailed schools, called schools, made personal visits to schools, sent out cover letter and resume after cover letter and resume, talked with people who knew somebody that knew somebody in a school and it all continued until about July, when things began to look up.  I was looking for anything AND everything that would get my foot in the door and get me started on the career that I had prepared for practically my entire life. Around July, phones starting ringing off of the hook, people FINALLY started responding and interviews started happening.  I'm happy to say that I ended up with multiple job offers and eventually took a position at the school where I had student taught, just in a different grade level.  Looking back, though, I can definitely say there are some things that I learned while I waited that summer that would have been helpful to know, and I wanted to share them with you to give a little hope and share some insight during this "waiting period."

5 Ideas to Consider When You're Looking for your First Teaching Job

1. Schools can't hire until state and county budgets are finalized.
Unless you are looking into a year round school or a charter school, most schools or systems aren't hiring yet.  Many counties and cities are waiting on budgets to be passed, which happens around June in many states.  Principals can't even think about hiring until the county passes the budget, the school board passes their budget based on what the county allocated for them and then once all of that is worked through, then the principals get to figure out how many people they can hire.  Most principals  know what teachers are leaving or returning by the end of May, but they don't have a clue as to whether they will get to fill their positions.  With budgets being so tight in many states, principals can't afford to make promises that they can't keep.  Expect to not hear anything until at least the end of June and know that many positions open up. Keep your eyes open for anything that you seen on websites, hear by word of mouth or that a fellow professor or friend knows about.

2. Network with anyone and everyone. 
Tell your mom's boss, your dad's co-worker, all of the people in your church, your community group, your sports team, your part-time job, wherever you can find people who can listen, tell them about your intent! The connections that you'll come up with will surprise you. I cannot tell you how many people I told about my interest in a teaching job and the type of school I wanted to work at. I began with the principal at my school that I student taught at, told her how much I wanted to be there, and followed up regularly after stating my intentions of wanting to teach at her school.  However, I was open to almost anywhere and I pulled as many strings as I knew how to pull.  I met with other teachers, I called references that had access to people with power and prominence inside of school systems, I even contacted my superintendent from when I was in grade school, who is now working in a different county, to see if I could get access to a position.  I also sat down and met with principals who had already hired all of their staff for the year and many offered to put in a good word for me after  meeting with me (and one even called me back with a request for an interview the next year because he remembered me, even though he couldn't hire during the time that we met.)  Network, network, network.

3. Do something with your summer other than sit around and wait for a job. 
My friends all looked at me like I was crazy when I told them I was going to work at a camp in another state while I tried to get hired for a job in North Carolina...and to an extent they were probably right; but I had some really flexible people that I worked for that were completely understanding of my situation and allowed me to fly back for interviews.  When I think back to that summer, I realize that I could have wasted an ENTIRE summer looking for a position, worrying myself to death, and not coming out anymore ahead of where I was than when I accepted my first teaching job in July.  The point is that you're not going to hear anything until at least the end of June for a traditional calendar school, so suck it up and do something with your summer.  Be a camp counselor, work with kids at a day care, be a nanny, go sell ice cream on the beach, do something you've always wanted to do but never did.  Be adventurous.  Employers will love to see that you're not sitting around AND you'll have made memories, your stress level will be down and you'll be thankful that you were productive with what little bit of free time you have left before you enter your career.

4. Be positive in your outlook. 
This is a tough season and it is SO EASY to get discouraged.  However, in my little bit of experience with teacher job hunting, I have found that many schools are looking for young and energetic teachers that are full of new ideas and full of passion.  They are also looking for teachers who are positive and optimistic, despite their circumstances.  Teaching itself is a tough profession, and being positive and optimistic is one of the many traits that help great teaches succeed.  It'll also help you with the job hunt.  Principals can smell optimism without you having to over do it.  They're also looking for that in their classrooms.

5. When you do get an interview, go all out. 
You may get a call for one interview, you may get a call for 10 interviews.  Either way, you need to be ready to do a knock-out job at every interview you go to, even if you're not very interested in the position.  Pull out your suit, polish your shoes, fix your hair, trim your nails, bring your very organized portfolio, do some background research on the school, have a list of questions ready for the principal and act like this is the only interview you'll ever get.  Why?  First of all, principals want to see that you're put together enough to handle yourself before they are going to put you in a classroom full of 25+ students and parents that can be tough to handle.  Also, you never know where the interview may lead.  It could lead to different position than the one you are interviewing for, or it could lead to a better opportunity down the road.  In the middle of my first year of teaching I got a call from a charter school in north Durham that I had interviewed with at a career fair nine months previous.  They were interested in an official interview because they were in the hiring process in January (they were opening a new school and had to fill about 40 positions) and they wanted to interview me.  My first thought was to turn it down because I was already teaching at the school I thought I wanted to be at, but I went to the interview any way, ended up taking the job and love it FAR MORE than my first position.  Also, write a thank you note when you're finished interviewing.  It is just as taxing for the principal to interview as it is for you to go and sit through and interview.  The thank you notes can make all the difference!

Best of luck to you on the job hunt, the interview process and on your first year of teaching.  Feel free to leave comments or questions if you have them!

Happy Job Hunting!

No comments :

Post a Comment