You are feeling frustrated, disappointed, and maybe a little angry, that you finished your schooling to pursue your dream of teaching and you have been unable to land a position. It is a tough time in the economy for school districts, with budget cuts, most are increasing class sizes and reigning in. So now what for you?
1. Get registered for a substitute teaching certificate. Depending on where you are, that could be a Regional Office of Education, or at the local district level. That will include some paperwork, a fee for the sub certificate and a background check.
Sub everywhere and every day!! No you won't have a consistent salary or benefits, but this is a way to get into the schools and get to know the teachers and principals. If you do a great job, teachers start to request you for their classroom when they are out and this is how you get noticed and show your stuff!! This also helps you see where you want to be teaching...Believe it or not, there are about 500 applicants for every K-5 position, and it is beneficial to get to know the teachers and principals in the schools where you are subbing. Subbing gives you experience in a variety of grade levels, in a variety of content areas, and can provide learning for your improvement. You will know quickly what your real strengths are and what you need to work on.
Look for long term sub position or maternity leaves. These really get you interacting with teams of teachers as well as school activities. These subbing experience give you experience with classroom management, unit planning, assessment, use of student data, professional development offered in your schools...these are invaluable, and if you hear of one, APPLY!!!
2. Network, network, network....find ways to network. In the fall, there are several teacher job fairs, find them and go! Get your face and your resume out there! Take every opportunity to find ways to connect with teachers and principals. Reach out to those that can help you and don't be afraid to ask for advice. While LINKEDIN is not big for teachers, get a page and there are education discussion groups that you can participate in.
3. Continue learning and building your teaching repertoire. Get online and read about the common core, the Danielson framework for effective teaching, John Hattie's work on Visible Teaching, Professional Learning Communities, common formative and summative assessments....it goes on and on. On my Facebook Page, The Teacher Guru, I post articles daily that can easily support your continuous learning, so check it out. This continuous learning builds your knowledge base and then apply to your subbing position.
4. Keep your resume updated and fresh. Make sure that your resume outlines your teaching experiences to date. Principals are looking for entry level teachers that have had experiences with the Common Core, are collaborative, have looked at data to guide their instruction. If you have those experiences, get them on your resume. While the summer jobs you have listed on your resume show your work ethic or perhaps work with children, those jobs really mean nothing if you don't have the teaching experiences that catch the principal's eye.
5. Spend time every day looking for a teaching position. Check the vacancy list every day, people resign, people are let go, people have family issues and may need to take a leave, so don't be left behind!! Create a list to link quickly to all your websites that you check, so that you can check all of them in a few minutes.
6. Keep practicing those interview questions. As you sub, you will have greater clarity on your teaching and skills. When approaching a question, it is best to begin with effective teaching research and then embed your personal experiences into the response. For example, when asked about differentiation, explain the principles of good differentiation practices (high expectations, individual student needs, differentiate by content, process, produce and learning environment) and then how you have or will differentiate. Teacher candidates often just discuss what they did in student teaching or give an example of what they did in a unit while student teaching. Practicing your responses using this approach will allow your principal to see that you understand the best practices, AND can give concrete examples. This also helps teacher candidates not get lost in their responses and ramble on. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.
What about taking a teacher aide position? Taking an aide position can help you network, work in the school system and become acclimated to working with teachers, parents, students and principals. It gives you a salary and benefits and can be very fulfilling. Look at what your skills are and make sure you have a match; most of the time, these are special education positions.
I have been looking for a job for two years, do I give up and try something else? I know how hard this is if you have not yet found a job. I would say, DO NOT GIVE UP. Things are tough out there with funding and what is going on with federal and state mandates. If teaching is your passion, continue to work on the areas above. If you have found a job outside of education because you need a salary and benefits to live (and most of you do need those!!), find a way to connect to education someway. See if you can volunteer somewhere for a literacy volunteer at the local library or a community educational activity. The longer you are away, the harder it will be to get those connections back and to stay current.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for advice, a question, or just for moral support.