I feel unprepared to get a job in my field

A reader writes:

I graduated recently with an entry-level Education degree, but I haven’t been able to find a teaching position in my district. Some of my classmates, however, have already found teaching positions. I’ve given my resume to plenty of schools and gotten plenty of interviews, but I haven’t gotten any call-backs. Although the principals have told me that there may not be any vacancies, I think it’s something I’m doing wrong at the interview stage. I’ve tried lots of things, though. Women are judged mainly on their appearance, so I’ve gone out and gotten my hair done, brows and lips waxed, and even tried makeup once or twice. I’ve also prepared moderately for the interview questions, but there’s usually something thrown at me that I can’t prepare for, because, to be fair, I’ve never really taught in the school system. I can’t give realistic answers to these questions, because student teaching didn’t prepare me for them, and the unappealing stench of “fresh meat” probably wafts into the room with every stupid answer I give. One principal even watched me stumble through a demonstration lesson that I was giving in front of real students, and no one even told me I would be required to do that, so, of course I wasn’t prepared.

They expect me to be exceptionally prepared, and I don’t really have that level of confidence. For one thing, I feel like the teacher preparation program didn’t really prepare me to teach, so I might not be ready anyway, but what can I do about that? I find that the schools certainly want me to know what they didn’t show me, and I don’t know how to admit that I don’t know it without looking like a fool. I have a lot of trouble asking questions on the job, especially if I think I’m already required to know something, but there’s no faking it in Education.

Sometimes, I feel like, in my hands, my education, experience, and enthusiasm for teaching amount to nil, and I may never get that teaching job I went to school for. I seriously need help.

I think there are a few issues here — about how you’re preparing yourself, about how much preparation you expect from others, and about whether this is indeed the right field for you.

Let start with the first. I’d bet money that you’re not preparing for interviews sufficiently. You wrote that you prepare “moderately” for interview questions, but you need to prepare thoroughly. You’ll never have anticipated every possible question that you’re asked, but thorough preparation will make you do significantly better, no matter what’s thrown at you.  And being asked to do a demonstration lesson is pretty normal when you’re applying for teaching jobs, so the fact that that took you off-guard also signals that you’re probably not preparing the right way for interviews.

I also think you’re probably expecting more help than is realistic. You write that you didn’t prepare for the demonstration lesson because no one told you to, and that student teaching didn’t prepare you for interview questions. But you can’t really expect to be prepared for everything that will be thrown at you once you leave school and are in the work world. This isn’t like test prep that you do in high school — you’re expected to do your own thinking and prepare yourself. If you expect others to do that for you, you’ll definitely flounder —  so that might be part (or even all) of the problem here.

Now, all that aside … I know this might be difficult to hear, but is it possible that education isn’t the right field for you? I might be off-base here, but a lot of what you wrote in your letter points to you not feeling like this is work you excel at. And if that’s true, do you really want to build a career around that? (Particularly teaching, for obvious reasons.) It’s a really good thing to be aware of what you don’t know and what you still need to learn, but you do need to feel confident that you can do the job you’re applying for (and be able to demonstrate that ability).

If you truly don’t feel prepared to teach, you’ve got to figure out if that’s because you need more training or whether it’s because it’s not a field that’s coming naturally to you. How are others doing with the same amount of training you received? If they’re doing better, can you figure out why that is? And can you talk to faculty or advisors from your program about the problems you’re running into? They might have advice that will help you do better, as well as help doing some soul-searching about whether this is the right field for you.

One last thing, unrelated to your question but something that really jumped out in your letter:  You wrote that “women are judged mainly on their appearance.”  That might have just been a bad word choice, but if you truly feel that that’s the main thing women are judged on professionally, then I think you’re also being hindered by some fundamental misconceptions about what employers are looking for. They expect you to be clean and well-groomed yes, and there have been plenty of studies showing that appearance does come into play, but if you’re at the point where you feel like it’s the main thing you’re being judged by, something’s gone wrong in your understanding of employers somewhere, and that’s worth revisiting too.

I hope all this helps — I’m sure this isn’t a fun spot to be in. Good luck.

{ 79 comments… read them below }

  1. Laura*

    You can google “teacher interview questions” and find lists of 100s of sample questions that are teacher specific (totally different than if you google “interview questions”). You should have the answers to these written out, outlined, memorized, practiced in front of the mirror, etc with real life examples. If you don’t have examples from teaching, pull an example from babysitting or camp counseling or college tutoring or someplace you do have experience. I am a new grad and have many friends who have found jobs in teaching without student teaching experience (some states have a program called Alternate Route where you can become a teacher without the student teaching). You are ahead that you have student teaching experience!!!

    In the mean time, become (if you aren’t already) a substitute teacher. You can draw some examples and experiences from that.

    ALSO— most new graduates do get some sort of interview help. A lot choose to go to their career counselor (I know AAM has opinions on those!) but some are helpful. You can also get a lot of preparation tips from the internet.

      1. Anonymous*

        What kind of surprises me is that the OP didn’t even consider substitute teaching as a way to gain experience. I would think that’s pretty common sense, no?

    1. Anon*

      Good advice. When I was laid off from a long-time corporate job I went out for informational interviews and in the process met with some local principals to look into teaching. Around here they expect that a new teacher will spend at least a year substituting. It’s like a test. After a teacher has spent a year as a sub, the principal has a handle on whether or not he or she is hiring material. Going from teacher training straight to a full time teaching job just isn’t the way it’s done in my area. (Who knew?) The OP might also try what was recommended to me and ask a principal or two for an informational interview. If there’s no job opening it’s easier to talk frankly and get some good advice that an interviewer won’t give.

      1. Alisha*

        Alternatively, if comfort with leading or demonstrating to a group is the OP’s central issue – and that’s okay…not everyone is suited to a career that focuses so much on presentation – she may want to look into related careers where she could excel with her background, but not have to be the “center of attention” so to speak.

        My city is small and shrinking, and our schools are merging and closing, so there are three times as many education graduates as there are jobs. Many I know have gone into education-related fields, like publishing, curriculum design, and e-learning content design/development. Because the tech industry is one of the few industries here that’s doing okay, our ed graduates who must stay in the area (family, mortgage, etc.) find that the for-profit ed. positions offer better long-term stability. And while the benefits can’t touch those offered at public schools, the salaries in the private sector tend to be higher.

        1. Alisha*

          That said, even in industry, there will come a time when you have to present – so a good long-term goal might be to join Toastmasters or a professional society that invites its members to speak on the reg. Good luck!

    2. Lynda*

      When I was looking for a job, I did substitute teaching with a twist. On days when I wasn’t assigned, I’d present myself at a school where I wanted to work, and offer myself as a volunteer in the classroom for the day. That way, I’m highly visible, especially in the environments where I want to work, and they can see my work in a relatively low-pressure situation. After all, it’s the classroom teacher who has the bulk of the responsibility – the volunteer is busy being helpful and amazing.

      1. Heather B*

        I’m kind of surprised that this worked for you. First, unless this was a long time ago, doesn’t one usually have to have a background check done to do any work around kids? Second, as someone who manages volunteers for my library, I absolutely can’t take “walk-ins” for a variety of reasons – I need time to prepare and figure out what task(s) would fit well for them, I’m often not able to meet or work with them right when they show up, etc. Perhaps it works differently in schools, though…

  2. jmkenrick*

    I totally understand – it’s really scary to embark upon a new career, especially if you’re not sure if it’s right for you. (And how could you be? You won’t really know unless you try!)

    If you’re not getting teaching jobs, especailly if you’re feeling tentative, then I think it might be a good idea to look at persuing other jobs and maybe do some volunteering in a school, some subsitute teaching, working for an after-school program, even working as a camp counseler.

    Personally, I think those roles can really help with some the skill set necessary to be a good teacher (especially if you’re interested in working with younger children) as well as giving you good material to answer interview questions, boosting your confidence, and providing insight on whether it’s the right path for you.

  3. KellyK*

    There have been a lot of cuts in education lately, so there might be a lot of schools less likely to hire teachers fresh out of college if they can get someone with experience. Even without budget issues, the average new teacher only lasts about 3 years, so I can easily see a school district being reluctant to hire new teachers unless they truly wow them.

    I do think that having you teach a demonstration lesson without telling you that would happen is pretty crappy. I would expect to give a demo lesson at some point in the process, but I would think they would tell you when that was going to occur, and if they had any criteria for the lesson (should it be a full class period? any specific topic?).

    Having you talk about how you would teach X topic or giving you a topic and a half hour to prepare a 5-minute mini-lesson is one thing, but it’s not reasonable to spring things on someone in an interview. (I actually interviewed for a bunch of teaching positions and was never asked to do a demo lesson, although my portfolio was reviewed. Apparently it varies a lot.)

    The good thing is, now that you know that some schools do that, you can be much better prepared. You should have your best lessons in your portfolio anyway, so make sure you have them “ready to go” during any interview.

    If you’re interviewing for a wide range of positions (depending on what your certification is, etc.), you may want to have a couple ready so that you can use the most appropriate to the position. For example, someone with a secondary English certificate might prepare two or three very different lessons for different grade levels, so that they can pull out the 9th grade Romeo & Juliet lesson when interviewing for a junior high position and the 6th Grade Hunger Games lesson for the middle school position.

    Confidence is hugely important in teaching, and being able to answer curveball questions without getting flustered is a big deal. (Students and parents are really good at throwing you those curveballs.)

    One thing that I’d recommend, since you have your teaching certification, is to look for a summer job tutoring at a company like Sylvan Learning Center or Huntington. This will get you more hands-on experience working with students. That experience should help your confidence level and help you decide whether teaching is something you want to do with your life.

    Teaching is a really demanding profession. (I did it for two years, burned out impressively, and wouldn’t go back for six figures and a pony.) To be successful at it, you have to have an amazing amount of passion and drive, so it’s definitely worth considering whether it’s something you really want to do, and whether you’re really suited to it.

    1. Elizabeth*

      Another teacher here – I definitely agree about the idea of having several demo lessons up your sleeve. Ideally, those lessons are somewhat flexible with regard to student age and can be adapted to different lengths of time. They should also be very self-contained – the students don’t need any particular background knowledge for the lesson to work, and the materials are minimal (and the interviewing teacher should bring EVERYTHING needed, with the possible exception of pencils for the kids).

      OP, the next time you’re called for an interview, ask some questions: “Can you tell me what my visit to the school will include? Whom will I meet with? Would you like me to teach a demo lesson?” If a demo lesson is part of the interview, get details: What age are the students? How long should the lesson be? Should it focus on some particular subject (math, science, reading), and, if so, what have the students been studying in that topic? How many students are in the class? (Bring that many copies of any handouts, plus some extras.) It might be worth connecting with the teacher whose classroom you’re coming into, especially as you plan your lesson and might have questions (e.g. Is there a white board I can use? Is there room for the students to stand in a circle?).

      Type up your lesson, as well, and bring copies for the people who are observing it. I usually include information about how a lesson like this would fit into a bigger unit, how I would assess the students’ learning if I were their “real” teacher, and how the content fits in with state standards. After the demo lesson, be prepared to talk honestly about how it went, including anything you wish you’d done differently.

  4. KayDay*

    One thing about teaching careers–you are thrown right in to the middle of it. There are rarely “entry-level” teaching jobs…a first year teacher does (almost) essentially the same general type of work as a teacher who’s been around for 10 years; they might get more guidance and have fewer responsibilities, but everyone is responsible for preparing their own lesson plans and leading a classroom. In fact, teachers often start out teaching in the most difficult and least desirable assignments (e.g. the poorest schools, the most crime-ridden areas, middle school anywhere). (Compared to an “office-job” where your position and responsibilities will likely change significantly even with a very linear career path). Some school districts do have assistant or apprentice teachers, but this is not a universal thing. This all makes starting out as a teacher really scary. However, you should be able to talk to your classmates very h0nestly about what they have done. Definitely think hard about a teaching career–it requires confidence, independence and leadership right out of the gate–is this something you think you can do?

    Secondly, teaching jobs are not as easy to get as some people make them sound–my former school district (where I went to school; I am NOT a teacher) had a huge “waiting list” of qualified candidates that they would like to hire when an opening became available–these people usually would get called in if they needed a long term substitute teacher.

    Finally, it really worries me that you think that “Women are judged mainly on their appearance.” It is certainly true that women are judged on their appearance to some degree, and that women are often judged on their appearance to a greater degree than men (apologies for the gross generalization) HOWEVER, as AAM pointed out this is NOT the main criteria. Also, there are two sides to being judged on your appearance–if you make your self look TOO over-done, you run the risk of coming across as shallow or as a bimbo–it sucks, and is a very unfair. But again, this is rarely the main factor when a hiring decision is made.

    1. Natalie*

      “In fact, teachers often start out teaching in the most difficult and least desirable assignments (e.g. the poorest schools, the most crime-ridden areas, middle school anywhere”

      Even within an individual school, the least experienced teachers may very well get the most difficult classrooms.

  5. Alex*

    I have a friend who got her degrees in teaching in early childhood- grade 4 and didn’t have any luck finding a teaching position. So she also tried preschools and educational nanny positions. She got a job as an educational nanny (as in, responsible for teaching the girls, taking them on outings, etc. – not feeding or clothing them, or housekeeping, their parents have another nanny for that). That job is providing her with some valuable experience. You may have a higher grade level degree, but something like that, and also substitute teaching, or working as a tutor, could be good for you.

    And this is just speculation, but because you first mentioned being judged on your appearance as a woman, it sounds like some apprehension may be coming across to the interviewers. If I entered an interview thinking I was only going to be judged on my appearance, and not my skills, I would certainly be nervous and fidgety (and I’m a woman too). Go in with the confidence that they called you in for your skills. If anyone does seem to care more about your appearance, then you don’t want to work for them anyway.

  6. CT - HR mgr*

    I think she should look into substitute teaching in the districts in her area. Most school districts require you to have a degree to be a substitute, but not necessarily in education, so this would be the perfect opportunity to 1) see if this is the right field for her 2) show off her classroom skills and 3) meet administrators and other teachers who can mentor and assist her.
    Most substitutes are given very detailed lesson plans to follow which makes planning the day much easier. She can also limit what age groups she requests to sub for.
    Its a win-win situation for a new grad.

    1. Kendra M*

      Um, unfortunately, for me that is usually not the case. I have a few months’ experience as a sub, and I usually don’t get a very detailed lesson plan, if I’m lucky to get a lesson plan at all. Plus, usually I find myself working in a culture that regards subs as babysitters, and the kids don’t respect them or try to obey them. At best, they ignore the sub and treat it as a free day, and, at worst, they try to get the sub in trouble.

      1. KellyK*

        True. Subbing is definitely jumping in at the deep end. Good teachers who know in advance that they’re going to be out leave detailed lesson plans, but not every subbing situation is like that. And kids absolutely take as much advantage as they possibly can.

        The plus side of both of those things is that if you can sub successfully without being eaten alive, it will demonstrate your ability to maintain classroom discipline and roll with the punches.

      2. Student*

        Much sympathy for you, but there are also plenty of substitute teachers who don’t take the job seriously who contribute to this problem. The kids are certainly part of it, but the other subs aren’t blameless.

        I vividly remember a few subs from my high school days. One was an old man who got called in to sub regularly at my high school. No matter what the class was, he always did exactly the same thing: he’d make some short, sexist screed about how women were inferior to men – the specifics would vary anywhere from our ability in athletics to mathematics and basic logic. Then he’d sit back and let the class “discuss” his comments. Another sub happened to be a cousin of mine – who had serious drug problems and looked at substitute teaching as a good way to score or sell drugs. A kid only has to see one substitute teacher like that to decide the whole lot of you aren’t worth dealing with, though this is terribly unfair to substitutes who actually try hard.

  7. Katie*

    To up the confidence level, I would try to do as much substitute teaching as you can. This will get you in the schools and in front of a class, which should help with the more impromptu teaching demonstrations that might be part of interviews. Also, I feel like subbing is a major networking opportunity. By getting in there and talking to teachers, you can get a feel for the school/district and issues they’re facing, and even possible opening positions.

  8. Kelly O*

    Confidence is everything when you’re instructing – whether it’s kindergarteners or adults in a corporate setting. Even if you’re not sure, you have to be able to put on the proverbial good face.

    Your appearance is a small portion of that. And yes, it’s important to present your best-possible image when interviewing, or in a position where you’re teaching other people (at least I normally feel better about a class when the teacher looks like he has his proverbial stuff together) but that’s not the only thing that gets you the job.

  9. Erin*

    I almost couldn’t finish reading Alison’s response & all the comments before rushing to respond. (Yes, I was always the kid in class with her hand up first!)

    I’ve taught high school for 4 years now. I never had any student teaching experience because I got licensed through an Alternative Certification program, so I was in the classroom at the same time that I was completing coursework towards my license. And you are right. Teacher prep in college will not prepare you one iota for teaching in real life.

    However, that does not mean you can blame your college for not prepping you for interviews. You sound really unsure of yourself, and that is probably coming across strongly. No matter what grade level you are planning to teach, kids can tell when a teacher is not confident, and they will use that to their advantage. Principals are looking for candidates who can hold down discipline in the classroom without relying on sending kids to the office. Think about some scenarios from your student teaching assignment, summer camps you’ve worked, heck, even babysitting, and use that to craft your own approach to discipline. There is a ton of research & advice out there about classroom management. See if anything would dovetail nicely with your own personality.

    Haul out your lesson plans you had to design in class and practice them! Even if you never get asked to do a demo again, you should be able to talk about how you approach pedagogy.

    Everything that Alison talks about here applies to the education world. I have impressed principals by asking questions about school culture & teacher collaboration, two things that are important to me. Interview them right back! It will make you seem confident and interested. Research what current educational legislation is coming down the pipes (Common Core, anyone?) and figure out how you would incorporate it into your classroom.

    Oh, and make sure you’re not OVERLY grooming. If you are not used to wearing makeup, ask a friend if you’re going too far. A nice dress or trousers & a blouse are sufficient for teacher interviews. But other than looking like you care about the job, try not to put too much on appearance. I just got hired at one of the best schools in the district, without ever having to wax a thing!

    Other commenters have suggested to look in education-related fields, and that’s great advice. But don’t stop looking for real teaching jobs either. A lot of turnover happens in the summer. I interviewed for my last job three days before inservice started, and I know other teachers who got in the system mid-year in interim positions when the regular teacher retired early or went on extended maternity leave.

    Sorry for writing a novel here. Good luck to you!

    1. Lils*

      “Principals are looking for candidates who can hold down discipline in the classroom without relying on sending kids to the office.” <– This

      OP, I know you're in a tough situation. I agree with Erin's advice about ways to succeed with your quest to become a classroom teacher. But as a former sub and teacher, I would seriously consider whether classroom teaching is right for you. Sometimes teachers don't want to talk about this, but it's true. Do you remember being in middle school? Well, it's like that all over again. The kids can and will pick up on every single mistake, every shortcoming, and throw it in your face. They will call you names, curse you, say you're fat and the lesson you spent hours on is boring and stupid. They're destructive in all senses of the word.

      You have to be strong enough to face this with a smile and keep going and take joy in the successes anyway. As someone mentioned above, new teachers often leave the field within a few years–I did, and I had worked with children for many years before entering the classroom. Teaching is very, very difficult and you need to meet the challenge of it with the full force of a well-developed projection of confidence and a very thick skin.

      The key here is that principals know this. If you're coming across as someone who will need to have a major amount of assistance with discipline or pedagogy, they won't hire you because they don't have the time to provide such assistance. Even worse, they may hire you and handle you with a "sink-or-swim" attitude. I have seen this happen: principals ignoring referrals, sending disruptive students back to the classroom, providing no support, etc.

      I can safely say that a) there is no shame in admitting that teaching is not for everyone, and b) there are plenty of other fields that you can apply your skills to. I'm happy now in a related career–I'm glad I tried to be a good teacher for 2 years and hopefully helped those students, but it ended up just not being for me at all.

  10. Rachel B*

    Teacher prep programs don’t create expert teachers. It takes years of classroom experience, professional mentoring and lesson planning to get good at it. I have my masters degree in education from a well respected program. When I graduated, I felt that I had a great handle on educational research and theory, but no clue how to manage a group of twenty or so kids, day after day. Good schools (and administrators) understand that new teachers will need additional support.

    The only way to prepare for a teacher/educator interview is to prepare for that type of interview. The process IS different than other fields. There are a few books available from larger booksellers, and I think the advice given so far is spot on.

  11. Dave Jordan*

    Great response to the question. I may be out-of-line here, but much like the author wrote, I think the reader just isn’t into the work as much as she thinks. When someone is really into what it is they do, that person tends to go the extra mile to learn about the field they’re working in. E.g. I friend of mine is majorly into art and design, so for a job interview he created a mock-up of exactly the kind of work the job called for and spent hours preparing. Of course he did get the job and enjoys it a great deal. Point is, he could have been like every other candidate and gone to the interview with the bare essentials, and would most likely not have gotten the job. I guess the moral of the story is that if you truly enjoy doing something it will show.

    1. Mike C.*

      I don’t think this is true in the slightest. It just sounds like they missed a step and needed a push in the right direction. I hate posts that just tell people to give up long before they’ve even tried.

      1. Dave Jordan*

        I’m trying to make a point, which is stand up for yourself. Way back when, I was an assistant manager and the manager wanted to fire me after 2 days on the job. His personal assistant, that he trusted too much, didn’t like me. I basically gave him the beans and was able to stay on at the job until moving to greener pastures.

        Well, ok, I shouldn’t have said the reader may not be into her work, but she should perhaps be a little more aggressive in order to get what she wants.

  12. ChristineH*

    I’m not in the teaching field, so I have no basis for comparison, but I agree that you should’ve been told that you’d have to give a demo lesson. Sure, maybe reading up on entering the teaching profession might’ve informed you that this might happen during interviews, but they still should’ve made that clear beforehand. Including it in any job announcements is even better.

    I think this letter and AAM’s answer could be applicable to anyone looking to enter a specific profession. I went into social work, and, looking back, I think I was very naive about how I’d be prepared and whether it’d even be an appropriate fit.

  13. danr*

    The OP seems to be stuck in a narrow area… The letter implies that she is only looking within her ‘district’. The job hunt should be in a larger area. Give yourself at least a 25 mile radius from a base (or about a 30-40 minute drive) for looking for a job initially. If the OP lives in a sparsely populated state, then the distances will increase. My initial job hunt for my first teaching job took me over half the state (this was before the internet and web), and the job that I got was in a neighboring town. But I couldn’t have counted on getting that job.

    Prepare for ‘when’ you are asked to give a live lesson. You’ll know what grade or type of class you are applying for and have some outlines ready. Ask the interviewer some questions about the class so you’ll know a bit of what you’re walking into.

    As for appearances, you just finished student teaching, so you know what teachers wear. Your interview outfits should be similar, but a step or so up, and be neat and clean. Pay for professional cleaning before an interview. That will be noticed in a school setting. In terms of the business world, you are aiming at good business casual.

  14. Katie*

    I think you’re both overthinking and underthinking everything. On the one hand, you are overthinking how underqualified and underprepared you are, and underthinking what you can actually do in the classroom.

    For each interview, think specifically about:
    1. The grade level you are teaching.
    2. The subjects you are teaching.
    3. Teaching strategies and discipline that are age-appropriate.

    From there, start thinking about how you would actually teach the classes you would be teaching in the future. Think about lesson plans, materials, etc. Maybe even actually create a week of lesson plans or materials for a lesson.

    Once you’ve got an idea about how you would teach, start thinking about questions it’s important to know from your school. What will they do to support you? What kind of curriculum do they have in place? What kind of support structures do they have for new teachers? Do teachers ever work collaboratively? What are the school’s policies on discipline? Etc.

    Start thinking it through one step at a time, instead of getting overwhelmed by the weight of what a teacher does. Take it from some very simple places–what do these kids need to learn?–and build a strategy around it. You would do the same thing for any job. Surely in your degree program, you learned things like curriculum for different grade levels, age-appropriate teaching strategies, building lesson plans, discipline, etc.

    I also agree with everyone above that you need some more preparation. Get on a substitute teaching list. Maybe see if you can get hired on as an aide instead of as a teacher. Work for other teaching or tutoring programs. And do more research. If this is really what you want to do, you should be getting out there and trying to get your hands on materials that will build knowledge. Buy some books. Visit the teaching store and see what kind of materials they have. (I love that store, btw, and I’m not even a teacher.)

    My mom is a principal at an elementary school and is responsible for hiring. What she’s looking for in ANY teacher, experienced or not, is that they’ve really thought through what the classroom they will be entering needs and that they already have a plan–or at least, the seeds of a plan–in place to meet those needs. She would be incredibly turned off by any teacher who wasn’t thinking about those things before an interview or, worse, who thought it was someone else’s job to tell her what to do every step of the way. As another poster mentioned, there’s no such thing as an entry level teaching position. How you look only matters insofar as your ability to be clean and professional, and I think you’re putting entirely too much emphasis on that.

    If putting in the legwork to become prepared if you aren’t already seems too daunting to you, then maybe this isn’t the field for you.

  15. B*

    I know job hunting can be a horrible experience especially when you are new and get tons of rejection, but I think the OP needs to check her attitude. It seems like she is focusing on the negative. When you’re starting out, you can’t wallow in excuses. If you want it, you have to go for it. You have to think on your feet. You have to be willing to work extra hard (because, yes, you may not know everything yet but you must be willing to make up for it and then some). I wonder if this negativity is consistent with her personality in general or if teaching is really just not a good fit for her or if she feels alone and overwhelmed and that’s the reason. But I’d take the OP aside and say – hey, we’ve all been there. We all had to start from the bottom. If you want it, you can make it happen. But you have to stay positive. You have to work for it. You have to plan and prepare and get in the game and behave like an ethusiastic competitor. Try not to take it personally. Learn along the way. Reach out for support. Remember why this matters to you.

  16. Kiribitz*

    To toss a lead balloon into the substitute teaching parade, depending on the school district it may not be that easy to actually get assignments. The school district in which I live prefers the more experienced substitutes (retired teachers, etc.) over new college graduates.

    Honest question: Can someone explain how a student teacher wouldn’t teach? As I recall from my k-12 years the student teacher would observe for a portion of the semester/quarter and then would be in charge for another chunk of time with minimal supervision from the regular teacher. Is this something which is not common practice?

    1. Elizabeth*

      Student teachers do teach, but I can see the OP feeling like she hasn’t “really taught” enough to be able to answer all the questions asked in an interview from the perspective of experience.

      For example, I remember being a new teacher and being asked in an interview something like, “Describe a project-based science unit that you designed and implemented. What was it, and how did it go?” Well, I’d been a student teacher and an associate teacher, and had not had control over the curriculum enough to design any major science projects at that point. So I explained what I *had* done, such as assisted with the science fair when I was an associate, emphasizing how my contributions had helped out, and talked about the kinds of projects I would like to do with students in the future. I got the job, so I think my confidence and enthusiasm made up for the lack of actual experience – but it was nerve-wracking!

  17. Anonymous*

    I know some friends who are education majors. Since you are getting interviews, then it’s definitely not your experience that’s the issue. I agree with trying to get a substitute position or a part-time/teacher’s aide or assistant.

    Also, have you looked into charter schools? Most school districts (ie inner city schools) that are charter or lag behind in academic standards will hire entry-levels. I know it probably doesn’t seem like the best place to work at but at least you get more experience in your field.

  18. Elizabeth*

    Many people here have said that there aren’t entry-level teaching jobs, and that is mostly true – teaching has a much flatter career path, and the list of job responsibilities for first-year teachers and twentieth-year teachers is pretty much the same. (The twentieth-year teacher is more skillful, though, and probably taking on additional responsibilities like chairing committees or mentoring newer teachers.)

    There is an exception, though, and that’s that many private schools have assistant or associate teachers in elementary classrooms. These teachers don’t plan curriculum (though they may help with planning) and they generally don’t teach most whole-class lessons, but they help students on-one-one and lead small groups. Over time, they can take on more responsibilities. At some schools this is kind of a career position, but in a growing number of independent schools this kind of job is viewed as a stepping stone to being a lead teacher. (At my school, it’s a two-year position, after which you move on to another school or sometimes get hired on as a co-teacher.) OP, if you’re aimed at elementary education, this could be a good place for you. You sound like you might not be ready to take on your own classroom, and spending time in a school with somewhat less responsibility than a full teacher might give you the experience you need.

  19. J*

    I’m sort of surprised nobody has really mentioned something like Teach for America — even though the class assignments might be “tougher” (based on location), I think there’s some sort of training or at least guidance that goes along with it, isn’t there? (I know a decent number of high school and a few college classmates of mine who did TFA, but I’m not super familiar with the process.)

    Plus, they’ll help with school loans if you finish a certain number of years.

    Anyway — I also agree with the substitute teaching recommendation. Try asking around at public and private schools — even if it’s only for a period or two a day, it’s a tolerable way to make a teeny bit extra on the side. My (private) high school had a pool of subs to choose from (some based on subjects they preferred to teach), and they could either cover a range of classes for a day, or just a certain subject, or sometimes if a teacher was sick for a long time, they’d step in and cover.

    Lastly… even if you don’t end up becoming a straight up teacher, you could try looking around for other education-related jobs to get experience. Somewhere like a textbook company, tutoring place, educational materials …generator-y place, an education-focused non-profit, whatever floats your boat. You can use your skills, just maybe not in the classroom immediately.

    It’s like how my friend got a computer science degree, then complained after a year that she didn’t want to be a code monkey… I was like “…well… you do know there are plenty of jobs that could use the skills of a CS degree, that wouldn’t require you to be a code monkey…”

    Sometimes you just need to fish around for a while! Good luck!

    1. Lexy*

      Teach for America is EXCEPTIONALLY competitive, last year they had something like a 10% acceptance rate and the vast majority of their teachers are Ivy educated from A++ backgrounds.

      It’s a great organization, but actually extremely competitive… probably more so than most school districts.

      1. Lexy*

        “vast majority are Ivy educated”
        -I mistyped there… many but certainly not a majority (or plurality) are Ivy educated. But the average GPAs are high and the emphasis on demonstrated leadership abilities is as well.

      2. J*

        Whoops, well, there you go. Thanks for the information! I guess it probably helped that the people I knew who got into it were the Ivy&leadership type already. Heh. I didn’t realize it was so competitive.

        Though it makes me wonder how a daughter of my mom’s coworker has gotten more than one interview, when she has literally said to a principal in south central LA: “I want to do this job so that ‘those people’ can get an education and get away from here and never come back.”. @_@ I about keeled over when I heard “those people”!

      3. K.*

        TFA is indeed really competitive (I had classmates at my Ivy who were denied), but there are also things like teaching fellowships – I know NYC has the NYC Teaching Fellows, as one of my best friends did it. There’s also AmeriCorps, although that doesn’t pay a living wage.

    2. Elizabeth*

      TFA has gotten a lot of criticism for how little preparation they give new teachers before putting them in extremely challenging classrooms. I’m personally not a big fan, as it operates based on the argument that enthusiasm and youth make for better teachers than experience. When there were teacher shortages, it was true that TFA could put teachers in classrooms that needed them – but nowadays there are plenty of certified applicants for pretty much any teaching job.

      Regardless, as Lexy says, TFA is very competitive. Also, I think that they want people who *aren’t* certified teachers.

      1. fposte*

        There’s also the Southern Teachers placement agency at http://www.southernteachers.com. I’ve written recommendations for people working with them but I don’t know any more about them beyond what’s on their website. I realize this probably won’t help the OP if she’s keeping within a narrow geographical range, but I thought it might be useful to other readers.

        1. Anonymous*

          I also think organizations like TFA mainly recruit those from non-educational backgrounds? Unless I’m confusing it with the NYC Teaching Fellowship program.

            1. Alisha*

              One of my dearest friends works as an ESL teacher in Asia. He has a BA in English Writing but no teaching background. After graduating, he worked in an unrelated field for a year while tutoring ESL students for free through our public library’s program. With a year of volunteer work under his belt, he was able to find work teaching overseas. He stuck with it for years and loved it, often noting that the salaries in many Asian cities go a lot farther than they do in the US. And last year, he finally decided to return to the States, where he teaches English at a private school in Iowa.

              If this sounds like another possibility, try checking out Dave’s ESL Cafe, http://www.eslcafe.com to get an idea of what’s out there. The Millennials I know who’ve done this say this is the prime spot for finding those kinds of jobs.

  20. Tekoa*

    You have my greatest sympathies, and company. Like you, I’m a recent graduate (Anthropology) and I’m feeling the pain of lack of experience. My advice is to read this blog, especially the parts on interviewing. And read the book You Majored in What? which has been enlightening on nonlinear career paths.

  21. Erin*

    I just want to chime in one more time after reading everyone else’s recommendations about substitute teaching.

    In my district, teachers have certain subs that they prefer to work with, and before an absence a teacher will talk with a sub first before entering in the absence in the electronic system. To get steady work, it is best if you market yourself to teachers. I’ve seen subs who had business cards and ones that posted fliers with tear-off phone numbers in the teachers’ lounge. When you get sub assignments, carry them out. A teacher who comes back and finds that none of the work got done will never call you back, and will probably tell his or her coworkers at lunch. Your reputation matters! Subbing can be a great way to get a foot in the door.

  22. Anonymous*

    I think my doppelganger wrote this into Alison.

    Friends of mine were getting the jobs in education; I wasn’t. I went on interviews and never got call backs. I asked for help and barely got any.

    As for the comment about appearances, I did have one principal make a comment that if I were to put on the students’ uniform, I would fit right in. During that interview, I was wearing a suit, had my hair done nicely, and very light make up. You cannot completely throw off the whole appearance thing and say it’s a misconception.

    I suggest, OP, that you keep searching for jobs. Check all newspapers, find if your state has an education job website, and maybe ask your friends who got the jobs to help you practice for the interviews.

    And if you don’t get a job, see if you can substitute. And watch out for maternity leaves throughout the year. While those are long term substitute jobs, you still teach, keep a lesson plan, and have a foot in the door. If you do well enough, they remember you when they will need you.

    Furthermore, there are other types of education jobs. For example, if you are in the science or social studies, you might try to see if you can get a job as a museum educator. You can try interning first. National Parks also have education positions.

    But you need confidence. You need to put effort into these interviews, but if you don’t like something, your confidence may be M.I.A. Plus, getting rejected many times can do that for you. You might need to reflect what you need to do and what you want to do.

    I do have a job now in education, but it’s on the college level, which I find much more enjoyable than the lower grades. I also substitute in my local district. Yes, I went back to graduate school to pursue the content area, which I thoroughly enjoyed more than any of my education classes.

  23. Arathi*

    I too am embarking on the path to become a teacher. I can understand how you feel about your school not fully preparing you. I have felt the same way about my school since day one, but since I decided not to switch schools, I am doing everything I can to be super prepared for when I become a teacher. So, I am making the most of what my school has to offer and going outside of what my school has to offer, such asking more experienced peers and teachers for advice and asking them about their experiences. I read anything I can find online to help me.

    Also, as soon as I started my program, I started networking like crazy. I did this simply by getting to know the staff at the schools where I am doing my clinical/internship hours. I make a point to meet the principal, ask questions, and go above and beyond what I am supposed to do. If there is a school you want to work at, volunteer at the school. As a side note, I have done this at of my jobs, which were non-teaching jobs. You always have to put in some level of effort, in as no one person or organization will teach you all need to know.

    Be uber prepared. This is a must for teaching. I just recently got an assistant teaching job. I prepared for well over 2 weeks for the interview and spent a year learning about the school. I did clinical/internship hours at the school and got to know the staff. I researched the schools missions and goals. You may want to see if your college does practice teaching interviews. A lot of schools do. If they don’t, practice with a friend or on camera. As Laura mentioned Google teaching interview questions to get a good list of questions. Write out answers to all the questions, then say your answers, and keep practicing and practicing.

    I look at the interview process like this – people are trusting you with the well being and education of their children, so as a future teacher the least you can do is put in a lot of thought into how you will handle certain things like discipline, classroom management, etc.

    Most schools will ask you to do a lesson plan at some point in the interview process. While you are setting up your interview, you can always ask, “Would you like me to teach a lesson plan?” Also create an Eportfolio that has sample lesson plans and video clips of you teaching.

    I have not yet done my student teaching, but will be doing it in March. Student teaching is not designed to teach you everything you need to know to be a teacher. It’s typically only 10 to 12 weeks, so you are not even seeing the students throughout the whole year. It truly is like an internship. You are learning how to teach, but you are not being trained to take over your boss’s (head teacher) role. Student teachers don’t often meet with parents, sit in on IEPs, or be held responsible for standardized test results. There is still a lot to learn outside of student teaching and this won’t occur until you are the teacher. Think of it this way, you can read all the management books you can find and take a management training course, but you won’t really know what it means to be a manager until you are a manager.

    Confidence as a new teacher is hard. Again – you are responsible for the lives of many kids, which can feel intimidating. No one is exceptional the first year of teaching. It takes time. However, you do have to find the confidence, even though it can hard. Believe in you and believe that you have something special you can offer.

    If you truly feel you are not ready – apply to be an assistant teacher, camp counselor, tutor, nanny, babysitter, do after school work, or be sub. Maybe this will help build some confidence. Teaching jobs are hard to get. If this is what you want, keep trying and trying. You may not have the ideal path that you want – being a head teacher right away, but taking a detour and becoming an assistant teacher may help you more than being a head teacher right away.

    Good luck!

  24. Pamela G*

    OP, I know what you mean about answering interview questions that you haven’t had any experience in – the way I used to handle it as a brand new music teaching graduate was this:

    Interviewer: So, how would you go about recruiting and maintaining interest levels for an all-boys choir?
    Me: Well, while my teaching pracs have been at an all-girls school and a co-ed school so I don’t have any first-hand experience of teaching at an all boys school, I feel a lot of the same principles apply. The students need to be engaged in the program for the choir to be successful, so I need to choose repertoire that appeals to boys of that age group… (and off I went)

    You can acknowledge that you don’t have any first-hand experience of a topic but then plunge straight into “Here’s what I would do though, based on my teaching prac/observations of other teachers in the classroom/assignments at uni etc.”

    It’s never a bad thing to admit you’d ask for help, either. I once got asked what I would do in the following situation – you have a small choir of 30 students, and over the last few months the group has dwindled to about 15 as students have left the choir or simply stopped turning up. What do you do?
    My answer included asking the students why they were leaving, or if I wasn’t getting enough answers, giving the kids an anonymous survey to find out how engaged they were, how interesting was the repertoire, what would they change about choir practice if they could change anything etc. I also suggested asking a more experienced teacher to watch a practice and give me feedback on what I could improve on, or making time to watch more experienced teachers with their ensembles so I could take notes.

    Be humble and honest about your lack of experience, but also sincere, enthusiastic and have lots of ideas about how you would LIKE to go about doing things, even if you’ve never done them before. As long as you are open to constructive criticism or being told you’re doing it wrong, I think interviewers will like to see that you are enthusiastic and have some firm ideas of the way you’d ideally like to be able to teach/implement things in the classroom.

  25. Anonymous*

    OP, did you ever think about trying for a teaching position at a parochial school? They may be more welcoming to new teachers and may be a better way to gain experience. There is also always preschools as well. Two friends of mine started out in public schools and ended up teaching preschool and both of them love it.

  26. Rob*

    There are a lot of great answers to this question, but let me throw some additional information out there.

    I had the luxury of spending four years on my local Board of Education. We would generally have 5-7 positions open on an annual basis, and it was all due to retirements. Depending on what the positions were for (subject matter and grade level), it would not be uncommon for the administration to receive upwards of 2,000 applicants for these few positions. Needless to say, if you didn’t have a student teaching gig with the district, you basically had zero shot of even landing an interview – let alone getting hired.

    Because I was in college at the time i was on the BoE, I had a lot of friends solicit advice from me on how to get a teaching job. I had three pieces of advice for them (one I saw mentioned above), and I offer the same to you:

    First, apply directly with the district(s) you had any relationship with while you were a student. Lean hard on those you worked directly with for advice that is pertinent to that district. You never know what may happen!

    Second, get on every sub list for every district in your area (others have mentioned this). Even get in with districts upwards of one hour away. It never fails – districts are always looking for qualified substitutes. It seems like you would be qualified, and it will also help boost the first thing I mentioned.

    Third, look out of state. Look for areas that are rapidly growing and building schools like they are going out of style. They need a lot of teachers and that provides a great opportunity to someone like yourself, especially if you are willing to relocate.

    There are plenty of opportunities out there! Just be willing to network and look for jobs outside of your geographic area! In addition, do what AAM suggested, and you will be fine – even if you decide education is not right for you! Good luck and I hope to see an update from you in the future!

  27. Anonymous*

    One more thing you might think about, besides all the excellent advice for broadening your options that others have already said, is applying to teach English abroad for a year. Generally, the only requirements are a Bachelor’s, so having a specific Education background will definitely make you stand out. Even though it’s probably not in your field, it will still give you classroom management experience in a really supportive environment.

    Also, you can apply for international schools, which do require certification, in which case you could look for a job specifically in your field.

  28. Teacher Recruiter*

    I simply had to comment on this post as my job is to manage the recruitment (and retention) of teachers at a mid-size public charter school network. We sometimes hire first year teachers from education schools, but given the demands of teaching, we are looking for someone to absolutely blow us away. I’ve done numerous phone interviews, in person interviews, and sample lessons, and I’d give the following advice:
    1. Make sure to research the school. Schools are very different and I automatically disregard anyone who doesn’t know the student demographic they’d be working with, or seems uninterested in working with our students (we’re in low-income communities).
    2. With new teachers, I need to see that they take ownership as the teacher, which I would question given the OP’s original email. If students aren’t achieving or behaving in a teacher’s classroom, I’m looking for that teacher to say they believe they are responsible for that and need to find a way to fix that. I don’t want someone who would blame their ed school, the principal, parents, or the teacher next door for the problems in their classrooms.
    3. With all our teachers, new and old, we look for people who have a growth mindset, recognize they have a lot to learn, and always seek feedback to improve their performance. While the OP might be a new teacher, I’d recommend using those questions as opportunities to say that it’s a growth area and you’re looking forward to learning from master teachers how to hone that skill. Having specifics ready about how you’d get better at that particular skill is a must as well.
    4. Look at lots of districts, charters, public, and private schools. If you know someone who works in a particular district, let them know you’re looking as sometimes employee referrals get a second look. Consider looking into teacher fellow or residency programs as well. These are great ways to get your foot in the door and gain some much-needed experience and confidence.
    As a side note, I’m a TFA alum and it is incredibly competitive. Not to mention it’s too late to apply for the upcoming school year, so I don’t see that as a viable option for the OP.

  29. Anonymous*

    Barring the education specific stuff, the OP says:

    I just graduated and can’t find a job; although, some of my classmates have gotten jobs in our field. My resume gets me the first interview, but I never get a second. I moderately prepare for the interview questions, but I am always tripped up by at least one question and give a stupid answer because I have no experience and my education did not provide real world experience to draw on to answer questions. Also I have no confidence that I am qualified for the jobs I an interviewing for.

    OP, you are blowing the interview, big time. You resume is getting you the interview because on paper you are qualified. They never call you back because you are blowing it and you actually articulate why in your letter. (And its not because of your looks.) It’s a competitive market. You lack confidence, don’t prepare fully, and are tripped up at least once an interview. Unfortunately for you, teaching is a profession in which you are a public speaker and you must think on your feet and not be tripped up or become flustered when thrown a unexpected question by a student.

    Although your education probably didn’t fully prepare you for your career as a teacher, as a teacher you’re better prepared than most because you were a student-teacher. Most careers do not require you to do the exact job that you plan to do under supervision while still in college. Note: Your classmates are getting jobs based on the same education as you, so its you and not your educational institution that’s the problem. Presumably most of them do not have any more teaching experience than you so your problem is your lack of confidence and ability to take your previous life experience and apply it to questions about teaching. If don’t think you’ll be good at the job, why the heck would a principal hire you? No doubt your lack of confidence shines through in the interview, and if you’re not confident in your ability the sharks (I mean kids) will smell blood and eat you alive.

    Now all the teaching specific suggestions here are great and would possibly allow you to gain confidence and experience. (Except for the Teach for America suggestion because that’s an organization designed for people that don’t have a teaching degree to get into teaching.) I’m concerned for you, though. New teachers do not get close supervision and guidance. It’s sink or swim on the first day.

    I know you just graduated with a degree in education, but AAM is right. You don’t sound like you want to be a teacher. The most important skills how to control a classroom of rowdy students all by yourself is not something that’s taught and if you’re not looking forward to the challenge and think you’d do a poor job at it, then teaching is not for you. And that’s going to come across in interviews.

  30. Anonymous*

    I know how it feels to have a lack of confidence right now. My situation is similar but different in several ways. Being a middle-age person, I find myself now competing with people much younger. I do not have a lack of confidence with appearance, but I know many younger job seekers have more advanced knowledge in technology and networking. I don’t know how to package myself. I have went back to school to improve the technology part, but still I am going to have to work hard at this. I did find a wonderful site online that gave job information to middle-age women. It had a lot of the same advice Alison has given but was tailored only to middle-age women. I printed the free booklet out like I have Alison’s and am going to see how I can improve. Don’t give up. There is help out there, we just have to be willing to seek it.

  31. JLH*

    I think OP definitely needs more guidance on what it takes to be a teacher. Being a teacher means putting a _lot_ of time into preparing and lessons–so it is expected that a teacher, especially one new in the field, has done a lot of interview prep and put together a few demos that they know pretty well, and how it fits into a semester or year of curriculum.

    If you don’t do a lot of class prep, your students aren’t going to learn much from you and aren’t going to respect you. No one wants that. Sylvan or some other tutoring, college prep, etc., may be a better fit if that’s not something you can see yourself doing.

  32. Marie*

    Wow, I’m reading all these comments and I WISH teaching in my country was so competitive! Here, if you are willing to take a job at the government-run schools, you can pretty much have it! We have a severe shortage of teachers, especially in more niche areas like maths and science. There is no way you would be asked to teach a lesson in an interview here, either: it would more likely be an informal chat about your roles and responsibilities (unless you were applying at a private school – those are genuinely hard to get into). If all else fails, why not teach overseas for a year or two to get experience? My country, for one, would take you with open arms.

  33. Clownface*

    I really doubt it is anything to do with the OP’s looks and I feel a bit dismayed that she says women are judged mainly on appearance.

    I’ve noticed a bit of a trend recently with female applicants asking about makeup, or saying they don’t wear makeup. I think here in the UK the vast majority of women wear makeup, many everyday but definitely for job interviews.

    Personally I don’t think people really notice (unless you make a hash of it, in which case they likely would notice that) but it is quite uncommon to wear makeup to work in the US? I’m just being curious I guess… sorry if it’s off topic!

    1. Anonymous*

      I’d say it is uncommon not to wear any makeup at all; however, I wear very little on a daily basis only some powder with a little bit of color on top of moisturizer and I don’t carry the compacts, etc around to reapply it throughout the day so its probably like I am wearing none by the end of the day.

      That said, I also live in the southern US and it is hot and humid. Any heavy makeup will melt away in sweat quickly outdoors so that’s generally a bad idea. Seriously I worked up a sweat in the couple of minutes it took me to get from my car to the office this morning despite it being unusually cool and dry. In the winter when it’s cooler, I may wear a bit more makeup, but once you get in the habit of only a little, it’s hard to add tasks and time to morning preparations.

      1. Clownface*

        Ha, me too. Put some on in the morning (less than I used to, I really cannot spare the time to do a full on painting unless there’s a very important external meeting or awards or some such thing) and it’s probably gone by the end of the day. Who feels the need to reapply every hour? Actually, don’t answer that. One girl at my previous workplace had to be reprimanded for doing just that!

    2. KellyK*

      It seems somewhat uncommon to go without any makeup at all. Most of what I see in my workplace is pretty subtle makeup, but I’m probably one of the few women who usually wears none.

      I think make-up on a job interview is pretty much expected.

    3. Liz T*

      Obviously, it varies a LOT depending on field, workplace, etc, and I don’t have statistics (a quick Google found a study that’s only for the UK, and conducted by Superdrug so who knows). But I think people here will agree that many, probably most, women wear some make-up to work. The number goes up the more formal the workplace gets; make-up is part of a suit the way a tie is part of a suit.

  34. Danielle*

    I haven’t read all of the comments, but OP, this was me two years ago. I left the education field because I was ill-prepared, and my heart just wasn’t in it. If you feel any dread about spending the rest of your career teaching, or just can’t seem to get your foot in the door, maybe you should switch fields.

    I made the switch to libraries and I love it.

  35. Student*

    One thing to consider: the Education degree puts you into the biggest possible pool of teacher job applicants. There will be a lot more competition for those teaching jobs than there is for more specialized knowledge. Science and math teachers are harder to come by and they don’t struggle as much to get hired. If you have a knack for any field of science or for mathematics in general, then maybe you should look into what it would take to teach that. Economics or computers might also be options. Fields like English, history, or social sciences will still have lots of competition.

    You could also look into jobs that aren’t exactly the stereotypical teaching job. There are lots of after-school programs for kids that could use someone with general education training. Some of these programs provide tutoring, others are glorified day-cares. Private tutoring is also a way to make some money and get some experience to put on your resume.

  36. Jill*

    I also wonder if this is the right field for the OP. If she is unable or unwilling to take more charge of her job search process, I wonder how she’d be able to take charge of a roomful of 30 unique children….

    That having been said, there are other great ways to work in education besides being a classroom teacher. Perhaps OP might consider becoming a sub as others have said, or a tutor, or work in the administrative offices. There’s also the “business” end of education – companies that write textbooks, design curriculum materials, or create educational software. Maybe she’s not well suited for the classroom but she can still be a great educator on the administrative or business side of the field?

  37. Anonymous*

    Embarking on a new career is scary! I went to school for one thing, but decided I wanted a career in something loosely related. It was scary going to those first few interviews. And yes, at times I felt like I wasn’t at all prepared for the interview and the career. The most important thing is to have confidence. I feel that will really help you out right now.

    Next, learning HOW to prepare for interviews and figuring out what would be a good fit for you. I’ve had to take some slight detours on my career path, but it’s ended up being for the best. You might learn that being classroom teacher isn’t the best fit for you, but I’m sure there will be something related to education that you’ll be able to excel at. Don’t stop learning and always keep an open mind.

    Good luck, OP!

  38. TOS*

    I work at a college, and this letter writer strikes me as being in one or two (changeable) states:

    Young, as in immature, there is some point where you “take up” the plow and pull/dance/trip and go tilting in the direction of your vocation. I’ve coached student workers through their first job and reminded them – I’m your supervisor, not your parent. If we don’t meet in the middle in some reasonable way with communication and responsibility, perhaps you’re not ready for the position.

    Blame is cheap meat, and it’s not going to get the new teacher where they want to go. There is an exponential amount of problem-solving that goes into teaching, and many times, the buck stops with what the teacher does – and it dovetails into professional effectiveness. Perhaps it’s temporary frustration, but I get the sense that in the loss of the hiring opportunity, the lesson of what-do-I-change hasn’t been absorbed. Enough of the answers danced around this, and candor may be what is called for.

    It could be personality – maybe the teacher is a better follower? Or prefers to be directed? If so, perhaps there is a subject or position that is better suited to this?

    Is team-teaching with a mentor an option? Would any alums be a good mentor for this first year out?

    I’m not a teacher, but I have lots of interaction with teachers as a parent, and I’m speaking of the flags you might be flying, whether intentional or not.

    As for what to wear/appearance – most professions have a range. Put on YOUR best professional look. If you just gilded the lily (mascara and tinted lip balm with a tan) for graduation pics so you wouldn’t look washed out, so be it.

    Make connecting easy. Know the range of the norm for what to wear to an interview. Engage your interview group, and they will presume that you can engage your classroom and your peers.

  39. Kat M*

    If you’re in Elementary ed, consider snagging a job in childcare for a year or so. When I worked for Bright Horizons, a lot of my co-workers were recent Elementary Ed graduates, as well as out-of-work art teachers, health teachers, and the like.

    The pay stinks, but the experience is invaluable. I worked in early childhood for six years, and teaching children is second nature to me now!

  40. Ellen M.*

    “One principal even watched me stumble through a demonstration lesson that I was giving in front of real students, and no one even told me I would be required to do that, so, of course I wasn’t prepared.”

    What? Red flag here. Teaching a demo lesson is a routine part of hiring in education. If you are applying for a teaching position, you will be expected to teach in order to get hired.

    I knew that long before I worked in education; also it just makes sense.

    Excuses and “moderate” preparation are not enough.

    1. Anonymous*

      Ellen, I am not a teacher but have helped in classrooms before. I have so much respect for the teaching profession. I want to encourage this young lady to not give up, if this is her dream. Yes, she is going to have to be better prepared. Maybe, she is nervous and just unsure of herself. She can get better. Prepare. As far as makeup, just add enough to look polished. I grew up in the South, makeup is a part of our culture. I wear soft makeup everyday. I am very lucky that I have very good skin, so I don’t wear anything heavy. But, that is not what I would think teaching would be measured by.

    2. Anon*

      Not necessarily, I have been hired into teaching positions without a teaching demonstrations. The only times I had interviews that required a demonstration I was not informed until I was actually at the interview, which I thought was very disrespectful. Two interviews asked for them and both places were disrespectful in other ways, but all my other interviews have just been about me and what I bring to the table.

      In the right fit, the situation feels right.

  41. Another Emily*

    Trying to get on a substitute list and tutoring are good ideas. Another option, if you think you would enjoy it, would be teaching English overseas. You’d get experience in teaching and your degree would be a plus (an education degree is not required for many of these programs). Two of my friends taught English in Japan and they had a blast.

  42. Anonymous*

    If you’re not prepared for a job interview regarding teaching or a sample lesson teaching students, is it possible you’re not yet prepared to be a teacher? What about trying to land a job instead being a teacher’s aid or assistant for the school district, or spend some time substitute teaching so that you can get comfortable with some aspects of the job first and gain experience that you feel student teaching did not prepare you for. This may also help you to develop relationships within the school district so you may have an easier time interviewing and getting a job in the future. Just an alternative suggestion if you cannot find a job right away.

  43. Melissa*

    Yay, a teaching question!!! :)

    I graduated from a great school, received a masters in education…and really didn’t feel as if I’d learned anything that I couldn’t have figured out on my own. That was depressing enough, but then to find that all the teachers in my area were getting laid off…it sucked. A lot of people are going to tell you to sub, but honestly it isn’t a great way to get into schools, at least not in some places. Subs are a dime a dozen, and you can sub for years and never get actually into the school system. Often principals will hire the best that they can find, and that might not be their faithful and trusty sub. Ditto for educational aide positions – there are a lot of teachers out there, so they are more likely to choose someone new.

    You might want to do what I ended up doing out of necessity – try for a job that requires working with children and is similar to teaching. It will expose you to working with kids, build your confidence, and prepare you for dealing with parents as well. When I finally was able to get a teaching job, I was in a school with a terrible principal and a lot of drama. I decided to teach overseas, which is another option for you that would really help.

    Fast forward, I’m in an international school in Japan that I really love, and just last week the owners of the school approached me about a promotion to principal of secondary school. All those years of crappy jobs and schools ended up turning me into a pretty good teacher. But I was just where you are when I started.

    Good luck!

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