Finding the Best School as a New Teacher
If you’re a teacher in training, I bet you’re already thinking about your first teaching job. Where will I teach? How much money will I make? Will my students like me? Though all valid questions, I want to discuss one that may not have crossed your mind: How do I know if a school is a good fit?
In this article, we’ll explore how to determine if potential schools are a good fit.
Why Is a Good Fit So Important?
Many factors play a role in the statistic that one out five teachers leaves the profession within their first five years. Within this group, however, are many ex-teachers whose first schools did not support their professional growth and neglected significant problems such as discipline and class size. Novice teachers do not have the necessary tools to face these challenges. Also, without seniority, they cannot apply for a transfer within their district. With only two choices, endure or leave, many choose to leave. If you’re passionate about teaching, I don’t want this to happen to you. Now, let’s get you into a school that you will help you become the best teacher you can be.
Research is the first step of any job hunt. Assuming you want to stay in the area where you earned your degree, start by making a list of all potential schools within a 25-mile radius. For example, if you have a credential to teach at the high school level, make a list of all local public high schools. Why not private schools? Private schools often only hire teachers with three-plus years’ experience.
After making your list, visit each school’s website. Here are some things to look for as you examine a school website:
- Mentions of awards
- Extra-curricular activities
- Innovative academic or mentoring programs
There are other factors to match up against your preferences. For example, if you want to teach at the high school level, you want to pay attention to the number of honors/AP/IB courses a school offers. Though new teachers don’t usually teach these courses, they represent opportunities for you to grow into as you gain experience.
After researching school websites, it is likely that you can eliminate some schools from your list. With a shorter list, here are some ways you can really get to know potential schools:
- Search the news for stories that mention your remaining schools. Take note of any overtly positive or negative stories. (One red flag to look out for is the administration changing more than once in the last three years. Regular turnover indicates a struggling school. To put it simply, it is not a place for a new, inexperienced teacher like you)
- See what parents are saying online. Sites like Great Schoolscan give you a clear impression of what parents think about the quality of their children’s education. (As you read review sites, keep in mind that dissatisfied parents are more likely to complain that satisfied parents are to praise. Take every comment with a grain of salt)
The interview is the school’s opportunity to get to know you as a potential teacher. Before and during the interview, there are a few things you can do to further determine if the school would be a good fit.
- Before the interview, review interviewing best practices to understand if a principal knows to how attract the best talent. This research will also help you anticipate what questions a principal may ask.
- During the interview, you should have time to ask your own questions. One question you have to ask is, “Are new teachers assigned to lead extra-curricular activities?” If the answer is anything other than “no,” I would ask you to reconsider the school. New teachers have enough on their plates. If the administration expects you to do more, it is a big red flag.
- After the interview, ask if it would be possible to have someone give you a tour of the school. A tour will not only allow you to see the school’s facilities, but may reveal aspects of student behavior and teacher's’ demeanor. Also, it will give you a chance to talk to the person giving the tour in informal setting. With their guard down, you may discover things about the school you would never have learned from a website or email.
You may think that a job offer is the end of the story. A principal offers you a job and you take it. But a job offer can tell you a lot about your future boss. Here are some more red flagsto look out for:
- You receive a job offer over email rather than a phone call. Emails show a lack of enthusiasm and respect.
- Your job offer comes months after you interviewed, indicating that the person initially hired either left or was fired. By not hiring you initially, the principal made it clear that he or she did not believe you were a suitable choice. Unless you can’t avoid it, politely decline the offer. You don’t want that kind of complicated relationship to exist at your first teaching job, especially if teaching is your first career.
In summary, you want your first school to be a place where you can grow as a teacher. So do your research, ask questions, and don’t ignore your gut, especially if it’s sending out warning signals.
And good luck!
As a high school English and social studies teacher, Thomas Broderick developed a test prep course that helped his students earn over $500,000 in college scholarships. Now a freelance writer and consultant in the education field, he is happy to share his wisdom with students and teachers. You can contact Thomas through his website