According to specialists with NEA, planning, preparation, and persistence can snag you that 'primo paycheck.' For candidates searching for their first teaching jobs, NEA reminds new teachers, " a smart approach to presenting yourself and picking the school that's right for you will make a big difference in getting hired--and being satisfied with the job you choose."
Any student eager to begin a new job might occasionally think, "I'll take any teaching job, anywhere." Realistically, however, all aspiring teachers have important personal priorities and preferences--just as individual schools have diverse hiring needs and procedures.
According to state coordinators of NEA Student Programs, as students begin their search for the right teaching jobs, it's important for them to assess their own professional strengths and job needs--and get to know the schools districts they're targeting.
First, the question of where to apply for teaching jobs requires careful attention, because schools and districts vary greatly.
Kimberly Anderson of the Virginia Education Association reminds candidates to first ask themselves what they need out of a teaching job. "You don't want to remake yourself to meet one job posting. You need to remember who you are and what you and your family need most from your employment."
Anderson also cautions against automatically picking from the teaching jobs with the highest salaries. "It's tempting to place too much emphasis on which has the higher starting salary," she says. "But the starting salary of a job is just a fraction of the important data about that job."
"Many districts promote teacher retention by paying higher salaries after about five years at the same teaching job," Anderson says. "So, if prospective teachers are looking for a community where they can settle down, the long-term salary potential is more important than the starting salary. By contrast, if they plan to move to a new teaching job every few years, then a school's starting salary or whether it offers a signing bonus are important considerations," Anderson adds.
Candidates should weigh a teaching job's benefits the same way. "A good health insurance package for you and your family might make up for a low starting salary," Anderson says. "But if you already have good health coverage through a family member, the salary might be your key concern." Students also should find out if their school or district reimburses expenses for any continuing education required by the state.
Working conditions at a school also are important--especially for someone just breaking into their first teaching job.
"A new teacher needs as much support and planning time as possible," says Anderson. "Find out how much time you'll have for peer contact, so you can share ideas with other teachers. And find out if there's a mentoring program, and, if so, how much time is available for working with a mentor."
Students need to consider how they present themselves to potential employers as well.
"When you're developing a résumé or portfolio, or being interviewed, you obviously want your strengths to outweigh your weaknesses," says Nancy Clark of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. "Everyone looking for their first teaching job has the same weakness--experience--so it's important to identify and present your strengths. If you've been active in an NEA Student Program, chances are you've developed many skills, from leadership in committees to grant writing. It's important to look through your whole college experience and identify what you've gained that is marketable, from mastery of content to foreign language skills or working with special needs children."
To aid in finding the right teaching jobs, students may want to draft a self-analysis chart to help them identify their strengths and weaknesses, says Anderson. The chart will help them highlight their strongest skills as they prepare résumés and portfolios.
Everyone agrees that the final key to landing the right teaching job is persistence.
"If you like several schools, don't hesitate to send out as many résumés as you wish," says Fran Pierce of the Pennsylvania State Education Association. "On the other hand, if you're set on one school, don't stop with sending a résumé. Go to the school, check for job postings on their bulletin board, and stop at the office to ask if your application is up to date. Look for ways to meet with the principal."
Anderson says that it's important, too, to remain flexible in your persistence. If you don't find what you think is your ideal teaching job, keep an open mind.
Simon, Matt. "Tomorrow's Teachers - 2003 - Landing That First Job." http://www.nea.org