Teachers: Find Your Ideal Learning Environment

New job for teachers

Spring means a lot of things to educators. Teachers across the country are preparing students for state testing while others are breaking out butterfly garden experiments. In the midst of everything happening in the classroom, many begin pondering employment opportunities for the next school year. Various reasons arise for why an educator begins a job hunt, but simply wanting a new job isn’t enough to make it happen.

What is your objective?

A first-year educator has an undeniable eagerness to get into the classroom. For this group of teachers, it is pretty obvious why they are on the job hunt. Veteran teachers, on the other hand, have a variety of motivators for searching out a new learning environment.

Before this process begins, it’s important to analyze the thoughts and emotions behind making a move. Understand what your final objective is, and how it will lead to a better career path for you.

There is an allure associated with moving from a school that serves an impoverished community to one that serves a higher socioeconomic populace. That desire to change to a “shiny” school may be strictly superficial. Completing an exercise as simple as a “pro/con list” may help you understand what motivates you as a teacher and what is draining you professionally.

Why are you awesome?

Once you are clear about what you want, it’s important to itemize what it is that you bring to the table.

For a novice teacher, this can be more difficult. Michelle Reininger, the executive director of the Center for Education Policy Analysis, completed a study at Stanford University on teacher mobility and found that teachers are more likely to work within a 20-miles radius of where they graduated high school than any other college graduate. If you live in a relatively high populated area, several graduates will be vying for the same jobs. Being able to stand out from the crowd can be difficult when you have very little experience.

An experienced educator can set themselves apart at the beginning of the application process by developing a strong resume. Kim Isaacs, from Monster.com, specifically targets key areas that should be on every teacher’s resume:

  • A passion for teaching: Let your resume reflect your passion for the profession. Whether it’s your teaching philosophy or your examples of student success, your resume should paint a vivid picture that you are in education for all the right reasons.
  • Credentials: Don’t be shy about your accomplishments. List your college degrees, teaching certifications, and anything else that emphasizes your role as a professional.
  • Accomplishments: What are some of the big things you have accomplished in your career? Mention your leadership responsibilities, awards, and commendations. Don’t gloss over the mountains you have climbed in the classroom.
  • Keyword density: Education does not lack in popular catch phrases. Understand the hot topics in education and connect them to your resume. These will stick out to potential employers.

What have you done for me lately?

Some teachers start their career like a ball of fire. They participate in various committees, take on extra duty assignments, initiate pilot programs in their classroom, etc. As time moves on, there can be a tendency to let all of this fall to the wayside.

While these type of activities help develop a strong teaching skill set, potential employers want to know what you have done lately. Having served on a curriculum team 10 years ago is nice, but a principal may be looking for someone who still shows that spark of initiative and a willingness to participate. Take the time to honestly assess what you are currently bringing to the table and what you can do to boost your rating compared to other applicants. Don’t rely on the past to pave the way for your future.

For beginning educators, there hasn’t been a chance to amass a wealth of experiences to brag about in an interview. This doesn’t mean there is no hope to land your dream job, it just means taking a different route. If you have an interview scheduled with a particular school, start researching all you can about the school. Learn their mission statement, gain perspective on the student population and the community it serves, track down the state test score data, and think about strategies that would make things better. If all else fails…read!

A new teacher who can speak intelligently about current educational topics can be quite impressive. There is a wealth of books related to a variety of educational topics as well as lots of educational journal articles online. Just pulling up the local news website and reading about educational issues that affect your community may be enough to make you stand out.

Network effectively

John Corcoran, former White House writer and current owner of Smart Business Revolutions, will tell you that the secret to thriving in career and business is relationships. His website is dedicated to the art of networking, which has as big a role in the educational world as it does in any other industry. When a teacher decides to take the leap from the school they have become familiar with, the world becomes a lot bigger. Schoolwide clout is no longer a factor, which is why it is important to build relationships beyond the walls of your classroom.

This isn’t an open invitation to stop by the district superintendent’s office or friend every principal you can find on Facebook. This type of “shotgun” networking can be compared to spam that arrives in your e-mail: more annoying than helpful.

Strategic networking is the key to raising your hiring profile.

  • Volunteering at a community or district function gives you face time with potential employers and showcases you as a worker.
  • Attending job fairs is a natural environment for networking, as long as you come prepared with a strong resume, and professional confidence.
  • Even social media outlets like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook can be resourceful tools for networking at home.

The key is to display yourself as the type of person someone wants to hire, which means your rant about the horrible service you had at a restaurant or the offensive comic you found hilarious may be something you keep to yourself.

Networking can be just as powerful for entry-year teachers looking for a path to their first classroom. Opportunities like job fairs and education conventions are designed for you to put yourself on display. Make an effort to talk to people, share your enthusiasm, and leave an impression. Job searches are all about selling yourself to a potential employer. Many teachers are modest about themselves and their accomplishments, but to get the right job means highlighting all you have to offer.

Searching for a new job can be a scary proposition. Determining whether this is an adventure you need to take is the first step. Once you’ve committed to making the change, commit to making yourself the best candidate. Whether you have no experience or decades of experience, it’s how you present yourself that can make the difference.

Dr. Jason Perez is the executive director of Teacher and Leader Effectiveness for the Oklahoma State Department of Education with 14 years of educational and administrative experience at the elementary level. He also serves as a faculty member at Concordia University – Portland, where he teaches Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction courses, and an adjunct faculty member at St. Thomas University.

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