Finding and Applying for Teaching Jobs

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1 Finding and Applying for Teaching Jobs Assess your strengths/weaknesses If you ve just graduated from college, you ve probably been so inundated by your hectic academic schedule that you haven t given this subject much thought. But now is the time, and it is imperative that you do so. Why it is so important? Because being aware of your personal strengths and weaknesses is prerequisite to the other steps you must take to market yourself as the top-notch classroom teacher you know you can be. For example, how can you prepare your mission statement, your resume, or your teacher portfolio if you don t really know yourself? Another important reason is this: You will almost certainly be asked to tell about your strengths and weaknesses during your teacher interview. From a survey of teacher-applications all over the United States, we found several questions you can count on being asked at the interview table. The one that is virtually always asked deals with your strengths and weaknesses. More than likely, it will be put to you in the form of a command rather than a question: Tell me about your strenghts and weaknesses. Think about this for a minute: What is the interviewer really asking? What an interviewer really wants to know is this: Why should I hire you? What can you do for me? Why should I choose you over the rest of the candidates I am interviewing today? When you re asked about your strengths and weaknesses, you should consider it an openended question, a golden opportunity to sell yourself or, as we hear so often tout your strengths and minimize any weakness by presenting it as a strength. Talking About Strengths You have many specific skills and positive character traits: some are tangible, some intangible. Your tangible skills include those related to the teaching profession including your ability to teach on the elementary or secondary level and specific skills, such as your ability to work with bilingual or gifted children. Most of these job-related skills are listed on your application and resume and are already familiar to the interview panel. However, you may have many other tangible skills that are not shown on your resume but that will greatly enhance your chances of being hired. Be prepared to give the answer that wants to be heard. Consider taking The Clifton StrengthsFinder offered by Career Services. The framework of this assessment is built on two concepts talents and strengths. A strength begins with a talent (a naturally recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied). Your talents empower you. They make it possible for you to move to higher levels of excellence and fulfill your potential. Strengths are developed talents. Strengths are neither innate nor totally dependent on our heredity, but can be discovered and developed so that they bring us stability and persistence. This assessment points to your greatest talents and strengths. The results given will be a description of your 5 Signature Talents.

2 Then meeting with a Career Counselor will enable you to integrate and understand how to utilize this information in all areas of your life (including the job search). Talking About Weaknesses Once you ve told the panel about your strengths, expect to be asked about your weaknesses or limitations they don t have to work against you at the interview table. You know your product and the limitations you may have, but don t be too quick to plead guilty to a weakness if you can turn it around and convert it into something that will make you look good. When you re faced with the question, Tell us about your weaknesses, don t go on the defensive and immediately begin to explain how you don t like to teach science because it s always been difficult for you, or that you never quite had the interest in it as you have in other areas. Right away you ve turned the committee off and they ve heard just about all they want to hear on the subject. The fact that multi-subject teachers feel more prepared to teach some subject areas than others is a given, so try to stay away from specific academic subject areas or job-related classroom skills. Instead, talk about your most angelic weakness, one that can be turned into positives. Here is an example: Don t say: I m a poor manager of my time. Do say: Sometimes I have so many good ideas and things I want to accomplish with the kids that I get frustrated when I run out of time. Prepare a mission statement Now that you ve assessed your strengths and weaknesses, you re in a perfect frame of mind to work on your Education Statement, Philosophy of Education, Mission Statement of Summary Statement. It may be called any of these things. Philosophy of Education Statement or Summary The philosophy of education statement is an important piece in your educator portfolio. It may be requested by hiring personnel at schools to be included with a cover letter and resume. Your teaching philosophy should be thoughtful, organized and well written. The summary should be between 1-2 pages and should document and support your core educational principles. A sample outline might be to first state your objectives as a teacher. These need to be achievable through some form of assessment. Second, you will want to outline the methods by which you will achieve your teaching objectives. Third, you will need to have demonstrated evidence of your achievements. This may take the form of standardized assessments or evaluations. The final section of your statement should allude to the factors that motivate you to be in the teaching profession. This is where you can be cerebral. State what motivates you to be in the teaching profession. Some important considerations: The statement should reflect your core values and beliefs in terms of teaching. Consider your thoughts regarding the nature of children, the purpose of education and how people learn, and the role of teacher. As you develop your educational philosophy, think about completing the following statements: (adapted from the College of New Jersey Educational Philosophy Template)

3 I believe the purposes of education are... I believe that students learn best when... I believe that the following curriculum basics will contribute to the social, emotional, intellectual and physical development of my students... I believe that a good learning environment is one in which... I believe that all students have the following basic needs... In order to further the growth and learning of my students, these basic needs will be met in my classroom through... I believe that teachers should have the following qualities... Suggestions for writing your educational philosophy Here is what we came up with as a framework for thinking about and writing your philosophy statement. You need to realize that this philosophy statement must come from the "heart." Our preference is to let you come up with a statement based on your own self-reflection and soulsearching. We hope this framework does not counter your creativity and we hope you only use it as a means of thinking more deeply about your teaching and the philosophy with which you base your teaching decisions. It is not a hierarchy. Why You Teach What is the purpose of education? What is your role as an educator? Whom You Teach How will you reach the diverse children in your classroom? How do you define your community of learners? How and What You Teach What are your beliefs about how children learn? How will your beliefs affect your teaching? o management o instructional strategies o curriculum design o assessment How do you balance the needs of the individual learner with the needs of the classroom community? What are your goals for students? Where You Teach How will you bring a global awareness into your classroom? What will be your relationship with the community, parents, teaching colleagues, administration?

4 Completing the Application Don t Cut Corners As you are completing your applications keep in mind that they are as important to your job search as your resume, letter of interest, and other documents in your application packet. You are encouraged not to rush through completing your applications. Regional applications may be required instead of or in addition to the employer s individual application. Be consistent with the information you provide on the application and on your resume. Make sure there are no contradictions of dates and places of employment and education. Do not make up an answer. Be honest. If you embellish, it will eventually catch up with you and you will leave a negative impression on the employer. Extra-curricular activities which you may be willing to sponsor or coach may be listed on most applications. Your willingness to sponsor activities can sometimes enhance your consideration for positions. Follow the application directions exactly. The directions may be different for each application you complete, so read all the directions carefully. Enter the correct information in the correct fields. Grammatical rules should be followed at all times. Teachers are held to high standards. Errors are unacceptable. Humor in your responses on an application can come across as sarcastic or flippant. Remember, an application may be a prospective employer s first introduction to you; make it a professional one. Incomplete applications give the appearance of poor attention to detail. It is always best to respond to each question posed on an application whenever possible. An employer would not ask it if they did not want an answer. In the rare case that a question is not applicable, then enter not applicable. This removes any doubt that you may have overlooked a question. Never answer a question with See resume. Judge the space allotment given for each answer. Do not squeeze your answers in or write outside of the margins. Know the employer and their application process. Do not assume all processes are alike. Read all the directions thoroughly and if in doubt, contact the employer s human resource department and ask for clarification. List teaching and child-centered experiences in reverse chronological order, with recent experiences listed first. Some applications will have a short answer question for you to complete or you may be asked to write a philosophy statement. A focus on student learning and your own life-long learning is critical! Make your responses clear and concise, but don t shortchange your answers. Remember that you are applying for a teaching position to educate and influence young people; make sure that your responses are student centered. Noteworthy accomplishments are also good to include on your application. These might include such things as special honors and awards you have received, grad honors, leadership roles, and publications you have authored.

5 It takes two to three hours to complete each application. Allow yourself plenty of uninterrupted time. Do not wait until your student teaching has been completed to first begin the application process. Print the application first, when possible, and write your answers before completing the final outline application. By printing the application you can thoughtfully complete your answers in a very professional way. References should always be included on your application. Make sure you have their permission to include their contact information and an alternate phone number (in case a potential employer needs to contact your reference during a school break.) Send all required application materials in one packet if possible, and do not fold documents. Teachers who are highly qualified for their positions are in high demand. Make sure to highlight in your application the things that you have done to interact with and work with students. Update your application if your experiences or information changes. An unreported change in any of your contact information may result in a missed communication for the school district. Verify that your dates are accurate. Do not guess. Incorrect information can cost you the job. Wordiness should be avoided in your essay questions. Examine your finished application for any misspelled words or typos. Do not use instant or text messaging language, slang, or acronyms. Do not rely on the spell/grammar check feature. It is always a good idea to have a trusted friend or colleague proofread your application materials before you send them. You are a teacher and you yearn for a chance to teach. Be in that frame of mind when completing your application. Zero mistakes Extras Count It s safe to say that anything extra you can add to your resume and portfolio to increase your marketability should be included: your talents, experiences, skills, and positive character traits. The idea, of course, is to make you stand out above the rest. Let s assume that in marketing your product, you ve included all of these things, and you have a great resume. Let s also assume you have a very encouraging, successful student teaching experience, and you have even gained valuable teaching experience through substitute teaching. These are all pluses, but there may be many other applicants out there who are offering essentially the same package. So, everything else being equal, it may be the teacher with the extra certificate or credential who lands the job. Revised: August/2011 Revised by: SR

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