Whether you’re starting out in education or seeking a new position, the hiring process is nerve-wracking. There are all those buzz words to contend with—and swarms of applicants, who’ll triumphantly blurt “differentiated instruction” faster than you can break a sweat.
But, I’ve made it through—three times. It’s been years since I landed my current teaching job, but the more things change, the more they stay the same.
So, here’s some timeless advice I rounded up from a superintendent, principal, and teacher, who work for the competitive school district of Bellmore, NY.
The Resume and Cover Letter
Start with an easy-to-scan, targeted resume that relays the most information in the briefest form. Superintendent Dr. Joseph Famularo seconds this advice and lives by the phrase, “Begin with the end in mind.” If you want that teaching job, what must you absolutely convey?
Joseph reminds job seekers that you really only need to include information that pertains to education on your teaching resume. Skip the hobbies—save that passion and personality for the cover letter and interview. List experiences directly related to education (TA jobs, art instruction) near the top. Then, to round out your resume, add indirect information that beefs up your qualifications.
For example, before my first teaching gig, I worked with mentally ill adults in a non-education job. The administration were pioneers in special education, so my work with a population that needed extra compassion and understanding made a real difference.
But, if I hadn’t concisely listed my education-related experiences on my resume first, that detail might have gone unread.
How can you ensure your future boss gets to the bottom of the page? Limit the print. “I’ll actually spend more time on a resume I can easily scan,” Joseph reveals. Instead of brought young readers up to level by implementing instructional reading groups, try, led guided reading groups. That gives Dr. Joe all the information he needs.
You can show off your style and vocabulary in your (still concise) cover letter. Whatever you do, don’t replicate a form letter. “Show you put in the effort,” advises Joseph. “If you allude to our students as “Bellmore Stars” because you browsed our website, you’ll leave quite an impression.” Remember, for a good administrator, it’s all about the students. Your cover letter should be, too.
The Interview Process
David Reilly, first grade teacher and 11-year veteran of Bellmore school district’s hiring committee, suggests the same for your interview.
“Don’t just talk instruction—talk interactions,” he recommends. “Consider the whole child—each individual’s strengths and emotional intelligence. Explain how you’ll engage them in purposeful lessons, and share an anecdote about your classroom experience.”
Here’s your chance to fill in the details left off your resume. Don’t ramble or go off on a tangent though; stick to answering the questions. Then give specific examples, and describe how students were affected.
With this formula—answer, example, affected—you’ll be direct andshow your style and know-how. Confidence is key, says David, so take a deep breath before you go in.
A question or buzzword may stump you. It happened to me! Politely request a repeat—or do what I did, and vow to research further. I was sure I’d bombed, but admitting I had work to do actually made me a more appealing candidate.
The Demo and Beyond
Of course, there’s work to do beforehand, reminds Principal Patti Castine. What grade level is the job opening? If you’re not sure, find out—and research precisely those practices and learning standards.
When you do your classroom demo, the lesson should be well-designed but not over the top. “We’re not looking for a carnival,” Patti assures. “Your demo should align with the developmental level you’re targeting. The children should be engaged and understand the purpose.”
Do change course mid-lesson if you realize the content is too rigorous, or not rigorous enough. “Have differentiated plans and materials in place, so that all the children come away having learned something,” she suggests.
There’s growth in it for you, too. Think of every application and interview—whether or not you get that callback—as a learning process. Jot notes after each interview and demo, Patti advises. If you don’t move on, you’ll have them to reflect on prior to the next go-round.
But, if—like me—you’ve found your forever school, then you’ll have a breathless entry recounting the people, environment, and philosophy that made you a perfect match. And if you follow this advice, I’m sure you’ll find that school soon.