Description of an Independent School
Independent is a key word, for an independent school is free to develop and carry out its own philosophy of education, free to choose those students it can serve best, and free to employ as teachers those it deems best fitted to instruct and to lead their students.
Independent Schools are private, not-for-profit elementary, middle and secondary schools, governed by a board of trustees. They are funded by tuition, endowment, private gifts, grants and annual giving. They range in size from under 100 students to several thousand students. They may begin instruction with nursery or pre-school and end in 8th or 9thgrade or continue through high school (12th grade). Some schools provide a post-graduate or PG year for students who can benefit from an additional year in high school before transitioning to college. Most NYS independent schools end in 12th grade.
Independent schools may be single-sex or coed, operating as a day, boarding or a day school with a boarding option. They are located in rural, suburban or city centers. Most independent schools in NYC are located in Manhattan with a few in each of the outer boroughs. There are also schools throughout Long Island and in Westchester County and points north. Generally speaking, they are selective schools, offering high-quality education, including a vast array of athletic offerings, visual and performing arts courses, and co-curricular leadership opportunities.
The pedagogy or instructional style of an independent school varies. Some schools may be traditional, others progressive. They may follow the specific philosophy and methodologies guided by educators like John Dewey, Rudolph Steiner, Maria Montessori or Jean Piaget, they may use a combination of these theorists or may have created their own unique teaching strategies. Browsing through a school’s website and reading their mission, curricular offerings and other links will give you some insight. Talking to parents, students, teachers and graduates and visiting the schools will also confirm their teaching and learning methodology.
In all cases, independent schools have high academic expectations of its teachers and ideally attract and admit motivated students and involved parents. Class-size tends to be small varying from a one on one independent study in the upper grades to about 24 depending on the subject, the popularity of the instructor, the frequency the course is taught and the interests of the students. Student-faculty ratios are excellent, with most teaching sections averaging 16-18 students. Academic resources are abundant with technology as a critical component in educating students in the 21st century.
Am I Qualified to Teach at an Independent School?
There are many types of independent schools and qualifications for teaching candidates vary considerably. At a minimum, most schools are looking for candidates with a bachelor’s degree, ability to teach at several levels within one subject area, ability to work with students of different capabilities, and enthusiasm for your area of concentration. Prior teaching experience is helpful but not required. State certification is usually not required. Schools also value a candidate's experience supervising children in camp, in a childcare setting, coaching sports, or tutoring.
Candidates tend to increase their desirability when they can articulate and demonstrate an interested in working with young people—in the classroom, as advisors, and in co-curricular activities and athletics. Schools are looking for people with good communication skills, who are curious and flexible, and who want to improve and grow professionally. Being offered the right job depends on being able to demonstrate to a school that your talents and interests are the right match for its philosophy and needs.
This section is taken from About Independent Schools -- An Overview by Liz Fernandez, Diversity Job Fair Administrator, New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS). NYSAIS sponsors a Diversity Job Fair each spring during the hiring season, so please visit their website at www.nysais.org to get more information about the job fair and more resources for your job search, including up-to-date job listings.