From “A Separate Peace” to “Dead Poet’s Society,” private and independent schools are about as New England as dropped Rs.
There are hundreds of private and independent schools in Massachusetts, each with a distinct character and culture — from religious to secular, single sex to coed. If you’re looking to enter the field of private education, it’s important to know that no two schools are alike.
“Every school has a distinct mission,” said David Ball, upper school principal at Milton Academy. “If you’re applying for jobs, do the research to make sure you fit in with the school community.”
The wide variety of private schools makes it hard to generalize about hiring practices and teaching experiences.
Unlike public schools, there are no basic licensing requirements to teach in private institutions. Salaries can range from $17,000 to $80,000, depending on the school and candidate’s experience. Curriculum and teaching philosophies vary from school to school.
Despite the differences, the goals for public and private school teachers are the same, said Keith Crowley, principal of St. John’s Prep in Danvers.
“We all want the same thing for our students and that’s their success,” Crowley said.
Since private schools do not require state licenses, candidates’ academic records and professional experience are more important. They put a premium on classroom and other experiences interacting with children, plus deep knowledge of subjects to be taught.
“Teaching experience is very important for independent schools,” said Devereaux McClatchey, president of Carney, Sandoe & Associates, a recruiting firm for independent schools. “They will look at rookie teachers, but they have to show some kind of experience working with kids.”
More inexperienced candidates often have better luck applying to jobs in middle schools and high schools, said Steve Clem, executive director of the Association of Independent Schools in New England, a trade group in Braintree.
Most private institutions expect candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree in either education or the subject area they wish to teach. Some private schools hire career changers with little to no experience teaching but decades of professional experience in one area.
“We’re seeing math and science teachers who were engineers or English teachers who have law degrees,” said Crowley. “Having a teacher with that kind of experience adds to the learning community.’’
Private schools tend to have smaller classes, from about 12 to 18 students. Teachers also tend to have more flexibility and autonomy in the classroom since the schools do not have to meet statewide curriculum standards for public schools nor do they have to administer the standardized Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams.
If you’re interested in teaching in a private school, the Association of Independent Schools in New England’s website maintains an up-to-date jobs board. Many schools are currently in the midst of interviewing and hiring teachers.
Most private schools expect their teachers to be deeply involved in the life and the community on campus. They tend to seek candidates who not only want to teach but are also willing to coach, counsel students, and live in dorms.
“Private schools test a teacher’s willingness to be fully involved in students,” said Clem. “Teachers can’t just teach algebra and go home at night.”