Job advice re: teaching English/creative writing in a private school
March 13, 2019 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Adjunct-level academic, MFA, author, and mother of small children seeks job teaching at a private high school. How hard will it be to get one, and what can I expect?

I'm interested in teaching at a private/independent school, and wondering both how best to approach the job search, and what the job itself might be like, should I be able to land it.

More about me: I *think* I have a pretty good resume for this kind of job. I have an MA in English from an Ivy League U, and I just recently earned an MFA in creative writing from another prestigious institution. In between, I've worked as a journalist, freelance writer, and copy editor, and done enough adjuncting and teaching toward my degrees that I would now call myself a seasoned teacher (I think at this point I've taught close to 20 college-level courses). I have a decent list of publications, including a book of creative nonfiction that was published by a major press.

There are also a couple possible drawbacks for a hirer, including my age (I'll be 40 this summer), my parenthood status (I have a baby and a three-year-old), and the fact that I have never taught high school before, per se, just a few high school students who've ended up in my classes for adults.

So my first question is about how to land this kind of job. I applied for a handful of college-level jobs this cycle and got no interviews. Are high school jobs easier to get? Given the above, is there anything I can do to make myself more attractive (perhaps something that can help me get direct experience with h.s. students on the side)? I am willing to move. And I don't just see high school teaching as a kind of second-best vis-a-vis teaching college. I formed more meaningful relationships with my high school teachers, overall, than my college professors—I am actively drawn to the idea of being involved in the teenage portion of my students' lives. I can even see an upside to the increased structure involved in high school teaching—more time on campus, with colleagues. I like freedom, but the life of an adjunct is a little too independent for my tastes.

Other questions concern the workload and general lifestyle of the private school teacher. My impression is that these jobs are a *lot* of work, and that teachers are often expected to embrace the job as a kind of lifestyle—coaching or leading extracurricular activities after school, possibly even living on campus, etc. Is this going to be impossible with two small kids (even ones in daycare)? Will the school day have time for lesson planning/grading, or will those be strictly evening and weekend activities? Approximately how many work hours per week are we talking? I like to teach, and I'd welcome a job that makes me feel like part of a community, but I've never taught full time before—at most, a 2/2 load as an adjunct—so I'm not sure what to expect. I'm an INFJ, and am a little scared of the energetic demands of so much classroom time. But at least I know that I do like to teach.

Sorry if this is a little disjointed. Any insight you can share on how someone like me is likely to look though the eyes of a hiring committee, or what the life itself is like, would be most helpful.
posted by toomuchkatherine to Education (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I am now a tenured professor but before I finished my PhD I was an English teacher in an academically competitive private school in NYC for a few years. The main thing is that each school has a very different culture, and it matters what city you're talking about. Some private schools do have an immersive expectation for teachers as you describe but not all do. Certainly parents of young children teach in private schools, and make it work. In a lot of ways it's very rewarding and for me really was less of a stressful job in terms of life/work balance than teaching in an R1. This was in the 1990s though so it might be obsolete, but feel free to email me.
posted by velveeta underground at 2:42 PM on March 13

I teach high school literature and absolutely love it. I'm anticipating that I may not always love it as much as I do now, mostly because of the heavy grading load. Without papers to grade, this job is pretty awesome.

Since I teach at a public school rather than private, I may not have the information you're looking for. That said, here are a few questions I'd ask: Do you have a content-area teaching license in your state? Have you spent time really thinking through your personal philosophy when it comes to education? What groups/clubs/teams are you possibly interested in working with? (This, by the way, is definitely not a thing at all schools, so if you don't have something come to mind right away, don't worry, it's definitely not a barrier to employment.) What experience do you have working with students from broad cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds? What is your perspective on classroom management? What steps would you take to assist a struggling student?

Best of luck! Please feel free to connect with me if you want to chat about high schoolers/teaching from a public school perspective.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 3:35 PM on March 13

Although the blog has gone dormant, What Now? tracks the life of a former college professor-turned-private girls' school teacher. For privacy reasons, she's necessarily non-specific about a lot of things, but you can get a good sense of teaching expectations, extracurricular involvement, etc.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:43 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]

According to a friend who teaches English in a public high school, it's a LOT of grading. Like, if the average class is 30 students, and you teach 5 classes, that's 150 papers to grade, and it's essays, not multiple-choice scan trons. A private school would likely have smaller class sizes, but still.

My friend loves their job and I suspect is very good at it. They also have small children.
posted by Violet Hour at 2:05 AM on March 14

Check your MeMail.
posted by oceano at 9:23 AM on March 15

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