From student teacher to teacher: making the first cut (Part I).
Preservice teachers in elementary and secondary teacher education programs for the most part are well trained and prepared to meet the needs of the students they face in today's classrooms. For many preservice teachers a more traumatic experience is the transition from student teacher to teacher. The job search is an exciting and stressful time for a beginning professional (Pelletier, 2000). Traditionally teacher preparation programs leave the "securing your first job seminar" to the career services office within the university (Senne, 2002). Because of various time and curricular constraints in the "student teaching seminar," which often meets once per week during the semester or as few as seven sessions, leaves minimal time for teacher educators to responsibly cover and support the needs of the student teachers in the employment preparation process. This article proposes five basic components that will assist preservice teachers to successfully promote themselves as they prepare for the process of transition from student teacher to teacher. The hope is to provide the student teacher with an understanding of some basic skills needed in order to secure that first teaching position. The major components to be addressed are: (1) developing a teaching philosophy or education platform, (2) the cover letter or letter of employment, (3) preparing the resume, and (4) seeking references. This article is written primarily with three audiences in mind; first with the hope of assisting elementary preservice teachers gain basic knowledge of the process of employment as they transition from student teacher to teacher; second, for elementary teacher educators' to use as a tool when facilitating the student teaching seminar in order to support their student teachers in this challenging process. Third, it can also assist any individual who is in the process of changing employment from one education position to another.
Education Philosophy/Education Platform
The education philosophy statement, also known as the teaching philosophy or education platform is the piece that is most challenging to construct and write. Once written, it is easy to adapt and change as you gain further teaching experiences, and as your values and beliefs change regarding teaching and learning. I prefer to use the term "educational platform" instead of education or teaching philosophy. The education platform should be based on your beliefs, opinions, attitudes, and values that provide a foundation for your practice as a teacher and a learner. This beliefs, opinions, attitudes, and values are called a "platform." Political parties are supposed to base their decision on a "party" platform. In the same way, educators make decisions, plan instruction and teach according to their educational platform (Cunningham & Cordeiro, 2000; Sergiovanni & Starrat 1998).
Knowing your education platform/philosophy positions, and being able to communicate them to others, is key. As you write your education platform you need to understand the relationships between teaching practices and platform elements. Creating a written education platform will help you identify different and conflicting beliefs that you may hold regarding learning and teaching. It will also help you to clarify what you believe about the aims of education (Cunningham & Cordeiro, 2000). Your education platform will be included in your professional portfolio and will permeate throughout the employment application process, from the development of your cover letter, the resume, to the interview itself, and continue into your teaching in the classroom.
Once written, your education platform provides the reader with a clear understanding of what your beliefs are regarding teaching and learning practices. The education platform addresses different elements or categories. It should be three to five pages in length and may be structured in various ways. Sergiovanni & Starrat (1998), identified ten key factors to consider within the context of a students educational program, Cordeiro (2001) adapted them to include eight. They are: (1) The purpose or aims of education, (2) The image of the learner, (3) The value of curriculum, (4) The role of the teacher, (5) The preferred kind of pedagogy (ies), (6) The preferred type of student-teacher relationships, (7) The preferred type of relationship with parents and families, and (8) The preferred type of school, and classroom climate. Cordeiro's eight categories also integrate and address the six California Standards for the Teaching Profession/Teacher Performance Expectations: (1) Making Subject Matter Comprehensible to Students, (2) Assessing Student Learning, (3) Engaging and Supporting Students in Learning, (4) Planning Instruction and Designing Learning Experiences for Students, (5) Creating and Maintaining Effective Environments for Student Learning, and (6) Developing as a Professional.
In addressing each category, ask yourself some of the suggested questions. The first category is the purpose or aims of education. This piece is your introductory statement in framing your entire philosophy. Here you want to describe two to three characteristics that you believe are the most important aims of education-not simply education in the abstract, but education for children in your state. Is the purpose of education to create a better citizenry? Is it to develop long-life learners? Students should exit your classroom or elementary school as what?
The second category is the image of the learner: CSTP #4-Planning Instruction and Designing Learning Experiences for Students. Describe how you view students. Are they empty vessels or cups that you must fill? How should students be taught? Do students have unique needs that you should take into consideration when planning instruction?
The third category is the value of curriculum-CSTP Standard #1. Making Subject Matter Comprehensible to Students, and CSTP #4- Planning Instruction and Designing Learning Experiences for Students. Describe what students should learn. Should they learn only basic skills? Are certain subjects or skills more valuable to learn than others? Should curriculum focus on subject matter content and also moral values? What are your beliefs about state standards? What knowledge should you have about children when planning instruction?
The fourth category is the role of the teacher: CSTP # 6-Developing as a Professional. Here you want to address what you believe a teacher is or can be? Are they just employees of a district, professional specialists? Are they a spokespersons for tradition? or a political engineer, a reformist? How will you develop and reflect on your professional practice?
The fifth category is the preferred kind of pedagogy(ies): CSTP #2-Assessing Student Learning, CSTP # 3-Engaging and Supporting Students in Learning and CSTP # 4-Planning Instruction and Designing Learning Experiences for Students. Describe your role as a teacher. Are you to dominate the learning experience? Do certain disciplines lend themselves to certain teaching approaches? Techniques? What role does linguistic, ethnic diverse, and special needs students play in your beliefs about teaching and learning? What about students with special needs? Are there two to three approaches to teaching that you believe are key? How will you assess your students? Will you use both authentic and traditional forms of assessment?
The sixth category is the preferred type of student-teacher relationship: CSTP # 3-Engaging and Supporting Students in Learning. Describe the kind of relationships you think teachers and students should have. Is a teacher an authority figure? A boss? A friend? How do you foster that relationship? What relationships can you foster in order to communicate instructional objectives and make learning relevant?
The seventh category is the preferred type of relationships with parents and families: CSTP # 5-Creating and Maintaining Effective Environments for Student Learning. Here you want to address your role as a teacher in working with parents and families. How will you encourage parents/family involvement? What kind of relationships do you think parents/families should have with schools? How will you involve parents and families who traditionally do not get involved?
Category eight is the preferred type of school and classroom climate: CSTP # 5-Creating and Maintaining Effective Environments for Student Learning. Here you want to describe how the tone of the entire school correlates with the classroom? What are your thoughts about classroom discipline and classroom management? What words would you use to describe the climate? Is it an open, a caring community of learners. Is it a predictable place? If you can address some of these questions and answer them based on your beliefs and educational experiences this component will make the others seem very simple.
A strategy to use in writing to the eight categories of your education platform is to list each category and brainstorm in bullet form the many things that come to mind. After brainstorming the ideas and listing three to five elements, begin to construct a written paragraph. Continue to address each category and the elements for each one. If you believe that some categories can be collapsed, go ahead and collapse them, but be careful not to overdo it. You do not want long paragraphs where the reader can loose interest or get confused with the content or message you are trying to communicate. Your final education platform should be well written and free of grammatical errors. You might consider bolding the name of each category since they will be your headings. Bolding them will bring attention to the reader so they may focus on points of interest without having to read the entire statement.
Again, the length of your education/ philosophy/platform will depend on what you feel needs to be communicated to your readers. Consider being concise, succinct, clear and sincere as you articulate your beliefs and values about learning and teaching both for students and for you as a teacher. You also want to consider utilizing key phrases from your educational platform and embed them into the cover letter/letter of employment.
The Cover letter/Letter of Employment
The cover letter, which is also known as the letter of inquiry, letter of employment or letter of intent, is one if not the most important piece of documentation that supports your candidacy for employment. It is the first impression you give the human resource director or assistant superintendent of personnel and the screening committee. Every resume you send should be accompanied by a cover letter (Pelletier, 2000). Many times the cover letter supports you from one phase of the process to the next. Ornstein (2003) reports on the findings of a survey conducted by Joseph Braun in which 271 elementary and secondary school principals reported the most important variables in reviewing teaching applications were: (1) grammar; spelling and punctuation of the cover letter, (2) experience with children, (3) reference letters from administrators, (4) organization and neatness of application materials, and (5) teaching evaluations. Double-check the cover letter for grammatical errors, composition and style. Have two to three people proof read your cover letter, possibly a cooperating teacher a university supervisor as well as a principal, if possible. Attempt to keep the cover letter to one page in length. Keep it brief and to the point, yet attempt to promote the skills you possess and what you can contribute to the school district and its students, their families and the community. An effective cover letter should include at least five sections: (1) date and address of the school district and the contact person, (2) introductory statement, (3) self-promotion, (4) professional development, and (5) closing statement.
* In section (1) Date and address of the school district and contact person: The contact person and school district can be obtained from the position announcement. It is recommended that the appropriate contact person's name and position held is current and correct. If you have doubts contact the school district office to get the most recent information.
* Section (2) Introduction Statement: the first paragraph consists of an introductory statement that should be succinct. Include a statement as to which position you are applying for. You can also list the source or the listing of the proposed vacancy. The statement should also include your current status such as student teacher, expected graduation date, type of degree and concentration or minor, type of teaching credential and your career objective.
* Section (3) Self-promotion: The second paragraph is for you to self-promote and convince the readers why you are the best candidate for the teaching position. Ask your self, why should they grant me an interview over another candidate? Then answer the question. The paragraph briefly outlines your qualifications, both personal and professional. The best tactic is to review the position announcement and its assigned duties or criteria and attempt to align the skills, experiences and your accomplishments that match the position. For example, if the position focuses on strong literacy skills, it will be important for you to highlight and discuss the skills and experiences you possess that will enhance, complement or contribute to the position. This section should be limited to one paragraph if at all possible.
* Section (4) Professional Development: The third paragraph should contain a brief statement on pertinent professional development experiences. Throughout your student teaching and your teaching credential program you possibly attended professional development days or a local educators conference. If so, this is the place to cite it. If you have also held a leadership position (student leadership, club president etc.) or have an expertise in a particular area such as organizing clubs or sports, you can also cite it here. The key factor is to take those skills and state how it has prepared you for your role as a classroom teacher.
* Section (5) Closing Statement: The last paragraph is your concluding statement. It should state what you have enclosed as part of the application packet (resume, position application, letters' of recommendation, transcripts and a portfolio or video of teaching a lesson if requested. You also want to include information as to where and when can school district personnel contact you if you advance to the next phase, possibly the interview. You do not want to state that you would like to request or set up a time for an interview, unless you are sending a letter of inquiry requesting information about a school district in response to a known vacancy. The screening committee will make that recommendation to the appropriate person based on your qualifications and the materials you have submitted.
The cover letter is a key piece of the application process for it is what creates the first impression as to who you are as a professional. The purpose is to introduce your self, arouse the readers' interest, and to convince the reader to interview you (Pelletier, 2000). You want to be brief yet do not sell yourself short. Include what is necessary to make it through the first phase of the screening process. Figure 1 demonstrates an example of a cover letter.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
The resume is a concise summary or statement of your professional abilities and experiences. It assists employers to assess the candidate's potential for success in a school system (Roe, 2002). The length of the resume varies depending on one's education and experiences. The length should be limited to no more than three pages, preferably two. There is no right or wrong format to follow in the construction of a resume. The best strategy is to review different formats and determine which fits your style of communicating your qualifications. The resume should enable and provide the readers with an easy access view of your qualifications. Many employers prefer concise bulleted information instead of paragraph-style descriptions. One also needs to remember to list experiences in reverse chronological experiences (Roe, 2002). The following are minimal elements that should be included in the resume.
1. Personal data
2. Career Objective
4. Teaching Experience
5. Related Work Experience
6. Specialized Skills or Areas of Expertise
7. Professional Organizations
If there is a category that you feel is needed but not included, feel free to add it, but do take into consideration the length of the final resume.
1. Personal Data. This information is usually located as a header at the top of the first page. It includes your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address. One thing to consider is a horizontal line below your personal data to separate the other elements to be included.
2. Career Objective. This is a brief one-sentence statement of the type of teaching position you are seeking. One may include any extracurricular objective you may wish to pursue.
3. Education. In this section, you want to list your degrees received or pending (i.e. B.A, B. S in Liberal Studies/Arts), your Minor or Concentration, the institution granting the degree, the dates of attendance, and cumulative GPA. If you have attended more than one institution list the most recent one first, followed in chronological order by the additional institutions attended. You may include any honors received over your collegiate program, i.e., Deans List, Honor Roll, Honors Society, etc..
4. Teaching Experience. This section is to include all of the experiences that relate to teaching. In chronological order list the most recent teaching experiences. List your student teaching placement/s. If you have substitute teaching experience, list the school district and frequent schools first. Other teaching experiences to consider are field practicum sites, any teacher assistant or volunteer work, and so forth.
5. Related Work Experience. If you have held other positions not related to teaching but can correlate the duties, list them in this section. Remember to list them in reverse chronological order.
6. Specialized Skills. If you possess any specialized skills or have an expertise or hobbies that can be integrated into the classroom or your teaching list them in this section (coaching, fraternity or sorority leadership, boys and girl scout leader, camp counselor, or leadership in other service organizations).
7. Professional Organizations. As you transition into the teaching profession it is wise to begin joining at least one professional organization of interest. There are many out there, local, state, and nationally affiliated (refer to resources section for names of professional organizations).
8. References. Throughout your college years you will have met many faculty, and will have been observed by student teaching supervisors, cooperating teachers, and possibly a principal. As you ponder whom to include for your references, think of those individuals who best can speak to your teaching experience as well as your character. In many instances it has been my experience that individuals choose to only state "references available upon request," or list the name of the institution where the placement file is located. I suggest listing three to five references that the potential employer can contact immediately and not wait for the placement file to be mailed by the institution. It sometimes can make a difference when a school district finds itself in an emergency situation. Include name of the reference, position held, address, telephone number and e-mail address if possible.
Again, the particular format of the resume to be followed will depend on your style and the design you feel most comfortable with. You do want to consider a few tips to keep in mind as you begin typing your resume. First, play with the font size. I recommend size twelve but a size ten will do if you have much information to convey. Second, bullets can assist in keeping statements short. Third, remain consistent throughout the resume. If you are going to bold headings do it throughout the resume. Last, make sure you proof read, edit, spell check, and even have your cooperating teacher or maybe a principal review the cover letter and resume before submitting it.
Voila! You have now completed reading the steps on how to create your professional resume. Your challenge is to now begin the process of constructing it. Good luck. Figure 2 provides a sample resume that coincides with the previous letter of employment.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
Attaining the References
The reference section is also a key piece of the resume. The letters of reference increase an employer's confidence in an applicant's ability (Roe, 2002). The individuals you choose will either "highly recommend you" or maybe just "recommend you." You want to include those individuals who can attest to your teaching competencies, your effectiveness while working with students, and your potential for success, even if it is with further training. You want to include your cooperating teacher/s for they are the ones who have observed you teaching the most, your university supervisor, and possibly your principal if he/she has observed you teach lessons. Make sure that you ask the individuals in person if you can list them as a reference. Begin the process at least three weeks prior to completing your student teaching in order to give your references plenty of time. If you have your resume ready, it is also appropriate to give them a copy so they may use it as a reference in citing your competencies. If you are opening a placement file at the career services office or at another designated placement office, you will need to decide whether it will be a "closed file" (confidential you may not read your letters of reference) or an "open" (non-confidential) where you may read your letters (Roe, 2002). Once you have made that decision, be sure that you give your references a preaddressed stamped envelope to be mailed to the placement office. Once you receive a confirmation that the letter has been submitted to your placement file send the reference letter writers a thank-you note. As you progress in your teaching profession it is a good idea to maintain an updated placement file and seek references. You may want to replace references that are five years old or more, unless the reference is one from a well known person such as a superintendent or college professor.
The Career Services Office
Most institutions have a career services office with career specialists that are there to support and assist in the construction of the resume, arrange job interviews and assist in employment placement. Some services also include the establishment of a credential or placement file. Due to budget cuts some institutions place the responsibility on the individual. The best route is to use the university website or employment websites that can also support your employment process. Many career service offices also have employment fairs on campus as well as on campus interviews. It is a good idea to keep abreast of their services the semester prior to graduating or receiving your credential. Make it a point to visit your local career placement office and have one of their counselors review your cover letter, resume and application before submitting it to a school district for your first teaching position. You may also find public agencies such as county offices of education and Teacher Recruitment Centers that will accept your resume and placement file. Other agencies may receive your information on-line and send it out at your request and make it available to interested employers with your permission.
For many student teachers the waiting period after submitting their first application for a teaching position is just as traumatic as making the transition during the last few weeks of student teaching and preparing their first professional resume and application. The role of teacher educators in supporting elementary education student teachers is crucial as students make the transition. By utilizing the career service's office as a partner both can assist the student teachers on how to successfully promote themselves as they prepare for the process of transition from student teacher to teacher, how to effectively reflect and construct their teaching philosophy or education platform, develop the cover letter/employment letter, the resume, and assist on strategies to attain the most appropriate letters of reference. The purpose is to provide the student teachers with an understanding of some basic skills needed in order to secure that first teaching position. After all, schools of education have as a mission to prepare teachers not student teachers. The schools tasks' continues into assisting that first employment breakthrough.
Cordeiro, P. (2001). Developing an education platform. Student teaching seminar. University of San Diego. San Diego, CA.
Cunnigham, W. & Cordeiro, P. (2000). Educational Administration: A problem based approach. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Ornstein, C., A. (2003). Pushing the envelope: Critical issues in education. Merril Prentice Hall. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
Pelletier, M., C. (2000). Strategies for successful student teaching: A comprehensive guide. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Roe D., Betty. (2002). The student teaching and field experiences handbook. Merrill Prentice-Hall. 5th edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey
Senne, T. (2002). Transition to teaching: Putting your best foot forward. Journal of physical education, recreation and dance. V(73) 1 pp. 45-53.
Sergiovanni, T. & Starrat, R. J. (1998). Supervision: Human perspectives. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Reyes L. Quezada, Ed. D., Associate Professor, Learning and Teaching Program, School of Education, University of San Diego.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Reyes L. Quezada, School of Education, University of San Diego, 5998 Alcala Park, San Diego, CA 92110-2492; Email: email@example.com
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|Title Annotation:||resume writing|
|Author:||Quezada, Reyes L.|
|Publication:||Journal of Instructional Psychology|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2004|
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