Applying for a Teaching Position
by Elaine Ernst Schneider
There are several ways to procure applications for teaching positions. Some schools have web sites that offer online applications. Others offer to mail applications if you will call and give them your mailing address. During such a phone call, you may want to ask details about the available positions. This is valuable information. For instance, if you like teaching both 4th and 5th grades but you find that the job opening is for 5th grade, you can tailor your application to address the need for a 5th grade teacher. Conversely, if you are a music teacher and the school doesn’t offer music courses, it could save you the time of filling out an application for a job they don’t have!
If you live in the city in which you desire to teach, the best approach is to personally go the school office and ask for an application. This gives you the opportunity to see the campus and perhaps even meet someone in administration. It has been my experience several times when I made the trip to fill out an application, that I was able to meet a school principal. On one occasion, the principal gave me a tour of the campus. When I returned to interview, I had already established a rapport with that principal that made the interview much more comfortable. Incidentally, I received a job offer from the principals I met when picking up my applications – in every instance. Certainly I am not promising that this will happen 100% of the time, but my experience tells me that the odds increase for a more successful interview at a later point when you personally pick up your application and seek to meet administration while there.
Most application forms begin with general information about you – name, address, age, education, experience. Avoid the temptation to “fudge” or embellish. Honesty is essential! If it is discovered that you have been elusive in the information you presented in your application, this will certainly create a sense of distrust. Employers want teachers who are trustworthy. Remember that this a profession for imparting knowledge – and that in itself must be done truthfully and with facts. Any subjective interpretation that is beyond the scope of pure truth on an application can cause worry as to how a potential teacher might present information in the classroom, on students’ files, and on school forms.
Some applications ask for references. Be sure to contact your references before submitting them so that they know to expect a phone call from your potential employer. Your references will answer with more surety if they have had time to think about what they will say. Additionally, in an age of increasing incidence of telephone fraud, your references might be reluctant to give out information about you unless they have been supplied with the names of persons (or school names to which you have applied) that might call. An application may not call for references. However, make a list of your references, names, addresses, and phone numbers, that you carry with you into interview in case someone asks for them at a later time.
Many applications include a blank space for an essay answer. The question asked might be any one of the following: Why did you enter the teaching profession? or What do you hope to accomplish in your classroom? or What methods do you feel are most successful in motivating students to learn? Keep your answers down to earth and practical. To say that you want to change the world is noble but it does not give the interviewer the assurance that you have a plan for your classroom. Be sure that essay answers are of some length to show effort and thought.
Lastly, make a copy of your completed application before returning it to the school. If you are applying to several schools, it is helpful to have a folder on each. Keep these folders near the phone so that if you receive a call from school administration, you can quickly scan over your application and reply with answers that are specific to that school. It is easy to get confused when you are dealing with several schools, grade levels, positions, and the names of school administrators. It will impress the caller if you can call him or her by name and speak directly to the position open in that school.
If you do not hear back from schools where you have sent applications and an appropriate amount of time has elapsed, it is acceptable to make a follow-up call or send a follow-up letter. I did receive a job offer after such a follow-up. The school had received my application but did not have a vacancy at the time. A teacher later resigned, the school received my follow-up letter, and the principal pulled out my application that had been filed away to call me for an interview. Keeping yourself in the mind of the ones hiring is always advisable. Stopping by the school to check on the status of a job for which you have applied is also an excellent tactic, as administrators are able to place your face with your name. And personal visits are always interpreted as showing initiative.
Be assured – The jobs are out there. The trick is to be the applicant that school administration notices and wants to interview. Remember that you are marketing yourself. School officials will never know how wonderful you are unless they have the chance to meet you!