Getting your first full-time teaching position in a school

imagesAttaining your first full-time teaching position in a school in NSW is not easy. Too many graduate teachers not enough vacancies and therefore destined for terms or years of casual or temporary positions in schools are some of the common mantras I hear. So, given what I hear, is it still possible to obtain one of those elusive full-time teaching jobs? The answer is … ‘yes’.

I need to say – as a caveat – that this post is one experience alone and it’s not being held up as research – it is however quite instructive. There are many useful tips from this particular early career teacher’s experience.

downloadIn this post I catch up with a Master of Teaching (Primary) former student of mine from the Class of 2014 who is teaching full-time in a school close by to where she lives.

It’s a good news story. The post offers a few ‘job getting hints’ that you might like to consider if you are planning to teach full-time in a school.

Jackie is teaching a Year 1 class at Mount Brown Public School south of Sydney and she stepped into the position through the NSW DEC interview process, saying:

I received emails inviting me to apply for positions in varying public schools under the Graduate Recruitment Pool. However there are four key factors that assisted me to get an interview for my current position:

one, exemplary results in the Masters of Teaching (Primary) degree;

Award winning digital story made by Jackie Scott in 2013

two, opportunities given to me throughout my Masters degree and by my lecturers’ including entering and winning the Oxford University Primary Education award which led to writing units of work for BOSTES for the NSW government’s North West Rail Link project. This meant my DEC Criteria Statement stood out from my peers;

three, gaining a temporary contract straight out of university and being able to develop and teach effective learning programs. I then had the support of my school principal as a referee; and

four, my passion for teaching and my desire to engage in as much professional learning as possible. For example, I went to a History teachers’ day at the NSW State Library in my final semester at uni.

As an early career teacher, Jackie shares her views about teaching and on helping students ‘to be their personal best’. In particular:

I love going to work each day. I want to spark the students’ inner drive and their love for school and learning. I really enjoy the challenge you face each day in delivering engaging lessons that enable each student in the class with all of their varying abilities, behaviours and strengths to meet the outcomes of what they are learning.

Jackie is also the sports coordinator for her school as well as being a Dapto PSSA member. This role means she engages with the wider school community across all stages and her role allows opportunities to assist students to embrace sport and the wider school community. This is an important point. Teaching is not just about your own class in your own school – it is how you seek ways to take on extra roles and use those moments to observe the students you teach across a range of learning and activity contexts.

Mount Brown Public School students in action on the court

Starting work in a full-time teaching job can be tricky and navigating the terrain is something Jackie has had to do. She offers these suggestions:

As a new teacher I have had to try to work in a balanced and highly effective manner. Each role you have in the school, every KLA you teach, your program and school policies and paperwork, each difficult behaviour and all the areas of professional development that are required for your personal development requires attention, engagement and dedication. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed and at times I am very … very tired.

Honest commentary here I suggest – looking after yourself is key to being able to get on with all the “Ps” (policies, paperwork, people, professional development) – you also come into contact with lots of viruses (colds and flu mainly) in the first year out in schools and building your immunity is a practical and sensible way of trying to keep on top of tiredness and the ‘go go go’ … together with all of the “Ps” of every school day.

lesson-plan-suppliesPlanning for units of work/individual lessons often takes one full day each weekend and then of course time in the school holidays, especially in the early years – there are still many teachers I know who prepare at night on week days and spend at least one day on the weekend getting ready for the following week. IT IS NOT a 9am-3pm … Monday through Friday job. School holidays allow teachers to re-charge and get ready for the next term.

I was keen to understand how Jackie was using technology to enhance learning in her classroom now that she is full-time in a school. As indicated previously, Jackie won an award in 2013 for a digital story she made with a prac class while she was a pre-service teacher – she likes using ‘tech’ in learning.

At Mount Brown there are computers in classrooms and iPads, and there is a school computer lab. Jackie is expanding her repertoire:

I teach with technology every day. I use the classroom IWB and Hovercam to facilitate lessons. I use iPad apps such as Fridge downloadMagnets to teach students phonic skills during guided literacy sessions. I also use Microsoft Word to teach basic typing and publishing skills. I use iPad apps such as Puppetpals and Minecraft to create engaging writing and comprehension sessions. Students use the computers to listen and read along to stories. I also use the weekly computer lab lessons to teach the students how to write a blog, answer and send emails, navigate their student portals and the school website. My students can then use these programs to create independent work during guided literacy sessions. I also use the computer lab and programs such as Voki and Wordle to teach students how to use their creativity and imagination and produce effective quality work.

image_00007-960x720This is impressive.

Principals sometimes share with me that early career teachers are reluctant to teach with technology because the school may not have ‘abundant resources’ or the ‘classroom set up is not perfect’.

Technology resources in most schools are getting better – wifi can still be problematic in places. My suggestion here is to work with what you have – even if you have to utilize your own iPad or your own mobile phone … get friendly with the school librarian as often that will be the place that has better access to tech and the full gamut of information resources.

images (1)And finally, I wanted to know how well Jackie thought her teacher education preparation prepared her for the realities of the classroom. Her responses are verbatim:

I feel that my Masters of Teaching degree prepared me for teaching by facilitating a passion for the profession and for my own ongoing education. This means that I now have the dedication and drive to keep learning and improving my teaching ability. I suggest that as a pre-service teacher you must try to take every opportunity that comes your way. Most importantly, learn by talking and listening to other passionate and dedicated teachers.

Great advice – I wish Jackie well in her teaching career. Crucial to hear a good news story about securing that first full-time teaching job in a school.