March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

What’s Next?

Posted: Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

by Rick Pomeroy

The winter break is over, your first and possibly only semester of student teaching is drawing to a close, and you are beginning to think about that big elephant in the room. Will there be a job at the end of all this work? If the number of phone calls I have received in the past week is any indication of the need for science teachers, the answer is “Yes, Virginia, there will be jobs.”

As you move forward into the spring, thoughts will logically turn to the job search and all of the questions, and decisions that you will be making about your future. Every year I coach my students through this phase of the process with some simple, and seemingly successful, advice.

First – remember that every day is a job interview. The teaching community is extensive but ultimately everybody knows somebody, and you never know when that somebody is looking for a science teacher. If you approach your planning and teaching each day as if someone is watching with the intent of hiring you, you will pay a little closer attention to details, focus on knowing what your students are learning, and you will be able to clearly explain your reasons and methods for the lessons you are teaching.

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Second – make yourself as marketable as possible. Consider adding a second science subject authorization to your credential. Make sure that it is a subject that you like and would be willing to teach because remember that if it is on your credential, you could very easily be asked to teach that subject as your whole assignment. Many combination jobs will be listed during the spring and you will have a wider selection if you can teach multiple science areas. Personally, I am not a fan of adding a different subject credential simply to increase marketability. I highly encourage you to focus on science and make yourself as marketable there as possible.

Third – do your research about potential job locations. By the time you have earned your credential, you will have completed your performance assessment (PACT, edTPA, TPA, etc.) Part of that process included a deep and thoughtful look at your community, school, and students. Do the same when looking for that first job. Use the skills you have acquired to match your interests, philosophies, and desires with the students you will be teaching. Don’t pursue a job just because it is convenient if it is not where or who you want to teach. You want to be happy and fulfilled in your first years of teaching and that won’t be the case if you are not happy with where you are teaching. If you have no desire to teach in a district or community, don’t apply there. This is a stressful time of year for school districts trying to fill their anticipated vacancies, and they want to focus their search on people who genuinely want to teach in their districts; they don’t need to spend time reviewing your application if there is no chance you will even accept an invitation to interview. You don’t want to leave a bad impression by turning down an interview if you had no intention of teaching there because the education community is very connected so it might come back to haunt you later.

Be prepared when a district contacts you for an interview. You should have a bit of background knowledge about the school and community. When an applicant interviews, it is obvious if they are genuinely interested in being part of that school community or if instead, they are entirely focused on the job. Visit the school’s websites to learn a little bit about their culture, the classes they offer, their athletics and student cultural events, etc. If you have time, visit the community where the school is located before the day of the interview to get a feel for the area.

Finally, I have three pieces of advice that I will repeat many, many times this year:

1. Your first two to three years on the job are an intense learning experience. You have just completed a short, introductory process that has prepared you to enter the classroom. Every teacher will tell you that your “learning to teach” phase has just begun. Over the next several years you will grow exponentially in your ability to juggle all of the tasks and responsibilities associated with being a teacher. Stay the course through the turbulent times, and teaching will become more natural as you grow as a professional.

2. The first job you take will not necessarily be the last job you will have. Your personal circumstances will change over the course of your teaching career. Though it is not a good employee characteristic to change jobs every year, you should not be afraid to relocate or change positions when your life situation changes.

3. It is easier to get a job when you have a job. Right now, if you are the typical credential student, you are paying to attend school and earning little or no money. Under these circumstances, almost any job offer looks attractive. Avoid the tendency to take the first job offered simply to get a job if you have followed all of the suggestions at the beginning of this article. No administrator wants to hire an unhappy new teacher. The fit between you and the job is critical for your first year success.

The next few months may seem like a roller coaster ride for you and the schools looking for new teachers. In the end, your goal is to be the best teacher you can be, serving the learning needs of the students and children in California. Go boldly into this next phase of your career. I wish you all the good fortune of finding a great first year teaching position.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis.

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