Learning From Master Teachers
PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
What tips would you give a student teacher just beginning the job-search process? What kinds of resources were helpful for you? How did you survive the process?
- This is a frightening yet exciting time. First, determine the area or location you're interested in teaching. Explore what your college has to offer as far as job placement and be aware of when recruiting teams from school districts are on your campus. These are usually standard beginnings but I would also strongly advise that you visit schools within the District you are considering. Job placement people are there to sell you their District and/schools but you need to see what standards are in place where you want to teach. Talk to the teachers and talk to the students. Get a feel for the atmosphere in a building. Have questions in mind that you want to ask, like, how is discipline handled? Is their extra training for new teachers required? What extra duties will I have? Be able to express your strengths and weaknesses if asked.
- I would recommend that each student teacher register with their college's placement office. Many times they can give you leads on jobs in a particular area. Substitute teaching in a variety of schools not only gives you work experience, but also gives you an idea as to the atmosphere of a particular school. I also sent letters to the superintendent of each school in the county that I wanted to work in. Scour a local newspaper (especially the Sunday paper!) for job openings in your area. I survived the job search process by remembering that I was a very good teacher, and would be an asset to any school. Along with this, it is important not to jump at the first job offer that you get. Make sure that the school and you are a good match.
- Use your college's placement services. Go to job fairs. Decide how far away you are willing to go for a job, then send resumés to ALL districts that fit in the areas you are willing to go. Use your personal connections. Don't mail in applications; deliver them in person if at all possible. Be prepared to handle extra-curriculars (coaching, club advisors, etc.) as a way to get in. How to survive? Be positive, keep trying, and be prepared to sub.
- I would encourage the student teacher to be very professional in all of his/her dealings with staff at the schools, dress in a professional manner, and introduce yourself to the principals. Be aggressive with the job search process, send resumés, and follow up with visits to the schools that way the principals can place a face with your resumé.
- Get some help creating a resumé, and then have it professionally printed. Cover letters are also the first impression of your resumé; have someone in the field proofread it for you. The one "technique" I used was to hand-deliver my resumé to the building principal. I introduced myself, and told the principal that I was looking to fill a position within his school. This way, the principal could put a face with my resumé. (My current principal met me for the first time this way!)
- Be persistent, and always write thank-you notes after an interview. Don't be shy about using your connections and your university / college for tips.
- I think it is important for student teachers just beginning the job-search process to stay positive and be persistent which, of course, is sometimes easier said than done! Make use of any services offered by the college you are attending. Also, it is important to seek out advice from cooperating teachers and any other teachers/principals who may be able to help. I was very diligent about reading the newspaper. The ad that eventually led to my job appeared in my local newspaper. It was a very stressful time for me, as I did not land that job until one week before school started. I also interviewed for many positions that were not exactly what I was looking for, like part-time positions. Those interviews were a good experience, and helped me develop my interviewing skills. I also think it is important not to compare yourself to others in your same situation. When I was finishing up my masters program, everyone was talking about their latest interview and/or job offers. It made me extremely anxious, so I tended to go for walks in between classes instead of sit around and listen!
- resumés and cover letters should be clear and well-written. It is important that they look professional and polished. After sending those items, it is helpful to follow up with a phone call to be sure they were received. When interviewing, a portfolio is also helpful. Find out as much as possible about the school district and the community before your interview. Have questions ready for the interviewer.
What kinds of education and work experiences are desirable in a successful job candidate?
- Your resumé should be short yet specific. Principals are looking for how you have been involved with children prior to teaching, so include on your resumé any work-related or volunteer experiences that have involved children. Your interview will be the turning point on whether or not you are hired.
- I believe one of the most valuable experiences you can have is that of being a substitute teacher. It shows your willingness to serve in a variety of capacities. It is also important not to be idle during the summer. Try to pick summer employment that puts you in contact with youth.
- The more experience with children that you can show on your resumé, the better. Show volunteer work at camps and schools, red cross swim lessons, religion classes, etc.
- Some other key points to include on a resumé are: technology integration, teaming approaches, innovative teaching techniques, and curriculum development.
What teaching tips would you share with juniors and seniors finishing up their student teaching?
- Learn from your mentor or practicing teacher both the good things and the things you wish to avoid when you have your own classroom. Establish your own style of teaching. Keep a file of successful lessons, Web sites, and other resources. Learn to know your students as human beings. Learn the culture of the school and the community. Ask to sit in on parent conferences, IEP conferences, and other meetings, and attend Open Houses.
- I think a key to being successful as a teacher is finding your own personal niche. In a perfect world, we are all teachers of all students. But in reality, we each have a niche, a comfortable grade level, or an area of passion. The teachers I see who are most successful and happy seem to have found their personal place in the system, so my recommendation would be to try to experience as many grade levels as possible (volunteering, observing, etc.) before deciding on a perfect fit.
- Be flexible and ready for new experiences. Don't lock yourself into a specific grade preference. Also, just be yourself with the kids and expect to have good and bad days. But also have a sense of humor at the end of the day!
- Be willing to admit ignorance. You won't ever know everything about everything. Teachers are like caring machines, both for children and other teachers. There is a spirit of camaraderie among us, and we are more than willing to share ideas. If you come up short, don't be afraid to ask ask everyone with a pulse! You never know what idea will spark something for you.
- I would encourage all juniors and seniors to register with local boards of education, and to do some substituting on school breaks . I believe it is very important to establish a classroom discipline scheme from the outset. Make it clear to students that you are not there to be just their friend, but their teacher. I do believe that humor is one of the best tools in the classroom; you can diffuse many situations with the use of appropriate humor. Humor should never be used to belittle a student, however, as this can make the situation worse.
- A teaching tip I would give to new teachers is always remember to listen well to their students. Do not assume to know what a student is thinking! I remind myself all the time that it's important to listen as well as talk.
- Be yourself! Present material in a fun and exciting way. Use hands-on lessons and strategies that really engage the kids. Use visual aids as well. Be organized and confident in yourself. Let students help and learn from each other this makes your life easier, and they really gain a lot from cooperative learning experiences. Model your expectations as often as possible.
- Teaching is a lot different than what you have learned about in college. Be ready to do, and keep up with, a lot of paperwork. Come up with an organization/file system to help you keep track of everything. Remember, your experiences are your best teachers. Be assertive, and volunteer to do as much as possible in the classroom. At the end of each day, reflect upon the positives and negatives and learn something from them. If possible, discuss them with your cooperating teacher. Keep a journal. Student teaching can be stressful, so also try to work hard to stay positive. Lastly, remember: Good teachers teach children, not material.