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Where to Teach: Making a Wise Job Decision

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It's your life. You'll spend an average of 6-7 hours a day in the classroom - and that doesn't count the endless hours at home devoted to designing lesson plans, grading papers, and creating projects. Deciding where to look for a teaching job is critical - but it can be confusing, scary, and frustrating. Let's face it: you can't all teach where you grew up or where you student-taught. Realistically, you're probably going to have to look at where the openings exist, if you're serious about landing a job in your field.

This means that you need to plan ahead. The right job can be exciting and rewarding, inspiring you to look forward to the start of each day. The wrong job, however, can make life miserable - even causing you to question the wisdom of your career choice.

Where is the best place to work? How do you determine where to apply? Consider the following elements in making your decision:
District Reputation and Quality: Research the district; talk with parents, students, teachers, secretaries. Look at the District Report Card. Who are the members of the Board of Education? How well does the board work with teachers and administrators? What are standardized test scores? What is the student/teacher ratio? How does the district rate in comparison to nearby districts?
• Administrative Policy: How much freedom will you have in the way you teach? Do building administrators support their teachers? Is there a mentoring program?
• Salary and Benefits: Is the package competitive with others in the area? How does the salary schedule recognize length of service? How large was the last salary increase? It's important to look beyond the starting salary.
• Location: How far will you need to commute? Will the route be difficult in adverse weather? Is affordable housing readily available? What are the community's greatest assets/deficits?
• Family Involvement in the Schools: What percentage of parents/guardians attended the last open house? Do parents resist or support educational innovations?
• Teaching Staff: What is the average age of the faculty? How many teachers have advanced degrees? What is the average number of years that teachers have been with the district?
• Budget: What supplies will you have to furnish yourself? How much input will you have in ordering materials?
• Curriculum: Do you support the curriculum? Is it current? How much voice do teachers have in curriculum planning?
• Innovations/Technology: What is the physical appearance/condition of the facility? How up-to-date is the technology?
• Obstacles: What are the major educational, economic and social concerns facing the district? What measures are in place to address these concerns?

The above factors can play an important role in helping you to make an informed choice about where to apply. They can also be an excellent source of questions to ask in an interview. Remember - teaching is not just a job, it IS your life!

Next week: Contract Considerations and Comparisons

Dr. Dawn S. Jones
Assistant Director/Online Advisor, Career Services
Northern Illinois University

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