How to Get a Job as a Teacher

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From public school to private school, elementary classes to high school classes, there are a variety of teaching jobs available for job seekers. Below are tips for gaining experience, applying for, and ultimately landing a teaching job.

How to Gain Teaching Skills, Knowledge and Experience

Teachers at the elementary and secondary levels all possess bachelor's degrees. Teachers at the elementary level typically major in elementary education, reading, special education, or a similar discipline.

Secondary teachers usually major in an academic discipline that corresponds to a subject taught in middle or high school like mathematics, English, history, or biology.

They might also take courses in teaching methodology and complete supervised student teaching assignments. Each state also requires public school teachers to have a state-issued certification or license, which they typically receive upon completion of a state exam. In some states like New York, teachers are required to earn a master's degree over time to obtain a permanent teaching certificate. Teach.org provides information on the requirements for each state.

Candidates for teaching positions must develop strong presentation skills and be excellent communicators. Teachers need to have a dynamic presence to capture and retain the attention of students in the classroom. They must be assertive and calm in order to establish and maintain an orderly learning environment.

Creativity and organizational abilities help teachers to devise and implement viable lesson plans. Teachers must be patient and enjoy interacting with children from diverse backgrounds with varying levels of competence as learners.

High school and college students should gain experience working with children and adolescents by pursuing jobs in childcare, summer camps, and community recreation programs.

They should look for positions as tutors, mentors for youth, coaches and teaching assistants. Candidates should cultivate experiences that show that they can motivate, lead, and encourage children to learn and pursue healthy lifestyles.

How to Find a Job as a Teacher

Teaching candidates must create a compelling portfolio to present to networking contacts and prospective employers. Your portfolio should show creative lesson plans, samples of student materials, recommendations, your teaching philosophy, and more. Candidates should show their portfolio to education professors, career counselors, and alumni working in the education field for feedback before finalizing it.

Here are examples of resumes and cover letters for teachers.

Reach out to family contacts, friends, and neighbors and request introductions to educators and principals whom they know for informational consultations. In addition, contact faculty, student teaching contacts, as well as college career and alumni offices for suggestions for educators to approach. Once your portfolio is refined, ask your contacts for advice and feedback about it during informational interviews as a way to draw attention to your strengths as a teacher.

Use education-related websites to post resumes and apply for any advertised vacancies. Most teaching jobs are still advertised in the local/regional newspapers near school districts, so check the online classifieds for locations where you are interested in working.

Select preferred geographic areas to focus your search and identify schools in those areas where you would like to work. Reach out to as many schools as possible and apply online for consideration for teaching positions. Some districts will use a regional clearinghouse to process applicants.

If you are not employed directly after finishing your academic program, consider substitute-teaching assignments at some of your target districts to make contacts and demonstrate your acumen as a teacher. Working as an aide in an attractive district is another way to gain visibility and experience while earning an income.

Many aides work with special-needs students, and this exposure can enhance your candidacy as a classroom teacher since many special-needs students are integrated into traditional classrooms. Private schools offer another, sometimes less competitive (and lower paying) alternative to public schools. Placement agencies are often utilized by private schools to source candidates for these jobs.

Interviewing for Teaching Jobs

Early-stage teacher job interviews will follow a traditional pattern with questions about your philosophy and approach to teaching, your chief assets as a teacher, motivations for entering the field and weaknesses.

You will often be asked to provide examples of how you met challenges, handled diverse students and addressed discipline issues. Be prepared to reference accomplishments in your student-teaching experience by providing concrete examples of how you achieved these successes. In some cases, you will be asked how you would handle hypothetical classroom situations.

An important phase of the screening process will often involve teaching a sample lesson to a live classroom or a group of interviewers. Practice lessons with an audience of family, friends, faculty, or counselors until your performance reflects your teaching ability at the highest level.

Send a Thank You Note

The day after your interview, send a thank you note expressing your appreciation for the hiring manager's time and your interest in landing the job.

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