If you’ve followed me for awhile, you’d know I made a major switch last year when I chose to move states, schools, and grades in the middle of a pandemic. I was extremely unhappy at my old campus and I knew in my gut I needed a change. Having to start the job search process over again was extremely intimidating at first, but I’m so glad I put myself out there.
I get asked questions about my own personal experience all the time, so I finally sat down, compiled a list of your top asked questions, and did my best to answer them and offer advice. Friendly reminder that I’m only speaking from my own personal experience. Every single state and district is extremely different. Do your own research and stay true to who you are as an educator during this process. You’ll find what’s meant for you!
Where do you look?
Many states have job banks online, so I’d recommend quite literally doing a google search for “elementary (or whatever grade level/subject you’re looking for!) teaching positions in (insert state here).” From there I narrowed it down to the specific area I was looking in. When I job searched the last time, I wasn’t looking for a particular grade, but rather just a good school in the area I wanted to live in. Sometimes (most of the time) you can’t afford to be picky when it comes to a grade level if you’re simply trying to find a new job. If I was only looking for “3rd grade jobs” I might find 3 openings…versus 30 elementary teacher openings. I also noticed that many districts won’t even post the exact grade level or position because things might change.
How and when to tell your principal…
This is an extremely challenging question to answer and definitely depends a lot on your circumstances and the relationship you have with your principal. All I think I can do here is share my own experience. My principal kind of knew I wasn’t planning to stay in the area forever. However, word gets around fast. I started my search without telling my principal and without having a letter of rec from him. I don’t know if that was the right thing to do or not.
I personally was really worried about my principal finding out because I didn’t want to be treated differently if I decided to stay (I was…but that’s a different story). That doesn’t mean that’s how it will be everywhere, but it is something to be aware of. I didn’t tell my principal until I was 100% sure I was leaving – this was before I had a job secured, but I knew in my gut I didn’t want to stay another year.
However, I will say…it’s better to rip the bandaid off sooner rather than later. I just had a discussion with my principal and told him I had started the job search process. In that discussion he offered to write me a letter of recommendation, so luckily I got two birds with one stone there.
How to ask for a letter of rec from other coworkers?
Asking coworkers for letters of rec was a lot easier than asking my principal for one. It still was an extremely challenging conversation, of course, but nothing about this process is going to be easy at first. At the end of the day, they’ll understand why you’re searching elsewhere and will (hopefully) be happy to help. I asked three coworkers to write letters for me. Two teachers I personally worked on a team with, and another teacher in my building that I had collaborated with or worked on committees with throughout my time at that school.
When should I ask for letters of rec?
This is one of the first things you’ll want to do in your job search process. Make sure you give people plenty of time to write a letter for you. We all know we’re busy as teachers and you don’t want to be that person putting something last minute on anyone’s plate.
When do I start?
Here’s the weird thing about education…timing is extremely fluid and things are constantly changing. I don’t think there’s ever a right time, but there’s certainly not a wrong time either. I know my own school has already posted for positions that they know will be vacant next year. On the flip side, some schools will wait until later in the Spring. Another thing to keep in mind is that there could be a position open in 2 months that isn’t open now.
Just keep tabs on districts you’re interested in. When I moved to Iowa, they used a portal that allows you to turn on job notifications. I turned it on for the area I was interested in and it would send me emails whenever there was a new posting. I would say now (February – March) is a good time to begin your search!
Did you reach out to districts to learn more before applying?
I personally did not reach out to districts prior to applying. However, I did a ton of research on my own before applying. Social media is a beautiful thing. Look up the districts you’re interested in online. Look at their school Facebook page. Look at their website. Are they on Twitter? What kinds of activities have they been doing lately? What are their core values? What kinds of people work there?
You can find a lot out about a school if you put the effort in. Honestly, this will help you write an amazing cover letter too. You may find a district you’re really interested in and it will motivate you to work harder on your application, and your interview if you land one.
How do you know it’s a good school to work at?
I think this relates to the question above. I got such great vibes from my current school via their social media. The principal was constantly online and interacting with parents and students during the school closure, the teachers were engaging their kids with virtual read alouds, and I even saw families organizing a drive by parade for our principal. Remember those? A lot of schools did them for their students, but I didn’t see many schools organizing one for their principal. I instantly knew that was a place I wanted to be and a community I wanted to be part of. I agreed with many of their values that they had shared on their website and I knew I wanted to work somewhere that valued the same things I did.
How do I stand out?
Make a bomb resume, write a bomb cover letter, and make a digital portfolio. Seriously. It’s not too much – it shows you care and it helps people get to know you and get a better glimpse into your classroom and who you are as a teacher if they’re not familiar with you already. I used weebly to make my digital portfolio, but there are plenty of free websites you can utilize. It’s a visual version of my resume with extra information. I included a tab about me, my experience, professional development, instruction techniques, and my teaching philosophy.
Make sure your cover letters are specific and unique. You can have a basic template, but you should change part of it to make it stand out to each district you apply to. Show them you truly want to work for them and be part of their team. Take the time to do your research and explain to them exactly why you’d be a great fit.
Is it considered unprofessional to do a more “designed” resume?
I think this is up to you (and the personal preference of whoever is reviewing it on the other side). There’s definitely a fine line between unique/stand out and way too much. But personally, I think your resume should reflect your own personal style. Keep it simple, but find a way to make it different than your basic Times New Roman, size 12 font resume. There are a lot of free templates you can check out on canva or look up templates on TPT! I used Pocketful of Primary’s resume and cover letter template last year when I applied for new jobs. I personally would want to talk to someone who put extra effort and design into their resume. It shows me their creative, they like to try new things, and they work hard. But hey, I’m just a teacher, not a principal lol.
When you revamped your resume…what new things did you add?
My resume for my second job search (after I had some real world experience) looked very different than my resume when I graduated college. I scrapped most of my practicum experience that I had listed and only included my real teaching experience and my student teaching experience. I also tried to be as specific as possible in my statements under each job title. We all know what a teacher does…but what do YOU do in the classroom? How do YOU make a school better? What do YOU bring to the table? Don’t give me the job description of a teacher. Use action verbs and specific examples that show what you’ve done, what you’re passionate about, and successes you’ve had.
I also included a section on professional development and book studies on my updated resume. In my opinion, this shows you care about continuing your learning and you can highlight any initiatives you have already started learning about that maybe the school you’re applying to is looking to implement.
I’ve taught at the same school for 13 years and ready for change…help!
The queen herself, Hope King, once told me… “If you don’t go, you don’t grow.” I know it’s scary. I won’t sugar coat that. But being brave always pays off in my opinion. Put yourself out there. You never know what you might find and how much happier you could be.
“If you don’t grow, you don’t grow.” – Hope King
I know starting a new job search can be overwhelming, intimidating, and at times disappointing. During my search, I kept telling myself…”You won’t miss what’s for you.” That turned out to be true. I’m so happy I ended up where I did. It was worth the jump. Our jobs take up a huge majority of our lives and we already know how challenging and exhausting teaching can be at times. Having a place that you enjoy working at and people you enjoy working with can make all the difference. Do what’s best for you. You’ll thank yourself later.
I hope that was helpful! Best of luck with your search! Feel free to reach out to me on Instagram if you have a more specific question or you’d like advice on something else. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m always happy to share my story and connect with others through that.
PS – I got a TON of questions about interviews too, so that blog post will be up next!