Tips for Landing Your First Teaching Job

When I was in college, I had the privilege of serving as President of the Student Chapter of ASCD for two years. During that time, I was able to attend several nation-wide conferences and meet with Emerging Leaders from my area and across the world. I honestly believe that this experience had a major impact on my ability to get a teaching job right out of college, and I wanted to share with you what tips I learned from this experience.

To try to prevent this information from being overwhelming, I tried to organize it in somewhat of a timeline of when you should be using each tip.

During College

Get Involved in Professional Development Organizations

I would highly recommend getting involved in some sort of educator-focused organization. I was a student member of ASCD, NCTM, and Kappa Delta Pi, and was able to attend a lot of very valuable conferences, access scholarly articles, and gain connections with leaders in the field of education. This also looks great on a resume!

Work with Children

When you apply for a teaching job, members of the hiring panel want to know that you work well with children, since that is the main focus of your job. It is helpful to have experience working with children in the age group you will be teaching. Even if you are unable to work with students in that particular age group, working with children of any age is an added bonus when looking for a job.

In high school, I volunteered at my church and organized youth activities for kids ages 1-14. During college, I tutored middle school students in an at-risk program at a local school district and worked with my old high school’s marching band. You could also work with children by babysitting, coaching, volunteering with Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, or volunteering at a day camp or summer program.

You may also want to provide references for your experiences working with children. A potential administrator may be interested in hearing about how you interact with children.

During Student Teaching

Go Above and Beyond

Student teaching can be an extremely overwhelming experience. However, it is important to not look like you are overwhelmed, and to show you are capable of doing more than just what is expected. Here are some ways you can show that you are willing to go the extra mile:

  • Come in early or stay late
  • Ask other teachers if you can observe them during your planning period to get additional experience
  • Help out with clubs or activities at the school
  • Send positive e-mails home to parents, if your cooperating teacher approves
  • Collaborate with other teachers to create interdisciplinary lessons
  • Create new and engaging activities for students
  • Ask your cooperating teacher for additional constructive criticism

Save Your Best Work and Revise It to Make it Better

When you are creating your portfolio for interviews, you will want to make sure you have solid pieces of evidence of your hard work. To prevent having to scramble and put a lot of documents together right before an interview, it is a good idea to save work (lesson plans, tests, projects, worksheets, and unit plans) that you are proud of and willing to talk about somewhere you can find it easily. If there are any adjustments you would make, make them right away when you are thinking about them, rather than letting it go until later.

Support Your Students

Try to show your cooperating teacher and the administrators at the school that you are truly teaching because you love working with students. If you have students that are participating in school activities like concerts, musicals, sport events, or competitions, take time out of your busy schedule to go watch them and cheer them on. Not only will this make you look super supportive, it is also really helps develop rapport with your students which makes classroom management easier!

During the Application Process

Make Your Cover Letter Specific to the School

Hiring teams have to read a lot of cover letters. It is important to show them in your letter that you are genuinely interested in working at their school, not just trying to get a job (even if that is what you are doing). Take a good look at the district’s webpage and look for something that makes that district unique or something that they are proud of and mention that in your cover letter.

Add a Personal Touch When Applying Online

A lot of applications are now online, but that doesn’t mean you have to correspond solely on the internet. If you are able, print out a cover letter and a copy of your resume and drop it off in person at the school to which you are applying. This extra effort may set you apart enough from the rest of the candidates to earn you an interview.

Preparing for Your Interview

Know What Initiatives are Important to the District

Districts all have initiatives that are extremely important to them. Since the administrators that are hiring you are typically the leaders of these initiatives, showing interest in programs like PBIS, MTSS, close readings, etc., will really impress them. If you are able to find information about these initiatives on their website, you can research them prior to your interview so you sound well-versed on the topic. If you are unable to find this information on the district’s website, you could also take the opportunity to ask what initiatives the hiring panel feels sets their district apart, which again helps to show that you are interested in the school.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Administrators want teachers who are confident and able to move with the punches. Since interviewing can be very nerve-racking, the best way to prepare is to practice every possible teacher interview question you can find. I personally used this book and found it very helpful for preparing for my interviews. I ended up answering similar questions when actually in interviews, so I can definitely say the book was worth it to help my confidence.

Look for Possible Extracurricular Vacancies

If you are familiar with the saying, “kill two birds with one stone,” then you should understand why administrators would be very interested in hiring someone who is also willing to fill an extracurricular vacancy. I have heard of several people getting jobs because they were willing to coach or help out with a musical. If you see any openings for these positions on the district’s website and are interested and qualified, definitely mention that during your interview.

During Your Interview

Shake Hands/Personally Greet Each Person

You want to make each member of the interviewing panel feel valued, so it is important to take the time to shake each person’s hand (with a nice, firm handshake) and give them a friendly greeting. When you are finished, be sure to thank everyone in the interview as well.

Have Materials Prepared for Each Person

Having a portfolio to share is great, however, if you have a packet of papers to give to each individual person during the interview, they will all be able to reference your documents at once. I put together a packet of information for each person in my interview that had a copy of my resume, a cover letter, and my best pieces of evidence from my portfolio that I planned to reference in the interview. This was so useful and the members of the interviewing panel said they really appreciated getting their own copy. I also included a QR code to access my full online portfolio at their convenience.

Take Notes When You Ask Questions

It is a good idea to bring along a professional-looking notebook and pen to take notes during your interview. While you are answering most of the questions, there will always be the option for you to ask some questions. You definitely want to take advantage of this opportunity to show you are interested in the job. If you take notes on the hiring panel’s answers to these questions, you are showing that you are genuinely interested in what they are telling you about their school.

After the Interview

Promptly Send Thank You Cards

Administrators are extremely busy and they have taken a large amount of time out of their schedules to hold interviews. It is important that you acknowledge this and take time to thank them for giving you the opportunity to come in and apply for their position.

If you are able to, it is best to write a hand-written thank you card and get it in the mail the day of your interview. If there is not enough time for the thank you card to go through the mail, you could also drop it off at the school office or send a very professional e-mail.

I would highly recommend making sure that you have sent a thank-you card or e-mail to each member of the interviewing panel (even teachers). It really helps set you apart from other candidates. You should also include something personal about the interview in your thank-you message and clarify any answers you were unsure of in your interview.

I really hope these tips help you in your search for a teaching job! Let me know in the comments if any of these specific tips were helpful or if you have any additional suggestions!

Good luck!

~ Candace 🙂

2 thoughts on “Tips for Landing Your First Teaching Job”

  1. I remember many of those tips back in 1975, although some did not apply then due to being a totally different era. I had 10 interviews and one long term Spanish sub for the 75-76 term. I was hired back to teach full time World Cultures for the 1976-77 term. I stayed one more year, until I started a brand new Spanish program at Susquenita, and taught social studies on the side in the 1978-79 term. Your mother in law lived with my parents finishing her final year at IUP.

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