I recently graduated with a degree in English education and a license to teach English as a second language (ESL). After applying for 11 jobs, receiving 10 rejections, but eventually winding up with two offers, I am glad to say that I will be teaching English and English as a second language this fall at Warsaw High School. I wrote a post in November 2010 about the English ed program generally; here, I want to share some experiences and suggestions about the job hunt.
1: Apply early and often. Most school teachers I spoke with said that I didn’t have to worry about applying until school was over. After checking the jobs posted on the Indiana Dept. of Education website, though, I learned that while some schools accept applications well into July, others stop doing so by late April. I sent out as many as I could in the time I had to schools across the state that had jobs sounding even remotely interesting.
2: Accept the rejections. Although I had anticipated a few rejections, I was surprised several times after what I felt had been excellent interviews. I tried to pry some worthwhile information during the consolation calls about my shortcomings and thereby obtained a few tips for how to improve as well as learned that some of the shortcomings they perceived in me were actually important parts of my teaching philosophy and identity, which made me feel glad I wasn’t extended an offer.
3: Read and talk about what you’re reading. One school whose rejection was particularly unexpected had asked what I was reading and required me to read Results Now by Mike Schmoker. I had an especially good discussion with the principal, who, upon my inquiry for other good reads, pulled The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner off his shelf and gave it to me. Subsequently, when another position opened up, he called and offered it to me, giving me a week to respond.
4: Show how much you want it. Although I felt good about this aforementioned position, there was another job at another school that had a course load and location I much preferred. I used the weeklong deadline to leverage a quicker interview and response time from this second school. I felt bad about being so forward and somewhat demanding, but the assistant principal assured me that it was okay and actually helpful because it let him know how interested I was.
5: Be honest about weaknesses and strengths. When I showed up for the interview at this second school, my hopes were immediately dashed after I was introduced to the ESL coordinator for the school district (20% of which is Hispanic/Latino) and then saw another interviewee go into her office and start conversing with her in Spanish, which I don’t know at all… long story. In my interview, I made it clear that I didn’t speak Spanish but was sure to emphasize my student-centered, project-based pedagogy. The artifacts and example lesson I had to present focused on these strengths as well, which were evidently sufficient since I was offered the job.
So, this fall, and for the foreseeable future, I’ll be teaching four ESL classes in the morning and two English 10 classes in the afternoon.
Best of luck,