This is a tough question for many of us teachers to deal with. Why? Because many of us are convinced that we don't need to update our skill-set now that we have found our dream teaching position in a wonderful school. We are set, right? Not exactly. As we all know things can change in a flash. Against this backdrop let's you and I explore your skill-set and offer some suggestions as to how to do some necessary upgrades.
Why do you need to upgrade your skill-set?
As I pointed out in the opening paragraph, your circumstances can change in a flash. The most common reason for suddenly needing a new teaching position is a major change your family circumstances. A member of your family who lives in another state has an accident or becomes seriously ill requiring your presence in the area. While you could take Family Medical Leave, it has become obvious to you that the best solution is for you to move closer to your family member so that you can supervise his care and generally be there for him. That means you will need to look for a new teaching job.
In the following TEDx Talk, Jean-Michel Gauthier explains why your job applications are getting ignored.
The important thing to understand is that life can deal some unexpected cards. You thought you were set. Suddenly you are not. That is the reason why you must upgrade your skill-set.
Does your skill-set need updating?
Assess your skill-set critically. When did you earn your degree? When did you last attend a regional or national conference in your subject? When did you last contribute to an online forum in your subject? If the answer to some or all of these questions is "I can't remember!", then your skill-set needs upgrading.
Take me, for example. I graduated from McGill University in 1966. Eons ago! I studied for and passed my most recent professional certification two years ago. During the intervening 45 plus years I have taken approximately 10 more professional certifications. I learned the hard way years ago that my skill-set needed to be upgraded regularly in order to stay marketable. I am on release 9.2 and proud of that.
What needs updating?
I know what you are thinking. "I have been teaching English for ten years. I have proven course materials and effective lesson plans. My evaluations are always superior from administration, parents and students alike. What more do I possibly need to offer?" Your core skill-set and track record are excellent. You are well-regarded in your present school setting and within the surrounding community.
Do you have some short video clips of you teaching a class? Do you have some short video clips of you explaining why your subject is necessary and how it will benefit your students as they mature? I define short as less than ten minutes and suggest editing a much longer video to create the professional impression which you want conveyed to people who do not know you. The result which you are trying to obtain is simple: "We have to have this person on our faculty." Years ago our resumes and curriculum vitae helped explain who we were and what we were capable of doing. These days resumes and curriculum vitae are part of a larger presentation of who we are.
A picture is worth a thousand words, right? A video clip shows off your skill-set much better than words on paper can. The viewer can see your enthusiasm. She can see you connecting with your students. She can feel your experience and strong grasp of the subject material by watching you doing what she needs you to do in her school.
So, what needs updating? The presentation of your abilities and skills as a teacher do.
In this Ted Talk Regina Hartley explains why the best hire might not have the perfect resume.
When was it last updated?
Perhaps you have some video clips in your archives. They might be useful for historical purposes but do you really want a prospective employer to see you in those 80s or 90s clothing and hair styles? Create a a short 'through the years' video if you must but keep it to yourself and your friends and family. Shoot a new set of video clips for your current job search. I recommend shooting a video of you in the classroom once a year. That way you will always have it ready to go when needed.
How can you update your skill-set?
Updating the presentation of your skill-set is one thing. Actually updating the skills which comprise the skill-set is quite another. Start with certifications or presenting a paper at a professional conference. Essentially what you need to do is to show some evidence of peer review of your work. You want to show that you have done this within the last year or
so. Have you presented a TED Talk? There definitely is some cachet involved when you present a TED Talk. Have you written a book? Has it been well-reviewed?
What about using technology? Have you created a data set of facts and information for your lesson plans? Do you blog regularly on some fine point of your subject which makes you an authority on that fine point? Are you an expert in using PowerPoint and Excel? Most of us know how to use these programs on a basic level. Being an expert is another matter?
What about teaching English as a second language? Private schools have always accepted non-English speaking students. Demonstrating that you have the credentials to be an ESL teacher sets you apart from the other applicants for the teaching position you are thinking about applying for.
What about your resume?
When was your resume last updated? Keep it current. Always remember that a resume is not a static document. You must tailor it to suit the requirements of the position for which you are applying. Not many schools use online application forms to the extent that businesses do. Still, it makes sense to think with that kind of clarity as you update your resume.
What about your interview skills?
All your updates will be for naught if you don't update your interviewing skills. If the last time you interviewed for a job was ten years ago, you need to hire a coach to guide you through some practice interviews. As I pointed out earlier, the impression which you want to create immediately is "We need this person on our faculty."
Good luck upgrading your skill-set. If you have questions feel free to contact me on Twitter: @privateschl