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5 Things to Consider When Looking for Your First Teaching Job

Teacher with students outside school building

When searching for your first teaching job opportunity, figuring out which schools would be the right fit is tough. How do you know what will work for you when it feels like there are so many factors to consider? I've narrowed it down to five main areas that you should focus on when vetting potential schools.

Teaching Style

Think about your teaching style and what the ideal accommodations for your first teaching job would be. Are you more progressive or traditional as a teacher? Do you like to stand up front and lecture the entire time (I hope not!) or do you prefer having your students work in small groups? Do you want the desks to be in lines or in clusters? Consider what your ideal classroom would be like before you visit a school so you can quickly assess if it would fit your style. Not every school will meld perfectly with your vision, but the school you work at should have an environment that supports the values you want to emulate in your classroom.

The Principal

You don't have to be best friends with your school's principal, but being able to respect them is an absolute necessity. They are the captain of the ship you're potentially going to board, so the way they conduct themselves and manage the school is important to consider. When you visit the school, take notice of how they interact with their staff. I find that it helps to ask them the following questions:

  • How do you inspire your staff and students?
  • What do you look for in a teacher?
  • How do you support both new and veteran teachers?
  • What is special about this school and why should I want to work here?
  • What do you do to involve parents in the school?

Their answers should paint the picture of a person you're excited to work with. After all, you want to work under a principal who will help you grow as a teacher, especially if this is your first teaching job.

Other Administrators

After you evaluate your new potential boss during your interview, there are a few other ways to evaluate the rest of the administration. First of all, trust your gut. Do you get a good feeling from the school leadership team? Do their goals fall in line with your goals as an educator? You can also ask to speak to a few teachers about their experiences as employees at the school. What are the pros and cons to working there? (Every school has at least one "con," so you might want to ask a few more questions if you only hear "pros.") If they could change one thing about the school what would it be? If this doesn't provide enough information, ask to speak to a parent who is involved at the school to hear their perspective.

The Overall Vibe

Pay attention to your first impression. What is the general ambiance in the school? Is there a hum of activity or is it quiet? Do staff members and students seem happy as you pass them in the hall? Considering that you'll be spending the bulk of your year in this building, you want to feel comfortable. Go with your gut feeling and make sure the school has a vibe that you wouldn't mind being part of every day.

Parent Participation

Determine how parent involvement is handled at the school. Some schools have very little input from parents because the majority of them are holding down multiple jobs, and other schools have plenty of parents who practically live there and are very involved. Find out if parents are allowed to roam the school as they please or if they need special permission to be on campus. And do they regularly volunteer in classrooms? This information will give you an idea of how much support (or lack thereof) you can expect from families and whether it will be easy to work with parents to better support their children.

It's possible that these qualities aren't as important to you as they are to me. If so, you can still use them to brainstorm your own list of deal breakers. Think about what's an absolute necessity and what you could live without. If you can't do a site visit, ask as many questions as you can during the interview process. Let them sell you on their school—after all, you're the commodity that they're hoping to acquire. If they can't sell you, continue searching. Don't be afraid to look for something else if a school turns out to be a poor match. The more you interview, the clearer your choice will become. And don't get discouraged; there's a good fit out there for you! Good luck!