Finding a Teaching Job Today
Finding a Teaching Job Today
Guests: Nancy Slavin, manager of teacher recruitment for Chicago Public schools; Dawn Scheffner Jones, senior assistant director at Northern Illinois University’s Career Planning & Placement Center, and president-elect of the American Association for Employment in Education; Ariela Rozman, vice president of cohort programs with The New Teacher Project
Dec. 21, 2005
Anthony Rebora, edweek.org (Moderator):
Welcome to our live Web chat on finding teaching jobs--an important and increasingly complex topic. We have an extraordinary panel of guests on hand to take your questions:
* Nancy Slavin, manager of teacher recruitment for Chicago Public schools;
* Dawn Scheffner Jones, the senior assistant director at Northern Illinois University’s Career Planning & Placement Center and president-elect of the American Association for Employment in Education; and
* Ariela Rozman, vice president of cohort programs with The New Teacher Project.
Should be a great, helpful discussion. Let’s get started.
Question from Lesley Schryver, Student, Arizona State University:
What are some things new teachers can do in order to stand out in an interview situation?
Dawn Scheffner Jones:
There are many things a new teacher can do to stand out in an interview: a) be prepared - practice interviewing ahead of time; b)be sure to answer the question asked, and answer it fully, without rambling (specific examples are always helpful!); c) be able to tell the interviewer why you decided to become a teacher; d)be ready to talk about special accomplishments during student teaching, stressing the ways that your experience has been unique; e)be able to discuss experiences with diversity (all forms of diversity, including differing learning styles) and with classroom management; f) be ready to describe a unit from its inception to its evaluation - all the steps along the way - and detail the way that the unit met state teaching standards; g) show enthusiasm, respect, and a willingness to listen; h)have some good questions to ask the interviewer; i)speak clearly and distinctly; j)keep the tone of the interview positive at all times; k) maintain good eye contact and try to radiate confidence and poise; and finally, SMILE!
Question from Rich Mathena, aide, NE Dubois High School:
What can you tell older teachers to help them secure a position?
Rich, Teacher who have life experience and maturity are always in high demand. Crafting your resume to reflect your talents attracts principals who are looking for a blended staff--new teachers, as well as veterans. Be sure to mention your successes in student achievement and passion for a teaching career. In Chicago, we have had great success with our Alternative Certification programs that attract mid-life career changers who bring a wealth of experiences and ideas to our schools. We are always working to change the culture of our schools to include all types of teachers to make a difference with students.
Question from Marie, Graduate Student:
Having a background in business, I am used to negotiating a deal concerning salary. Is this something to expect or not expect during an interview with an administrator?
Dawn Scheffner Jones:
There is far less opportunity to negotiate a teaching salary than there is for a salary in business. Typically, school districts have set salary schedules, where all teachers with the same amount of teaching experience and educational development would earn identical salaries. Public school salary schedules are often published on the district’s website. Candidates can then see where they would fall on the schedule. Districts may sometimes offer some flexibility in the amount of credit a candidate is given for prior experience. Not all districts, however, are able to do this. Assuming extra duties (such as coaching)is often the best way to enhance one’s salary.
Question from John Callaghan, substitute teacher, Pascack Valley High School:
I recently switched careers and cannot find a job. My credentials are impeccable, and I do well on interviews, but the problem in NJ is that there are over 100 applicants for each opening. Any suggestions?
You mentioned you are a career switcher, I am assuming you are seeking a job through an alternate route? My first suggestion is to canvas the field - New Jersey has a number of alternate routes that you can find out about through the state website or possibly district websites, so you can get a sense of what is out there. Once you know which districts you are targeting, make sure you understand the requirements for someone with your background to be considered “highly qualified” once you enter this classroom (the specific districtt, university or often times the state has these requirements for candidates from non traditional backgrounds) - do you need to pass certain tests? Do you need official transcripts which show you have taken certain courses? That way, when you talk to principals or HR folks, you can say, “I have everything I need to be highly qualified under this alternate route, here are my test results, my undergraduate major etc”. That allows principals especially to know that they can hire you for their classrooms (often, principals don’t know the ins and outs of all the alternative certification requirements in their districts) and be meeting all state and federal regulations. I would also suggest that you try to observe current teachers in their classrooms - you can usually set this up through teachers or school offices. This will allow you to get a sense for what the classrooms and students are like, so you can come to your interviews with a realistic sense of what your day will be like, and can articulate WHY you want to teach in a specific school or district, and how you plan to be effective in that school or district.
Question from Vaden Chandler, Elementary Education Major, Adams State College:
Please tell us what you would consider to be the advantages and disadvantages of using the internet for searching for education vacancies.
Dawn Scheffner Jones:
Using the internet for a job search in education can be especially helpful if you are looking to relocate. The internet provides access to teaching positions anywhere. Some states (e.g., Oregon) even have a single online application for all schools within the state. This greatly enhances the out-of-state job seekers opportunities to find employment. In states such as Illinois (where I live), Regional Offices of Education (loosely comparable to county offices of education) regularly post vacancies in an easy-to-access format. Checking the ROE websites can be an excellent way to be able to keep informed about current vacancies (be sure to check the sites frequently). In short, an advantage is that the internet can save time and leg-work. Disadvantages? The internet reduces the “personal contact.” Most people still find jobs through networking - meeting and talking with the people who are in positions to hire. The internet is also more likely to advertise hard-to-fill vacancies, such as special education, math and science. Elementary educators and those in other fields with less demand should definitely cultivate personal contacts. My suggestion would be to use the internet carefully, selectively, and not exclusively. Also, avoid “monster” sites and stay with sites that are dedicated to serving educators. The internet is a powerful tool, and it has opened a new world of opportunities for job searching. Use it in combination with traditional methods of job searching and you’ll be covering all your bases.
Question from Michael Brown, teacher, Nevada Union High School:
Nancy Slavin, What advice could you give for a district preparing for the largest numbers of teachers retiring at one time. Next year 1/3 of the staff of 170 are leaving. What steps should we prepare to hire as many as 35 new teachers, and how do we get the best new teachers?
Thanks for your question Michael. It looks like you have a problem and an opportunity. As a large urban district, we are also struggling with high numbers of “baby boomer” teacher retirements. We are concerned about the loss of our valued “veteran” teachers, but also are excited about the opportunity to bring in new teachers. We have had some success with bringing back some of our retired teachers in part-time roles. I will be happy to send you information about our program. Please email me at email@example.com I can also give you information about setting up an Alternative Certification program to recruit career changers. It can be expensive for the district but it works!
I would also suggest that you begin an aggressive recruitment program using Internet resources, media and visits to colleges and universites. Getting the best teachers for your district in a very competitive market will be more difficult. Determine the specific profile of the teachers that you are looking for is a good first step. If it makes you feel any better, Chicago Public Schools hires more than 2000 teachers each school year! Good luck!
Question from Cherise Young, Consultant, Verizon Communications:
I am currently a Sales Consultant for Verizon communications. I want to become a teacher. What is the best way to prepare for career in education.
The best way to prepare to be a teacher is to spend time in classrooms that are similar to those in which you’d like to teach. So, if you are seeking to be a teacher in a suburban neighborhood, try to observe classes or volunteer in classrooms in a suburban district. If you are seeking to be a teacher in an urban setting, make sure you are spending time in urban schools. This will give you a sense of the realities of the school or district you are targeting. We conduct thousands of interviews a year for new teachers in urban settings, and one of the common things we find is that many applicants don’t have a realistic sense of what it is like to teach in those classrooms - their perceptions are either based on what they experienced in public schools years ago, what they have heard from other friends, or what they see in the media. Ideally, you want to observe excellent teaching, so ask around in the school community - word often gets around about who the great teachers are, and those are the ones you want to see in action. Seeing good teaching in the classroom will allow you to start getting a sense of what works and what doesn’t work.
Question from A. Kilpatrick, Science Teacher, NYS:
How important are the teaching portfolio these days in the interview?
Dawn Scheffner Jones:
That depends on where one is geographically. The students with whom I work primarily seek jobs in Chicago and its suburbs. There, administrators are inundated with applicants, and interviews happen at a fast and furious pace. Many administrators simply don’t have the time to look at portfolios. They rely instead on what they learn from the candidate in the interview. Districts that may not have as many candidates, however, might see the portfolio as a useful tool in discerning differences between teachers with similar backgrounds and experience. In some states other than Illinois, portfolios are an expected part of the interview process. My advice to candidates is to become informed before the interview. Ask the interviewer whether s/he would like to see a portfolio. Remember that interviewers have different learning styles. Those who are very visual learners might value portfolios highly. Be ready to bring an abbreviated version that can be left with the interviewer, too. So...what’s the value of a portfolio? Even if interviewers don’t want to see a candidate’s portfolio, the process of compiling one is highly beneficial. It forces the candidate to reflect upon his/her experiences, to systematically organize the experiences, and to weigh accomplishments to determine which are most beneficial. Compiling a portfolio is great preparation for the interview. Candidates can review their portfolios before interviewing to decide which accomplishments they want to be sure to emphasize.
Question from Suzanne Young-Mercer, Manager, Beth Israel Medical Center Ambulatory Care Center:
I am currently not in the teaching profession but I am interested in switching. I have a Bachelors and Masters degree in Business Administration and wonder if there is any way I can use these tools or learn what other tools I would need to acquire to make this transition?
We have found that professionals who have been successful in all different fields can put their skills to use in the classroom. The first piece is making the commitment to teach - understanding the realities of the classroom and wanting to do what it takes to be an excellent teacher. Beyond that, I would encourage you to observe classroom teachers and think about what skills you see in action and compare that to the skills you have - so that you can begin to understand which skills will serve you best and which skills you need to develop a little bit more. For instance, you may have fabulous organizational skills, which will serve you well in the classroom. But you may need to learn about the different systems and techniques for classroom management so that you can decide which one will work best for your particular style.
Question from Michael Brown, teacher, Nevada Union High School:
Dawn Jones, How and what do well-prepared schools accomplish to recruit teachers to their schools? What are these new teachers looking for in schools and communities? Are these Gen X teachers different from the baby boom generation teachers?
Dawn Scheffner Jones:
Great questions! Well-prepared schools have clear, high-quality webpages with information that highlights their outstanding characteristics. They know that good teachers will look scrutinize their websites. These schools begin recruiting early in the season, and they use multiple ways to recruit, such as contacts with college/university career services offices, job fairs, personal interviews, and internet postings. They make sure they have excellent representatives to do the interviewing (for a poor interviewer can taint an entire school’s reputation). They spell out programs, school characteristics, benefits, and school climate clearly to candidates - in a professional and courteous manner. They present their own school’s advantages without making negative comparisons to other schools. New teachers look for FIT. They don’t just look for “a secure job.” They want to work in a school where the culture matches with their own ideals, values and goals. They look for support: strong mentoring programs, experienced teachers to whom they can turn for advice, and administrators who treat them with respect and offer creative leeway. They also expect the schools to have technological resources that will match their own expertise. They expect communities to support their schools financially and ideolgically and they seek parental interest and involvement in the school’s programs. New teachers are looking for a place they can grow personally, professionally, and educationally. Many also seek diversity in the communities where they work, realizing that diversity creates interesting classrooms. In my biased opinion as a baby boomer, Gen X teachers are definitely different from baby boom generation teachers. First of all, I have the utmost respect for Gen X teachers, who seem to have to go through far more complex training than we boomers did. There are competency exams, state standards, certification differences, and NCLB to master before being hired for that first job. Boomers were stable, driven by a strong need to succeed and achieve, reliant on traditional methods, and likely to plan ahead for retirement. Many were first generation college attenders. We didn’t grow up with computer technology, and some of us still fear it. In developing lessons, too, we were taught the importance of carefully planning ahead. We wanted orderly classrooms and respect from our students. Gen X teachers are technologically fluent; they expect and enjoy change (since it has been rapid and continuous in their own lives); they are creative and innovative, able to address and relate to the brief attention spans of their students. Many have come from non-traditional family situations themselves, so they are empathetic toward students with family struggles and acceptant of a wide range of family variations. We boomers stayed with our jobs. Gen X teachers will look for better jobs - or careers - when their current jobs are no longer fulfilling. Both boomers and Gen X teachers have a great deal to offer as teachers. The wise district will have representatives from both generations (and from the millenials, too) to serve as role models for their students. I realize that this response is a broad generalization. There is a full range of differences in teachers from any generation, and that should always be kept in mind.
Question from Tanya Smith, principal:
Many school districts have full-time teacher recruiters. What is the true role of the district level teacher recruiter versus recruitment at the school base level. In your opinion which is more important to candidates?
Chicago Public Schools has a centralized teacher recruitment function that produced almost 22,000 resumes for our principals. We include our principals as Ambassadors to assist us in our effort. Though Recruitment recruits, we do not hire the teacher candidates. Hiring is done by the principal. With more than 600 schools, it make sense to centralize the recruitment function. We recruit across the country which is more than a school level administrator could handle given all of their important responsibilities. We also run large job fairs to facilitate the interation between teacher candidates and our principals. These large spring/summer events have attracted quality teachers in all subject areas to our schools. So I would say that in large urban school districts, the district level recruiter is more important. They also assist the candidate in working through the process from interview to hire. Ultimately, the hiring decision belongs to the principal.
Question from Linda Zambito, Student, Ohio University:
‘Age-ism’ is rampant in our culture. Do you have any specific advice (interviewing, portfolio, etc.) for the person who begins the teaching career in his or her 40’s (or even older)?
The key to do is to know yourself and know your audience. So come to an interview having thought about your particular skills, and be able to verbalize those in a specific way. The other side of this is to do your research, and come to an interview knowing about the school or district you are interviewing with, able to ask good, insightful questions, and touch upon themes or topics of importance to them. Once you do start a new job, I would encourag any newcomer to reach out to veteran teachers in your school, and seek opportunities to observe these individuals and be observed by them. Even if someone has a very different style than you do, reaching out to veteran teachers will help you learn the ropes at your new school, and also shows them that you are there to be part of the team.
Question from Gary Peltier PhD Univ. of Nevada, Reno:
The major reason we have a teacher shortage is the low salary. What can be done to convince the public that what teachers do is vital to the future of our society?
To address your first statement, although we currently have vacancies in many schools, we have found that there are thousands of individuals who want to teach (as we can see from all the questions in this chat!) and others who can be inspired to teach in the hardest areas, and there is more we can do to ensure that those individuals get into those classrooms that desperately need them. To your question though, I certainly agree that teacher salary is an enormous challenge. In order for us to change how teachers are paid, we have to be able to change the value the public, policy makers, and legislatures place on educators - and get them to put their money behind that. At the same time, I think it is equally as important to be able to reward truly outstanding teachers and remove those who are not a good fit for the profession. Obviously this needs to be done in a fair and just way, but the way the current systems rewards everyone equally--whether you’re effective or not - does not necessarily compel the most outstanding individuals to leave their current professions and enter the teaching profession (or stay in the teaching profession for that matter). These individuals can enter other professions where they are rewarded financially for being outstanding, and that loss is hurting us in education.
Question from mary,student,wilmcollege,dover:
what questions can I be expected to answer at an interview?
Dawn Scheffner Jones:
Expect the unexpected. Every school has its own interview style. Seriously, there are many “traditional” questions that may be asked in an interview: How did you decide to be a teacher? How would you (or someone else) describe yourself? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Why did you decide to major in ___? What has been your greatest accomplishment so far? Describe your teaching style. Tell me about yourself. What have been your experiences with diversity? What is your style of classroom management? BUT...there is a great deal of focus now on behavioral or performance-based questions. Those are questions/statements to which you can’t memorize answers. They draw upon your experiences. They will often start with “Tell me about...” These are questions where you will be expected to give the background to the situation, the actions you took, and the results. I also like to add “retrospective” - if you had a chance to do this over again, what would you do differently? Sample behavioral questions might include: Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your cooperating teacher. How have you tailored your lessons to meet the needs of different sorts of learners in your classroom? Tell me about the most difficult obstacle you’ve had to overcome in your teaching. Describe a situation where you had to contact a parent about a student’s behavior. Tell me about a time when you worked collaboratively with other teachers. There are many good sources for interview preparation. The American Association for Employment in Education publishes an annual Job Search Handbook for Educators that contains excellent interview information and sample questions. Your college/university should also be able to provide you with interview suggestions. Gather as much information as you can, and practice, practice, practice.
Question from Michael Erickson-Teacher--Phoenix AZ:
How important are references from current supervisor (Principal)? DO they carry much weight?
Michael, References can be helpful, but I think your resume of accomplishments, your content knowledge and strategies will help you get the position that you want. Your interview is also very important and probably carries the most weight in the principal’s decision. Another possible strategy in finding a position is to create a portfolio that can be helpful in documenting your successes. If you references are outstanding--use them. If you are unsure of the reference that you may receive, a superior resume and interview should work!
Question from Tom Ganser, Director, Office of Field Experiences, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater:
How important is pre-service teaching experience (e.g., field study, study teaching) in diverse school settings (e.g., racial, cultural, economic) in today’s education job market?
We have found pre-service training, which includes a classroom teaching component in a setting similar to the actual teaching position, to be a key success factor for new teachers. This allows teachers to get familiar with the types of classrooms they will be teaching in, allows them to get to know district policies, and most importantly, allows them to begin to become familiar with their student populations.
Question from Rheema Capra, graduate student:
I am pursuing my Masters in Education, and have not taught previously. What advice would you give me to increase my chances in landing a teaching job?
Dawn Scheffner Jones:
First of all, make the most that you can of your student teaching/clinical experience. This is your opportunity to demonstrate all your best skills. Have the principal, assistant principal, or department chair observe you if possible, so that s/he can write you a letter of recommendation. Begin looking for a position EARLY. Many districts start reviewing and interviewing candidates well before the summer. Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job. Build yourself a strong network, so that you have others working for you, too. Join professional organizations. Networking happens there, and professional involvement looks good on your resume. Volunteer to do whatever you can as you student teach. Arrive early, stay late, show your dedication. Assist with co-curricular activities. Make yourself an integral part of the school. Broaden your job search as much as possible. The narrower your geographic area, the less likely you will be of finding a job. Relocate if necessary (and if possible) Use multiple sources for finding jobs - don’t just rely on the internet. Contact the Career Services office at your college/university. Ask for assistance. Practice interviewing, if possible. Have your resume reviewed. If you don’t receive a job right away, substitute. Don’t give up. Keep looking. Sometimes jobs open at unusual times during the year. If you are still struggling, take additional courses to add teaching areas. The more subject areas you can teach, the more marketable you will be. Good luck.
Question from David Sutcliffe, Teacher:
I recently moved from one state where I have a teaching certificate to another. I have applied for certification where I live now, but the process has taken at least four and a half months, and I haven’t received any information about whether I will be successful or not. Is there an easier or more efficient way of going about this process?
David, I am sorry that you are having problems with your certification. Certification can be a difficult process in many states, including Illinois. I might suggest that the school district where you are hired might be able to call the state on your behalf and put a rush on the certification decision. If you are in Illinois, I will be happy to make that call for you. Please email me with more information on your situation at firstname.lastname@example.org I will do what I can to speed it up!
Question from Caroline - Student (University of Phoenix):
What is the best way to prepare for being a teacher? What books do you recommend?
As I mentioned , I strongly recommend observing outstanding teachers in similar settings to the one you are seeking as the best preparation. If you also want to read some books on the subject, try Classroom Instruction That Works by Robert J. Marzano, et. al. - it synthesizes all the best classrrom practices and tells you how effective they are and what’s the most effective way to implement each of these. Another great book to read is Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools by Jonathan Kozol, which lays out the challenges of our high need schools and is incredibly motivating for someone interested in making an impact in these schools.
Question from Sarah Proctor-Bates, 3rd grade teacher, Trinity Catholic Academy:
What are schools looking for on a resume?
Dawn Scheffner Jones:
Schools want clarity, good organziation, ease in locating important information, great writing skills, and an absence of ANY spelling errors. They also want your resume to showcase your unique accomplishments. What separates you from other teachers? What have you done that is exemplary? Use action words. They make the resume more interesting to read, and they also demonstrate that you have multiple skills. Don’t repeat skills that you have already established. Avoid unclear words like “several,” “various,” and “numerous.” Give specifics instead. Make sure that your teaching experience is described more fully than other positions you’ve held. If you have had a previous career, emphasize the accomplishments in that career that transfer to the classroom. Try to present yourself as an interesting, accomplished professional. Avoid outdated or non-relevant information (most readers don’t care about that fast-food job you had in high school - or anything else from high school, for that matter). Omit all personal information - pictures, height, weight, number of children, and data of that sort. Prepare the resume carefully. Don’t use hard-to-read font styles or fonts that are too small to see clearly. Give the reader a chance to breathe by having some white space on the resume. Check to see what the school prefers regarding resume length. Have someone proofread the resume before submitting it.
Question from Pamela Cozort:
I am interested in hearing how larger districts are solving the challenges of highly qualified licensing issues related to special education teachers.
Pamela, Your question is very timely and of great interest to school districts around the country. As in many other school districts, Chicago Public Schools has a severe shortage of certified Special Education teachers. We also know that we may have current teachers that might not meet “highly qualified” standards. We are working with our state board of education, our university partners, and sending out targeted communication to assure that we will be in compliance as rules and regulations change. We use alternative certification programs to create more “highly qualified” special education teachers. We are also aggressively recruiting special education teachers for immediate openings. The challenges of special education licensing are many! Do you have any ideas for us?
Question from Yulinda Marshall,Teacher,COH CDC:
I am a certified teacher from LA with 6 years experience and 1 class short from my MEd. who moved to GA. I am having the hardest time finding a teaching job, but they are always hiring, why is this?
In The New Teacher Project’s work with districts, we have found that these days, teacher shortages are not necessarily across the board. So, for instance, in most districts, there is a shortage of teachers in certain subject areas, such as math, science, and special education. There may also be shortages in certain hard to staff schools - schools which may be higher need, with more challenges, that therefore face high turnover. However, these same districts may have no problem at all filling elementary vacancies or social studies vacancies, because there is a much greater supply of these teachers. So these districts may always be hiring for some subjects or some schools - but it may not necessarily be the subject or the school you are seeking to teach at for the coming year. When we recruit and hire new teachers, we really encourage them to teach where they are needed most - to seek out positions at those high need schools, or consider becoming certified in an area like special education, rather than elementary. Because we know that is what our districts need, and where these new teachers can have the most impact.
Question from Christine Ortiz, MAT Student, Empire State College:
Can you suggest superior resources for a guide to writing a teacher’s resume, specifically for a career changer who has no teaching experience. For example, books or websites with sample resumes and/or skill assessments, etc.
Dawn Scheffner Jones:
There are many resources for writing a teacher’s resume. One excellent resource is the Job Search Handbook for Educators, published by the American Association for Employment in Education. It is available through the AAEE website: www.aaee.org Our office (Career Services at Northern Illinois University) also publishes an Education Employment Guide which contains specific information on how to market oneself as a career changer. If you email me at email@example.com, I’ll be happy to send one to you. Check with the college/university that you attended, too. My guess is that it might also have some good resources, as well as opportunities for skills assessments.
Question from Janice Sapp, Director, Day Spring Ed. Institute:
I am an older teacher who loves to teach and who plans to continue to teach ESOL. What kinds of courses and/or certificates do I need to take to make my resume stand out to employers? Is it now important for me to be fluent in Spanish to be an ESOL teacher?
Janice, Thanks so much for your dedication to teaching students who need ESOL. Fluency in Spanish can be important in some school districts. Chicago Public Schools is a very diverse system that has some schools where more than twenty languages are spoken. I would focus on your skills in making a difference with students that need ESOL. Highlight student achievement gains in your resume. In our high stakes testing environment, we are looking for teachers who can make a difference. Courses in differentiated instruction, data analysis, and language instruction would be helpful, but not necessary if you can produce gains. Good Luck!
Question from Mike Potmesil, Director Human Resources, Benicia School District, CA:
Other than newspapers, what media do you find has a significant return for the buck? What is the best method of bringing in interns and/or student teachers to a District?
Great questions Mike. We find that the Internet has become a valuable resource for retruiting teacher candidates. Our recruitment staff also visits a significant number of campuses that supply high quality teachers. Both Internet ads, print media, and visits have yielded a high volume of teacher candidates.
Chicago Public Schools also has a student teaching program that facilitates the placement of student teachers in our schools. This program also includes professional development for our student teachers during their semester. We have found that encouraging more student teachers to select Chicago Public Schools has been cost effective in bringing wonderful teachers to our large urban district. We work closely with our universities to meet their expectations. Check out our website: http://www.cps-humanresources.org/STI/
We also have a district sponsored Teacher Residency and Internship program that brings the top teachers in the country to Chicago for a summer in our schools. Significant professional development opportunities, as well as social and cultural experiences, make this program outstanding. Visit our Teaching Residency and Internship website for more information about this program: http://www.cps-humanresources.org/TeachingResidency/ You can also call Anne Crylen at (773) 553-1150 for more information about these programs.
Question from Julie Stephenson, Elementary Ed Major, NEIU:
What politically correct questions can I ask principals to find out what their philosophy of education is & what dreams they have for their schools. I’ve been volunteering in 2 CPS schools for 4 years and I see a lot of differences from school to school. I would like to find a school that has a similar philosophy to mine and would let me implement extra-curricular ideas that are outside of standard math/reading tutoring, such as drama club, board game nights, dance classes, spoken word slams, creating writing clubs etc.
Julie, I would suggest that you carefully observe the schools as you interview. Perhaps, when asked if you have any questions, you can ask whether the principal is open to any of your extra-curricular ideas? The answer that the principal gives should provide you with insight into his/her openess, flexibility, and enthusiasm for new ideas. It is often difficult to get a full picture of a school from an interview or two. Most of the time, carefully crafted questions and your instincts will lead you in the right direction. I would also suggest doing your homework. Learn everything you can about the school. Chicago Public Schools has all kinds of relevant information about our schools on our website: demographics, testing trends, school report card etc. If you know the “facts” about the school, it might help you with the interview and make the right decision. Hope this helps!
Question from Anne Di Fiore, Math Coordinator, West Chester Friends School:
As our society has been effected by globalization (the world wide web, world trade, cultural exchange) and continues to accelerate and bring about change, what additional skills and knowledge do you feel teachers should acquire or possess to meet their students’ needs and enhance their education?
In terms of skills and knowledge, it depends on the needs of your students. The most successful teachers are often those who never stop learning. Whether these teachers are learning about new technology, about best practices in teaching students with special needs or the best curriculum to teach English language learners, effective teachers will identify the needs of their students and work to constantly stay on top of the latest research and teaching practices that will increase student achievement. While always challenged because of the demands on a teachers time, good teachers always take the opportunity to seek and take advantage on professional development opportunities targeted at meeting the needs of their students. Many teachers look at their students and their communities and see a need to close the digital divide and so maximize opportunities to bring technology in the classroom, others focus their efforts on giving their students access to post-secondary education early on and create opportunities for students to connect with colleges and university early on, and other teachers give students access to better health care becau s e that’s where the need is. You have to start with the needs of your students.
Question from Bonnie Taylor, Recent University Graduate:
I have been told by principals and by school districts that they are neither interested in knowing a students’ GPA nor looking at any portfolios when considering a new graduate for a teaching position.
Is this true or not for you and why?
Dawn Scheffner Jones:
GPA: A high GPA indicates that a candidate is an excellent student, but it doesn’t indicate that s/he is an excellent teacher. Some of the best teachers are those who have had to struggle a bit. I’ve been told by administrators that teachers who didn’t have to struggle might not have the needed empathy to work with all students. It’s natural to be proud of a high GPA, and the school will certainly see your academic accomplishments when you submit your transcript. In the application and interview process, however, it’s more important to focus on your teaching accomplishments and skills than on your academic success. It’s what you can do when you are standing in front of the class that really matters. Portfolios: Many administrators in my geographic area (Chicago and its suburbs) simply don’t have time to look at portfolios, since they are inundated with applicants. That doesn’t mean that they don’t value the fact that you’ve done a portfolio, and it doesn’t mean that creating a portfolio is a waste of time. It is an excellent reflective exercise. It will help you to organize your thoughts and prepare for interviews. There are some states where portfolios are an integral part of the job search/interview process. Your best bet is to check with the interviewer prior to the interview to see whether s/he wants you to bring your portfolio.
Question from Jamie Friedman, Teacher, LAUSD:
I am interested in exploring teaching positions in private as well as public schools. What do you feel are some of the advantages and disadvantages of teaching in a private or independent school?
Dawn Scheffner Jones:
Advantages: Private schools often attract academically talented students, and there is often a stringent behavioral code that makes classroom management less of a problem than in public schools. Private schools might also be organized around a specific theme (math and science curriculum, for example), and some teachers find that specialization to be attractive. Others can be faith-based. Some private schools do not require traditional teacher certification, and that, too, can be an enhancement. Disadvantages: It’s not always easy to move from a private school to a public school. Also, private schools are not generally a part of the retirement systems that make public schools attractive. Many people genuinely enjoy the blend of students that is found in public schools. Public schools, too, are generally more integral parts of the communities where they are located than are private schools. Salaries in many private schools are lower than public schools, and private schools are not bound to the adoption of a public school-type of salary schedule. Each teacher has individual needs and preferences. Visit a private school if you are considering that sort of employment, and see if the culture is something that you find appealing. Know your needs and preferences before making a choice.
Question from Nanci, graduate student at University of Wisconsin RiverFalls:
What does the recruiter really want to hear when they ask what your idea of classroom management is.
Chicago Public Schools has a principal-driven hiring process. Our interviews are conducted by our principals who are very interested in your classroom management strategies. You are right on target with your concerns about answering this question. Your reponse can mean the difference between being hired or walking away without the position. Hiring authorities want to understand how you would organize and manage your classroom. Most teachers are very competent when it comes to content, but many do not have a comprehensive plan for managing the students and the classroom. Obviously, there are differences between managing a kindergarten and a high school physics class, so depending on your subject area and grade level, you need to develop a plan that works. How do you handle misbehavior in the classroom? I will give you one tip about responding that will most certainly assure that you do not get the position. Never say--"I will send them to school office when they misbehave”.
Principals are rarely looking for more to do! Rely on your student teaching experiences, other teachers that you have had during your own schooling who you respected, and network with colleagues to determine an appropriate methods. Emphasize your organization skills and student time on task--engaged students are much less likely to misbehave. Be sure to include a parent communication component to your strategy. Stating clear expectations for student behavior at the very beginning of the year and consistently enforcing those expectations are the foundation of a successful classroom management strategy.
Question from Michael O’Byrne, educator:
I am perplexed. I heard about terrible shortages in the teaching profession and so after a full career in government, I obtained my teacher certification enroute to a Ph.D. in an education specialty. I taught at several levels and always received outstanding performance ratings. In 2004 I received my National Board certification. But when I moved from Florida to Georgia, there was no room at the inn. I am lucky to find substitute work. Could it be that the much ballyhoed teacher shortage is really an overstatement?
I am sorry to hear about the challenges you have faced. There might be a couple of factors at play here. I do think that our teacher shortage has changed over the last 8 years or so. Initially, we were asked by districts to bring in teachers across the board, and to fill any and every subject area. Now what we more often hear from districts is that they have specific shortages - they need math or science or bilingual teachers - or they need teachers in specific schools or grade levels. Another factor may be the vacancy situation - we have found that this fluctuates tremendously given the time of year, and often districts don’t know the full extent of their vacancies until the fall and are therefore hesitant to make any offers until late in the game. I am not sure which areas of GA you are looking at, but it is very possible that there are some districts in Georgia that do have more need than others (such as the bigger urbans or smaller and more rural districts). I am wishing you luck with your search, as we do need talented teachers across the country!
Question from Dale Austin, Director of Career Services, Hope College:
What are three or four of the most important preparatory steps a teacher candidate can take to enhance their competitiveness for finding a teaching position?
Dawn Scheffner Jones:
1. Ensure that you can teach more than one academic area. 2. Learn Spanish, if possible. Bilingual teachers are in very high demand. 3. Use multiple ways of finding a teaching position. Don’t just rely on one method. 4. Practice interviewing. Get feedback on interview performance. 5. Coach, if possible. 6. Try to gain work experience during summer months that relates to teaching (camp counseling, for example). 7. Conduct in-depth research of the school districts where you would like to work, so that you are well-informed when you apply. I know that’s seven - and there are many more. Best of luck!
Question from Demon Williams, Sec. Math Edu. Major, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff:
I am a student who has relied on government aid to fund my education. What is the likeliness of me finding a school district that is willing to assist me with repaying my student loans? If the likeliness is high, how should I go about it?
Loan forgiveness sometimes varies state by state. There are states that will reduce your students loans after working in a public school if you meet certain criteria. Some of these criteria include: teaching for a number of years after receiving your certification, teaching in a “critical shortage area” like math, science or special education, or teaching in a school where a certain percentage of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. I would say that the likelihood is still high and would encourage you to look for information on your state department of education’s website.
Editors’ Note: The U.S. Department of Education also offers information on loan forgiveness for educators.
Question from Christine Cortes, MAT Student, Empire State College:
What is appropriate attire for a job interview for a HS teacher?
Dawn Scheffner Jones:
You will always be safe with a conservative business suit. A blazer and slacks/skirt works well, too. Professional dress is vital, even if you know you can relax your attire once you have been hired.
Question from Jennifer Ayers, Student, AZ:
Can you provide any tips and/or insights into the job market for securing a part-time position as a first year teacher in foreign language or ESL?
Jennifer, I can only speak for Chicago Public Schools, as I am not familiar with part-time job market nationally. We offer a variety of opportunities for part-time teachers. Foreign Language and ESL are often in demand. We understand that teachers may not want to work full time and allow them to work with their principal to set up a half-time schedule that meets the needs of the school and the teacher. We are always happy to accomodate talented new and veteran teachers.
Question from Shanna Horose, Professional, No institution yet:
I am trying to go Alternate Route and would like to know the best way to obtain and elementary education position? I have passed my Praxis and am now faced with trying to find a district that will invest in me as an Alternate Route Teacher. Any pointers?
Check out your state’s website to see what types of alternate route programs they have in your area. I would also check out individual district websites that you are interested in to see if they encourage alternate route candidates. The NCEI website on alt routes, http://www.teach-now.org/ , may also be helpful in giving you information about alt routes or contact phone numbers for those who run alt routes in your state or region. Once you narrow your choices, I would recommend trying multiple paths to getting a job. So contact the HR departments you are interested in and follow the outlined process. And then try to make contact with principals - either principals you know or ask other teachers if you could meet their principals. You can also volunteer in schools and come into contact with principals through that path. If you make a strong impression on a principal and that individual knows you are looking for a job and are interested in his/her school, they can often help you through the process.
Question from Roxanne Spencer special Education teacher Floyd:
How can you find out what you need to improve on to obtain the job in the system you desire? They never give feedback.So I’m not sure what I need to do to help improve myself for the job. I can guess but it would be helpful if they sent a letter of why you are rejected so if it is something that can be corrected you can do so and reapply.
Dawn Scheffner Jones:
I hear this comment very often from the students with whom I work. If you cannot get direct feedback from the school where you have interviewed, contact the Career Services office at your college/university. Meet with a counselor there and discuss your job search situation. If you can’t get in touch with one, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do my best to help. Practice interviews are often very revealing. There may be some small adjustments that can be made to greatly enhance your chances of getting the position you want. Good luck!
Question from Joseph W. Buckley Jr. Science and Technology Curriculum Liaison Worcester Public Schools MA:
In a time when teachers of science are being reduced in numbers due to budget limitations and those currently teaching experiencing reduced class time, greatly limited supplies and materials, and loss of laboratory space, not to mention low compensation, how do you get highly qualified individuals to enter the profession in urban school systems? (please focus on the secondary level)
There are a number of things you can do to attract these individuals to your school. First, from focus groups of current teachers and applicants, we have found it is key to communicate to these individuals (especially math and science teachers) the need your school or school system has for them. It’s important to inspire them by laying out WHY your students need them and HOW they can make an impact - few of these individuals will leave their current jobs (teaching or otherwise) if they feel like they are just going to be another cog in the wheel of a well oiled machine that already runs perfectly. Secondly, we have found it is essential to set up a clear, transparent and efficient process which provides good customer service - and keeps these individuals in the hiring process until they get a specific school offer. Our research has shown us that 30-60% of applicants in the teacher pool drop out due to late hiring timelines - and it’s usually the best applicants that leave to take other offers in neighboring school districts. So making sure you put these folks through a good process and that you can hire them early are both important. One other key is to leverage your assets - think about what makes your school district or school unique or special and highlight those - and use your current teaching force to talk to other teachers. Our applicants tell us that talking to a teacher at a school or district they are interested in is what sells them on the district, as those teachers can talk about the school or district in an honest and compelling way.
Question from Liza DiPrima, student, University of Wisconsin education program:
Where are the best states or places in the country to find an elementary school teaching job?
Liza, One of the best places to find an elementary teaching position is very close to you! Chicago Public Schools hires more than 2000 teachers every year. We offer outstanding salary and benefits. Many districts “place” you in a position at a school. Our system allows you to interview at our schools to find the “right” position. I would say the best place for you to work is one where you feel comfortable and can make a difference with your students. Most importantly, don’t be discouraged. For talented and dedicated teachers, the “best place” is with students that need you. You will find it! Visit our website for more information: http://www.teachchicago.com
Question from Audrey Singleton, Graduate Student, Erikson Institute:
Ms. Jones, I am very interested in finding a school that “fits”. Is the interview the appropriate time to explore what exactly what the culture, ideals, and values of the school and principal are?
Dawn Scheffner Jones:
There are at least two appropriate times. The first is BEFORE the interview. Peruse the school’s website - read everything you can about its philosophy, mission, and programs. You will have a nice overview. The second opportunity is during the interview itself. Prepare a set of questions that address values that are important to you and see how the school matches up with your values. Remember - an interview is a two-way street. The school is interviewing you to see if you fit, but you are interviewing the school, too. Ask direct questions. If possible, ask to talk with a teacher who is teaching the same grade level or subject area as you. Sometimes the teachers can give you a good perspective on school culture. Community members can add their perspectives, too. Talk with as many people as possible. Finally, observe. Notice what the school looks like when you enter. Are students and employees smiling? Do they look like they want to be there? Can you imagine yourself walking in that door each day? Good luck.
Question from Nancy Gottung, Teacher, Hartland School:
I suspect that older woman (40+) that have switched careers and are considered “new teachers” (3 yrs or less experience) are less likely to be called in to interview. What are your thoughts on this?
My experience has been that your experience and maturity are a benefit to you in your job search. Chicago Public Schools are looking for the “best and brightest” teachers regardless of age. Our principals view career changers as assets to their schools. We have made an aggressive effort in Chicago to attract and retain career changers through our Alternative Certification programs. It is a cornerstone of our recruitment strategies. We welcome all dedicated, talented teachers to our system. Age is not a factor!
For more information on Chicago Public Schools, please visit our website: www.teachchicago.com
For more information on the Chicago Teaching Fellows (Alternative Certification), visit www.chicagoteachingfellows.org
Question from Kathleen Gradel, SUNY Fredonia, Assoc. Prof.:
Are you aware of any videos (web-based or otherwise) of mock (or real) interviews, that teacher candidates could use to “prep” for their initial interviews?
Dawn Scheffner Jones:
There are some general interview programs that help people in any field prepare for interviews (they aren’t specifically aimed at teachers). One is WinWays. If you contact me directly at email@example.com, I’ll see if I can locate any other sources for you.
Question from Celia Burns, high school history student teacher:
I am 46 and making an enthusiastic career change to fulfill a life-long dream of teaching high school history. Having just completed certification in this area, what is the best way to market my abilities in order to compete with young candidates and others who have experience?
Congratulations! One of the best things you can do is think about your experience - and specifically the skills you have developed - and be able to talk concretely about how that will help you be an outstanding classroom teacher. Have your previous jobs made you an expert at time management? Talk about how you can apply that to the classroom. Did your past career make you an expert at crisis management? Talk about how you will build off of that. Principals are looking to create an excellent team - so show them that you come to the table with something to contribute - but you are also ready to learn and grow as part of their team.
Comment from Robert Maxson, Program Manager of TeachGeorgia:
I’m Robert Maxson and work with the TeachGeorgia.org program. Please contact me at TeachGeorgia@gapsc.com to discuss your interest in teaching in a Georgia public school. Thank you.
Question from Caryl Cohen- NYC Center for Charter School Excellence:
Can you share some new strategies in recruiting teachers nationally who are certified in shortage areas such as special education, math and science knowing that recruitment is highly competitive in these fields?
We have been developing new strategies to compete for teachers in shortage areas. Our Teaching Residency and Internship Summer Program is a newer strategy that brings in the top teacher candidates between their junior and senior year for a urban co-teaching experience. http://www.cps-humanresources.org/TeachingResidency/ We have used this program effectively to provide teachers in high needs areas and spread the word about our programs. We encourage and facilitate teacher visits to Chicago Public Schools to empower them to make a decision to begin/continue their teaching careers in our schools. Seeing is believing, so we are prepared to bring the shortage area candidates here to appreciate the opportunities that our district offers. We also encourage student teachers in those high needs areas to complete a semester in our schools. As a school/district, you have the opportunity to get a good look at the talents of the student teachers and make the hiring decision. I would also suggest Bus Tours of your city and your schools. It will give you an opportunity to recruit them and highlight what your schools/city offer.
Question from Elizabeth Crane, Kindergarten Teacher, Ridgeview Elementary:
What are the universities doing to ensure their new graduates are in compliance with NCLB’s highly qualified teacher requirements?
Dawn Scheffner Jones:
Each university probably has its own process for ensuring compliance with NCLB. I know that at my institution (Northern Illinois University), each program has components that directly address NCLB mandates for highly qualified teachers. Some of our programs require that student teachers create Teacher Work Samples to prepare them. All programs have presentations, assignments, and workshops that address NCLB. Teachers also have to pass the Basic Skills Test before entering the program and certification exams (including rigorous content area exams) before becoming certified.
Question from Mark Fife, Grad Student, Univ of Phx:
How critical is having special subject endorsements in getting hired? My endorsement will be simply “elementary education” I have heard that endorsements such as science or math are important.
Mark, Endorsements help expand your options--the more endorsements you have, the more positions that are available for you! I noticed that you are a graduate student. Take a close look at your undergraduate transcripts. Did you major in a subject area that might offer an endorsement possibility? History? Foreign Language? English? Check with your State Board of Education to learn about the requirements for endorsements--they vary from state to state. If you do not qualify for any endorsements based on your undergraduate/graduate work, consider taking some Special Education courses. You will increase your chances of getting a position, as well as be able to manage an “inclusive classroom” in an elementary school.
Question from Tom Ganser, Director, Office of Field Experiences, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater:
What’s your view on questions from teacher candidates regarding school- and/or district-based support of beginning teachers, including but not limited to formal mentoring programs?
Support for beginning teachers has finally gotten the attention it has deserved. We know that we must take care of our new teachers to assure their success, grow them as professionals, and retain them. Our districts has a number of models that we use to support new teachers. One innovative program uses retired teachers to mentor our new teachers. These retired teachers are a valuable resource to our district. Their experience and patience have been important to our support and retention efforts. These retired teacher mentors do not replace our formal program but enhance an already strong new teacher mentoring and support stucture. We also seek the guidance of our universities in planning and implementing our support programs. We are open to all ideas and would appreciate any ideas that you may have. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dawn Scheffner Jones:
The American Association for Employment in Education publishes the annual Job Search Handbook for Educators which details supply and demand for each teaching field and each region of the country. The JSHE can be obtained through AAEE at www.aaee.org - or I can be contacted at email@example.com with questions on specific subject areas or regions.
Anthony Rebora, edweek.org (Moderator):
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