Expert Tips: How to Find Your First Teaching Job
Industry Expert Interview with Janet Lorch, Assistant Professor, National Louis University
Janet Lorch is an assistant professor at National Louis University’s Chicago campus. She’s worked in Chicago and Evanston Public Schools as an artist in residence, classroom teacher, reading specialist, and trainer. She currently coordinates the Elementary Education Program for the Academy for Urban School Leadership.
To read more about Janet Lorch, please see her profile at National Louis University: http://www.nl.edu/academics/faculty/facultyprofiles/l/lorchjanetnce/
1. What do you believe are the most important characteristics principals are looking for in new teachers? Please share the top three.
-Teacher candidate dispositions are the most important characteristics. Principals can train teacher candidates in curriculum, strategies, etc. They can’t train basic dispositions. So I would say be positive, child centered, and professional.
-Positive – seeing strengths rather than deficits. Bringing a “can do” attitude to the classroom as well as to team and faculty meetings.
-Child centered – at interviews, talk about the students, not yourself. Not what you did for students – what the students do. Remember, it’s all about the students.
-“Professional” – use the academic language of the teaching profession, not to “show off” but to set yourself up as a professional. Show up early, dress professionally, and send thank you notes.
2. Can you recommend a specific book to read that is helpful in landing a teaching position?
This actually can depend on the community where one is hoping to teach. There isn’t a ‘magic” book that I would recommend, but I would definitely belong to at least one professional organization and be familiar with some of their recent work. For beginning teachers, ASCD is a good one to start with and while still a student-there is a low membership rate. Some examples: for high poverty schools, Jensen’s work is relevant. The Responsive Classroom is a great resource for child-centered classroom management (https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/). Many teacher candidates like the Wongs’ books for beginning teacher tips. Doug Lemov’s Teach Like Champion is a bit controversial, but many of his teaching strategies really help beginning teachers, like 100%, No Opt Out, and Cold Call.
3. What is your advice about the use of social media for new teachers?
Apart from the obvious – scrub your facebook, twitter, etc. – I also recommend that teachers subscribe to relevant sites and feeds. In Chicago, Catalyst is a great read that keeps teachers updated on events in CPS. Advance Illinois is another good site to follow. Be careful on what you “like” and respond to, though, because others will see this.
4. Most new teachers graduate college with very little experience in the classroom. How can teachers gain further experience to increase their odds of landing an interview?
The obvious way is to volunteer or apply for a substitute job, but these opportunities seem to be more and more limited. I would consider everyone you know and everything you do as a possible job connection – friends, family, former employers, etc. Keep the 3 words in mind – positive, child centered, and professional, and network through the traditional routes (job fairs, applications, etc.) but also be on the alert for ways to become involved in schools in your community. If your neighbors have children, see if you can get involved somehow in their schools or after school events. Offer to coach a sport, volunteer or tutor. Once you become a “person” and not a resume, there is a greater likelihood that a principal will be interested if and when there is an opening.
5. If you were to give one piece of advice to new teachers looking for a job, what would that advice be?
Stay positive. It’s really all you can control-is your own attitude. Finding a teaching job can be a full time job in itself. You can’t let it get you down because that will end up hurting you. Be diligent, but take care of yourself so you approach every opportunity with a positive frame of mind.
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