I find myself in a new chapter of my special education career: I’m an Unemployed Teacher. I was laid off and now am looking full time for a full-time teaching job. What an eye-opening experience the application process has been! I got my previous job through connections I had with the school. It was painless and easy.
The first thing I learned to do is use a job search site. I am getting most of my leads from www.indeed.com and www.K12jobspot.com. CEC’s job board, www.specialedcareers.org, also is helpful because it is the only board dedicated to special education jobs. I also look up the employment opportunities on a specific school district Web site, for example Lakeshore Public Schools. Then I apply to anything that I am qualified to teach within a 50-mile radius of my house.
When I was applying for my first teaching job back in The Dark Ages, you sent a résumé and cover letter to the school you were interested in. Then, you followed up with a phone call or visit.
Now, most schools do not want a paper copy of anything and do not want you to call or visit. They want you to fill out your application online and attach your résumé, cover letter, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and teaching certificate. Some of the applications require taking a short multiple choice test about how you would handle certain situations in the classroom.
I found this to be very frustrating using my six-year-old laptop that was on its last legs. It was very slow and wouldn’t do some of the attaching or the tests. After trying the library and a friend’s computer, my dear parents suggested that I take a loan out from the “First National Bank of Mom and Dad” and get a new computer.
I now have a beautiful MacBook and can do all the required steps to apply. So I can truly say one must have a good working computer to apply for special education teaching jobs.
I am also frustrated because I think that I make a better impression in person than on paper. On paper I am in my early 50s, have gaps in my résumé, and my most valuable experience–having a child with special needs–doesn’t show up.
In person I think I come off as young at heart with some gray streaks in my hair, articulate with a sense of humor, and passionate about students with special needs.
A few things have helped lessen my frustration. I learned that some of the application forms allow you to use information from another application you filled out for a different district. I learned to have all my information (reference addresses and phone numbers, etc.) in one place so I don’t have to go looking for things when filling out yet another application. I now print out the application and put it in a folder with the school district’s name on it.
I also decided to go ahead and write a letter to someone at every place I applied. I included a picture, some information about myself, and a little humor. Kind of like a cover letter, but more informal. We will see if that helps me stand out in the crowd or not?
I am also learning to network. I do not like to network (I feel like I am imposing on people?), but in today’s job market it is a must. I contacted an old friend who works for a school district, contacted some people on Facebook, talked to someone at church, and located my daughter’s former special education teacher for advice.
My job hunt has coincided with helping my 23-year-old daughter with special needs also look for a job. What a blessing to both be going through this together. She sees how difficult it is for BOTH of us to get a job! We have made her a résumé and filled in online and paper applications. I wrote a letter of introduction and she wrote a cover letter. We have tried to stop in at possible places of employment. Most of them won’t meet with us, but we were grateful to the few who did.
I am teaching my daughter to have a Plan B (and C, D, and E). I am signing up to substitute teach as my Plan B; hers is a volunteer spot at an assisted living community in our neighborhood.
We are eager to see what the 2010-2011 school year will bring. Keep us in your thoughts! Anybody have any other good ideas? Thanks!