An Open Letter to New Teachers Seeking Their First Job

Dear newly graduated but still unemployed teacher,

I am thrilled you are trying to enter our profession. When I was in your shoes, I told people that I thought that teaching is really the only thing worth doing professionally, and I still believe that. I was lucky, though. When I first interviewed for teaching jobs in 2004, and then again after moving to NYC in 2006, schools couldn’t fill all the open slots they had. It is unfortunate that things have changed, and that with positions being cut around the country, it is very difficult to find a job right now. For that reason, you need to be very sure that you give yourself the best chance possible. Having just completed a search for an open Humanities slot at my school, I hope you’ll avoid some of the mistakes I saw made and follow these pieces of advice:

  1. Proofread everything you send out.
  2. While it is fine to send a generic cover letter and resume to each school, be sure you read a job posting to see if the school is asking for anything more. If they do, send it. For example, if a school asks for references, it is probably because they are on a tight schedule and don’t want to have to ask you for them again. Do not write “References available upon request” at this point.
  3. Proofread everything you send out.
  4. Demonstrate that you know something about the school to which you are applying. My school is beginning its 7th year. We take a huge amount of pride in the work we have done to build this institution and accomplish what we have accomplished. If I am going to take the time to talk to you, the least you can do is read the feature article about my school that I linked to in the job posting.
  5. Proofread everything you send out.
  6. What you believe is very important to me, but not nearly as important as what you have done. In cover letters and in interviews, give specific examples of students or assignments you have worked with.
  7. Proofread everything you send out.
  8. Don’t be afraid to talk about things that did not go well. I was once a student teacher, too. I know a lot of what you did kind of sucked. That’s fine. What I want to see is that you learned from sucking, and that you did better the next time.
  9. Proofread everything you send out.
  10. If you are lucky enough to get a phone or in-person interview, within six hours of that interview, send your interviewer a quick thank-you email. This is important for two reasons. First, when interviewing a lot of people in succession, I might have forgotten half our conversation very quickly. You want to make sure I remember that I talked to you and think about you again. Second, the last thing I want to be doing on my last week of summer vacation is anything related to school. Trust me, I could have very easily only called the people with lots of experience and made a “safe” hire. Of the ten people I interviewed over two days this week, three wrote thank you’s. We hired one, and I promise the other two will be the first people I would call back for another opportunity.
  11. Finally, and most importantly, proofread everything you send out. And if you can’t do it, find someone who can. I don’t care how good you are, if you won’t take the time to ensure there isn’t a typo in the very first sentence of your cover letter, I am not going to take the time to read the rest of it.

Best of luck in your search.

Stephen Lazar

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