How To Find A Teaching Job In California
If you haven't been living under a rock in the last five years (which may well have been a good decision, given the economy), you may have experienced how hard it is to get a job, any job, and especially a teaching job. The past five years have been some of the leanest years for employment in U.S. history (or, in the history of all mankind, according to those who lean toward the negative-end of the attitude spectrum). However, some of us were silly enough (insert my picture here), to go back to school to pursue a job in teaching. But I want to offer you some hope: I have a California Teaching Credential, and I am a new teacher who found a job.
Though I did well, I certainly didn't see myself as the top student in my program. Please take that into consideration when I tell you that I was approached, without my having directly applied for one, with a job offer. This happened more than once. For all of you wimpering at your computer screens like Scarlett O'Hara's besotted sister (Why did she get two husbands, and I haven't any?) don't be deflated, because if I can find a job, I am confident you can, too.
Here are the steps you can take to put yourself in the best position to get a job, and start working in your own classroom.
1. Be Tenacious
I knew I couldn't control the bad market, or who was hiring, or how much competition there was. Afterall, I graduated with a multiple subject credential in the year of our lord "20-and- 12-stunning-quarters-of-negative-job-growth" since 2008. California's economy resembeled one of the Kardashians: on the outside things looked shiny, but it didn't take much to see how unhealthy it actually was. Ugh. However, I had a simple plan. My plan was to become a substitute teacher, in every district that would accept me, and network my way to a job. This plan worked. The most important quality in finding a teaching job in 2013 is tenacity. I didn't have any way to fix California's economy, but I could go to every school in the county and work as a substitute. I could make an income in the field, while looking for a job.
I found that a lot of people are unwilling to sub, or sub full-time, while looking for a permanent teaching position. But as a substitute teacher, I was exposed to so many parts of the job. It gave me a good understanding of what to look for in a good school, in a good principal, in a good community, and how to manage a classroom at many different grade levels. In addition, I earned money toward retirement. Most importantly, my reputation as a substitute helped me land a job as a teacher.
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The day you plan to get your paperwork together and go into that fluorescent-lit agency (and there will be many, many of those on your journey to becoming a teacher), I want you to line-up a well-deserved visit to the gelato place, or a mani/pedi. I also want you to get that paperwork in perfect order. It's going to serve you greatly in becoming a "well-oiled machine", humming along, hitting all the check marks needed to finish the application process.
Getting organized can take a few days, and that's okay. Make sure you read and understand everything that seems confusing. Know what deadlines you need to make, and put reminders on your calendar to follow-up if those dates are coming close, and you haven't received the necessary paperwork or information. There also may be times when you must make phone calls to agencies who will place you on long holds. It can be a tedious process, but making sure your applications are in good order now, will save you time and stress in the long run. I have come to look at this process as a necessary, albeit cruel and unusual "rite of passage". If you can successfully manage all of this paperwork, and do so timely, you're ready to take on a class of 33 young students. I doubt much else is as frustrating as this process, not even days when that class of 33 young students is hard to manage.
In California, these are the documents I needed in order to substitute teach:
-CBEST: This is a test one must take and pass to substitute teach anywhere in California. You can sit for the test in one or two sessions, and it ensure you are competent to teach basic subject matter.
-Official Transcript: This is your proof of your undergraduate bachelors degree. You must have an official transcript, which means it's in a sealed envelope.
-Social Security Card
-Current TB test: This is a very important document, because if you are not current with it, you are not permitted to work. Make sure it's a current test, within the last three to six months. Some who test positive, must get an x-ray as proof they do not have active TB. This may be one of the more costly and challenging items to obtain, and to factor into your budget and time.
-(3) Letters of Recommendation: Don't be shy about approaching your former principal, where you student taught. They are usually an excellent resource. If you've been given a stellar recommendation from a former supervisor, in another industry, you can certainly include that. Being a great employee counts more than experience, a lot of the time.
-Credential or Temporary Credential: Make sure your California Teaching Credential is current. That is probably a topic for another article, and I won't elaborate on that here. But if it is not, an Emergency 30-Day Credential, is the only other way to substitute teach. A 30-day credential means that as a substitute, you can work for 30 consecutive days in a substitute position. If you continue in the job after 30 days, you are usually classified as a "long-term substitute" and get a pay-raise.
-Certificate of Clearance : This is the state background check that you must do, prior to entering any California school.
-Department of Justice County Background Check: This Background and fingerprinting check can be confusing. Many times, districts ask that you do a new background check, though you may have already done one as a student teacher. It may be time consuming and a stress on your wallet, but they want to make sure you have a clean record, prior to hiring you.
-CPR/BLS course: You can find this course at many gyms or community center. It is usually a day or two-day course. For most districts, I have found that you must be certified in CPR for both adult and infant CPR, as well as Basic Life Support.
Once you have all of those documents, you must also apply to each district. It's important to take the time to become familiar with teaching unions, dues, retirement plans and health benefits now. This doesn't mean you have to pour over all of the information, just have a good understanding why you are checking each box, during the application process. It will decrease your learning curve when you are hired as a teacher.
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3. Be Willing To Sub For Many Different Subjects And Levels
When applying for subbing positions, be willing to sub in all categories that you have some familiarity with. If, for example, you are hesitant to substitute for a science class, or teach high school students, I'd suggest that you check that box, anyway. When you're a new teacher, every bit of experience is helpful, and you may be refreshingly surprised at what you thought might be a bad fit, but turns out to be a great experience. As a sub, I found I loved working with middle school students, even though my credential is for the primary grades.
4. Send a Thank You Letter To HR In Your District
Every district is different and has its own culture, but one aspect is the same: The level of work and the amount of people district employees work with on a daily basis. I have learned a lot from the application process, and I have learned that true kindness goes a long way in establishing good relating. I made sure I sent a hand-written note to the administrators who took my paperwork, and graciously (for the most part) answered my questions. They work with thousands of people through the year, who perhaps see them as a faceless extension of the next piece of paperwork they need to ensure employment.
5. Subbing and Networking
As a substitute teacher, I learned how to manage a classroom at many different grade levels. I had heard many stories of how hard it is to be a substitute teacher, and I braced myself for the worst. While I definitely experienced some challenging classrooms, I actually got to teach a lot. I created my own "Sub Report" form and made sure I was familiar with all of the lessons prior to the start of the school day, or had my own, if none were provided.
I subbed for about a year, and in that time, I developed a good reputation, and received good reports in my employee file. After a while, I got calls from teachers who had heard from other teachers that I was a good sub.
6. Work Creates More Work
Because I had worked so much as a substitute teacher, I knew a lot of the administrators, teachers, parents and students in many schools. That paid off. I received two unsolicited calls from two jobs. I had been recommended by the district office, and by another teacher. In both cases, the principals simply wanted to meet me, and find out if I would be interested in the positions offered. I accepted one of these jobs and became a teacher in a district with a good reputation.
I could have chosen the traditional route, and applied, along with hundreds of other applicants, to job boards in the state. Or go through an arduous interview process with many others, and hope to get the job. But this route served me very well. I got paid to get additional on-the-job learning experience.
Finding a teaching job in California may not be easy, but it can be done.