Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Finding a Teaching Job Not So Easy

When I decided to leave New York City, I felt a completely unjustified sense of confidence that I would find a teaching job somewhere else (or maybe I was just too stressed out to think straight). Now that it's mid-July and I haven't been so much as contacted by any of the districts I've applied to, I'm starting to think I better consider alternative options for the coming year, which is too bad, because I was really hoping to do National Boards this year - also, I REALLY LOVE TEACHING!

Today Miss Eyre over at NYC Educator published a post on the same topic. She tells the story of a friend who's been trying to get a longterm teaching position in a small district for a few years and has been passed over time after time. Add that to the knowledge that gaining tenure is getting more and more difficult, which makes it easier and easier to create a system that takes in teachers, chews them up, and spits them out, and it makes for a pretty bleak picture. It's a picture in which real teachers who care about real learning and the importance of real education to a real democracy are substituted for data drones and number magicians. (Read the excellent piece by FairTest about Atlanta's cheating scandal here.)

So what should I do now?

I left New York because I was manifesting concerning physical symptoms of stress and I felt I needed to get out. I also came to understand that despite my desire to work with the kinds of families I had the pleasure of working with in the Bronx, my quality of life was severely suffering because I couldn't live in the neighborhood the school was in, and I HATE commuting. I refuse to live on anything but a human scale.

I want a school community I can be a part of, a neighborhood in which there are healthy options for food and safe places for children to play. I want an opportunity to grow professionally, work with a team of talented and committed educators to write a comprehensive school-wide curriculum and take advantage of leadership opportunities. I want to work in a community that works together to raise its youth and isn't content to simply play the blame game when things don't seem to be working. I want the opportunity to think about hard problems with my colleagues and come to acceptable consensus for how to move forward. I want to be respected for what I do. Ah yes - now that's what a teacher wants.

But it seems obvious I can forget about finding the ideal situation when merely finding a situation is looking near impossible.

I occasionally consider working at a private school (whoops, I mean independent school) and then rapidly bring myself back to reality - that is not what I want to do. Then I go back to NYC's open market, even if I can't really figure out how to use it. I ask friends across the country if they know of any openings. "Sorry - Good luck!" So what's left? As best I can tell: I can go abroad, try a different job, or devote myself to volunteer work for a year.

But what if...

What if I could find a school that's lost teachers, has expanding class sizes, has competent administrators in a neighborhood I wouldn't have to commute an hour into every day, and volunteer to teach there for a year? I wonder if anyone has done this already.  The situation could be used to bring media attention to the plight of so many schools in this recession. If it got enough media attention, I bet one could find enough anonymous donors to pay a salary. I wonder, if the government is refusing to fund education, if concerned Americans with a little extra cash in hard times might be willing to.

Is it doable?

39 comments:

  1. you know, as much as you like big cities, the situation you are looking for actually sounds a lot like a small town job. Smaller towns are generally more invested in their schools, since it is usually the only one in the area, and it is actually easier to find small town jobs because everyone applies in the larger districts. Small town life does allow you the opportunity to get very involved in the community and it can be a good thing for a while. Something to consider anyway.

    As for private schools, I think there are things to learn there too, and as much as I like teaching in urban schools, there are some positives about private schools as well (unlimited funding and strong parent involvement, for example).

    Also, and I know you've thought about this because we've talked about it, what about teaching overseas for a year or so? You could teach at an international school or a military base, or teach English pretty much anywhere you wanted to.

    I guess all I'm saying (in an encouraging way, not judgy...) is think outside the box a little more and you might be surprised where that takes you.

    Good Luck...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Christy. I agree with you. All of those are strong possibilities. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I would like to see you blog full time. You are one of the few education bloggers with high-quality content that posts consistently. Maybe you can find a way to leverage the traffic that you have generated for the site.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, you should write. I love your posts.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Have you considered California?
    http://www.edjoin.org/

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have to agree with @Christy that what you describe is a small town or rural teaching position. You might be surprised at what you find in a small urban area...or its surroundings. I grew up in Chicago...and ended up teaching in small towns of about 1,000 for 35 years. All of them have been in the same area...near an urban area of about half a million. I ended up learning about all sorts of things I never thought of growing up in the city...I learned what a combine was...I learned about animals...and I learned about the Amish.

    The problem is that you have to find a job. No matter where you look there are problems getting teaching positions. Most states are moving away from tenure by longevity...and it's getting harder and harder to be a teacher anywhere in the US, but the positions are there if you're willing to move and take a salary commensurate with the local cost of living. I also agree that you can consider international, private schools, tutoring services, and the like. One other option is to substitute. Find a community in which you feel comfortable and start substituting there.

    The most important consideration at least from this retired teacher's point of view, is your own well being. If teaching in an urban area makes you sick with stress related issues, then it's time to get out.

    Use your contacts around the country to help...google teaching jobs...use professional organizations (AFT, PDK, etc).

    ReplyDelete
  7. Reading your post, I had the same thought as Christy that you might enjoy teaching in a small town setting. I know that many small towns and rural areas have traditionally had a hard time finding teachers, so that may be a workable solution. It wouldn't even have to be very far out in the boondocks - maybe an hour or so from a major urban area.

    Let us know how it goes!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think as TFA spreads it's getting harder to find positions; however, agree with all the suggestions of those who've posted here. On a teachers' salary with no real savings it is hard for me to move around so much, but I'm always keeping my eye open for other opportunities so please blog about your journey. I love working with young adult learners but it is hard to find full-time work with benefits so had to go into the school system. Regardless, I would love you to keep blogging, is there work in Educational Policy and Ed. Journalism you are a great writer?

    ReplyDelete
  9. I would not take that California recommendation too seriously. California pays its teachers through the state and right now the state is in a terrible place, financially. However, that said, the California Teacher's Association (NEA) is excellent and works hard for its teachers. Because of the massive layoffs earlier in the spring, there are few openings in California.

    Right now, I would suggest you look to see where there is a shortage of teachers and go there.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Your description of a community and school where you want to work sounds much like the kind of school I would love to send my kid to. A place filled with teachers who have the same sense of purpose that I as a parent have. Unfortunately I have yet to find anything that even approaches it. Looking forward to seeing where you land and reading about how it goes.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I appreciate everyone's kind words.

    In regard to small towns, my experiences thus far have indicated that many of the most ambitious, most energetic school staffs exist in urban areas. Just a generalization. Not sure what other people think about that.

    ReplyDelete
  12. There may be a difference in school staffs in urban and rural areas, but I feel like quality of life somewhere in upstate New York has to be pretty high.

    And @anonymous 9:24, TFA places a fairly small group of teachers even in large cities. I think the bigger issues is that schools aren't hiring because of budget uncertainty and the people who do have jobs are hesitant to give up the paycheck.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This isn't a problem unique to teachers.

    Everyone wants to live in a nice neighborhood and everyone wants to work at a job they find fulfilling. Those jobs are hard to find no matter what profession you have chosen.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Adding a small comment to the California recommendation comment - I've recently finished my MS credential and have been trying to apply for jobs in the small elementary district here in Silicon Valley that I have worked in in various capacities over the last few years. This district recently advertised 4 open K-5 positions, and they received over 350 applications in one week for those positions. There are a lot of teachers looking for jobs around here. As the last commenter noted, though, I hear stories of equally hard job markets in other professions as well.

    ReplyDelete
  15. There's always Detroit.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have read your article and I agree with everything you have said. I too, work as a teacher in the Bronx. I have been trying to leave for years but have failed. I briefly took a part time teaching position in a private school. I looked into teaching overseas. I was hired to teach English in China but I was told that I would have to wear a mask outside because the air was so bad and I could not eat the local food because I would get worms! I just go back every year and fight the system in the Bronx and hope my students learn. Every year they try to reinvent the wheel. I feel like I have become a stone. Keep writing and thanks. I don't feel so alone now.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I am a NYC Principal who really enjoys reading your blog! Despite being on the "dark side" of administration (as some would call it), I relate to everything you've said about the trials and tribulations of teaching in NYC public schools. Before you consider leaving, let me know if you're interested in giving it one last try! I am in a beautiful space of my own in a gorgeous neighborhood in NYC serving students with high needs and low skills. You won't have to hunt for post its, pens and copies (or the bathroom key) in my school. I am very supportive of teachers and I'm currently interviewing for a top notch Global History teacher to join my team. I am also interviewing for a 10th grade English teacher as well.

    If you're interested in giving our students one last try, let me know and I'll touch base with you off line.

    Thanks and keep blogging!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you still have that global history teaching job? Or do you have a job teaching anything in the social studies feild/history/social sciences feild? I am interested. I am a certifyed teacher in NC. I read these posts about high needs in NC.....but they sure don't act that way toward the people putting in for the job. My e-mail address is:hldowless@hotmail.com . I can send you my resume in an atatchment, i guess. If you know a someone else who has a job in this feild, let me know about that too, if you do not any more. I have 6 years experience.
      Thank you
      H.L. Dowless
      Feb 2012

      Delete
    2. You sound like a dream!

      I'm a permanently certified Social Studies teacher (NYS, 7-12). Currently, I'm working out of license at a D75 school in the Bronx, and would love to get back into General Education.
      I know that your offer was made to the blogger, but if you have any other openings, I would appreciate your contacting me.
      My e mail is: maidoforleans55@yahoo.com. Thanks.

      Delete
  18. Anon at 1055: Excellent point. Definitely worth remembering.

    Anon at 1118: Those are definitely sobering numbers. Not particularly pleasant to think about.

    Anon at 627: Good lord. I don't even know what to think about that. My experience with China, however, is that certainly not all cities are like that.

    Anon at 707: These is no way I could not be interested in what sounds like the ideal situation. Please send me an email.

    ReplyDelete
  19. For what it's worth, I have friends teaching in upstate NY who keep getting cut from the bottom when the funds run out, which seems to happen yearly. There are pretty much NO openings. Hope it all works out. Keep us posted.

    ReplyDelete
  20. When I quit working in DCPS and wanted to be somewhere more livable, we moved to Charlottesville, VA. Not sure about public school job options, but it's a great place to live and friends of mine who teach at various schools in town generally enjoy it. Best of luck!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Birney School in Birney Montana is currently looking for a teacher. It is a K-8 school in a very rural and safe setting with a total of 5 students. Housing and utilities are included.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Im not sure if this helps but I do wish you all the good luck!

    http://www.ccsd.net/jobs/LLPopps.php

    ReplyDelete
  23. Does anyone know a school in NYC that has a Latin teacher position available? It seems that all the positions in this shortage area were already filled before Latin was announced as a shortage subject.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Anon @ 1254: 5 students?

    Anon @ 437: Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  25. I am a TFA alum, and I *assure* you that TFA has indeed reached the point that it is crowding out licensed, experienced teachers. This past spring, I applied for teaching jobs in the public schools of Baltimore, Nashville, and Memphis. I sent close to 100 resumes directly to principals, AND went through the district online hiring process. I am licensed to teach in these states, I have nine years teaching experience, and a Master's Degree. I received NOT ONE PHONE CALL. Meanwhile, each city hired at least 100 TFA corps members. It's ludicrous.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Anonymous 10:23 pm, that is my experience too, I posted this originally. They have a hiring quota in schools or school districts (I'm not sure which) so in Washington, DC TFA and DCTF are allotted a certain number of new hire positions, of course this puts the squeeze on everyone else. From what I've read about Seattle this is one of the issues there. The main problem I have is that these teachers may well turn out to be highly effective, but at the point of hire they are unknowns yet they are getting hired before experienced teachers.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Whatever you do, don't move to Portland OR. The schools here pump out new teachers like crazy and no one wants to leave, and the schools keep laying off teachers.

    ReplyDelete
  28. It sounds like the Midwest is calling you.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I think a lot of you experienced teachers who have a hard time getting another job are probably "overqualified" (I can't stand that word!)

    School districts are probably cutting experienced teachers because they don't want to pay them more. A school lays off an experienced teacher then hires a fresh-faced college graduate the next day to take their place.

    I would actually scale back my resume, lie about the amount of experience I have (make it less), and possibly talk with an accent in the interview saying "I just arrive in country. Can I have job now?"

    dashdingoo@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hi James. I am not sure where in the US you are but have you tried Olas Jobs? I found some Social Studies position in the Lower Hudson Valley (Westchester County, Orange County etc). Good luck with your search and keep me posted. If you are in the area we could get together for drink with the rest of the Panamericans before school starts (and I start my job in Princeton). Ciao, Laura

    ReplyDelete
  31. I can totally relate.

    I have years of experience and good references, but when I moved to a new city after getting married, I realized that I had to leave teaching to keep my sanity after years of trying and failing to even get a supply teaching job in these parts. I couldn't tell you how many fellow former teachers I've met around here who have had to do the same. There are simply too many teachers out there and no job openings!

    That being said, however, when I was younger I spent some time in the north, teaching in an isolated Inuit community. They are always in need of good teachers, and believe me, the experience of living and working in arctic conditions rivals any overseas adventure out there. Be prepared for serious culture shock!

    If I were young and single again, as I assume you are, then I would look seriously at teaching in either the UK or Australia, as both of these countries are actively recruiting here in Canada. Unlike North America, teachers are in short supply there.

    In any case, good luck! Married friends of mine, both teachers and new parents, have been struggling for the last few years just to make ends meet because neither of them can get a contract or regular supply work. They have had to move back in with her parents, and they're both in their early 30s. Not exactly the dream we all had when we graduated, eh?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Where would a teacher find information in teaching in the UK or Australia? That sounds like an ideal situation for NYC teachers looking to get out. I've googled it, but there seems to be a lot of scams out there. Do you have a starting-off point for looking for teaching positions in the UK or Australia?

      Delete
    2. Search for teaching supply agencies (this for uk, not sure about oz) and call/email them asking if they would hire an American. Worked for me. Taught in London public schools for the last ten years.

      Delete
  32. I am an experienced teacher from IL, and moved to NY in October. I got hired at a NYC school and the whole experience has toppled my life. From not getting paid correctly from the beginning, to being in a school under threat to close down, to having the principal give out twenty two unsatisfactories, ( totally cutting me from the district because it was my first year), and now, finding out that I can't get another teaching position due to a contract the Board has prohibiting a leaving teacher from being hired for three years. Has anyone else gone through this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How sad that the NYCDOE has done this to you.

      Sorry to say, it's been done to a lot of teachers ( being "discontinued"), and having their careers ruined. What I fail to understand is the viciousness of the NYCDOE. Why they feel as if they have to destroy a person, and all that they have worked for.

      Delete
  33. I know that this is a post from a year ago, but I am wondering what ended up happening. I just graduated, and I cannot find a job. Its fustrating and painful. What did you end up doing? plz write back to me if you have the time. My e-mail is Jessingh84@gmail.com. Thank you so much for your time. I really truly apprechiate any help or just a fellow peer talking about this with me.

    ReplyDelete
  34. CALIFORNIA? Lots of luck! I've been trying to get a job in So. Cal. for a while now, and I keep hearing that there are hundreds of applicants for every job posting. Plus, basically jobs are not posted until they are first “floated” to the contracted teachers and then rejected. I'm a newly credentialed teacher with 7 years of sub experience and it looks like this next school year I'll be trying to feed my family on sub pay again. Is there any state where jobs are plentiful? I’m smart, with two masters degrees and a credential in Social Studies.

    ReplyDelete