Aside from Nethui and EdCampTT the other thing I’ve been doing with my holidays is visiting schools that I had an interest in teaching for in 2012.
Although each school had a different organisational culture and leadership style the common theme I’ve had from talking to the principals and teachers I’ve met along the way is that your first teaching job really shapes you as a teacher. These interactions really got me thinking about the purpose of operation job search.
Before I embarked on this process, I must confess that I was more interested in finding a position for the age group I wanted to teach ideally located in a place I wanted to live and hope that there was a vacancy for 2012 that I could wrangle my way into. Now I’m thinking more about the organisational values and culture of the school and hoping there’s a vacancy for 2012 that I can wrangle my way into. An important change I think.
What kind of school would I like to work at?
- Collaborative – As a beginning teacher I’ve got a lot to learn about teaching and am going to make mistakes and ask questions. My ideal school would have a culture where mistakes are a learning opportunity and the relationships are there to ask questions of other members of staff. I would also like to work in an environment where I can make a contribution to learning even though I’ll still have my PRT training wheels on. I want to be part of a community of learners.
- High expectations and high trust – Most students on my course worked up to 5-10 days of full control bit by bit over the 7 weeks we were on teaching experience. In contrast my associate decided that after doing bit by bit for the first 4 weeks, I would have 3 weeks of full control and plan a unit putting my own spin on the programme. At the time I wasn’t feeling at all confident and spent the holidays before I started teaching freaking out. What got me through the freak out were the parting words my associate teacher gave me before the holidays, “I trust you.” Having a person who I respected put their trust in me made me want to do my best and was a far better motivator than fear (bad grades) or even a reward (good grades). A few months on I recognize that my associate had given me a massive learning opportunity which I am immensely grateful for. This is also something I need to do as a teacher for my students as well.
- A culture of happiness – Perhaps this is Pollyannaish way of me saying I want to work in a school with high morale. But I like the idea that happiness is valued in the workplace. Not the ‘you will be happy OR ELSE’ but I want to be amongst people who love their work and have a strong sense of purpose as to why they are there. Teaching is hard work at times but there should also be joy.
- Connected – If I were to sum up my teaching philosophy in a soundbyte, it would be that great Stephen Johnson quote, ‘Chance favours the connected mind.’ Working an ICT savvy school, or a school that wants to be ICT savvy, is something that I value because I’m all about using tech as a tool to help future students make connections to support their learning. Obviously reflective blogging is an important part of my practice and something ideally I would want to continue as a beginning teacher.
Despite making some inroads into the goals I set myself finding teaching job still has me quaking in my boots. There’s a certain vulnerability about putting yourself out in a job market where there are so many people who are super-fabulous not mention better qualified, I’m going to hear ‘no thank you.’
I’m trying to keep in mind that when schools say no it might be for a reason that has nothing to do with me as a person or even as a teacher. It just means I’m not right fit for a particular school which in the long run will probably be a good thing. I should (touch wood) find a place that is a best fit for my current talents and skill set as well as a place I can learn and grow. I may very well be singing the ‘have diploma, will teach’ tune if I find myself unemployed post-hiring season.
For any student teachers out there I would encourage you to visit schools you are interested in well before an interview perhaps even before vacancies are advertised. It’s a good way to find out about what makes a school tick without the pressure of being under the microscope of an interview panel. In reality you are still being interviewed (so you do need to be professional) but I’ve found the process useful in thinking a bit more about what school would be a good fit for me and the kind of teacher I want to be.
While this holiday hasn’t been a traditional holiday of me watching a lot of bad TV or travelling to offbeat places, I’m feeling energised and excited about getting through the next half of the year so I can start teaching in 2012. Undoubtedly there will be some bumps along the way but it is good to start the semester on a high.
What do you think are the key features of a good school culture for beginning teachers?
How do you identify a school with a good culture for beginning teachers?