How do you know if a school is right for you? Sometimes it’s unclear, and other times there are red flags all over the place. But occasionally, you have a magical interview where it’s obvious from the beginning this is a school where you want to work.
What did teachers say was the #1 “green flag” that tipped them off they’d found their place? Here’s the answer we heard over and over again:
You’re allowed—even encouraged—to ask current staff for their opinions.
“When I asked the panel the best part of working at the school, and they went one by one gushing about various things. They all had great responses. I work there now!” —Dana L.
“It’s a big green flag if the principal lets you talk to their teachers about working there; even bigger if they let you chat behind closed doors!” —Mara P.
“Trust me: You’ll know from their body language whether they’re putting on an act. In one panel interview, I asked the teachers their favorite part of that school—crickets. I didn’t take the job and found out the principal was assigned later that year!” —Katie W.
This green flag shows a principal’s trust and transparency. It also just makes sense! The best people to speak on the culture and leadership of the school are the people in it.
Teachers also shared plenty of other helpful signs that you’ve found a good fit.
The principal knew the names of the kids.
“The principal knew the names of the kids and had genuine normal conversations with them about something other than discipline or lessons as we walked around.” —Maggie T.
They didn’t mind that I brought my son to the interview.
“Because we were fairly new to the area, I couldn’t find a sitter for my 5-year-old and took him with me to the school. … The principal asked the chairman of my would-be department to sit with my son while he and I talked, and I learned later that she walked into his office immediately after we left and ‘ordered’ him to hire me. She’d spent 30 minutes talking with my child, and she explained to the principal, ‘Anyone who has such a polite, intelligent, well-spoken 5-year-old can teach anybody anything.’ I spent the rest of my career in that school and loved almost every minute of it. And my son still claims he got the job for me!” —Nanci N.
They made it clear I’d have support.
“When I asked what support system I would have, being the only special education teacher, I was told, ‘us, we are one team. You are never alone. We may not have the answer, but we can be the voice to get you the support you need from someone with the answer.'” —Krystyna G.
The principal didn’t mind being corrected.
“Based on my address, the principal made some incorrect assumptions about me and my life. I nicely corrected him. His reaction told me I could trust him as a good principal.” —Sarah P.
They stated their trust in teachers.
“I was told in an interview, for the first time in my 25 years teaching, ‘We don’t make our teachers turn in lesson plans. We trust our teachers for the professionals they are. You know what you’re doing.’ I knew that this was where I wanted to be.” —Ric D.
They let me shadow for a day.
“A week after my interview, I got to shadow for the day (and freely visit different classrooms that might be relevant to me). In shadowing, I got a feel for the school climate and culture and got to ask teachers what they did and didn’t like and ask for actual opinions on the leadership.” —Erica W.
They researched me as much as I’d researched them.
“First, they began the interview by saying they were so excited when they read the extra-skills section of my resume, because they also loved ballroom dance, and invited me to join their next outing! Then, they asked me questions based on what they’d viewed on the teaching portfolio website I’d created and linked to in my cover letter. It was clear they’d taken a lot of time to look over the website and get to know my teaching style, which was very flattering.” —Chelsea P.
They were willing to accommodate my chronic illness.
“The principals were more than willing to accommodate my schedule, and when I mentioned that I was chronically ill, they didn’t even flinch.” —Kenzi K.
They were OK with breaking the rules.
“They said: ‘Let’s go rogue.’ Best professional years of my life working with massively talented innovators.” —Jennifer G.
They made it clear they valued teachers’ time—by paying them for it.
“At the end of the interview, I made a joke to the teachers on the panel about how I hoped they were getting paid to stay late for interviews on a Friday afternoon before a three-day weekend. They all laughed, including the principal, who said she was not only paying them hourly but taking them to dinner right after the last interview.” —Lincoln P.
The principal also taught a class.
“The principal also taught a class, had other staff also interview me, and explicitly said that the other staff had a lot of say in hiring because they would have to work with whoever was chosen.” —Joy R.
They said I wouldn’t be micromanaged.
“When I asked where we sign in and out, ‘We don’t hire people we have to micromanage. If you need to leave, handle your business. It’s not an issue as long as you’re here for your classes.’ I wasn’t held hostage all day.” —Laura W.
Their biggest selling point wasn’t the football team.
“A green flag for me is when you ask the interview committee what they are most proud of at their school, and the answers aren’t all athletics.” —Alan G.
They respected my identity.
“When I mentioned I was transgender, all I got was an ‘Oh, yes, sorry. I’ll use Mister next time if that is correct.’ No big to-do, nothing that made me feel unwelcome, or that it was something to be paid attention to. It was simply a mistake and a fact they now needed to learn.” —Logan W.
They weren’t afraid to laugh.
“Laughter several times during the interview, lots of eye contact, nodding affirmatively when describing my philosophy.” —Donna C.
Have an interview coming up? Don’t be afraid to ask to talk to teachers about what they love. And if you’re there after hours or when teachers aren’t around, ask for contact info!