Friday, May 27, 2011

Job Search, Applications, and Hiring - A Panel Discussion

Yesterday I facilitated an engaging panel discussion with four school personnel: two human resource directors from two large Rhode Island districts, an elementary school principal from district, and the director of Rhode Island College's Career Development Center.

The panelists began by presenting a rather grim picture for the current teaching job market - locally, regionally, and nationally - for some (not all!) teaching positions. Jobs are hard to find because there is an over supply of qualified job applicants, a downturn of the economy, closing of schools, and elimination of teaching positions. There is less demand for general elementary education, social studies, health and physical education teachers. There is greater demand in high school math and science, early childhood special education, bilingual and ESL-ELL teachers.

However, the panelists offered many excellent strategies for increasing one’s opportunity to win a teaching position in this tight job market.

· Following graduation, while you are applying for full-time teaching positions, "evolve" your teacher candidacy. Continue with your education and develop your expertise - knowledge, skills, and professional competence. Take graduate courses for an additional endorsement, join professional organizations, attend professional conferences and workshops, and develop your skills in instructional technology.

· There is a trend towards online job applications.

· Employers expect a high level of written communication in teaching job applications. Prepare well. Do your homework.

· Research the school and district before applying. Relate your knowledge, skills, and dispositions to the school/district challenges. Communicate how you are an asset to the school/district.

· Work a second job that enables you to substitute teach since there are no benefits in most districts. (Budget time/money so you can substitute teach. Can you live on $75 a day if you’re daily subbing 3-4 times a week?!)

· Substitute teaching is a great way to get your foot in the door, increase your exposure, learn about a school/district initiatives, curriculum, standards, and assessments.

· Demonstrate excellence as a substitute teacher. Leave positive impressions. Go beyond the call of duty. If you perform well, you will be called back and develop a positive reputation!

· Substitute teach in a couple of districts, not five or six. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Accumulate days in one school or district so you will be known well by school personnel.

· Use substitute teaching as a networking opportunity. When you work in a building, introduce yourself to the principal and other school personnel)

· Unfilled teaching positions open up in late June after the district job fairs.

· Remove offensive Facebook postings and/or start over and create a new Facebook page. Parents on the interview committee will Google you.

· Be prepared to ask questions about the school and district during an interview.

· Believe in yourself. Convey confidence.

Breaking News for Recent Graduates and Unemployed Teachers! Due to new hiring policies and educational reform in Providence Public Schools, external applicants can compete for teaching positions. Seniority isn’t the only factor in hiring teachers for vacant positions. 97 positions in four “turn around” schools are currently vacant! If you win a position, you own the position. You cannot get “bumped” if you demonstrate excellence. Providence uses an online, competency-based hiring system that includes written essays, proctored writing sample, interviews with principals of the school where you are applying, and a 15-minute demonstration lesson during the interview. Go to Providence’s Facebook - !/pages/Providence-Schools-Careers/186716331373972?sk=wall

Friday, May 20, 2011

Substitute Teaching - Get Your Foot in the Door!

In tight job markets, employers say substitute teaching is a great way to get your foot in the door. You can network with principals and teachers and check out the wide range of schools. Some districts guarantee substitute teachers an interview for a full-time teaching position if they substitute teach in the district for a specific period of time.

The district hiring process for substitute teaching differs. Some districts require you to apply online for substitute teaching at teacher recruitment web sites such as or with an automated substitute teaching systems such as AESOP. Other districts require you to submit printed application materials to the director of human resources.

One district in Rhode Island requires the following application materials for substitute teaching:

· Completed job application

· Résumé

· Two forms of I.D.

· Copy of transcript

· Three letters of recommendation

· Copy of your Praxis II scores

· Copy of your Professional Teacher Certification (or Student Teaching Certification)

· Documentation by a physician that you are free of tuberculosis (TB) and measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) in its communicable form.

Typically, applicants meet with the director of human resources for an interview and a review of application materials. If successful, the director requests that you complete a federal background check for a criminal record. Then, the director places you in the district substitute teaching pool for day-to-day substitute teaching and/or long-term (typically, more than 10 days) substitute positions.

Before you apply, get to know the school and district. Contact the human resources department and request a substitute teaching handbook or set of policies.

Prepare for the interview for the substitute teaching position by understanding the qualities related specifically to the duties of responsibilities of substitute teachers. Here is a “short list:”

Organization: Strategic and well-organized. Handles several tasks simultaneously such as beginning of the day duties (e.g., attendance, lunch count, late arrival of students). Develops a game plan for the day shortly after your arrival at the school and before the beginning of the school day.

Classroom Management: Calm, confident, and assertive. Follows school-wide and classroom management plans. Follows established routines. Develops clear expectations at the beginning of the day. Makes smooth transitions. Handles misbehaviors effectively while maintaining a positive, respectful learning environment. Alert to student behaviors to “push buttons” – notices behaviors and uses positive reinforcing statements. Prevents problems from occurring.

Initiative: Proactive. Prevents problems. Solves problems. Asks for help from school personnel as needed. When students are with specialists, grades assigned work or goes to the office to volunteer to help with other school-related tasks. Prepares additional, engaging activities. Brings extra supplies (e.g., markers, pencils, paper).

Work Ethic and Adaptability: Cheerfully accepts the responsibility of following procedures (e.g., attendance, rest rooms, dismissal) and delivering the daily lesson plans as prescribed. Corrects work that is assigned before leaving for the day. Able to improvise.

Collegiality; Interpersonal Skills: Pleasant. Interacts and cooperates with faculty, staff, administrators, and parents. Available to help others.

Motivation: Enthusiastic. Students see you as enjoying your job! Arrives at substitute teaching assignment prepared with additional, engaging, relevant learning activities to use when daily lesson plans have been completed or for use during “down time.”

When substitute teaching, invite the principal to observe you teach. A positive teaching performance can lead to an interview. Take time to build relationships with the faculty and staff. Arrive early to review the teacher’s daily lesson plans and other instructions. Introduce yourself to the clerks, custodians, teachers and principal. “Good morning, I’m (name) and I am subbing for (name) today. Nice to meet you!” During your lunchtime, eat your meal in the faculty room.

At the end of the day, write notes summarizing what you taught and any problems you encountered with specific students. End the note with a “thank you.” Hopefully, you can compliment the teacher for leaving excellent instructions and lesson plans and a well-managed classroom. In any event, leave a positive message. Before you depart, spruce up the classroom. Leave the teacher’s desk neater than found.

BOOKNOTE: See The Guide for practical information for winning a full-time teaching job.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

School Hiring Systems – Selection Factors

Clearly, economic conditions are affecting the demand for teachers. In some areas where the population is declining, districts are closing schools, increasing class sizes and paring their rosters. We know from educator supply and demand research that tight job markets exist in the Great Lakes and Northeast regions. Generally, job prospects are better in urban and rural areas than in suburban districts. There’s a surplus of elementary classroom, social studies, health and physical education teachers but a higher demand for special education, physics, chemistry, mathematics, bilingual education, and foreign language teachers.

Job applicants are facing greater competition due to changing teacher recruitment and hiring systems. One Rhode Island district using received 200 applications for a single position. Increasingly, schools and districts are posting job openings at teacher recruitment web sites and receiving applications filed electronically by job applicants. Job applicants report that they submit anywhere from 10 to 50 job applications. It’s easier to submit more applications electronically since there is no photocopying and mailing.

Applicants are facing stiff competition because they are reluctant to search beyond the 50-mile radius of their home, university or college. Linda Kent Davis, director of Rhode Island College’s Career Development Center, asks students this question to help them consider their future: “Is my career goal to teach? Or is it to teach in Rhode Island? Because those are very different questions.” If you can’t leave your home, you’ll need to work harder to get your foot inside the door. Keep your doors open!

Winning a teaching position in any job market requires tremendous effort, persistence, marketing and strategic thinking. So, what can you do to improve your chances of winning a teaching job?

1. Get organized and develop a plan of action.

2. Learn about the selection process and what employers value when they select job applicants.

The selection process begins with screening of applicants’ written applications (e.g., background information, personal statement, transcript, résumé). Job applicants who show evidence of the above selection criteria are invited to a daylong interview conducted by trained principals and former principals. The interview can include a review of the candidate’s résumé, personal statement, performance on a demonstration lesson, a proctored writing exercise, personal interview, and participation in a discussion group. Job seekers must demonstrate evidence that they meet selection criteria to be recommended for acceptance.

What do employers value when they select job applicants? To find out, I conducted a survey of 35 elementary principals in Rhode Island. Principals ranked three selection factors as most important for hiring:

· High level of verbal communication and interpersonal skills demonstrated during interviews

· High level of written communication demonstrated in application materials

· Unique skills, knowledge and experience (e.g., subject matter expertise, instructional technology, travel, or prior professional experience)

The New Teachers Project has been working nationally with low-performing schools to improve their hiring capacity. The New Teachers Project advises schools that teachers’ character traits and leadership skills are the greatest determinants of their success. Seven selection criteria are: 1. critical thinking, 2. achievement, 3. personal responsibility, 4. commitment, 5. constant learning, 6. communication skills, and 7. etiquette.

Providence RI Public Schools, recently developed a criterion-based hiring system. Job seekers are required to address five selection criteria in their applications:

· Knowledge of subjects and ability to teach them successfully

· Ability to create culturally and developmentally-appropriate lessons

· Ability to behave professionally as classroom managers, colleagues, and educational leaders for a diverse pool of learners

· Ability to utilize assessment data to guide instruction and plan for the future

· Ability to communicate well and knowledgeable about and committed to the extended school community

Before submitting applications and interviewing, research your prospective school/district employer and their hiring process. Verify the required documents the school/district requires before submitting a complete application. Call the school district and ask for the names of the people who supervises the hiring and the application and interview process. Examine school/district web sites to understand the school/district’s mission, culture of the school community and the population of the students. The web sites can provide information about the curriculum, standards and assessment. Read about current initiatives, the school board meeting minutes, and major issues they’re facing. Prior to an interview, attend a school parent-teacher meeting. Schedule an observation of the school and classrooms prior to the interview. Walk the hallways. Observe arrival and dismissal of students. Notice wall hangings and posters that convey messages about the school.

Winning a teaching position in any job market requires tremendous effort, persistence, marketing and strategic thinking. Get organized and develop a plan of action. Improve your chances of winning a job by learning about the job search and application process, researching schools, developing effective application materials, the art of interviewing, and posting online applications.

BOOKNOTE: See The Guide for information about five winning strategies, developing a plan of action, district hiring processes, and important selection criteria.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Teaching Job Interview

Recently, a graduate in elementary and special education shared his experience interviewing in one district. In this district the human resources department initially screens all applications and selects qualified applicants to interview whether there are job openings or not.

It pays to substitute teach in this district to get your foot in the door. The district invites successful substitute teachers for a job interview as a professional courtesy. After screening, a human resources representative phones qualified applicants and schedules an interview.

Prior to the scheduled interview, the job applicant sat down with a district elementary school principal to learn about possible interview questions and the process. This helped him prepare for the interview. Also, by talking with the principal he was also networking. Principals know other principals and will recommend qualified candidates to hire.

The job applicant’s interview was scheduled in the district’s central office at 2:30 PM. Unfortunately, the interview was delayed 30 minutes due to the late arrival of two building administrators who had issues to deal with at dismissal time. He realized the importance of being flexible. (Give yourself plenty of time. When you schedule an interview, make sure you don’t schedule any other appointments.)

Here were some of the interview questions:

· What do you want your classroom to look like in five years?

· Do you have any questions for us?

· Is there anything you would like to add to your file here?

· What is your confidence in using technology?

· What do you know about the New Problem-solving Math?

· What professional development opportunities are you taking advantage of?

· What is your behavioral management technique?

· How would you build parent relationships?

· Tell me about the ELO program and the ENO board?

· How do you get parents to make education important again?”

· Do you prefer the inclusion or resource room model?

· What position do you prefer – general education or special education classroom teaching?

· What questions do you have for us?

The interviewers also asked questions about items in his résumé. For instance, they inquired about a pre- student teaching practical teaching experience in one particular school. Did you like the school? What did you think was impressive about the school? And, they noticed his high GPA and two certifications (general elementary education and endorsement in special education). One of the interviewers thought his special education certification would help get his foot in the door. And, the interviewer suggested that some teachers in the districts might retire due to the changes in teacher accountability.

One week following the interview, he sent thank you letters to the interviewers.

BOOKNOTE: See The Guide for information about different types of interview questions that uncover an applicant’s knowledge of teaching, critical thinking, and dispositions; what interviewers are looking for during an interview; and possible responses to more than 30 interview and questions – what to say and what not to say.