In this fictional conversation, a job seeker and I chat about looking for employment in a private school.
Q. Do I need to have a teaching certificate to teach in a private school?
A. Not necessarily. It depends on the school. Some schools will employ you without a teaching certificate with the requirement that you obtain one within a stated time frame, typically a year.
Q. Do I need an education degree to teach in a private school?
A. Most private schools value degrees in a subject. For example, if you are presenting yourself as an English teacher, they will look for a bachelor's degree with a major in American or English Language and Literature. The teaching skills and methodology which you could learn if you did an education degree will be useful; however, most private schools will require you to teach in their own proprietary way. After all, that's why parents are sending their children to private school.
Q. Do I need to have a master's degree or a doctorate?
A. Your resume will stand out from the others when you offer a master's degree or terminal degree. Once again, schools understand that a highly-credentialed faculty is a powerful asset when it comes to marketing what they do. If you have started work on your master's or doctorate, be sure to indicate that on your resume. Discuss your further education plans at the interview.
Q. Will schools ask for a curriculum vitae?
A. Some will. Some won't. Typically, most schools will ask for a cover letter and a resume when you apply. It pays to keep a detailed curriculum vitae up to date. You can offer it when the school interviews you.
Q. Do I have to have teaching experience?
A. It will depend on the school. For example, if you graduated from the school to which you are applying, you will probably find a warm welcome, all things being equal. The school will most likely ask you to take some teaching courses and seminars as soon as convenient in order to formalize your credentials. They will assume that you know how things are taught at their school. In any case, they will guide and mentor you to develop your teaching skills.
Q. Do I have to coach a sports team?
A. Most private school teaching positions include coaching a sport as part of their duties. That's because the entire school participates in sports. Most schools offer a wide variety of athletic activities, not just major sports such as football and basketball. If you played badminton, tennis, or golf, for example, you will fit right in.
Q. How do I find available private school positions?
A. Assuming that you are looking for something in your local area, explore the websites of private schools in your locality. If a school has an opening, it will be easy to find the link to it on their website. If you are interested in finding a job further afield, Google "private school teaching jobs your desired location" That will start your search. The regional private school associations' websites also list jobs.
Q. Is there a specific time of the year when I should start looking?
A. Since most teachers have year-to-year contracts, the school will notify them as to whether their contracts will be renewed. This renewal or non-renewal process usually takes place at the end of a calendar year. I recommend beginning your job openings research in December.
Applying for jobs
Q. How do I apply for a private school job?
A. The job posting on the school's website will be very clear about how to apply. Follow those instructions to the letter. If you omit a required document or submit your application in a format that is different from what the school is asking for, your application might not even make the first cut.
Q. I don't have a printer. Can I handwrite my application?
A. Absolutely not! First impressions are everything in a job application. You want to make sure your application goes on the "interview" pile. A business services store such as The UPS store or Sir Speedy will be able to print your application materials for you.
Q. The school wants me to mail my application materials. Can I use a #10 envelope to send my application and supporting documents?
A. Absolutely not! Use a 9" x 12" manilla envelope. Include a letter-size piece of cardboard with your unfolded application materials. That way, everything will arrive in pristine condition. Impressions count. A professional presentation of your application and supporting documents indicates that you care about details.
Q. I have a standard cover letter that I have been sending out with every job application. Is this ok?
A. No. Always customize your cover letter to the job for which you are applying. For example, if the position being advertised states "English teacher with AP exam reading experience," the first sentence of your cover letter should state that you are applying for that position.
Q. My standard cover letter is three pages long. Is that ok?
A. No. A cover letter should be no more than one page long. Your resume and curriculum vitae will include all the details you need to share with your future employer.
Q. How should I dress for the interview?
A. Conservative business formal attire is always appropriate. That can include a dark suit or a blazer with dark pants. Don't wear sneakers or stiletto heels. Don't wear cologne or perfume.
Q. My religion requires me to wear a head covering. Is that ok?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. I have not interviewed in years. How should I prepare for my interview?
A. Do a couple of practice interviews with a trusted advisor. Dress as you would for the interview when you do your practice sessions. Record those sessions so that you can review any weak answers or visual faults. Don't be afraid to ask questions about the job or your responsibilities.
This video offers help with answering common interview questions.
Q. How early should I be for my interview?
A. Plan to arrive 10-15 minutes before the time appointed. That will give you a moment or two to relax and compose yourself for that all-important first meeting with your future employer.
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