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Maximize Your Success of Winning a Teaching Position

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Winning a teaching position in today's job market requires tremendous effort, persistence, marketing and strategic thinking. One of the most important things you can do to maximize your chances for success is learning about how employers select job applicants. Find out about the hiring process and what employers value when selecting applicants.

The hiring process varies from school to school. Typically, the process begins with initial screening of paper or electronic application materials (e.g., background information, cover letter, transcript, résumé and letters of recommendation). Human resource department representatives quickly review materials to ascertain if applicants are qualified for the position. They determine if the application materials are complete and applicants hold the required certifications for the position.

The hiring committee can include three or more administrators, teachers, parents and community members. Qualified applicants' materials are forwarded from the human resources department to the committee. Committee members carefully review the application materials. Top job applicants are invited to the school for an interview that lasts up to one hour. Sometimes applicants are required to teach a lesson to the committee or to students in a school. The committee may evaluate the applicants' written communication during a proctored writing exercise or their behaviors demonstrated during a small group discussion.

What do employers value when they select job applicants? To find out, I surveyed 35 elementary principals in Rhode Island. Principals ranked three selection factors as most important for hiring:
• High level of verbal communication and interpersonal skills demonstrated during interviews
• High level of written communication demonstrated in application materials
Unique skills, knowledge and experience (e.g., subject matter expertise, instructional technology, travel, or prior professional experience)

The New Teachers Project (TNTP) has been working with schools across the country to improve their hiring capacity. The New Teachers Project believes teachers' character traits and leadership skills are the greatest determinants of their success in teaching. Seven selection criteria are: 1. critical thinking, 2. achievement, 3. personal responsibility, 4. commitment, 5. constant learning, 6. communication skills, and 7. etiquette.

Providence RI Public Schools worked with TNTP to develop a new criterion-based hiring system. Job seekers are required to address five selection criteria in their applications:
Knowledge of subjects and ability to teach them successfully
• Ability to create culturally and developmentally appropriate lessons
• Ability to behave professionally as classroom managers, colleagues, and educational leaders for a diverse pool of learners
• Ability to utilize assessment data to guide instruction and plan for the future
• Ability to communicate well and knowledgeable about and committed to the extended school community

Before you submit an application, research the school/district and the employer's hiring process. Call the school district and ask for the names of the human resource department representative who oversee the hiring process. Verify the required documents. Your application can be rejected immediately if the application is missing any components.

Examine school/district web sites to understand the school mission, culture of the school community and the population of the students. The web sites often provide information about the curriculum, standards and assessment. Read about current initiatives, the school board meeting minutes, and major issues they're facing.

If you're a finalist and scheduled for an interview, find out who is on the selection committee and their job titles. Do your homework. Learn as much as you can about the school and community. Attend a school parent-teacher meeting. Schedule an observation of the school and classrooms. Walk the hallways. Observe arrival and dismissal of students. Notice wall hangings and posters that convey messages about the school.

To learn more about other winning strategies and maximize your chances for success, read my blog and book, Winning a Teaching Position in Any Job Market at http://www.winateachingjob.com

- MacGregor Kniseley, Professor
Department of Elementary Education
Rhode Island College, Providence, RI

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