Tactics for Landing Your First Teaching Job

A MiddleWeb Blog

It’s that time of year when many soon-to-be educators are looking to secure their first teaching job. Doing so can be exciting and a bit stressful.

The excitement comes from the nearing opportunity to collaborate with colleagues, work with students, and design/deliver student learning.

Much of the stress, however, comes from selecting the right schools to apply to and successfully completing the interview process.

To help out with the process, here are suggestions I’ve gathered from seasoned educators and administrators.

Picking the Right School 

► Always look up potential schools on the state report card. Are state standardized tests the most important thing? Of course not. But you can learn a lot about the school very quickly. You’ll understand demographic makeup, how they serve special populations, and some of their history. It’s easy, it’s free, and it gives you a lot of information quickly.

► When possible, talk to teachers at the schools you are applying for to get a sense for what kind of school it is. Do they support their new teachers? What does that look like? How is adult culture?

► One of the major factors that will determine your happiness in a school is your administrator. Keep that in mind. If they have a reputation for being thoughtful, hard-working, responsive, positive, and putting kids first, you are far more likely to enjoy your time working with them.

► Remember that the interview is a chance to gain more knowledge about the school. Always take advantage of their “do you have any questions for us?” at the end. Ask things like….

  • “How will you support new teachers?”
  • “I hope to come here, work hard, and move students academically. How will I know if I’m doing that? How will you tell me?”
  • “What are the structures that recognize, encourage, and reward high-quality teaching?”
Interview Tips from a School Principal

Recently I visited with a principal of a large school who had this to say:

Many years ago I created a word to describe what I look for in a teaching candidate: requestability….the ability to be requested. I ask myself these questions as I’m interviewing candidates:

► Is this someone children will want to have as their teacher?
►Is this someone parents will want to have as their child’s teacher?
►Is this someone teachers will enjoy collaborating with?
►Is this someone who will be a good employee?

The candidate should paint a picture through specific examples of how they’ll manage a classroom, collaborate with teachers, communicate with parents, etc. Additionally, I believe the candidate’s personality, professionalism, grammar, dress and grooming, etc. during the interview make it possible to infer their “requestability.” Candidates should focus on what may be inferred about them as much as they focus on how they’ll respond to questions during the interview.

Interview Tips from an Assistant Superintendent of Schools

An assistant superintendent of schools made these suggestions:

As someone who has worked at both the building and district level, I’ve sat in on interviews with a number of potential teachers. Here are some helpful tips for when you’re interviewing:

► Have a strong resume that paints a picture of your school-relevant experience (i.e… substitute teaching, volunteer work, and undergraduate practicums if applicable).
► Dress professionally in business appropriate attire.
► Come prepared with answers on how you will manage a classroom and procedures.
► Be ready to explain how to differentiate your instruction.
► Talk up your dependability, work ethic, integrity, and teamwork abilities.
► Be positive and do your research about the school you are interviewing with.
► If a principal asks you to talk about your greatest weakness for the position, tell him/her that your weakness is a lack of experience, but also that you are willing to work hard and are a quick learner.

Suggestions on How to Sell Yourself Well

As I talked with a number of administrators, teachers, and other individuals who have been involved in hiring new teachers, a number of recommendations consistently surfaced on how to effectively “sell yourself.” Some of these include…

► Don’t pretend to have experience that you don’t really have. Instead, focus on what you bring to the table: “I’m new, and I know that – but I’m a worthwhile investment. I will work hard, I am excited, and I am moldable. I am eager to be mentored. And besides, I love all the new technology coming out these days!”

► Make a LinkedIn. If an administrator is going to find a social media account of yours, it’s a very good idea to have one where you put your best foot forward. Update it regularly like you do a resume.

► Roleplay some hiring interviews. Practice the easy questions, because they’re the ones that people foul up. (Especially the “so, tell us about yourself!” question. They want to hear why they should hire you, not about your hobbies!)

► ​Get subbing experience. You can’t bring ten years of experience – but new teachers are scary for administrators in part because they don’t know if you can handle a classroom. Show them you can with your very own classroom management internship: substitute teaching.​​

► Cast a wide net. Apply to a lot of schools – more than you think you should. (Do your homework on them, too!)​ If you don’t get the job, it’s still a good experience! If you get lots of offers, the more the better! You will become a better interviewee by participating in more of them.

► Prepare a clear, concise explanation of your approach to classroom management. Consider including elements such as…

  • establishing clear expectations
  • building relationships with students
  • parent/family engagement
  • reinforcing positive behavior
  • addressing off-task/disruptive behavior

Have a couple of sincere questions of your own prepared to ask when you are interviewed. For example…consider asking something like…

  • In your experience, what do you see newer teachers struggle with the most?
  • What are some common mistakes you see your new teachers make that can be avoided?

► Create a polished resume and cover letter that highlights your education, relevant experience, skills, and passion for teaching. Tailor each application to the specific job you’re applying for.

► Compile a concise portfolio showcasing your teaching philosophy, lesson plans, student work samples, and any other relevant materials that demonstrate your teaching abilities and accomplishments.

Stay Positive and Persistent

When pursuing that coveted first teaching position, the journey is a blend of exhilarating anticipation and nerve-wracking decisions. As soon-to-be educators navigate through the maze of applications and interviews, seasoned advice from educators and administrators serves as a guiding beacon.

From thoroughly researching potential schools to mastering the interview, there exists actionable strategies that can significantly enhance a soon-to-be-teacher’s prospects. Above all, stay positive, continue refining your skills, and keep applying to positions that align with your goals and values. Remember that each application and interview experience is an opportunity for growth and learning.

Interview image by Amore Seymour from Pixabay
New teacher image by Enrico Nunziati from Pixabay

Curtis Chandler

Dr. Curtis Chandler (@CurtisChandler6) is an education professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg. Curtis has been a Kansas Teacher of the Year and a KS regional instructional tech coach. “I am a middle school teacher through and through,” he says. He enjoys spending time with his wife and his favorite students – his four sons. His two blogs for MiddleWeb include Class Apps (insightful articles about blending tech and teaching strategies) here, and New Teacher Tips, a blog dedicated to preservice and beginning teachers, here.

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