Step-by-Step Guide to
Getting Hired in North Carolina
Once you’ve completed everything required in your North Carolina Teachers of Tomorrow program to be eligible for hire, it’s time to move on to the next exciting step. You’re now ready to find a teaching position and start your new career – congrats! Follow these helpful tips to ensure you are ready to land the perfect teaching job for you.
When researching which teacher job to apply for, there are several things you’ll want to consider. Finding the right fit is extremely important. If this task seems daunting, take a breath and remember that we’re here to help! Use this comprehensive guide to help you inform your decision to make the best choice when considering a teaching job. To get you started, it all begins with researching. Here’s what you’ll want to search for to find your perfect job:
HOW TO FIND A DISTRICT
When looking at which school districts are a great fit for you, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Your commute to work is important when deciding where you want to teach. Some areas have large districts that span over a wide geographic area and include many options for schools. Do a search from your home, as far as you are willing to commute, and look at the district(s) within that area, including charter and private schools. A quick Google maps experiment will allow you to view your potential commute times. If there are multiple districts in your commute radius, give each careful consideration. While you can rank your school choices, consider applying to all districts within your area. Avoid narrowing your choices to a select few, since the goal is to find a job and gain teaching experience. After teaching on your Residency License at your school, your resume will be much stronger if you decide to apply to a position there, after earning your North Carolina Initial Professional Educator’s License. While it’s important to choose the right district for you, keep in mind that rural districts tend to have a higher need for teachers and a smaller pool of applicants. If you are willing to move or commute to a more rural area that has openings in your licensure area(s), you may find it easier to get hired.
There are some school districts in every state that consistently have few open positions. While these highly sought-after school districts might be your top choice, you should also consider districts with more opportunities as a way to improve your chances of getting hired faster. When you have more experience, you can always continue to apply at your school of preference; a strong resume may help you snag one of those open spots!
The more content area tests you pass, the more competitive for hire you become. By demonstrating subject area knowledge in more than one area, not only do you have more teaching positions to which you can apply, but school districts will often find you more desirable for hire since you provide additional flexibility in the subjects you are qualified to teach.
Networking is extremely important. Most schools, including public, charter, and private schools, hold job fairs and hiring events at different times throughout the year to allow candidates to introduce themselves and ask questions about both current and future open positions. Additionally, many districts keep available positions listed on their websites. Make sure to keep an eye on the district website to maximize your chances of discovering the most current teacher jobs available. Take note of when upcoming job fairs will be held and make it a point to attend as many as possible. Keep in mind not all districts regularly update their website, so it’s still a good idea to submit an application even if your licensure area is not listed.
While the interviewing process can differ from school to school, here are a few ways you can prepare for any scenario you may experience.
WHAT PRINCIPALS WANT
We work directly with districts and value the relationships we form with principals. We’ve asked them specifically what they look for when hiring teacher candidates. Across the board, here’s what they said: principals look for candidates who are well-prepared for the position and can clearly demonstrate how they can handle adversity and problems in the classroom. An ideal candidate extends beyond simply completing the required testing and training. Principals hire candidates whose passion for teaching shines through. A desire to shape the lives of your students and provide them with a quality education is a must.
MAKING A GREAT IMPRESSION
The best piece of interview advice I ever received was from a fellow teacher friend. I was quite nervous about an upcoming interview, and she told me, “Remember, this interview is just as much for you to ask questions and learn about them.” It seems simple, but this was stuck with me for years! It’s important to engage in a discussion and make sure that you are a good fit for the school – and that the school is a good fit for you.
Lead with confidence. You already know that you are a qualified and passionate educator. Now it’s time to let them know it. Prepare for your interview by following these essential tips:
- Arrive early. Plan to arrive 10-15 minutes early for your interview. If the location is a place you’ve never been to before, you should also drive there the day before to figure out how to get there and where to park.
- Show kindness. Be courteous and polite to everyone with whom you speak and greet people with a smile.
- Bring copies of your resume. Carry copies of your resume and all supporting documents. Make sure they’re in a folder or briefcase, and not just loose copies in your hand.
- Learn the school’s mission. From their website, collect information on what their focus is, their teaching philosophy, and the students they serve.
- Formulate your “elevator pitch”. Prepare a brief (45 seconds to 1 minute) story that sells yourself. This can help set the tone of the interview and often serves as the first answer to the question, “so, tell me about yourself.”
- Be adaptable to changing situations. Schools are busy and you may be asked to wait or take a brief pause in the interview so that a Principal can deal with an emergency. If this happens, be understanding and patient.
- Don’t let a panel interview make you nervous. Some principals will have a panel with them for your interview so that they can confer and rely on other opinions. This may seem intimidating but can actually work in your favor.
- Research common questions. Take some time to brainstorm your answers. You will likely be asked a series of questions to demonstrate your competency as a teacher. It’s common to work through hypothetical situations, so make sure you are prepared. If you need help, check out this blog post about the 8 most common teacher interview questions in North Carolina.
- Stay informed. Know about the details of your progress with Teachers of Tomorrow. Be able to clearly explain what you have completed and what you need to complete with the program. Talk about what tests you have taken and when you have scheduled to take any remaining tests. Organization will demonstrate that you are detail-oriented and serious about teaching.
- Dress professionally. Keep your colors simple. It’s best to avoid bright colors or busy patterns, as these tend to look less professional. Keep jewelry to a minimum and be mindful if you choose to wear makeup.
- Avoid disruptions. Make sure your cell phone is turned off, or at the very least, on silent
- Practice your interview. Recruit a friend and run a mock interview. You can also practice in a mirror. Look out for filler speech (um, well, like, etc.); practicing will help you reduce the use of these distracting words.
- Assess your non-verbals. To do this, consider recording yourself. A large part of communication is non-verbal, including your tone of voice and what you do with your hands and body. See what the interviewer sees by watching a video of yourself. It’s fine to use gestures as long as they’re not distracting.
WHAT WILL THEY ASK? SIX COMMON THEMES
Philosophy: Philosophy questions help the interviewer(s) gain a better understanding of you and your educational beliefs. The question may not be as transparent as “What is your teaching philosophy?” Instead, these questions or statements often look like the following:
- Tell me a little about yourself.
- Why do you want to work for our district/school?
- Would you describe an experience you’ve had that’s helped prepare you for teaching?
- Why did you choose to become a teacher?
- What do you consider to be your biggest achievement? Why?
Assessment and Evaluation: Assessment and evaluation help teachers gauge how well students grasp a new concept or idea. Gathering this information does not only come from administering formal assessments such as quizzes, tests, exams, or finals. While these items are useful, principals may inquire how you use informal assessment in your teaching. Informal assessment includes observations, questioning techniques, class discussions, projects, and rubrics. Be prepared for some of these common questions:
- How do you evaluate lessons/achievement?
- How do you integrate informal assessment in your classroom?
- What methods do you use to check for understanding?
- How do you assess student progress?
Curriculum and Lesson Design: This serves as the foundation of a well-prepared teacher. Principals need to verify that you have a sound background and understanding of basic instructional strategies and pedagogy. Lessons should be planned with a clear learning objective, lesson delivery targets, learning styles, readiness, and abilities, as well as multiple activities that keep the students engaged. The overall lesson should focus on student-centered learning. On-going assessment and closure are also key components of good, strong lesson plans. Questions about Differentiated Instruction, Cooperative Learning, and Learning Communities are not uncommon. Common questions include:
- How would you define a good lesson plan?
- Can you share with me a lesson you have taught that you felt was successful? Why?
- How do you approach preparing your lessons?
- What methods do you use to target students with different learning preferences and styles?
- What assignments of activities might you use to identify different levels of learning readiness?
- What strategies do you use to target the gifted learner, the average learner, and the slow learner?
Classroom and Discipline Management: Difficulty practicing successful classroom management techniques is often the hardest task for a new teacher. This theme may be included several times using different questions. In an urban school, classroom management may be the focus of the interview. Classroom Management is about routines, procedures, learning environment, and protocols. Having well-prepared materials, lessons that engage the students and seamless activity transition help promote good classroom management. Discipline Management deals with setting up boundaries that promote respect in the classroom. Good classroom management will alleviate 90% of the discipline problems. The other 10% are dealt with through classroom protocols and rules. Progressive discipline is a good start in dealing with student discipline. It is important to have a repertoire of strategies that you can discuss when asked. Be prepared to answer the following questions:
- What is your discipline philosophy?
- Give me an example of how you used this philosophy.
- How do you encourage students to participate?
- Describe your management style.
Classroom Environment: Building a classroom environment that is motivating, inviting, and safe is critical to your success. You can be the most amazing instructor, but if there is hostility in your room, students will not feel as though they are in a supportive learning environment and therefore disengage. Principals want to ensure you have the skills and strategies needed to make your classroom environment supportive of student learning. Here are a couple of questions to help you prepare:
- What would I see if I looked in your classroom?
- How will your students know you care about them?
- Describe how you plan to make your classroom a safe space for all individuals.
Professionalism and Development: Principals want to make sure you are going to be a team player. It is not uncommon for a principal to ask questions about your history of dealing with others and adversity. Here are some commonly asked questions:
- What will make you a good teacher?
- If I called your last supervisor, what would they say about you?
- What would you include in your Open House presentation to parents?
- How could you use team teaching to provide your students with a better education?
Schools and districts receive many job applicants throughout the year. Standing out from all the other teacher candidates requires making yourself as marketable as possible. They need to see how valuable you will be for school.
Teaching experience always helps. Having spent time in the classroom prior to your interview will make you more apt to answer questions and handle situations based on real teaching experience. Substitute teaching, volunteering in a school, or time as a paraprofessional educator help show you have classroom management experience. It also allows you to build critical relationships that may pay off in the future. If you have spent time in a classroom, introduce yourself to the administration staff and get to know the principal. This is a great way to get your foot in the door, ask about possible open positions, and let them know you are interested in a full-time teaching career.
Your portfolio is an extension of your résumé and cover letter. It serves three basic purposes: (1) a collection of all important official documents (transcripts, licensure, etc.), (2) a collection of sample work (lesson plans, discipline management plans, etc.), and (3) any ongoing reflection and refinement of teaching expertise (sample documents, and related material). The portfolio can easily be put together in a 3-ring binder. Use tabs that can guide you to any section/document. Avoid using a large binder that includes very few documents. The portfolio should look clean, simple, and professional.
PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION
This is a brief essay that expresses your overall viewpoint of education. Keep it positive and non-political. This is about what education means to you and how it taps into your passion as an educator. Your philosophy of education should be 1-2 pages, double spaced, well-organized, and thoughtful. Write for the person who will read it: What do they need to know? To help you get started, here are some ideas to include:
- Your role as a future educator.
- What is important to you about teaching?
- How do you help students learn & develop as individuals?
- How your personal characteristic & approach to teaching impact the learning & development of students?
- Your passion for teaching should come through within this philosophy.
WHY I WANT TO BE A TEACHER
This short essay should include what inspires you to enter the field of education as a career.
- Letter of Interest/Cover Letter
- Licensure Information/Documents
- Letter of Eligibility and
- Copies of your exam score/registration receipt
- Transcripts with a degree(s) conferred.
- Recent Grads: take your up-to-date transcripts showing you are currently working to receive your degree.
ADDITIONAL ITEMS TO INCLUDE
While not necessary, consider including some or all of these items to make your portfolio stronger:
- Strategies for teaching any content area(s) you are targeting
- Sample lesson plans (if you choose one thing on this list, include lesson plans!)
- Classroom Management Plan
- Discipline Management Plan
- Other related materials.
Schools only want to hire the best teacher for their students. Every school has its own unique culture and looks for individuals who would make a good fit. Above all, they want a teacher who cares about their job and strives to inspire students every day. If you want the position, you have to demonstrate that you can be the next great teacher they are looking for!