While moving cities multiple times in the past few years, I have had the opportunity to interview with a wide range of schools. Through these interviews and working in various schools, I have realized that the interview is where you get to sell yourself to this new school, but more important, it is where you get to decide if the school is where you want to be.
4 Ways to Ensure a Perfect Fit
1. Decide on your nonnegotiables. Before you even start applying to schools, decide what are the two or three things that are nonnegotiables for you. These might include things like the following:
- A focus on antiracist instructional practices
- Co-taught special education classrooms
- Weekly observations and feedback
- Consistent professional development
- Premade curriculum
- Autonomy in lesson design
- Behavior-management systems that align with your style
- A specific salary or particular benefits
- Opportunities for upward mobility
Whatever these things are for you, make sure the school can provide them, and make sure to specifically ask about them during your interview. You don’t want to take a position at a school and realize a few weeks in that there is actually no path for you to move into leadership in the future or that the staff is actually unconcerned with culturally relevant pedagogy and doesn’t want you bringing your new ideas in.
2. Don’t assume. When you are talking to the recruiter or other school leaders, it is critical that you explicitly communicate what you are looking for to see if it matches what’s going on at the school. You can’t assume that you all have the same vision of whatever it is you are discussing. In my experience, I have ended up in a “co-teaching” role that involved almost no actual co-teaching. During my interview, I asked what the model of special education used at the school was, and I was told that it was co-teaching. I assumed that the school leaders and I were envisioning the same thing, that was not the case.
This is also an important idea when talking about curriculum. If you are looking for a school where you will be provided with a curriculum or specific textbook to employ for lessons, be sure to ask for specific details about what you are going to be given and what you will be expected to independently create. The same applies for those teachers looking for full autonomy in what they present to their classes each day.
3. Ask for the proof. This idea really stems from not assuming anything. Many schools will tell you how much they emphasize relationship building in the classroom or community involvement with the school. However, these same schools cannot always back up those claims. During interviews, I often find myself asking, “What does that actually look like at the school?” or “What policies are in place to ensure that?” and have been, in some cases, disappointed by the lack of concrete answers or, in other cases, really excited about the things I hear.
A few areas that I think are particularly important to ask for concrete details about are relationship building, culturally relevant pedagogy, and community involvement. For example, a school can tell you how much it values those relationships, but if the school cannot specifically explain the policies that support such relationship building—time for nonacademic-related activities, social and emotional learning activities, opportunities for students to meet with teachers throughout the day, restorative justice practices—it may not truly be a focus of the school leadership team. The same applies to culturally relevant pedagogy, as a school should be able to describe the process it uses to ensure that all curricular materials are meeting both academic standards and culturally relevant ones.
4. And...? This idea is all about getting the whole picture of what your job responsibilities will include when talking to the school. You might be applying for a position as an eighth-grade science teacher, but what you may not immediately realize is that you are also going to be responsible for teaching one section of an honors course requiring a different curriculum. Maybe this is no big deal and something you are excited for, but it isn’t something you want to find out two weeks before your students arrive.
The same goes for even smaller responsibilities and time commitments. Maybe the school requires all teachers to attend a certain number of school events on weekends or in the evenings, or requires you to travel for professional development sessions during the year, or expects you to use your own funds to supply resources for various classroom activities.
Teacher burnout is an extremely pervasive problem and one that often stems from teachers’ being asked to do so much outside of their regular classroom responsibilities. By proactively finding out how you will be spending your time, ideally you can make adjustments to your schedule that still allow you to be your most successful and well-cared-for self.