So, you’ve scrolled on every teacher job website four times today searching for new ones to pop up. Your eyes grew large because you see the opportunity. You grew up, watching your teachers, and you couldn’t wait for that to be you. A few years ago, you packed up your life and moved to college, and you studied as hard as you could all for this very moment.
You think about your very own teacher desk, your very own white board, and even your very own door knob. Ah.
Whenever I was first looking at jobs, I also got excited by all of the opportunities. I thought about how I could have my very own things and inspire my very own students.
Ultimately, getting any teaching job not only secures your career, but gives you valuable experience on how to help children learn. This is a technique that can be transferred among many disciplines and ages. I’ve heard many stories, though, of bright-eyed, eager young teachers getting into their position and then “realizing” that “teaching isn’t for them.” I’d argue that many times, it actually is, but maybe the specific position they found themselves in isn’t the right fit.
Imagine needing a new pair of shoes, size 8. Your’s are worn out, they have a hole in the side, and the treads are starting to fall off. You walk into the size 6 aisle and try to shove your feet in several pairs. They won’t fit. Shaking your head, you walk out of the store saying that “maybe I just don’t even need new shoes.” That would be silly, right?! It’s the same concept for fitting into the right job. I believe that moving over to the size 8 aisle would result in many promising options, so, of course, this analogy of teacher success all begins with applying to the right jobs. You’ll never find the right job if you’re not looking in the right aisle!
Here are my 4 main things I think you need to consider when applying for teaching jobs:
1. Is the school in a location that you would enjoy living / are capable of already commuting to? When I first started out with a long term sub job, I was commuting over an hour each way (and making less than $100 a day!). It was a top-notch school and the experience I gained for my resume was well worth it, but I was extremely thankful it was a short assignment. If it is a school district where you will need to move to work at, will you be moving to a place you will enjoy? Take a road trip and check it out, if possible!
2. Does the school offer support/programs/supplies to make your position manageable? I know that there are different levels of needs for teachers everywhere, and I give a major shout out to teachers who make it through with little support, but I think the smartest decision for your career starting out as a teacher would be to set yourself up at a district that will promote and support you, if possible. For example, I was lucky enough to be hired by a district that has a graduate program set up with a local university which provides my Master’s degree.
3. What is the culture like in the school district? You can often gauge this important element just by looking at the district website, their social media pages, or talking to people in the area. Are they displaying proud works of student achievement? Are they announcing fun days for the students which will help the school grow? Sometimes also just driving near the school you are planning to interview can tell you a lot about the community and the impact the school has on it; when I was on my way to my interview where I teach, I saw a bunch of kids wearing jerseys for the sports teams, walking near the track, and parents bringing in supplies. I quickly got the memo that the school was a sense of pride in the community, and that meant a lot to me.
4. Is the position the “right” grade level and subject? I was lenient on adding this to the list because “right” can mean so many different things. Personally, I believe the best teachers are the ones who are in teaching less for the subject and more for just the influence and opportunity to work with kids, but nevertheless it is important that you feel you connect with the grade level you will be assigned and that you have an interest in the subject level. I knew that I wanted to teach middle school, but I’m certified in all subjects. My core subject was language arts, and I knew for sure that I just wouldn’t be the best 7th grade math teacher, although I passed the test. So, I avoided applying for 7th grade math jobs. The more comfortable and confident you can be in your position, the more opportunity you will have to focus on the kids. But, of course, teachers are always learning, so just because you don’t feel 100% mastery with the curriculum your first year doesn’t mean you aren’t any good—we can all always improve and always learn. There just needs to be a passion behind it.
My last piece of advice for applying to jobs is that you can always apply and later turn down an interview. Or, better yet, if it’s possible, apply and gain the experience interviewing and then see if the shoe fits. Sometimes we judge an area or hear rumors about a district that turns us off, when in fact, the school would be a great fit for us. If you don’t go for it, you’d never know. It’s great to take these 4 tips into consideration, but also know that it’s best to put yourself out there and see where not only you fit, but what school fits for you. That will be on my next blog post, so if you are a to-be teacher or know a to-be-teacher, feel free to pass along my blog page so they subscribe to stay up to date on my tips for getting the right job.