Choosing a place to work is as much a fit for you as it is a fit for the school and system. It is important to think about what matters most to you. As a high school principal I often discovered that a candidate for a teaching position knew very little about the school or system that he was applying to work in. Something as simple as reading the page of a website that shared a letter from the principal of the school to the community could tell you volumes. It is important to do your research. Get to know the demographics, study the school improvement plan, read the comments from parents and students that are posted on Facebook or other social media. Think in terms of “is this a place I would like to work?” Take a minute or two to stop and take out a piece of paper and number 1-5 on the left hand side of the page like the example below…
I have included my answers. What would you write?
What is most important to me in my new or next school?
- Principal who will let me and will encourage me to be creative.
- A school that is focused on students.
- A school that is focused on personal growth and learning.
- Opportunities to participate in decision-making.
- A school environment where I am surrounded by colleagues not individuals who have lost their way.
Take a few minutes to create your list.
After you create your list think about what you would look for to determine if the schools that you are looking into have these attributes.In the case of my statements, (Remember that these are my thoughts about my responses.)
- “Principal who will let me and will encourage me to be creative.” (Add some key elements or points.)
- Read letters to the community. What does he say?
- What is the community saying? Look on social media.
- Is there evidence that the principal takes pride in the school? He is seen at events? Does he participate?
- Look at the school improvement plan (typically posted on the school and/or system website). What is the direction that the school is driven towards?
- “A school that is focused on students.”
- I am going to look for evidence that students are celebrated.
- Is there evidence that kids attend the school? Or is the environment missing any elements of kids?
- Is there evidence that students have a voice?
- What are the students saying on-line?
- “A school that is focused on personal growth and learning.”
- When you look at the school improvement plan is there a comment or two about providing release time for professional development.
- Are there book reading discussion groups?
- Is there evidence that the teacher cadre can submit their ideas for what training they need more exposure to?
- Are there instructional coaches?
- “Opportunities to participate in decision-making.”
- Look at the website and find a calendar. Does it have school wide leadership meetings listed with minutes posted somewhere? These will help you figure out this.
- Also, are there reports of committees working on instructional direction, teacher retention, developing community support or other such activities that show that teachers are participating in determining the direction of the school.
- Read teacher and administrator blogs and websites. Typically, teachers or administrators will mention committees and team activities that will give you some insight into staff participation in decision-making.
- “A school environment where I am surrounded by colleagues not individuals who have lost their way.”
- One of the best ways to get a feel for this is to actually attend a school function, visit the school, and attend a meeting of the faculty. How do they behave? Is there faculty there? Are they visible? Are there small pockets everywhere?
- A lunch visit is very telling just like going to a sporting event...do you see faculty? Do you have to really seek them out? Are there very few of the faculty?
- Hangout on the school or local social media. Are there teachers complaining about other staff?
- What does the school improvement plan say about working together? If anything?
- Do teachers mention faculty parties, faculty team building exercises, celebrating birthdays, births, new staff, retiring staff, and holiday get togethers or is there no evidence of these types of interactions?
Determining what you want is important. Take the time to write your ideas down. Create a written list so that you make yourself decide what you value or want. Your ideas will become more real to you and more important. Actually, these questions and thoughts will become what you ask questions about not just as you do your research but also when you get interviews. We'll save that for another time.
Till next time.