10 Tips for How to Land a Job As a Special Education Teacher

As an elementary school principal for 11 years, I hired many teachers. I also witnessed how the district and fellow administrators went about hiring their teachers.I have some tips for how to get a job as a Special Education Teacher.Tip Number One – Excel at Student TeachingThis is my number one recommendation for landing a job as a special education teacher, because administrators want teachers who have demonstrated the ability to teach. If you don’t do well in student teaching and related field experiences, you stand a very low chance of being hired.Administrators want teachers who know how to do two things:
1. Manage the classroom, meaning very few discipline referrals
2. Teach the children using best practice teaching strategies
3. Work as a team player, bringing good work habits, collaboration and knowledge to the tableTip Number Two – Get great recommendationsYou need recommendations from at least two cooperating teachers (the most important), one college professor, and an employer that you’ve had for at least six months. Job experience is important, particularly job experience in the area of working with children and particularly working with children who have special needs.A good tip for getting good recommendations is to hand the recommender a copy of your current resume, highlighting special skills and job experience. When writing a recommendation, I appreciated this, because as a teacher and an elementary school administrator, time was of the essence.Tip Number Three – Create an attention-getting, but easy to skim, cover letter and resume and deliver it in person if possible.Administrators do not want pages of text to read or a big folder of materials. Submit a one page cover letter, an easy to skim one page resume highlighting special skills and job experience, and three letters of recommendation.Tip Number Four – Go to as many college job fairs as you can.Even if you don’t plan to look out of your area or state for a job, go to as many job fairs as you can. It gives you the opportunity to network and practice interview skills.Tip Number Five – Learn as much as you can about the school district you which to apply for as possible.Research the school districts for which you plan to apply. You can easily do this online. It will help you know who you want to work for and it will also allow you to tailor your resume and interview toward what the particular school district is looking for.Tip Number Six – Don’t be afraid to search outside of your town or state if you need to. The move can be temporary if need be.I had to take a job in a town two hours away from the city in which I hoped to live. It was hard but after two years I was able to get the job I wanted.Tip Number Seven – Prepare for your interview.This is very important and I offer two pointers:1. Dress for the interview – Wear one step above the clothing you will be expected to wear as a teacher.If in doubt, wear a simple suit with a jacket and a flat heeled shoe. The reason I say this is because administrators want to see people who we can imagine teaching our children and you have to be comfortable to do that. If you have the opportunity to see the principal of your prospective school ahead of time, dress in a fashion similar to what they are wearing. Administrators usually dress one step above their teachers.2. Practice your interview skills. Write down sample questions. Answer them in writing and then orally. Be succinct. You will likely have 5-10 questions to answer in 15-20 minutes. Plan accordingly.Tip Number Eight – Interview well.Shake hands with the interview(ers). Talk about special skills and past job and student performance. Stress the above three things that administrators are looking for. Take a small bottle of water with you. I do not suggest taking a big binder portfolio. Instead, condense it into a five page document with colored pictures that you can leave with the interview team. Highlight activities that make you stand out as a teacher above the other candidates.Tip Number Nine – Send a thank you note after your interview.I can’t tell you how important this is. If you don’t get the job, it will keep you in the mind of the administrator interviewing you and when another principal calls him/her your name will be at the forefront of their mind.Tip Number Ten – If you can’t get the job you want right away, substitute teach, but you will need to excel at it if you hope to land a full-time teaching job.I can’t stress this enough. If you are a bad substitute teacher, you will not get a job as a teacher, particularly if you take a long-term assignment (such as a maternity leave) and do poorly at it. However, if you take a long-term assignment and excel at it you will get more assignments and you will land a full-time job. Make sure you get a recommendation from your building principal if you do a long-term assignment in their building.You are entering the best profession in the world. Happy Job-hunting!

Patience in Education As Taught by Winnie the Pooh

Perspective is such a wonderful thing in many ways. It allows us to connect with others and allows people to come to a place of understanding, one to another. Sometimes that means agreement, too, but not always. Nevertheless, as educators, it is important to understand that patience is a key in training our students to think, learn, and grow in wisdom. Over time, our students may learn to appreciate and understand our perspective on things, and value what we have given them, but we must be consistent to train and educate our students whether or not we see their immediate response. Winnie the Pooh may have summed this up most accurately when he said, “If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”Simple words, but deep truth. Harder still, though to act upon as teachers and educators. But if we can put aside our need to get credit, or our need to get anything at all out of it, then we can be free to continue doing what we are doing, faithfully, and change the lives of our students along the way. Clearly it’s nice to have positive feedback, and we all perform better with it, but if we don’t get it, does it change our obligation as educators? No. We are still called to be effective conveyors of information, whether it is in teaching concepts or teaching skills, we are challenged to do our jobs well.To do that, we must put aside our own need for attention. There is an old phrase about teaching being a thankless job, and yet many, many students in colleges are still majoring in Education. Why? If the field is so thankless, you would imagine that Education majors would be dwindling. They’re not, and so I would say that there is still an intrinsic value in educating others that is its own reward. We must hang on for that.When I was in college, I wrote my parents a note. I described how I had come to value their years of parenting, guiding me on the right path, allowing me to learn solid skills, giving me strong educational opportunities, etc. It was a rather long and “flowery” letter that let them know that I was beginning to see things from their perspective. It had only taken me about twenty years to get there. Upon getting my letter, my dad called me up, and in his best witty voice, he said, “Well, you’re right on time with this!”I was shocked and almost hurt that he didn’t see the deep meaning in my letter, but that was the point, wasn’t it? He did see the value in my letter because he had invested the time and energy over the last twenty years in creating that value.Education is much like parenting in this way. We must create the value over time, being patient and steady, and one day, right on time, our students will come to understand the benefits of what they have gained, from our perspective!