Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Open Market and getting hired

For those of you outside of New York City (and those of you thinking of a transfer for the first time), I thought I'd explain what I understand about transferring public schools within the New York City system (I'm sure I don't understand everything!).

When you want to transfer schools, the first thing I'd do is RESEARCH!!!! You don't want to end up at another school like the one you're leaving. Read about the schools from the DOE website statistics, some schools actually have their own website (I know, gasp!) that you can peruse, can give you a feel for the atmosphere, and google maps street view can show you the actual building and surroundings. If you have friends or contacts, contact them and ask questions. Make a list of potential schools you want to apply to.

The second thing you should do is register with the Open Market System (it is open now! but no vacancies are listed). I do it every year, even though each year I have decided to stay at my school in the end. Some people are afraid that their principal will find out because principals can apparently view who is registered (not sure if that is true or if they can only view who applied to their school). In each year that I registered, no one at my school asked me anything, so I think they didn't know. Using the system, you can send a resume and cover letter to the schools with vacancies that you choose.

Next, you need to visit these schools and make personal contacts. If you know someone who works at a school you'd like to apply to, get invited. Either "stop by" on your way back from an "appointment" in the neighborhood or your "lunch hour" (which we all know is code word for "I called in sick so I could drop off my resume to as many schools as possible") or arrange a formal visit. Make sure your resume and cover letter are printed on nice paper and that your cover letter is specific to each school. Some people are shy about dropping off resumes. My advice is to ASK TO SEE THE PRINCIPAL. If the secretary says "I can take it," thank him/her and ask politely if the principal might be available for just a minute, you'd really like to meet him/her. It is very important to get face time. When I was first applying to schools 5 years ago, I got calls from 4 out of the 5 principals I met face-to-face. One even interviewed me on the spot.

Hopefully you will get an interview. When they ask you, "Why are you leaving your current school?", DO NOT tell the truth.... well not entirely. Don't lie either. You do not want to speak badly about your school or your administration. Think of a nicer way to say everything emphasizing what you are looking for in a new job. Say things like, "I'm really looking for a school where I can work in collaboration with my colleagues," or "I loved teaching at my school, but I'm looking for a school with a more progressive view of education," etc. or "I'm looking for a school that uses balanced literacy." Also, don't say your looking for somewhere closer to home, it makes you sound lazy. Say something like "I've lived in the community for years, and I feel a strong committment to working with the children and families in the area." I've sat on so many hiring committees where people use that question to vent about all that is wrong with the system and it does not bode well for them.

For all of you new teachers, I understand from my very talented student teacher that the hiring freeze is still in full effect. For those of you outside of the system, the hiring freeze means that New York City will not hire new teachers (teachers not already in the system) to work in public schools. They can only apply to new schools in the system (mostly charter). New teachers can use this same advice to apply to new schools or schools outside of the system. There are many districts that need your talent and energy (Yonkers, Newark, etc.). For all you veteran teachers like myself, this year might be a great year for a transfer given the freeze. You will not be competing with more energetic, more up-to-date, and cheaper-to-pay young graduates.

Good luck to you all!!!! I really hope my advice works for me too. I'm feeling hopeful the more research I do. I'm keeping an open mind and really looking for a school that has a vision and a dedication to its population of students.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The New Plan

So.... I didn't get into the doctoral program. I found out a little over a month ago, but didn't share because I was so shocked and I didn't know how to handle it at first. Now, after taking some time to reflect and speaking with professors from different institutions, I actually think it was for the best. The program that I had applied to was very theoretical and I am very practical. In other words, it was not a match. This doesn't mean that I am going to give up entirely on the idea of furthering my studies and conducting research, it just means that I am going to take some time to think about it more and maybe apply somewhere else or maybe not. I can still do classroom research without a program.

Another unexpected reaction to the whole rejection thing was this intense feeling that I need to leave my school. I couldn't imagine continuing in this same place without the anchor of academia to keep me grounded in real research and findings in education. So much of what is being expected and demanded of teachers has NOTHING to do with actual educational findings. It's like flavor of the month X 1000 in the my school right now with no actual direction and no vision to improve our school. In fact, my school has been steadily declining since I was hired 5 years ago. There are so many things we used to do that are no longer, so many supports for teachers and students that no long exist. Communication has be totally cut off between administration and teachers that we don't even know who to go to, even for little things. Instead of talking about real issues, we are assigned tasks, constant tasks. It's as if the administration wants to keep teachers busy so we won't question the decisions that are being made and I have to say that most of my colleagues keep their heads down and ask "what do you want me to do next?" People feel grateful to just have a job. I am grateful too, but I don't want to work at a school where I feel disgusted by the way students are treated (and by that I mean by the quality of education that is being offered as a continuum across grades).

I want to work at a school with a real vision, somewhere where problems are tackled as a team, where the students needs are taken into account, where people think outside of the box. I want to work at a school where there is support for teachers, students, and parents. I want to work somewhere that actually cares about helping students succeed. I want to continue to work at a Title I school with immigrant and language minority students. It's not the population of students that I'm running from, it's a school that doesn't care (I'm not speaking about individual teachers, because my colleagues ALL care, but it's the institution as a whole and the structures that make it run that do not allow for care). I have compiled a list of prospective schools and I plan to visit them over the next couple of weeks (after school of course).