Are You An Insider? (A Reality-Check for Job Seekers in the k-12 Space)

By Robert J. Harris

May 18, 2017

“Gonna do my very best
And it ain’t no lie
If you put me to the test
If you let me try
Take a chance on me.”


Once again, it’s the annual year-end job hunting season in education. For all of the wrong reasons, in the k-12 space, insiders have a distinct competitive advantage in the job market.

 Here’s how to tell if you’re an insider:

  • The Internal – Do you already work in the school system? (The quality of your work is irrelevant. We know you, we like you, and you don’t scare us).
  • The Alumnae – Did you graduate from our high school? (You know how we do things, you were taught by our teachers, you have established relationships, and your less likely to leave. Fun fact – most teachers work within 45 miles of where they graduated from high school).
  • The Job Title – Have you held the same job title in another school district? (Again, the quality of your past performance is irrelevant. You know the work and we don’t want to take a risk on someone who hasn’t sat in the chair before – we need the right-size bottom to keep that seat warm).
  • The Mirror Image – Do you represent the same demographic as your potential colleagues? (You look like us, act like us, think like us, and once again – you don’t scare us. And yes, we do have an initiative to increase diversity, just not at our school).
  • The Political Appointee – Do you know someone important in the community or the in the school district – the mayor, a member of the local school board, or the school superintendent? (In the k-12 space, knowing someone often brings higher value than knowing something).

My advice to outsiders – look for a job in education where you meet the above criteria as an insider. Your chances of finding an open position in education will increase dramatically. If this doesn’t work for you, and if you’re fortunate enough to get called for a job interview, make every effort to act, and answer questions, like an insider. You don’t want to raise an eyebrow regarding differences in your social or intellectual pedigree.

On the off-chance you do get hired as an outsider, no worries the school culture (through mentoring and induction programs) will transform you into an insider by the time your eligible for tenure. Sadly, in the eyes of most hiring managers in the k-12 space, homogeneity reigns supreme. Why change a system that has worked so efficiently and effectively for over one-hundred years?

Robert J. Harris (@edudexterous) is founder of Edudexterity.


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