The task of finding and applying for teaching positions can be an incredibly tricky road to navigate. Identifying a future workplace that shares similar visions and values can represent a challenge in itself but, in today’s climate, the role that well-being plays, and how a school supports the pastoral needs of its staff, should also represent a hugely important pull for teachers with aspirations of building successful careers that go hand in hand with work-life balance and positive mental health.
Today, many schools use core values, or buzzwords, to underpin their ideologies. Although they may be easy to generate, they don’t always represent the day-to-day reality or the feelings of the staff and pupils involved in making the place tick. It’s genuinely important to scratch below the surface, ask questions and get a feel for the ‘real’ ethos. With that in mind, here are five key factors to consider as you start your search:
1) Does it feel right?
There are often heaps of interesting perspectives and information about schools online and on social media. Teaching Vacancies - a free service provided by the UK government - could be a great place to start as it consolidates lots of information, directly from the school. However, the best way to get a feel for your potential new workplace is by getting in touch and paying them a visit. Most schools are more than happy to have you along and to show you around. This gives them the opportunity to meet the candidates and ask some poignant questions prior to the interview process. Most importantly, you’ll no doubt have the chance to see what’s going on in the classrooms, speak with some of the staff, and to see if the vibe is right.
2) Does the school share your values?
What are you most passionate about and which subjects hold the greatest personal importance? If art or music are areas that you excel in the teaching of, it’s almost certainly a good idea to gauge whether the school also places value in their role in the curriculum. Of course, if it’s not currently the case that they do, this could work as a major selling point in your application process.
3) Will the school support my career development
If you aspire to move toward leadership, it’s incredibly important that you are surrounded by a group of senior teachers who will actively support and encourage you to excel at every opportunity. It’s also vital that you are in receipt of regular and relevant training and opportunities to continue your own learning. Discussing what has been put in place, or offered, over the past school year should give you a good insight into the school’s vision. Take the opportunity to talk about any areas or aspects of learning that you would like to learn more about too. This will go a long way toward highlighting your commitment to the role and enthusiasm for personal development.
4) What are the expectations?
Each and every school comes with its own set of demands and non-negotiables. Many of these form a part of the average working day; however, it’s always advisable to ask for a little insight into what a day in the life of a teacher, at the particular place you are applying to, looks like.
You may consider discussing: What time you will be expected to be on-site in the morning and until what time you will be expected to stay? What are the school’s marking and feedback policies? Is producing written planning a requirement and to what extent? Are extra-curricular activities offered outside of regular school hours? And, how often and when do staff meetings take place?
5) The daily commute
Before beginning the application process, it’s a good idea to figure out the length of the daily commute and how long you’ll be travelling for. It might be tempting to widen your horizons for a stand-out school, but don’t forget to factor in what time you’ll need to get up and get out, and if traffic will see you stumbling in far later than first expected.
As an important afterthought, whilst searching for that somewhere special, it's easy to forget the personal value that you will be bringing to the role. You’ve arrived where you are down to your own hard work and perseverance. Never be afraid to ask for clarification about anything that stands out as being incredibly important to you, too.
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