I got an e-mail recently from someone looking for a teaching job. She was frustrated in her search and didn’t know where to begin. Many of the comments I get from readers of Reality 101 are from student teachers or college students, who are studying to become special education teachers. As the end of the semester approaches (can you believe it?!), I want to share some job search tips for teachers.
Teaching is a unique profession in that the vast majority of hiring is done over a span of just a couple months. In most other professions, you can search just about any time of the year and find openings. For teachers, however, the months of January–May are your peak time. If I had to be more specific, I would say the months of March and April.
From my experience, teachers are given letters of intent in late December or early January. A letter of intent simply lets the district know what the teachers plans to do for the following year. It does not guarantee that the teacher will be offered a position. Then once the district reviews all letters of intent, it issues contracts. Typically, contracts go out to teachers in early to mid-March. The contracts are usually due back to the district a month later.
Anywhere in this process, principals can become aware of openings in their school. Between teachers who return a letter of intent stating that they will not be returning, to teachers who decline a contract offer or were not offered a contract, the spring semester is full of openings. The key to landing a job, especially your first job, is all in your timing.
Prepare a resume, cover letter and reference list that you can personalize for each school you want to apply to. In talking to several principals, the common consensus is that delivering these materials in person is better than simply attaching them in an e-mail. Many principals, however, have different opinions about how they prefer for prospective teachers to contact them initially. Some prefer for teachers to stop by without an appointment at less busy times of the day (avoid times when students are arriving, leaving or eating), but I think most principals would prefer that you e-mail them ahead of time to schedule a time that works for them.
This personal impression is very important. Many first-year teachers are going to have very similar qualifications. Your personality and professionalism is what needs to set you apart. Dressing appropriately (see my post on teacher apparel), speaking professionally and being respectful of the principal’s time are all very important.
A couple questions you can ask the principal are:
- Do you know of any openings for next year?
- What are you looking for in a teacher applicant?
- What could I do to improve m marketability to future employers?
These questions will give you extremely valuable information. You will know if this school is a good lead for applying, and asking them will also show the principal that you are interested in growing and improving yourself.
Substituting is another extremely beneficial way to improve your chances of landing a teaching job. Stay tuned for a second post, where I give some helpful tips for substituting that leads to a teaching position.