Learn the rules of the game; then play better than everyone else.

The title of this blog is a paraphrase of an Albert Einstein quote: You have to learn the rules of the game. And then, you have to play better than anyone else. This goes for the education job search, and for any professional job search. If you are in the IB/M program you are on an intensely focused track, and at times, it may feel like you and your fellow classmates are all doing the same things. You take core classes, student teach, work on an inquiry project, and take Praxis and Foundations tests. These end up being “the rules of the game” to get to your professional goal of becoming a teacher.

So if everyone in your cohort takes the same tests, student teaches, and works on an inquiry project, how do you stand out in the job search? Foremost, doing well in everything you do is important, those recommendations from your supervising teachers carry real weight, grades help, and being properly endorsed and certified is essential. Though again, all of these things speak more to the rules as opposed to playing better than everyone else.

Let’s talk about how to play better than everyone else. Student teaching and inquiry projects can be really defining experiences. This is your chance to work directly with students in the classroom as well as individually and in small groups. As you go through these experiences, make note of those things that go really well for you, and yes, the things that were challenging and you learned from.

For example, if you integrated a new technique to drive a lesson plan you delivered, talk about the specifics of that. Don’t just say on your résumé that you implemented a new approach to help students learn spelling. Be specific. Say that you developed and delivered spelling lessons using the Cast-A-Spell program to increase the engagement and achievement of the students.

Sometimes, that subtle shift, the one to giving more detail, is what gets you noticed. In the interview, or the cover letter, both spaces where you can elaborate, you might discuss how the implementation of the program went, some of the specific outcomes or learnings that came from it, and then, how you as a teacher would build on that when you are hired for the position you are applying. Having experiences in your mind ready to go, with some forethought on how these experiences helped you learn and inform your future practice as a teacher will help differentiate yourself from the crowd. In other words, preparation and practice is one of the surest ways to playing better than everyone else.

Looking for expert coaching on how to play the game better than anyone else? Stop by the Center for Career Development and ask for help!

By Michael Petro
Michael Petro Assistant Director, Internal Relations