by Harry and Rosemary Wong
Applying for a Teaching Job in a Tight Market, Part 1
You're graduating from college and you want a teaching job. Yet, you've heard all this talk about tight budgets and teachers being given pink slips.
But, thanks to the Internet, you can actually find jobs, complete applications online, and even find out about the district that will be interviewing you.
It is essential that you differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack.
The marketplace has become stiff again and you need to put your best foot forward. You can do this by impressing the interviewer that you are knowledgeable about the district. Write ahead or call personally and obtain literature about the school district. Go on the Internet as many school districts have their own web site. Go to a search engine, such as Google or Yahoo, and you may find hundreds of articles about the district. In fact, if you go in with some information that the interviewer may not know, that will enhance your chance for employment. People like to be noticed, just as you like to be noticed.
Researching a school district is essential. It's best not to walk into an interview not knowing a thing about the prospective school district. For one, how will you even know if you want to teach in a particular district if you are not knowledgeable about the district? It's like taking a trip and not knowing a thing about where you are going. Always walk into your interview having done your research, because the next person who has done so will have an advantage over you, if you are unprepared.
Before stepping into an interview, you should be able to answer the following questions:
- What are the demographics of the school population?
- What is the district's mission?
- How many employees does the district have?
- How do the district's test scores compare with the state average?
- Does the district have a new teacher induction program?
- Does the district have a curriculum guide?
When you go in for an interview, the obvious item to have with you is your portfolio. Perhaps you've seen people with these rather large, thin folders that have a handle at the top. Artists, architects, designers, and graphic artists carry them to show samples of their work when they go to see a prospective client. This is their portfolio. The district where you are going for your interview is your prospective client and they will want to see samples of your work and even read letters from your past administrators, parents, and students. Bring your portfolio---organize it, tab it, and be prepared to turn to a few salient items.
Now for the insider tip! This is something we've learned from new teachers. Several have told us that they walk in for an interview with a copy of The First Days of School. These teachers told us that they didn't wave the book around; it just sat on top of their portfolio. Since over two million copies have been sold, most all administrators know this book. If they find out you are knowledgeable of its contents, you will have enhanced your employment opportunity.
If you are asked to demonstrate your knowledge of The First Days of School, produce a first day of school script. (June 2002 http://teachers.net/gazette/JUN00/covera.html and March 2003 http://teachers.net/gazette/MAR03/wong.html) If you really want to impress the interviewer with your knowledge of effective teaching, produce an Action Plan similar to the one Sarah Jones had on her first day of school. (September 2001 http://teachers.net/gazette/SEP01/covera.html)
Two Questions to Ask
Because they affect your success as a teacher, there are two questions you must ask during the interview.
- Does the district have a new teacher induction program?
- Does the district have a curriculum guide that is aligned to state standards?
Induction Program: It is imperative that you ask if the district has an induction program. First, a district with an induction program demonstrates that they care enough about you that they will train and support you with the intention of retaining you. That concept is inherent in the title of the book, New Teacher Induction: How To Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers. (http://teachers.net/gazette/FEB03/spotlight.html)
A district that simply gives you a teaching assignment and sends you forth to teach is a district with the attitude that you are expendable and another teacher can be found to replace you. Many of you have invested tens of thousands of dollars, if not over one hundred thousand dollars, in your education and you want to use that investment to make a difference in the lives of your students. You can be as successful as the many teachers we have described in our monthly Teachers.Net Gazette columns. However, do not be so naïve as to think that you can go it alone without an induction program.
Second, here are some eye-opening statistics. The following districts devote three or more years to an induction program. In the 2000-2001 school year
Lafourche Parish Schools, Louisiana
Lost 1 teacher out of 46 hired
Islip Public Schools, New York
Lost 3 teachers out of 68 hired
Leyden High School District, Illinois
Lost 4 teachers out of 90 hired
Geneva Community Schools, New York
Lost 5 teachers out of 67 hired
Newport-Mesa School District, California
Lost 5 teachers out of 148 hired
The truth is, up to 17 percent of the new teachers in urban schools will leave the profession in their first year and 50 percent of all other teachers will leave the profession within five years. There is absolutely no reason why any of you should be one of these statistics, because there are districts with organized, sustained professional development programs in place to train and support you as you develop into an effective teacher. Teaching is a developmental process and it takes five to seven years to grow into an effective teacher.
Since it takes years to develop into a successful teacher, the successful
teachers are the ones who can't sop up enough information at induction
meetings. Tragically, many districts do not provide organized opportunities for
teachers to learn and grow. So, these teachers leave the profession after a few
years believing that they do not need to learn. If you dare to teach, you
must never cease to learn.
Mentoring Is Not Induction
Beware if a district tells you they will only give you a mentor. A mentor is important, but to succeed you need more than a mentor. You need a comprehensive induction program.
At a recent convention of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), Susan Moore Johnson, director of the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education said,
"Mentoring is all the rage. But the truth is that mentoring pairs seldom are anything but haphazard. They are driven by the schedule. They are often not pairs of people who really know the subjects that the individual is teaching. All the teachers in Massachusetts were supposed to have mentors, and we would say, 'Do you have a mentor?' 'Oh, yes I have a mentor.' 'Well, tell me about the mentor.' 'Well, I have not seen the mentor since the first week of school. My mentor teaches across town,' or 'My mentor teaches on the other side of the building. I am science. She is special ed.' It is just story after story of people who, within the context of a school and the schedule and the constraints of space, never saw their mentors or got very little assistance, or felt like their mentors taught in ways that were totally alien to them."
Jon Saphier, in his book Beyond Mentoring (note the word "beyond") says this about mentoring:
- For too many teachers, the mentoring pairing process results in a "blind date." The teachers do not know each other and neither partner has input into the pairing.
- Mentors alone cannot hope to provide the range of input, feedback, and support beginning teachers need.
- The ad hoc, informal nature of traditional mentoring scenarios relies heavily on the initiative, instincts, and good will of the veteran teacher and the protégé.
- A comprehensive induction program involves more than just mentors. We need to go beyond mentoring.
- A well-designed induction program is essentially excellent staff development.
- Effective induction programs inherently work to transform the culture of a school.
Leslie Huling, who has written extensively on induction and mentoring says,
Simply assigning a mentor teacher does little to remedy the situation of teachers becoming discouraged and leaving the profession. Induction and mentoring must go hand-in-hand. You cannot do one without the other.
But some educators continue talking about using mentors to retain teachers as if this method has received the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval," yet no one has ever been able to produce "scientifically accurate" data to substantiate its success.
Educators never talk about what happens to the new teacher after a year when the mentor has outlived his or her usefulness; what happens if a school loses 50 percent of their teachers annually; and who is in charge of orchestrating the entire mentoring process. In many schools the principal acts like a taxi company dispatcher, dispatching a veteran teacher to buddy up with a neophyte teacher. Since teacher development is a continuous process, what is needed is a formalized, sustained process known as induction. Mentoring is not induction; it is a component of induction.
Those of us who are knowledgeable about the induction process know that teachers learn best not from mentors, but from watching others teach. Thus, many induction programs have model classrooms. We also know new teachers learn much better in networks and collegial sessions, where the viewpoints of veteran and neophyte teachers are respected.
What Everyone Else Knows and Does
We are not going to attempt to understand why it has taken education so long to recognize what other industries recognize almost from the start---training matters. Formalized, sustained training matters. For instance, in the private and non-profit sector, training is a part of every company's plan.
For instance, when Kyle Taylor graduated from California State University at Northridge with a degree in finance and accounting, he considered and entertained offers from such renowned companies as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Deloitte & Touche, and Sobul, Primes & Schenkel. His final decision was not based on pay, location, or position. He selected the company he felt had the best training program. He knew that the training plan would prepare him for his next job.
In education we do not provide nearly enough, if any, training, for our teachers. And many new teachers do not realize---until it's too late---just how lacking they are in basic teaching skills. As they begin their life's career, college graduates in the business world look to the companies that offer them the best training, for they know their future successes and rewards are contingent on their initial training. Company executives also know they can retain well-trained employees who will reward them. New teachers should expect no less!
Nicole Tripi will graduate from the University of New Orleans next year. She has already asked us, her godparents, where she should go to teach. We know where there are job openings. We know where the good salaries are---starting at over $40,000 a year. We know where she can find supportive administrators. We know where she can find affordable housing. We know where she can raise her child in a good community.
Nonetheless, we know of a school district where the salary will be average. Some students will be challenging. The heat and humidity along the bayous can be unforgiving. But we can't think of a better way for her to receive her initial training and get started correctly than to be trained by the four people who run the Lafourche Parish induction program in Louisiana. Her future is dependent on starting successfully, under the tutelage of caring and supportive people. And because their attrition rate is less than 8 percent, she will succeed in the Lafourche Parish Public Schools. In the 2000--2001 school year, they only lost one teacher and all of their teachers passed the Louisiana State Teachers Assessment test. What a wonderful way to begin a career!
Therefore, in your interview, ask if the district has a formalized induction program. Ask how long the program runs. Most importantly, ask what is the attrition rate of their new teachers.
Second Question to Ask
It's a tragedy. When a teacher leaves a school, that teacher takes everything with him or her and leaves nothing behind. So, when the new teacher comes aboard, that teacher has nothing to reference and has to start all over again at square one. There is no file, no box, no notes, nothing. You would think that all of the past teachers would have left copies of their lesson plans, activities, and tests. That seldom happens.
Worse yet, the school district often times has a mismatched set of concepts that are labeled curriculum guides. Beginning teachers usually have to ask for these items as they have been boxed up and carted away with the departing teacher's belongings.
It is not your position to develop the curriculum. That is the district's responsibility. It is your charge to deliver the curriculum. Can you imagine American Airlines telling their pilots that they can make up their own flight plans?
The second question you need to ask is: Does your district have a curriculum guide and
- is the curriculum guide aligned to state standards, and
- are there suggested activities and lesson plans for you to follow?
In next month's column, we'll talk about the importance of teaching in a school with a well-defined curriculum guide.
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
Employment times are tight. If you truly want to be a teacher, you must make your potential employer realize your desire. The fact that you are reading this Teachers.Net article puts you far ahead of many of today's candidates. You are eager to learn, informed, and dedicated to self-improvement.
During your interview be a namedropper---mention Teachers.Net, The First Days of School, even Harry Wong! Show what you're capable of producing with your portfolio. Dress professionally. Project confidence. Sparkle with passion. Speak positively of children and their potential.
Your thoroughness in the interview process will reward you with the noblest of all careers. The teaching profession wants you and needs you. Welcome!
For a printable version of this article click here.
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Gazette Articles by Harry & Rosemary Wong:
If you spot a link that appears to be out-of-date, please alert us at email@example.com!
- A Grateful Goodbye After 15 Years (Jun 2015)
- Love, Marriage, and Babies, Oh My! (May 2015)
- Retention Rate Is 100 Percent (Apr 2015)
- Teacher Effectiveness and Human Capital (Mar 2015)
- Training Teachers to Be Effective (Feb 2015)
- Making Deals Is Ineffective (Dec 2014 / Jan 2015)
- Retrieving and Carrying Electronic Devices (Nov 2014)
- Sharing to Succeed (Oct 2014)
- How a University Prepares Its Students (Sep 2014)
- Effective Teaching (Aug 2014)
- Your Future Is in Your Hands (June/July 2014)
- The Classroom Management Book (May 2014)
- When Students Succeed; Teachers Succeed (April 2014)
- Teaching New Teachers How to Succeed (March 2014)
- Execute and Praise (February 2014)
- Shaping a Solid Foundation (Dec 2013 / Jan 2014)
- The Most Misunderstood Word (November 2013)
- How to Start Class Every Day (October 2013)
- Prevention: The Key to Solving Discipline Problems (September 2013)
- Planning, Planning, Planning (August 2013)
- Are You THE One? (June / July 2013)
- Practical Examples That Work (May 2013)
- A Disability Is Not a Handicap (Apr 2013)
- Totally Inexcusable (Mar 2013)
- Be Proud of Public Education (Feb 2013)
- Structure Will Motivate Students (Dec 2012 / Jan2013)
- Orchestrating the Classroom (Nov 2012)
- The Lasting Impact of Instructional Coaching (Oct 2012)
- Learning, Laughing, and Leaving a Legacy (Sep 2012)
- Twenty-two, First Year, and Legit (Aug 2012)
- A Master Teacher of Teachers (June/July 2012)
- Where Going to School Means Success (May 2012)
- A Nationally Celebrated High School (Apr 2012)
- The Highest Rated School in New York City, Part 2 (Mar 2012)
- The Highest Rated School in New York City, Part 1 (Feb 2012)
- The Importance of Culture (Dec 2011 / Jan 2012)
- You Can Teach Classroom Management (Nov 2011)
- Seamless, Transparent, and Consistent (Oct 2011)
- Coaching Teachers to Be Effective Instructors (Sep 2011)
- How a Principal Creates a Culture of Consistency (Aug 2011)
- Graduation Begins in Your Classroom (June/July 2011)
- The Inspiration of a Mother (May 2011)
- How to Be an Effective Leader (Apr 2011)
- Learning Objectives: The Heart of Every Lesson (Mar 2011)
- Even Shakespeare Had Structure (Feb 2011)
- Effectiveness Defined: It's Not a Mystery (Dec 2010 / Jan 2011)
- Surviving Without a Principal (Nov 2010)
- Achieving Greatness: Locke Elementary School, Part 2 (Oct 2010)
- Teaching Greatness: Locke Elementary School, Part 1 (Sep 2010)
- Effective from the Start (Aug 2010)
- Ten Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2010 (June/July 2010)
- The Success of a Culture of Consistency (May 2010)
- Training Teachers to Be Effective (Apr 2010)
- Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn (Mar 2010)
- Turning Teaching Dreams into Reality (Feb 2010)
- Dreams and Wishes Can Come True (Dec 2009 / Jan 2010)
- Success in a State Controlled School (Nov 2009)
- Inner City Is Not An Excuse (Oct 2009)
- Exceeding All Expectations (Sep 2009)
- Teachers Are the Difference (Aug 2009)
- Nine Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2009 (Jun/Jul 2009)
- Teachers Are the Greatest Assets (May 2009)
- The Tools for Success (Apr 2009)
- Assessing for Student Learning (Mar 2009)
- To Be an Effective Teacher Simply Copy and Paste (Feb 2009)
- The Sounds of Students Learning and Performing (Dec 2008)
- A School That Achieves Greatness (Nov 2008)
- Boaz City Schools: Professional Learning Teams (Oct 2008)
- It Was Something Close to a Miracle (Sep 2008)
- A Computer Teacher Shows the Way (Aug 2008)
- Eight Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2008 (Jun/Jul 2008)
- An Amazing Kindergarten Teacher (May 2008)
- Schools That Beat the Academic Odds (Apr 2008)
- Academic Coaching Produces More Effective Teachers (Mar 2008)
- Coaches Are More Effective than Mentors (Feb 2008)
- Wrapping the Year with Rap! (Dec 2007/Jan 2008)
- The Floating Teacher (Nov 2007)
- Taking the Bite Out of Assessment—Using Scoring Guides (Oct 2007)
- Ten Timely Tools for Success on the First Days of School (Sep 2007)
- First Day of School Script - in Spanish, Too! (Aug 2007)
- Seven Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2007 (Jun 2007)
- Effective Teachers End the Year Successfully (May 2007)
- Training Gen Y Teachers for Maximum Effectiveness (Apr 2007)
- Classroom Management Applies to All Teachers (Mar 2007)
- Students Want a Sense of Direction (Feb 2007)
- Rubrics in Two College Classes (Dec 2006/Jan 2007)
- How to Write a Rubric (Nov 2006)
- Assessing Student Progress with a Rubric (Oct 2006)
- A 92 Percent Homework Turn-in Rate (Sep 2006)
- Effective Teachers Are Proactive (Aug 2006)
- Five Year Summary of Articles (Jun 2006)
- Hitting the Bulls Eye as a Beginning Teacher (May 2006)
- They're Eager to Do the Assignments (Apr 2006)
- The Success of Special Ed Teachers (Mar 2006)
- What Teachers Have Accomplished (Feb 2006)
- Fifty Years Ago, The Legacy (Dec 2005/Jan 2006)
- The Emergency Teacher (Nov 2005)
- Classroom Management Is Not Discipline (Oct 2005)
- A Successful First Day Is No Secret (Sep 2005)
- The Most Important Factor (Aug 2005)
- Four Year Summary of Articles (Jul 2005)
- Improving Student Achievement Is Very Simple (Part 2) (Jun 2005)
- Improving Student Achievement Is Very Simple (Part 1) (May 2005)
- Never Cease to Learn (Apr 2005)
- His Classroom Is a Real Life Office (Mar 2005)
- The Power of Procedures (Feb 2005)
- The First Ten Days of School (Jan 2005)
- PowerPoint Procedures (Nov/Dec 2004)
- The Saints of Education (Oct 2004)
- How Procedures Saved a Teacher's Life (Sep 2004)
- How to Help Students with Their Assignments (Aug 2004)
- Three Year Summary of Articles (Jun/Jul 2004)
- His Students are All Certified (May 2004)
- What to Do When They Complain (Apr 2004)
- A Well-Oiled Learning Machine (Mar 2004)
- The Effective Teacher Adapts (Feb 2004)
- How to Start a Lesson Plan (Aug 2003)
- Applying for a Teaching Job in a Tight Market - Part 2 (Jun/Jul 2003)
- Applying for a Teaching Job in a Tight Market (May 2003)
- The Effective Substitute Teacher (Apr 2003)
- A First Day of School Script (Mar 2003)
- How to Retain New Teachers (Feb 2003)
- No Problem With Hurricane Lili (Dec 2002)
- A Class Size of 500 (Nov 2002)
- Effective Practices Apply to All Teachers (Oct 2002)
- Dispensing Materials in Fifteen Seconds (Sept 2002)
- How To Start School Successfully (Aug 2002)
- Teaching Procedures Is Teaching Expectations (June - July 2002)
- $50,000 to Replace Each Teacher (May 2002)
- Even Superintendents Do It (Apr 2002)
- Impossible, No Job Openings? (Mar 2002)
- A Stress Free Teacher (Feb 2002)
- A Most Effective School (Jan 2002)
- Van Gogh in Nine Hours (Dec 2001)
- The Effective Teacher Thinks (Nov 2001)
- How a Good University Can Help You (Sep 2001)
- How to Motivate Your Students (May 2001)
- How to Recognize Where You Want to Be (Apr 2001)
- What Successful New Teachers Are Taught (Mar 2001)
- A Journey of the Heart (Feb 2001)
- The Miracle of Teachers (Jan 2001)
- It's Not the Students. It's the Teacher. (Dec 2000)
- The First Five Minutes Are Critical (Nov 2000)
- How to Start a Class Effectively (Oct 2000)
- The Problem Is Not Discipline (Sep 2000)
- There Is Only One First Day of School (Aug 2000)
- Applying for Your First Job (Jul 2000)
- Your First Day (Jun 2000)
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