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 SchoolSpring.com 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.