So many schools, how do I choose???
When we first graduate from our teacher preparation programs, we are bright-eyed and bushy tailed! We’re ready to take on the world! We’re also ready to work! Sometimes, we graduate, and we’ve had our eye on our dream building, sometimes, we don’t care which building we do it in, we just want to make sure we are helping students reach their potential.
Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. There is a lot more to selecting the right school for you than good intentions! The question is, how do I choose the school that is the best fit for me??? I’m going to give you a few things to consider and/or revamp before you complete that 40-hour application (you know the ones), send in that resume, or accept that offer.
#1: Philosophy of Education. This is not just an assignment they give you in your education program. Really, what is your philosophy of education? This requires a great deal of self-reflection. You have to think about your life and educational experiences and how that molds your view of education. This reflection will help guide you when you craft your philosophy of education. Before you land your dream position, you have to have a clear idea of what drives you to be an educator or in education. How do you know where you want to work, if you don’t know why you’re working in the first place.
#2: Mission and vision. I always default to this, but that’s because a mission and vision is like the heart. It pumps the blood that keeps the school alive, without a solid mission and vision, you’ll find yourself in the midst of chaos. Yes, be sure to do your research and familiarize your self with your potential employer’s mission and vision, but when they ask if you have any questions, ask them to discuss the school’s mission and vision with you. Ask them to discuss how that mission and vision plays out in day-to-day activities in the building.
#3: Teacher Support. Okay, okay, I’m an instructional coach, so this is ALWAYS on my mind, but this can determine whether or not you sink or swim in a building. How are teachers supported with things like curriculum development and implementation and classroom management? Do new teachers get mentors? No matter if you are new to teaching or a veteran, being in a new building always has an adjustment period. You need to know if there are support systems in place to ease this transition.
#4: School Policies. You have to know the school policies. For example, you may find that a school has a strict zero-tolerance policy, but you may believe in the solely using restorative justice practices. A school may focus on constructivist learning methods, while you want to focus solely on addressing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Check the school’s student handbook and inquire about policies during the interview.
#5: Resources. Schools come in many varieties. Some schools do not have textbooks, while others have an over-abundance of them. Some schools have set curriculum maps, while some schools only require you hit on state standards at some point in the year. Some schools have over flowing paper supplies and allow teachers to make their own copies, while some schools require that you go through the office clerk to make a limited number of copies.
At the end of the day, selecting a school is just as intimidating as being selected. Don’t accept a position simply because you need it, think it through. Figure out your views and beliefs about education, and find a school that aligns to that. You don't want to find yourself hopping from school, to school because you do believe in the work that is being done there. Remember, they are not only interviewing you, you are interviewing them too.