Sunday 8 November 2015

Six Things To Do Before Accepting A Teaching Job

I am writing this post because, after becoming sad and then angry reading this post entitled "How to Break a Teacher in 12 Months" (UPDATE: The blog post, which detailed someone's year in a school which forced them to leave the profession, has since been deleted.), I asked on Twitter how you can spot a school like that before you accept a job there.  One teacher has suggested there should be a survey of teachers in schools about how happy they are and that the results should be made public.  In the article, the strategy is described as a 'no-brainer' however I can see it potentially causing more trouble than good, especially if it's filled out on a bad day and, as with all cold-hard data, you really don't get to experience the stories behind the figures.

I am not in the market for a new job at the moment.  However, if I were, these would be some of the things I would do before accepting a job in a new school to ensure that I don't end up uninspired, unhappy and in a position to quit.  

1) Speak to someone who works there or a local supply teacher
You've probably heard of the theory of six degrees of separation?  It is believed that we are only six steps away from every single person on the planet.  This is especially true in the world of Education and Twitter has helped to make that world smaller.  Through Twitter and Teachmeets, I have links with many teachers and leaders in schools across the county.  Use any links to have to find out from the inside what it is like to work in the school.  My husband is a supply teacher and, from his work, he has made it very clear in which schools he would be willing to accept a class teacher job and for which leadership teams he would happily work.  He can also tell me which schools provide reasonable planning, others where teachers rarely enter the staffroom for lunch and which SLT give little support for poor behaviour.  

2) Visit the school...twice
Obviously, if you are invited for interview you will get one chance to visit the school but I would suggest you go before handing in your application form.  Teacher applications take a few hours to prepare so you need to know whether it is going to be worth your time.  Most schools offer tours so take them up on this.  

3) Look closely on the tour
Of course, look at the classroom environment and the children's faces.  You can pick up on some of the philosophies which the school holds for teaching and learning.  Keep an eye open for educational fads and fashions and ask the tour guide about the impact of these on the learning; you can see whether they are making a difference or just being done for show.  Also look closely at the teacher.  If you get the chance, have a quick chat with one or two; you can very quickly tell how they are feeling. 

4) Talk to children and parents
Again, this won't tell you a huge amount about what life is like for teachers in the school but you can gauge whether the children are happy and how behaviour is dealt with.  Children are often more honest than adults and will be happy to tell you the truth - just be prepared to hear it! 

5) Read the OfSTED report
This doesn't give you a huge amount of detail about what it's like to work there but it will give you an idea of what the school is working hard to improve.  If you accept the job, it is likely that those suggestions will take up a significant percentage of staff meeting and INSET time. 

6) Ask Questions
At the end of an interview, the panel should ask if the candidate has any questions.  This is your chance to dig below the shiny prospectus and "outstanding" banners and find out what it is like to work in the school.  Remember, teaching is a difficult job in any school however it is easier in some schools that others.  Personally, I would want to know about observation procedures, performance management reviews and professional development opportunities.  It's also important to find out a school's teaching and learning beliefs so I would ask about how classes are organised (streamed/mixed), which strategies have been introduced in the last few years that have had the biggest impact on learning and the biggest challenges which their current teachers are facing.  This sounds like a lot of questions however, as was pointed out to me on Twitter, you will want to know exactly what you are walking into, should you be offered and accept the job.  Therefore, if the school isn't willing to answer your questions or wiggles out of them with edu-jargon, then it's probably not the sort of place you want to be in the first place.  I would want to be in a place which values teachers who care about teaching, learning and wellbeing and so is willing to answer any questions. 

This is not a flawless way of choosing the perfect school in which to work however doing these six things will give you a better impression of the sort of work/life balance you will end up with and could prevent you ending up broken like the teacher in the article above.  

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