We asked WeAreTeachers Helpline readers who love their schools to share the earliest signs that they’d found a good match. What makes a particular school a great place to teach? Surprise! It’s not about the kids.
When will you know you’ve found your “school home”? Cindy B. answers: “When you wake up and want to go to work. When you are there, you don’t think about being somewhere else. When you smile most of the day. You go home tired and exhausted yet you don’t feel like crying. You’ll know!”
- There Were Teachers at the Interview
When the school’s teachers are active members of the hiring committee and interview boards, prospective teachers have a chance to get a sense of their future colleagues as well as the opportunity to suss out how much freedom and professional satisfaction the school offers. WeAreTeachers member Vanessa S. writes: “I’ve been at two wonderful schools. Teachers were part of the interview panels at both schools.”
Not only should you look for teachers at the interview, also look for a somewhat relaxed or “real” attitude among your interviewers, whoever they are: Lydia L. had “a very positive interview with the principal. I had been at several where the principals (and teachers sitting in on the interviews) didn’t respond at all to my answers. It was as if they didn’t want to give away any clues as to what they thought of me. I felt like I was ‘talking shop’ with the principal, and it was an enjoyable chat. I have loved working for him, and the staff is just as wonderful!”
- Pervasive Friendliness
Teachers, staff, and administration at good schools tend to be happy. Happy people are friendly. Ergo, when you encounter smiles, good manners and warmth, chances are you are at a great school. As reader Cheri B. says, the best sign you’re at a good school is “being greeted by everyone with a smile.” Or as Carol H. puts it, there’s “a welcoming environment the minute you walk through the door.”
- Freedom to Plan and Teach
Teachers are professionals and they sure feel better (and work better) when treated as such. As K–8 Spanish teacher Amy J. says, the most important ingredient in her love for her school is “admins who trusted me to make program decisions in my classroom and didn’t micromanage my planning; admins who supported me and actually told me what I was doing well.” Lydia A. put it this way: “Administrations that give you a degree of academic freedom, listen, support you when dealing with students and are transparent about their expectations.”
- Support from Secretaries and Administrative Assistants
Teachers really need help. Many Helpline readers told us how important “helpful secretaries/administrative assistants” are to their overall satisfaction with their schools.
- Teamwork in Action
Over and over again, Helpline readers have shared that the best schools are those where there is a sense of family and teamwork. Reader Kate M. wrote that she was part of the team right from the start: “I sub at the school where I will be working in the fall. I was never treated as ‘just a sub.’ They immediately treated me as part of the team. There must be at least 30 elementary schools in my district that I could chose from, but I didn’t even think to interview with any of them. I knew early on that this is the school for me. I only hear positive things from the current teachers. They also have a high retention rate, which is a good sign!”
Carol H. says that she loves her school because it’s a place where “teachers and staff work as a team and are genuinely interested in the social, emotional, and academic well-being of the students, consistent disciplinary practices, supportive parents.”
- Supportive Parents
Teaching is so much more satisfying and effective, our readers tell us, when parents of students are “on the team” too—as in, the same team the teachers are on, not the opposing team. These are all home games.
- Shared Pedagogical Values
Reader Mandy Jo shared a great story: “Just got my first teaching job (fifth grade). In the interview of a panel of six, we were talking about goals for our students and I said, ‘You know, if my kids can leave my class able to participate in a conversation and be a better member of society, but they aren’t at ‘proficient’ level, then I consider that a job well done.’ And then I paused and said ‘oh wait, I’m supposed to say I’m data driven! I am data driven’ and everyone in the room burst out laughing and gave me high fives. I knew that was the school I needed to be a part of after that! They ended up offering me a job shortly after that during the interview. I was so excited to be a part of a team that had a sense of humor!”