Whether you are searching for your first teaching job or looking to make a change for personal or professional reasons, all job searches have one thing in common: the crippling anxiety that surrounds the entire process. There is nothing quite like worrying about your career, your future, and your basic livelihood to make your heart rate go through the roof. At least you can stop stressing about fitting in your cardio.
As someone who has navigated the job search in a variety of different capacities, I am hoping that I can offer some advice that will help you a) land the job of your dreams and b) put an end to your night terrors about unemployment.
The best advice I ever received about searching for a teaching job had to do with setting realistic expectations, particularly when searching for one of your first teaching jobs. There are three elements to every job that you should consider during your search:
- Type of School (Public, Charter, Independent)
- Geographical Location (Where can you/do you want to live and work?)
- Type of Position (Lead Teacher vs. Co-Teacher vs. Associate)
Here’s where reality sets in. It is really tricky to land a job in the exact location you want, in the most amazing school that aligns with all of your values, as a lead teacher in the specific grade level that makes your heart sing. The good news is, if you are able to land a job that meets your requirements in two of those three categories, you can work your way up to that magical teaching position. By taking jobs that meet two out of those three requirements, you will gain experience and make connections that will put you in a position to grab that dream job.
Let’s talk about job searching in different kinds of schools. It is hard to know where to begin. WHERE ARE THE JOBS?
TYPES OF SCHOOLS
Schools in the US fall into one of three categories: public, charter, or independent (private) schools. There are also different types of schools within each category (i.e. urban public, suburban public, Independent Montessori, parochial/religious.)
Having taught in all three major categories of schools, I can say that you will get a significantly different experience in each. It is important to be honest with yourself about the type of environment you would like to teach in. How much autonomy do you want or need to have in the classroom? What kind of behavior management are you comfortable with? Is a specific school-wide culture important to you? What are your thoughts on recess and specials classes? How do you feel standardized testing? Extended school days? Diversity? These kinds of questions will be important in figuring out the kind of school you most want to work in, which you are willing to work in, and which are a hard no.
When searching for jobs in public schools, you will have the most success finding openings directly through the school district’s website. For smaller districts, you will likely find job openings posted for public viewing on their website. For example, if you wanted to find a job in Greenwich, Connecticut, you would visit www.greenwichschools.org (conveniently found by using the luxury and magic that is Google) and click on “Employment Opportunities.” How handy- a list of every open position in the district! This is common for many public school districts. Larger systems, such as the New York City Public Schools, may require you to create a profile in order to view open jobs. Some districts will also advertise open teaching jobs on more general job search engines, such as www.indeed.com or www.glassdoor.com, or on linkedin if social media is your jam.
Charter schools (which utilize public funds, but are run independently) will promote openings directly on their websites, in addition to utilizing those more general job search engines. Many charters, specifically charters in large cities, are a part of a larger charter network that runs several schools, such as the infamous Success Academy in New York. In that case, their website will display open jobs at all of their locations. These schools usually employ a recruitment specialist who will reach out to you directly once you apply.
Independent schools are generally not a part of a larger network, and will announce any teaching vacancies on their individual websites. The employment opportunities section of the website will usually display an email address where you can send a cover letter and resumé directly.
A great resource if you are looking for work in independent schools is the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS.) The “Job Seekers” section of their website allows users to refine their job search to location and job type. There are new jobs posted daily and it is a great place to check out a ton of jobs without having to visit individual school websites.
You may also want to consider utilizing a placement service if you are looking for work in independent schools. These services will interview you and will provide a platform where you can create your own online profile/portfolio. The service will then send your materials (cover letter, resume, letters of recommendation, teaching philosophy, etc.) to schools that meet your search requirements. Carney, Sandoe & Associates is a very popular service, which can be used to search for jobs most anywhere in the US. There are other services that cater to more specific locations, such as Educator’s Ally (NY, CT, NJ) or CalWest Educator’s Placement (the West Coast/Southwest.) These services can be really helpful in targeting jobs that would be appropriate for your level of experience/interests. Administrators are also likely to trust these services if they have had successful candidates placed within their schools in the past. Be warned: no placement should ask you to pay money for their services. Schools pay fees, not you.
When figuring out the type of school that you want to apply to, peruse all of your options. Check out their websites and read the job descriptions carefully. Notice certain buzzwords that indicate the kind of culture present at the school (i.e. “progressive,” “child-centered,” “no excuses mentality.”) Do not waste your time applying to schools that you know do not align with your teaching style or beliefs. The right fit is out there!