5 Tips for New Teacher Graduates

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We are currently in the teaching job search period.  It’s summer and schools are hiring.  Many recent teaching graduates are trying to snag their first teaching job.  I can’t help but think back to when I was in this same position.  Looking back, there is so much I wish I had known before I went on my job search.  Having been there before, there are a few pieces of advice I would give to those beginning the interview process.  I’ve compiled a list of five tips all new teaching graduates should think about:

Be Prepared To Wait
Coming straight off of graduation, everyone wants a teaching job and their own classroom.  Reality is that it’s not always that easy. 

Although there is a teacher shortage, there are MANY applicants wanting a teaching job.  Job postings will receive hundreds of applications, so it’s an accomplishment to be asked to interview for a position.  Even if you rock the interview, don’t be discouraged if you do not get the job.  There are so many reasons for not being offered a position, and most have nothing to do with you or your performance at the interview. 

You never know who else is interviewing for the position.  Even if a school has a candidate in mind for the position, they have to advertise the position and hold an interview.  Interview candidates often include those who have a background with the school, including student teachers, interim teachers, substitute teachers, and/or teacher assistants.  As an interview candidate, you will never know that you are interviewing against these people, so never feel discouraged if you don’t get the job. 

Consider every interview as a practice opportunity!  With each interview you will become better prepared to answer questions during the next interview, and who knows?  That next interview just might be the one that opens the door to your teaching career!

Prepare for Interviews
Don’t get upset if your first few interviews don’t go so well.  It’s hard knowing what to expect.  College prep programs don’t always prepare graduates well for this aspect of getting a teaching job.  Interviews are something you learn with trial and error. 

You can prepare by researching interview questions.  If you are interested, I previously wrote a post about teacher interview questions.  You can read it here.  It will give you some ideas on what you need to prepare for. 

While many interviews have similar questions, some districts will ask you about programs/data methods specific to their school or district.  Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of a concept before.  Just respond by saying that while you have not had experience with that method, you would love to learn more.

During The Wait
Sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in “the wait”.  This goes for any situation in life.  Instead of letting yourself get discouraged during this time, consider it an opportunity to prepare and enjoy yourself! 

Teaching positions open all the time during the summer.  Schools find out they have a higher number of kids enrolled than they were expecting, so they have to add another classroom.  A teacher decides to retire.  Another teacher has to move unexpectedly.  There are so many scenarios that can lead to having to hire a new teacher.  This means that a job might open in May.  It might open in June or July.  Or it might not open until August or September.  Or maybe even later!  You might have months to prepare for your classroom, or you might only have a week or even a few days.  Since there is no way to know, use your “wait” time to prepare.  You don’t want to waste your time being discouraged and doing nothing to prepare only to get offered a job a week before students arrive in your classroom!  You will be so rushed trying to get your classroom ready, prepare lessons, and attend professional development for your new school district.  Even though you will not be able to have everything prepared in advance, there are some things you can do that will help once you are hired.  After you are hired, you will be so glad that you prepared during the wait!

While You’re Waiting To Be Hired:

  • Organize teaching materials
  • Compile a list of classroom rules
  • Make a list of classroom procedures (This will be a MAJOR focus during the first month or two.)
  • Begin thinking about classroom setup
  • Browse and read teaching books, teacher blogs, and Pinterest for ideas and inspiration
  • Organize your classroom library (divide into categories, label their reading level, etc.)

Consider Being a Substitute Teacher or Teacher Assistant
I know, I know.  You didn’t spend four years in college to become a substitute teacher or teacher assistant.  You want a classroom of your own. 

Subbing is actually a GREAT way to get your foot in the door, and there is A LOT you can learn while subbing.  As a substitute teacher, you will have the opportunity to teach many different grade levels.  This will give you a chance to find out which grades you like and which ones you might want to stay away from. 

It will also be a great opportunity to practice your classroom management skills.  Being a substitute teacher can be hard work.  Students will test you, and you will meet a variety of students.  Try different classroom management methods.  Find what works best for you and the students!  This will be great to know before you have your own classroom.  You don’t want to spend half of the school year testing different methods and not finding one that works until January!  Your classroom will need a management system that works right off the bat. 

Substitute teaching will also give you the opportunity to see how different teachers set up their classroom, so you will gain ideas that you can use when you have a classroom of your own. 

As for getting a classroom of your very own, subbing is a GREAT way to get your foot in the door.  You will meet teachers and principals every day, and after awhile, teachers will start to request you.  Once people begin to know you, they will be more than happy to be a job reference for you.  Sometimes this can make all the difference in the world. 

Also, consider being a teacher assistant/paraprofessional.  Unlike substitute teaching, you will be at the same school every day.  Depending on your job position, however, you might be working in a variety of grade levels just as you would when subbing.  Either way, you are gaining teaching experience, and whenever a job opens up, you will definitely be considered.  Even if a job opens up at another school, you will have a bunch of teachers and principals who will be happy to be a reference for you!

What to Expect During Your First Year of Teaching:
You have spent four years in college learning about teaching methods and practicing your teaching skills.  Teaching will be a breeze, right?  Surprisingly, it’s often not until you get your first classroom that you begin to REALLY learn about teaching.  Student teaching is a great stepping stone, but having your own classroom will be a brand new world. 

Something first year teachers learn quickly is that having good relationships with parents and strong classroom procedures are key.  As soon as you meet parents, begin to develop an open line of communication.  Talk to parents about everything, both positive and negative.  In the classroom, expect to spend the first two months constantly teaching procedures.  Doing so will save you so much time during the rest of the school year.

Expect To:

  • Be tired, really tired 
  • Constantly look for new ways to help your students
  • Spend a lot of time lesson planning
  • Spend just as much time, if not more, teaching yourself than your students
  • Fill out lots of paperwork
  • Be sick often
  • Need help
  • Become emotionally invested in your students

During your first year, you will be exposed to a variety of teaching methods and programs, be challenged by students, and have to teach yourself perhaps more than you teach your students!  Although it will be challenging, it will also be rewarding.  You will be a stronger teacher (Year 2 will be much easier!), and the bonds you create with your students will last forever! Good luck!