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How Elementary Teacher Candidates Can Stand Out From the Crowd

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Guest post by Autumn Lewis, Manager, Teacher Engagement, National Council on Teacher Quality.

If you're an elementary teacher candidate nearing graduation, you may be wondering how you can get noticed by district recruiters. While the job market for teachers has picked up lately, teacher preparation programs in many states are still training two or three times as many new elementary teachers as will get hired.

But you can take steps to stand out. For starters, you need to make sure you're up for job one as an elementary teacher: teaching children how to read. Some teacher preparation programs train candidates in the science of reading, but unfortunately many don't. With as many as 30 percent of all children at risk of reading failure, districts know they need elementary teachers who can help make their students strong readers.

Check out Put Reading First, a short booklet from the National Institute for Literacy, to see if what you've learned in your reading courses is in line with the latest research. If it isn't, then look for good textbooks that can supplement what you've been taught. But definitely be ready to discuss effective reading techniques in your interviews.

You also need to be able to show that you can work with students from every background. The majority of public school students are now "minorities" - African-American, Latino and Asian - and are low-income. If you are doing your student teaching in a high-performing, diverse school, then you have probably learned important techniques that you can highlight in interviews. If you haven't, then consider volunteering in schools where you can demonstrate your competency in helping all students succeed.

Finally, districts are looking for teachers who can hit the ground running. Talk to any veteran teacher and you'll find that what trips up most new teachers is classroom management. In your courses, you should have learned about the importance of establishing rules and routines, using positive reinforcement, applying consequences for misbehavior and engaging students in learning.

If you aren't familiar with these strategies - or even if you are - seek out teachers widely recognized for helping kids learn and ask them to mentor you. They will show you how to keep kids on task. Who knows, they may even be willing to write a reference vouching for your potential to become a great teacher!

The biggest challenge facing districts today is helping their students meet high standards. By showing you have the skills necessary to be an effective elementary teacher, you will be a highly sought after commodity even in a crowded job market.

Autumn Lewis is a manager of teacher engagement at the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington-based policy and advocacy group.

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