I was recently asked to have an informal chat with a group of pre-service music educators about what happens once school is over – how to find a job, the interview process, and surviving the first year of teaching. It was quite an honor!
I began to worry that having only four years of teaching under my belt, none of which were the same position as the year before, put me at a disadvantage. What could I really have to offer these soon-to-be educators? Here are just some of the things that we chatted about and some of the resources I was able to share with them:
Finding A Job
- In Pennsylvania, the first place that pre-service teachers want to look is PA REAP – most school districts post position, even if only for 24 hours, on this site. Creating a profile can be a bit tedious, but it is worth it in the end.
- If you plan to teach in a state other than the one that is certifying you, start looking into “certificate reciprocity” – what you need to do to ensure that you can teach in another state. Each state’s requirements can be found HERE
- Take as many as possible. No one really loves to go on interviews, but it is great practice!
- Don’t let interviews get you down! If you leave with a not-so-great feeling, that job probably wasn’t the best fit for you or the district.
- Bring organized documents and examples. I used an interview portfolio that contained my resume, certifications, letters of recommendation, sample lesson plans, concert programs that I had been a part of and anything else that I felt was relevant to who I was as a musician and teacher. A stack of disorganized papers that you have to dig through does not send a great message!
- Be honest and be yourself! Don’t pretend to know something that you really don’t – it always shows. One of my favorite lines that I used when I was asked a question that I wasn’t sure of: “What I lack in experience, I make up for in ability to learn quickly and desire to better myself as a teacher.”
Surviving the First Year
- Stay organized! I did not have a classroom or a desk my first and third years of teaching – I taught out of my bag and was always on the move! Even in the toughest of situations, organization is key – for your own sanity and for your reputation. If we expect the students to come prepared, we need to set a good example.
- Professional Development: attend as many conferences and workshops that you and your pockets can handle! Not only do you gather wonderful resources for your lessons and classrooms, but you make new contacts that may prove invaluable in the future. Great organizations in the Philadelphia Area are:
- PAOSA (Philadelphia Area Orff Schulwerk Association) www.paosa.org
- NAfME (National Association for Music Education) www.menc.org
- Develop a PLN (Professional Learning Network)! This was the point that I stressed the most when speaking to the students. I cannot begin to describe the positive impact that joining and really using Twitter has had on my professional development. I never knew the amount of people out there that are willing to help and share with you, without even knowing you on a personal level. The connections I have made are incredible – we have shared lessons, encouraged one another, solved problems and even talked socially.
There are so many things to think about as you are getting certified and trying to find a job – these are just a few of them. If you had the chance, what would YOU share with pre-service educators? Please offer your advice and tips in the comments below!
Photo credit: http://www.musicnotes.com/features/promo/graduation/