Betty Luther Hillman of Phillips Exeter Academy on how to land your dream job at a top independent school.
Previously, I wrote about teaching at independent schools and the similarities and differences between teaching at the secondary school level and at the college level. If teaching at an independent school still appeals to you, here’s how to turn that interest into your dream job.
First, get some experience working with high school or middle school students. Teaching at an independent school might sound great in theory, but you won’t know if you like it until you actually try working with these age groups. Plus, these experiences will give you something helpful to put on your resume or talk about in a job interview. Some teaching venues to explore:
- Summer Programs. There are a number of summer programs for middle and high school students (CTY at Johns Hopkins, TIP at Duke, summer programs at Phillips Exeter and Phillips Andover, to name just a few) that often hire graduate students or doctorates to teach. They last a few weeks over the summer, pay a bit of money, and probably mimic the experience of independent school teaching more than any other short-term experience.
- Tutoring Programs. Tutoring at a local independent school, public school, or charter school can be another option. You might also consider starting your own private tutoring business in your area of specialty. While tutoring one-on-one isn’t quite the same as classroom teaching, it will give you some experience working with students in the target age group.
- Part-time positions. Independent schools sometimes advertise for part-time teachers or maternity leave substitutes. Applying for one of these positions would give you some experience teaching at an independent school and might also help you get your foot in the door at that particular school.
Even if you haven’t had the opportunity to work with secondary school students, don’t let that prevent you from applying to teaching positions at independent schools. There are still plenty of ways to gain experience in grad school that will help you land a job in a secondary school classroom. Focus on:
- Teaching independently. Try to get as much teaching experience as possible while in grad school, since it’s the most important experience that independent schools will be looking for on your resume. In particular, seek out opportunities to teach independently rather than as a teaching assistant.
- Teaching broadly. While secondary schools might want an expert in your speciality, most schools will also need you to teach the survey courses. Therefore, it’s helpful if you can gain teaching experience across a broad range of subject matters, even ones outside of your field.
- Mentoring. Seek out other opportunities that allow you to mentor students—even ones outside the classroom! Working as an academic advisor, as a thesis advisor, in a college writing or tutoring center, or as the advisor of a student group are all great ways to gain more experience working with students.
If you end up deciding to apply for independent school teaching positions, check out the following resources:
- The National Association of Independent Schools, which posts openings at many independent schools.
- The Association of Independent Schools of New England, which hosts a job board specific to New England schools.
- Carney Sandoe, which is a private school search firm. Applicants can register for free, and the company will refer you to job listings within their system. While it’s worthwhile to sign up with Carney Sandoe, keep in mind that the company does not guarantee you a job!
- Individual schools’ websites. Have a particular school in mind? Apply directly or contact the chairs of departments to inquire about possible openings.
Photo credit: “Phillip’s Exeter Academy” [sic] by Richard, via Flickr Creative Commons, used under CC BY 2.0.