Getting a Job Teaching Social Studies
Whether you are just starting your job search or are interviewing for the first time in a long time, there are ways to stand out as a qualified Social Studies teacher candidate before, during, and after an interview. This general guide was developed by NYSCSS and NYS4A to assist you when applying and interviewing for a Social Studies teaching position. Please note that this is just a general guide — each employer will have unique ways of managing the hiring process and will look for the best candidate to meet their unique organizational needs.
- Cover Letter: Make sure the employer’s name and available teaching position are correctly identified in the letter. If you use a generic cover letter for OLAS, make sure to attach a job-specific cover letter for each district you apply to through OLAS. Re-read your cover letter before you send it out/post it on OLAS to check the accuracy of spelling and all content within the cover letter. Use a consistent font size and type (e.g., Times New Roman 12-pt., Calibri 12-pt., Helvetica 12-pt.). Make sure your cover letter is signed.
- Resume: Carefully consider the format that you choose for your resume. More complicated visual formats may make your resume difficult to read – and stand out for the wrong reasons. It is more important that your resume is clear and accurate. Think carefully about including a career objective if it’s different than the actual job for which you are applying. If you have held multiple leave replacements or long-term substitute positions, group them together under one heading with separate bullets for each employer: courses taught, dates of employment. Stick to text that either addresses the qualifications needed for the position, or related work experience for the position. Check the accuracy of spelling and all content within the resume. Use a consistent font size and type (e.g., Times New Roman 12-pt., Calibri 12-pt., Helvetica 12-pt.), preferably the same font as in your cover letter.
- Letters of Recommendation: Make sure they are current (within 2 years). Many references are happy to update the date on their original letter to you if you ask them. Include letters from those who have supervised your work whenever possible. This includes internship supervisors, principals, college faculty, etc.
Interviewing Top 10
Congratulations! If you are selected for an initial screening interview, now is your chance to be prepared for and move further in the hiring process. Here are NYSCSS and NYS4A’s “top 10 tips” to prepare for that first interview and make a bold impression for as follow-up interview!
- Research the school/district. School and district websites are full of information! Review as much as you can about your prospective employer’s academic program and curriculum. Prepare at least two questions and one understanding you have about the instructional program based on your research. If possible, review local newspapers or community blogs to find out what issues the school or district are facing. If you are interviewing for a public school position, make the time to review the most recent NYSED School Report Card, available at http://www.p12.nysed.gov/irs/reportcard/.
- Know your standards. If you are interviewing for a public school position, be prepared to demonstrate your knowledge of the New York State Common Core Learning Standards in History/Social Studies and the New York State K-12 Social Studies Framework.
- Know the difference between standards and curriculum. If you are interviewing for a public school position, know the difference between the New York State Learning Standards for Social Studies, the New York Social Studies Core Curriculum, and the New York State K-12 Social Studies Framework. If you are interviewing for a private or charter school position, or another type of Social Studies teaching position, investigate whether or not they use the New York State Education Department’s curriculum framework for Social Studies. Do they give the Grades 3-8 NYS Assessments? Do they give Regents exams?
- Curate your portfolio. Make careful selections of your previous work for your portfolio. Most interview committees will not read everything in a teacher’s portfolio — so make selections that demonstrate your ability to write both a unit plan and a lesson plan, and to design and evaluate assessments.
- Refine your teaching philosophy. Be prepared to talk about how your teaching philosophy is demonstrated in your unit and lesson plans.
- Know good assessments. Understand the difference between a formative and a summative assessment. Be prepared to give examples of each in your pedagogy.
- Know how to write assessments. Gain experience writing your own assessment tasks for students. You will be asked how you develop assessment tasks for students (not how you copy them out of books!).
- Reflect on your practice. What have you learned about yourself as a teacher in your experiences? What’s the best piece of feedback you received to date – and what did you do with it? What goals would you set for yourself if hired for a teaching position? What area would you most want to grow in?
- Envision the classroom you want to create. Pretend it’s your first week of school in your new school or district. What will you do to create a positive learning environment and classroom?
- Dress professionally. Suits with jackets convey your seriousness of purpose.
Sample Interview Questions:
No matter what question you are asked, be prepared with 1-2 specific examples to support your answers. Your level of knowledge will be demonstrated by how complete your answers are.
- Why did you decide to become a teacher?
- How would you rank these in importance and why? Planning, discipline, methods, evaluation.
- If a student came to you and said, “None of the other students like me,” what would you tell him/her?
- How do you feel if a student does not meet a deadline?
- It is the first day of class, you are writing something on the board and a paper wad hits you in the back, what would you do? Later the same day, if all the students drop their pencils, what do you do?
- What type of homework do you give and why?
- How do you encourage students to learn? Can a student be forced to learn?
- Describe how you use technology in your classroom.
- If I were your principal and we were setting goals for next year, what would they be?
- What is the last book you read?
- How do you teach reading and writing in Social Studies?
- Imagine that you had given a unit test, and 60% of your students had failed. What would you do?
- How and why do you communicate with parents?
- How do you actively engage all learners in the classroom – including reluctant learners?
For more information on preparing for interviews, check out:
Congratulations if you have made it this far!
Typically, a later stage in the interview and selection process is for finalist candidates to be invited to teach a demonstration lesson to a class. Depending on the employer and the size of the school or district, 10-20 candidates will be invited for a screening interview for a Social Studies teaching position out of the hundreds who may apply. 5-10 candidates will be invited for more full interviews. Finally, 2-5 will be invited back for the demonstration lesson.
Here are a few tips to ensure your demonstration lesson is the best it can be:
- To prepare for the demonstration lesson, make sure that you are clear on the grade level/course and topic that you will be teaching. Ask whether the school expects you to bring the copies of the materials that you want students to use. If they do, make sure to ask about the class size so you have enough copies! Make sure to bring at least two copies of your lesson plan and materials – as there may be more than one person observing the demonstration lesson.
- Some districts will connect you to the classroom teacher in advance for any questions or preparation for the lesson. Take advantage of this connection by introducing yourself to the teacher and learning about his or her classroom and students.
- Remember that a demonstration lesson is the employer’s chance to see your rapport with students and your general ability to structure a learning environment within a classroom. Employers are generally looking for your “presence” among learners. This experience is designed to have you demonstrate how you connect with students and present engaging instruction when put in front of a class. It is also designed to see your level of confidence and how well you “think on your feet.”
- It is understood that you do not know the students personally, and this is not being held against you! Please do not take valuable instructional time to develop “get-to-know-you” activities designed to remember names. Name tents or name tags for students to complete will enable you to call on students by name and feel connected to them, and save time on games.
- Although it’s tempting to feel that you are a strong candidate if you do all the work and are constantly talking, schools are not looking for your ability to be a master lecturer. Nor are they looking to be dazzled by PowerPoint presentations of content and massive amounts of discussion questions. Remember that good Social Studies instruction (aligned to the new Framework!) is about structuring inquiry, helping students to ask and answer really compelling questions based on sources of evidence, and providing opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning in multiple ways. A well-placed activity, aligned to a goal or objective and easily assessed in the lesson, are the most important ingredients.
Social Studies is a very competitive field. Don’t be discouraged if you are not successful in receiving a job offer right away. There are many ways to continue working toward your very own classroom!
- Get involved in your local Social Studies council to make new professional connections.
- Volunteer to work on a Social Studies-related event. Make new friends and give back to the Social Studies community!
- Attend our 2015 Summer Institute and our 2016 Convention, both in Albany, to keep updated on professional practice.
For more information and support from NYSCSS and NYS4A, please contact the NYSCSS President at firstname.lastname@example.org or the NYS4A President at email@example.com.