I’m student teaching right now and getting ready to apply for jobs next fall. As I start to go through this process, I’m wondering what new teachers should look for in a school?
Job Interview Jitters
Dear Job Interview Jitters,
As spring quickly approaches, I know you’re not alone in this space. All kinds of teachers are contemplating similar scenarios. Whether you’re looking for a first teaching job, considering making the move to another school, or into a new kind of position, these changes come with both anticipation and some internal upheaval. After all, a piece of our identity is tied to where and how we work. Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind as you embark on this process.
You’re looking for a match. I know that in some cases, we are looking for any job we can find. And that’s an honest reality most of us find ourselves in at some point in time. However, if you are interviewing in several places or for several positions, remember this is about more than being chosen, it’s about finding a match that is as reciprocal as possible.
As you’re interviewing, look at the walls and see if student work is posted. Listen for busy, productively noisy classrooms where students are at the center of learning. Pay attention to how teachers talk about the learning and about the students; those voices will tell you a lot about the culture. When you ask questions, note if you get genuine responses or plastic ones because you’re going to want to be in a place that values progress over perfection. Wonder about support for new teachers and ask about the newest way they’re using technology.
Be pulled, not pushed. As you think about a new position, whatever it may be, look for that feeling of being pulled, drawn to the work, not pushed into it. In every position there will be features to fall into and to love. Likewise, every position eventually reveals a tough facet, the part we don’t like as much, the part that actually feels like work. So you want to be sure the pieces you love can sustain you through the ones you don’t.
Pay attention for that feeling of being drawn to the place, the people, the position. Take the time to pay attention to yourself, to truly know your strengths and weaknesses, your passions and your philosophy.
It’s more about the people than the position. I’ve learned that far more importantly than a title or position are the people you will work with. Awhile ago I stopped saying things like, “I want that job” and started asking “Are these the people I can do meaningful work with?” The truth I’ve come to understand is even if you land that dream position, if it’s in an environment that’s not a match for you, or with people who won’t let you exploit possibility, the dream won’t ever be a reality.
We need teams and autonomy, support and honesty. We need room to grow and people who will nurture us. We need to be able to ask questions and have fierce conversations. We have to be able to make mistakes and not be afraid of the repercussions. We must be able to focus on and spend as much time as possible with the most important people of all: students.
In the end, I think we have to remember that a job can have a beautiful description on a piece of paper, but it’s the work, the purposeful work with the right people, that keeps us from making careers out of putting in our time. So, as you take this next step, Job Interview Jitters, along with so many other professionals this spring who will confront these same tough questions, remember to be open to possibility. Who knows: the most joyous experience may come from the most unlikely place.