Here’s how to find a job that brings you joy.
On paper, my first teaching job sounded perfect. The school had high test scores, plenty of parent support, and was only a six-minute drive from my house.
What more could I have asked for? Plenty, it turned out.
I had made a midlife career change because I wanted to teach disadvantaged kids. But there were few to be found at my neighborhood school – only 6 percent qualified for free or reduced lunch subsidies.
I also found myself wanting more in the way of a school focus or mission. My students were delightful, but in a class of 35 there were 35 different reasons for the kids to be sitting there.
By mid-year, I realized that I needed to be at a Title 1 school. And fortunately, I found a job posting for exactly that. This year, I have a longer drive, but I am I happy to jump out of bed 30 minutes earlier to go to a situation I truly am excited about.
Even though it’s only second semester, it’s not too early to evaluate whether you are find joy where you are or whether it is time to make a change.
If you decide you need to make a change, here are some steps to take now that will prepare for the spring job-hunting season.
Do a Self-Evaluation
What do you love most about your job? What would you rather never do again, if you could?
If you chat with friends in the education field and other teachers at lunch, you will find myriad reasons why teachers show up at work every day. Some love teaching their subjects. Some love the age group that fills their classrooms. For others, the fun starts after school when they coach a sport or run an academic club.
Your likes and dislikes will give you clues to where you should teach. A coach likely will want to be at a large school where there is a big pool of athletes. Those that thrive on one-to-one relationships with kids might want to pick somewhere smaller and more focused — even a magnet or charter school.
Do you want to be close or far away from home?
I thought I would love teaching in my own community. It turns out I found it claustrophobic. I worried every time I was at the grocery store in workout clothes that would run into a student or parent. But other teachers at my school loved living a few blocks away and seeing their students at the local Starbucks.
There are no rights or wrongs here. Seek a job that will make you feel like you can relax and enjoy yourself during off hours.
Listen to the Grapevine Before You Choose a New School
Chances are if you begin job hunting you will get an offer or two from schools that interest you. We are in the middle of a teacher shortage, after all.
But don’t just rely on Great Schools or the district website for information about the school culture. Find out from teachers themselves.
When you connect to the school grapevine, ask good questions. You don’t only care about teacher dress codes, student scores, and bell schedules. Find out whether the teachers socialize during off hours, how helpful the school culture is, and — if there is a lot of turnover — what is going on that might not be obvious to outsiders.
Fitting in can make all the difference between a job you love and one that is just tolerable.