Career Advice Opinion

Leverage Life Experiences for a Competitive Edge in the Job Search

By AAEE — July 01, 2013 2 min read
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What unique life experiences do you bring to the classroom? More and more school administrators are looking for teachers who bring unique life experiences to their position and more importantly, who can incorporate these experiences into teaching their students in a classroom. Administrators are also seeking teachers who are team orientated and can use their special skills and interests to serve in important roles and functions beyond the classroom. A local school administrator, Mr. Alejo Padilla, has seen this firsthand in his own role as an educator and looks for these characteristics in teacher candidates. Mr. Padilla states:

“For the past month I have been involved in interviewing teachers for 6 positions at a high school. I have been looking for very specific characteristics and life experiences. The teaching pool is highly competitive. A bachelor degree and a teaching credential are not enough these days. As an administrator, I look for candidates that have experiences that make them exceptional--whose life experiences might include the following: coached or willing to coach a sport; ran a non-profit or small business; served in a leadership role in a fraternity or sorority; traveled abroad (or has plans for overseas travel). The character traits that I look for are a passion for teaching and working with teenagers.... I want teachers on my campus that are hungry to create change and look for solutions to make the school environment better for everyone.”

The experiences gained by teachers outside of the classroom allow them to engage their students in creative and fun ways while showing them the relevance of the subject in the real world. Below are a few questions that you can ask yourself to think about the unique life experiences you bring to the classroom.

1. What special interests and talents do I bring to a school?
2. Do I have experience coaching sports? Am I comfortable coaching a sport?
3. Do I have experience running a club, program, nonprofit, or business?
4. Have I traveled abroad? Do I plan to travel? Am I multilingual?

Next, think of the ways these unique interests and experiences can translate to education and be incorporated into teaching. Here are a few examples of new teachers who infused their life experiences into their role:

* First, the History/Social Science teacher with a passion for journalism, with previous experience as an editor-in-chief, news editor and reporter, who now serves as the school’s newspaper advisor.
* Another example is the English Teacher with a commitment to dance who served as a dance instructor in her community for four years and now coordinates an after-school dance program.
* A final example is the elementary school teacher who loves working with culturally and linguistically diverse students because he himself is bilingual in Spanish, has traveled abroad and participated in the Bi-National Teacher Education Project in Mexico.

Aspiring educators must stand out among the competition in the job search and while having a credential and student teaching experience is important, life experiences and an ability to appropriately incorporate these experiences into the classroom and beyond will set the job seeker up for success.

Shannon Wells
Career Counselor and Experiential Learning Coordinator
California State University, Sacramento, CA

The opinions expressed in Career Corner are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.