Essential Elements for Resumes and Interviews
As an experienced school and district administrator and now a university career coach, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to resumes and interviews. Listed below are four basic themes teaching candidates need to incorporate in their resumes and interviews, as well as specific related tips for obtaining the perfect job.
1. The Desire to Teach: School districts want teachers who have a burning desire to teach and inspire the youth of our country. While the motivation may come from having a parent who teaches or a desire for a second career, what is often even more compelling is having had an inspirational teacher or a rewarding experience working with youth. While it may sound trite, school districts really are looking for individuals who demonstrate a passion to make the world a better place and who view quality education as the means to that end. Loving children is certainly a foundation for this component, but you need to demonstrate that you have eyes wide open to the hard work and challenge that is involved in teaching and serving the diverse needs of communities and families.
Tip: Through your resume, cover letter and/or interview make certain your personal, compelling story as to why you want to teach is brought forward. This should be stronger than "just liking children"-- although that is important.
2. Evidence of Work Ethic: Despite what some in the public believe, teaching is very hard work. Principals are looking to hire teachers who understand this reality and who are ready to roll up their sleeves and do what it takes to insure student success. If might be hard to define "grit," but in Montana we say "if the tractor is broken, we fix it." Make certain you highlight all of your work experience, even if not related to teaching. Having a strong work ethic is always seen as a plus when reviewing potential candidates.
Tip: Candidates should be prepared to share examples of their work experience and their work ethic. In addition, stories about setbacks or disappointments, combined with "lessons learned," can be powerful in the context of interviews.
3. Knowledge of Teaching Strategies: The resume needs to provide evidence that the candidate has taken their course work and student teaching experience seriously as they begin to master specific instructional strategies for the classroom. Great teachers are not born but instead learn to be great teachers. Students need to demonstrate that they are excited to learn from other teachers and refine their practice. The best teachers are lifetime learners.
Tip: While resumes should list successful classroom projects, what needs to be highlighted is student engagement, excitement, curiosity and, of course, evidence of actual learning. If a master teacher "abandoned" you early on, turn lemons into lemonade by stressing how much responsibility you had and still succeeded as a student teacher. Secondary teachers need to emphasize that while they are specific content experts, they understand that they don't just teach content, they teach students!
4. Knowledge of 21st Century Learning Skills: A good candidate for teaching is one who recognizes that the world has changed and the core skills employers are looking for should be reflected in classrooms, from kindergarten through 12th grade. These learning skills are the "five C's" of (1) collaboration, (2) critical thinking, (3) curiosity, (4) creativity, and (5) communication.
Tip: Not only are teachers expected to incorporate these skills into their classrooms, but also as college students and teacher candidates, their resumes and interviews should reveal that they model these traits in their own personal and professional lives.
Next week: Specific knowledge and skills school districts seek to hire the very best educators.
Steven Enoch, Career Coach
Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success
Montana State University, Bozeman, MT