Advice needed: finding your first teaching job

In the words of Johnny Cash, I hear the train a comin’ it’s rollin’ ’round the bend. But in my case I’m not singing the blues about being stuck in Folsom Prison, but rather finding my first ‘real’ teaching job.

I’m six months out from graduating and all of a sudden the prospect of job hunting has gotten a lot more real.

The most obvious thing I need to do to help my job search is to pass my course. But there are literally hundreds of students across the country at the end of the year who will graduate with their freshly minted teaching qualifications eager to find work as a primary school teacher. Not all of these students will find work.

Recently I’ve heard a lot about the tightness of the New Zealand employment market even for teachers. My mother, who has many of years of teaching experience, applied for a job a few months ago where there were over 60 applicants for one position.   Stories like this keep student teachers wide awake at 3 in the morning wondering WILL I EVER GET A JOB?

I’m a bit worried as my institution is in a completely different city from the one I am living in so the connections between the schools in the area I’m living  and the varsity are pretty much non-existent. Also I imagine some might be put off by the fact that my diploma online via the distance option. Especially when there is a university offering the same course literally down the road from where I live.

But I’m trying to see this as a negative rather than a positive as not being from the local university is, as one of my friends in the PR business would say, a unique selling point.  Now I just need to put my unique selling points down into CV form and hope there’s a primary school out there who has need for a  maths loving, Korean speaking, computer geek on staff as a Beginning Teacher in 2012.

I’m guessing that teaching isn’t very different from other professions,  in that when you have dozens of applicants for one position connections are a way to at least get your foot in the door for an interview. When you are a student teacher your connections are quite limited. The ideal scenario for student teachers is that they get a job offer from one of the schools they go on teaching experience with. However I will only have two (long) practicums during my course, at schools which may or may not need a teacher at the end of the year.

So rather than sit in my room freaking out, I’ve decided to put my holiday to use doing the following:

  • Attend events like Net Hui and Edu Camp to meet people working in education. Ulearn would be awesome, but unfortunately well out of my price range.
  • Arrange visits to schools I am interested in working for next year. I’ve already met with the principals of two schools, got another two in the works.
  • Write my teaching CV.
  • Get referees to put on my teaching CV.
  • Draft key skill paragraphs that I can put into cover letters.
  • Collect necessary paperwork for my Teacher’s Council registration (already sent away for my Korean police certificate).

I know I am a little bit ahead of hiring season for 2012 but I think that getting my face out and start meeting people rather than waiting until positions are advertised. Likewise getting CVs, cover letters, paperwork togoether is an easier task to accomplish when not under the pressure of time.

So this post officially marks the beginning of Operation Job Search.

Yes this post probably reads like I’m asking for work a desperate cry for help.  But I’m working on being pro-active about asking for advice and guidance. :)

So twitter followers, blog readers and random lurkers I have some questions:

What advice would you give Beginning Teachers looking for their first jobs?

If you’ve ever been on a hiring panel, what qualities or skills do you look for in Beginning Teachers?

Is there anything else I can add to my ‘to do’ list to help my chances?

Edited to add thanks to @sumich for this link.

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About Stephanie

Stephanie is a teacher of a fabulous class of year 7/8 students (11-13 year olds). She bakes, goes to the gym and geeks out in Wellington, New Zealand.

Posted on June 27, 2011, in job search and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Hmmmm…advice…get into the schools you are keen to work in, introduce yourself etc and leave a CV. Two of our staff literally nagged their way onto staff because they were so familiar and hard core ringing and asking if we had positions etc! They ARE fabulous too which helps! Sounds like you have HEAPS going for you – make a list of what you want you want to learn and what type of school you’d like to work in and go looking for it! We look for enthusiasm in candidates but the most important quality is TEACHABILITY – as in, this BT will want to learn from working in our school! DON’T settle for ‘just a job’ – this is your career and you want to ask pertinent questions at interviews like ‘what support do you provide for PRTs and what is the school’s policy on their mentoring programme?’ It pays to ask questions too! Have a professional looking CV – 90% that don’t make it to interviews are because of shabby CVs or ones that are too long – only relevant info needed. Have a recent photo attached as it reminds people of who you are. Good luck!

  2. Having a blog like yours, which shows commitment to learning as well as reflection about education will impress future employers. Be sure to put a link to it on your CV.
    Not sure how much time you have, but volunteering in a school helps you get a foot in the door. Most schools need extra hands for special needs kids, for musical productions, for sport coaching… and once in you’re in, make a good impression!
    I work in an IB PYP school. If you like the idea of student centred inquiry learning, try and find a PYP school in your area to visit. I’ll give you some tips about things to impress them :-)

    • Thanks for the advice ed,
      I will try and seek out a few PYP schools as I have an interest in that style of learning. One of my course mates went on teaching experience at PYP school and RAVED about it.

      Unfortunately volunteering due to term time and another teaching section might be out.

  3. I can’t give advice. I have been applying for 7 months and not been interviewed. Most positions I have applied for have had 90+ applicants. Feedback from my course last year is about 1/4 to 1/3 of students have got jobs. Most others are still looking (and I guess the clock is ticking with the next round of students about to hit the market). Some have moved into ECE as there seems to be more positions there. It probably helps if you don’t have kids yourself and can be more flexible about location. And this blog can’t hurt either. I certainly enjoy reading it. Good luck and enjoy the rest of your course.

  4. My thoughts and prayers are with you as you search for a job! My advice to you is to sign up to be a substitute teacher (not sure what they’re called in New Zealand) and continue to network. I’ve met a wonderful educator, @KathrynTrask, from New Zealand. I’m not sure if she’s in your area but maybe she can help as well. Sometimes it’s who you know!

  5. Hi Theresa,
    Thanks for your kind words. That’s a good idea about signing up for relief teaching. I really enjoy interacting with @kathryntrask but thanks for the suggestion.

  6. I agree with Kimberley above about teachability. As I mentioned in another comment, nobody expects BTs to know everything and we certainly look for the attitude and willingness to continue learning and growing as a person and teacher.
    I also agree about your CV – not too long-winded is good, it needs to look professional. I like bullet points about teaching philosophy etc, rather than paragraphs – especially if the panel is looking through 50+ CVs. A point of difference is good too – something that makes it stand out from the rest. I was told I got my first job because my CV had a red cover!
    All the best!

    • Hi Janine,
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’m going to try and keep my CV short and to the point and building on what I read from a principal in another classroom, look at how my philosophy will influence my practice.

      I’ll definitely highlight how I’ve demonstrated my ability to learn and grow in previous lifetimes as well.

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