12/06/2022 by Carney Sandoe Staff |

5 Reasons to Teach and Work at an Independent School

African American male teacher sitting casually on a desk pointing with a smile to a student

The education system has been wrought with recent challenges and under intense scrutiny. The #teachertransition hashtag is sweeping social media sites as educators are leaving their classrooms for other opportunities and careers.

But, as we've experienced here at Carney Sandoe, there are still many teachers, staff members, and administrators are choosing to remain in education. For some, they are happy at their current school. Others come to us to help them find a new opportunity at a new school for a variety of reasons, such as relocation, career advancement, or simply wanting to explore a different school setting.

We specialize in helping job seekers find roles at independent schools where they're valued and where they'll thrive. Unfortunately, not many job seekers realize independent schools are an option— one with some pretty compelling benefits.

If you want to work for an institution that promotes healthier workplace culture, allows curriculum freedom, limits class sizes, and offers competitive salary and benefits, you’ve found the perfect niche.

Here are the top reasons to teach and work at an independent school.

Group of multicultural high school students taking a selfie

What is an Independent School?

Independent schools make up only about 2,000 of the total schools in the United States. They fall under the general umbrella of private schools (but not all private schools are independent schools).

Independent schools are independent in philosophy, and each is driven by a unique mission. They do not receive public funding from the government, and they operate with a board of governors or trustees that are independent (hence the name) of another organization.

There are a variety of independent school types. These include:

  • Religious affiliated schools
  • All-boys and all-girls schools
  • Charter schools
  • Boarding schools
  • Language immersion schools
  • Montessori schools
  • Waldorf schools
  • International schools
  • Learning difference schools

A group of faculty sitting at a meeting table conversing and using laptops

Top Reasons to Teach and Work at Independent Schools

1. Independent schools promote a healthier culture.

Within the educational space, independent schools have a significant “climate advantage.” These schools boast highly motivated and engaged student bodies, family-like communities, and supportive faculty and staff groups. Independent schools take great care to control the student culture and norms of behavior, thus creating an effective teaching and learning environment.

These institutions seek teachers who are passionate about teaching in their field and desire genuine and caring relationships with their students. At independent schools, there is a palpable feeling the work being done is important and valuable. Teachers are seen as respected professionals who are trusted to do what is best for their students. Administrators lead with empathy, and schools devote time, research, and resources into integrating faculty well-being and resilience into school life.

A female school leader and a younger male teacher walk down a school hallway

2. Independent schools provide professional development and growth opportunities.

Teachers are lifelong learners. If you’re constantly craving to remain updated on the latest pedagogical trends, an independent school can help support you in this venture. Here are the most common ways you’ll see professional development promoted:

  • Onsite workshops on professional development days
  • Funding for on- and off-site professional development activities
  • Summer stipends to continue independent scholarly research
  • Mentorship programs for new teachers or teachers new to a school

When it comes to professional development in the form of teaching certification, that's something you won't need to worry about. With the exception of some charter schools we partner with, for the most part independent schools do not require teachers to spend their time and money on ongoing certification.

Independent schools also have strong onsite intellectual communities, with many faculty having advanced degrees. If you’re a teacher at these schools, you can enjoy close collaboration with your colleagues within and outside your department. Teachers support one another, plan lessons and activities together, and share in each other’s successes.

African American male science teacher in a wheelchair demonstrating lab experiments to students

3. Independent schools allow curricular freedom.

Do you love the idea of designing your own curriculum, implementing it in the classroom, and altering it based on the results with your students? Independent schools provide you the freedom to do this! The curriculum at these schools isn’t subject to state requirements, which eliminates much of the bureaucracy often found in public schools. As an independent school teacher, you can be nimble and experimental in your educational approaches, curating a curriculum that suits both you and your students.

A major source of stress for both students and teachers at other schools is the importance placed on standardized testing. Independent schools are not required to evaluate their students with standardized testing. This allows for more freedom in the classroom, which attracts passionate and talented teachers who want to work somewhere that gives them more autonomy.

Additionally, independent schools can incorporate new technologies and methodologies to better serve the changing needs of their students (while still emphasizing the fundamentals of reading, writing, math, critical thinking, hands-on discovery, and more).

African American female teacher kneeling next to student sitting at desk

4. Independent schools champion small class sizes.

Are you feeling overwhelmed with large class sizes at your school? Other schools can have upwards of 30 students per classroom depending on the subject. When you switch to an independent institution, you’ll see that number drop significantly (only 15 to 20 students — maybe even fewer!).

When you work with fewer students, you’ll be able to offer individualized attention to each student. This increases the likelihood of their success as they will learn faster and have more opportunities to participate. As a teacher, you’ll also have more time to focus on teaching the material and less time trying to regain the attention of students who are easily distracted. You can reallocate this time to individual student mentoring or even reduce your own workload to decrease burnout.

Male robotics teacher explains complicated robot to three students

5. Independent schools offer competitive salaries and benefits.

There’s no sugarcoating it: teaching isn’t known for being a high paid profession. While they vary by location throughout the country, salaries at independent schools are typically competitive with public schools, if not better. Independent schools set their own budgets, and school leaders recognize the need to supplement their climate advantage with fair compensation.

Benefits are also appealing. Independent schools offer top-notch health and life insurance, generous leave and vacation policies, and family-friendly admissions and financial aid (if applicable). If you intend to work at an independent school for the foreseeable future and have school-age children, then this can be a highly attractive route.

Couple all this with things like large budgets for classroom supplies, state-of-the-art facilities, day care, and even free meals (or free housing at boarding schools!), and independent schools come out on top.

A young Asian female teacher helps three very young students paint on paper

Final Thoughts

An independent school is a life-changing experience not only for students but for the educators who shape them. When you choose to teach and work at this type of institution, you’ll gain a career that is personally, professionally, and financially rewarding.

Want to explore career opportunities in independent schools? Carney, Sandoe & Associates is here to help teachers like you find jobs in k12 independent schools across the United States — for free.

Learn more about us here or contact us today to discuss your job search.

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