New teachers, this one is for you. Nationwide, there are more openings than there are teacher candidates, so you are in demand. As you begin your career, these are some key steps you can take to build a pathway to success.
Before the Interview
Research the school before you schedule an interview. Make sure it is a distance from your home that you are willing to travel each day. Find the school’s mission and vision. Look through the school’s website and find information on its academic performance, core beliefs, and climate and culture. Know what is important to you in a work environment and see if the website provides any information on what you desire in a school. If you’re unsure of what is important, here are some items to seek as you choose your future school.
Look for a Pleasant Environment
I have walked through the front doors of around 100 schools in my career. I have toured schools in Las Vegas, Miami, Salt Lake City, the Dominican Republic, and Harlem. I have seen schools that were built to be schools and schools that were originally strip malls or churches. Pay attention to the feeling you get when you walk through the front doors of the school and stand in the office. Is it a welcoming environment? Are you greeted warmly? Do people seem genuinely happy? Your intuition and gut feelings tell you a lot about a school, so pay attention to what you’re perceiving from the moment you walk through those doors. If you are nervous, don’t worry. You’ll remember how you felt when you think about it later. Whether you are interviewing for a secondary or elementary position does not matter. A secondary school may be bustling and businesslike and still be a pleasant environment. Happiness shouldn’t stop as the students grow in age.
Since you have researched a little bit about the school, you will know the names of the curriculum and some of the programs used at the school. If you are unfamiliar with them, admit it. Share the experience you have with programs that may be similar or explain what you have used in the past. The interviewers may be looking for a willingness to follow a curriculum rather than in-depth knowledge of their curriculum. Be prepared to discuss what a typical reading and or/ math lesson may look like and what you do for classroom management. Parent involvement and communication will be important as well. If you are straight out of college, share what your mentor teacher used during your student teaching and if you would continue using that or if you would like to do something different.
QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK
Is there an onboarding or mentorship program at the school?
Teaching is not an easy job. You will need a trusted mentor or team leader in your grade level for ideas and advice. If the leadership has support in place, they will easily be able to describe it.
Can you tell me about the climate and culture of the school?
If the school has a positive climate, you will likely feel it in the front office and see signs of it on people’s faces before the interview even starts. Beyond that, the leaders should be able to describe steps they take to support positivity and happiness for both students and teachers. Do they mention collaboration, staff and student recognition, activities at school, schoolwide expectations, community involvement, or anything they do to make their team feel special and appreciated? If time permits, a tour of the school will give additional insight into the climate and culture. Are students and teachers engaged in their work? Do people in the hallways seem guarded or are they friendly and smiling? Can you observe a lesson in the grade level you are applying to teach? You will spend a great deal of your time at school, and it needs to be a place you can feel comfortable and happy.
What are the expectations for parent involvement?
Parents are your partners in education, and they can be a tremendous help. Some schools encourage teachers to have a weekly sign-up that is filled with multiple volunteers while others can hardly get a parent into the building. Either way, you will want to know. This is also a clue to the climate of the school.
Are there schoolwide behavioral expectations and support for students who are struggling with behaviors?
The answer to this should be, “Yes,” with a clear explanation.
What does the evaluation process look like?
This will give a glimpse into how you’ll be evaluated, which determines continued employment. There should be a clear explanation of the process and the supports in place throughout the process.
Good leaders appreciate when you have questions for them during the interview. It shows initiative and a genuine interest in making sure you're a fit for their school. Enjoy this process! You will never forget your first teaching job and all those moments leading to it.