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Why School Districts Hire Newbies - Or Veterans

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As I have worked with education job seekers over the years, I have often been asked by candidates why they are not getting interviews or offers. There are lots of reasons why one may not be generating interest, and you have read many good ideas on this blog for increasing your attractiveness to potential employers. Commonly, however, candidates eventually get around to this: Am I not getting interviews (or offers) because I am new and don't have much experience? Or: Am I not getting interviews because I have a lot of experience (and they will have to pay me too much)?

In my interactions with administrators over a period of quite a few years, I have heard many responses to these questions. Let me tell you a little bit about what I have seen and heard.

It is a fact that administrators like to have a staff that includes both veterans and newcomers to the profession. Effective veteran teachers are highly sought, "effective" being the operative word here. They are the reason that the traditional salary programs were developed to reward more education and more years of experience. They serve as strong role models and excellent mentors to less-experienced professionals. It is true, however, that in the traditional type of pay scale, teachers with a lot of experience are paid more. When they seek to change employers, they sometimes perceive this as a roadblock to getting attention from the prospective employer.

New teachers, on the other hand, often make up for what they lack in experience by their energy and certainly their knowledge of current trends in the field. These are pluses to administrators. They breathe life into the staff, and they bring enthusiasm for new techniques and technology that veterans may not know about. And, yes, in a traditional pay-scale setting, they don't have to be paid as much as a veteran.

Both are valuable members of a strong teaching staff. Over the years, I have found little evidence that schools discriminate in hiring because of how much they will be paying a given teacher. I have had many administrators share with me that they simply want the best teachers in their schools.

Granted, we have not had economic conditions that have affected schools as much as we are currently seeing in quite a number of years. I am sure that this leads some veterans to invoke the assumption that they are not getting interviews because of their extensive experience or education. These days, there may be some truth there. Your task as a veteran, then, is to show how you have been successful or effective - how you have made a difference in your students.

For newcomers to the profession, your task is to emphasize the experience you have had - your successes in student teaching, for example - and what you will bring to the classroom that is innovative (with little financial implication) and effective in engaging students. Show off your enthusiasm and knowledge of current methods and trends.

The key is to showcase your strengths and how they make you effective. Veterans and newcomers alike who can do this will be a step ahead of the rest.

--Kent McAnally
Director of Career Services
Washburn University

6 Comments

Speaking for veteran teachers, in some states (Ohio), you are not compensated for years beyond ten years. In other words, if you have taught 15 years, you enter a new school on year ten. The only exceptions tend to be coaches who someone negotiate better deals!

Personally, I have looked for employment in many states with the understanding that I WANT to relocate. I graduated in 2006, have a B. S. and M. S. and can not secure an education job because of nepotism and the fact that I'm beyond 50. You can't tell me any different.....I have experience in seeking education jobs.

I taught in the same district for 14 years, then two in another state. When I returned to the first state with 16 years of EXCELLENT experience with EXCELLENT references and credentials, I was unable to return to a teaching position anywhere I got an interview. Every single position was filled with a teacher with 0-5 years of experience. Sorry, but I disagree with your premise entirely. Districts do not pay for experience. They want a cheap, warm body with enough experience that they don't have to mentor.

I think principals and schools are also looking at how moldable and flexible a teacher is going to be. New teachers can fall in the trap of "This is how I was taught. This is all I know." Experienced teachers have an even bigger risk of the "This is how I've always done it. This is all I know," pitfall. Every principal I've worked with has had a vision for how they want to shape their school and they are looking for the teachers with the adaptability to learn and match that vision. Educators should always be willing to be learners and to continue growing into their position. I think those making the hiring decisions are often looking for the strong team-players.

I have been trying to get a teaching job for 4 yrs. I have a B. S. and am close to my M. S. I have dual certification, ECE and Special Ed., a Reading Endorsement and a Technology Endorsement. I have been interviewed several times but it seems I am ALWAYS beat out by someone directly related to someone within the district. The grand-daughter of a board member, the principal's former student, the principals wife's best friend. I have found it is not a "what you know" or your experience, it is a "who you know" situation.

Here in NJ, where funding is sparse due to the terror tactics of our esteemed Governor, it is the rule that if you cost too much salary-wise, the districts want to get rid of you any way they can- doctoring your evaluations, doing away with your position "because of budget cuts", or decide they are simply going to axe anyone coming up for tenure. With 25yrs+, BA, MA+, varied experience, I was making 75K. I was laid off because "the district can hire two teachers for what they are paying you" (quoting the Union president, who colluded with administration to intimidate laid off teachers, 30 in all, NOT to question the decision, because "it will destroy your reputation, and you will get another job".)In exchange, this Union Prez was to be made a Vice-Principal. When he was found out, he was kicked out of his Union post, and did not get his administrative plum. This year, my former employer laid off last year's new teachers, about 50, to replace them all with entry level teachers, on the pretext that they are doing away with tenure and saving money that was cut from their budget. Remember the funding given to districts last fall so they could rehire the laid off teachers? Most districts hoarded the money, and now face losing the money if it is not spent by September. One local district used the money to hire an administrator(!) In my home town, don't even apply for a job unless you know someone on the schoolboard or an administrator. The standing joke is, "application, three letters of recommendation, and a copy of your family tree." On the website email directory, there are pages and pages of people with the same surname. This is unethical, but no administrator seems to want to get involved in passing legislation to make this practice illegal.

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