Saturday, 6 January 2018

Crowdsourced Advice: How To Find The Perfect School For You

Crowdsourced Advice: How To Find The Perfect School For You
When you looked round your school how did you know it was the one for you? 
What were the tell-tale signs that it was going to be a good place to work?

Those are the questions that I asked a whole host of teachers who love their current place of work. I wanted to find out from people how it felt looking round a school, and being interviewed there, which they subsequently went on to enjoy working at. In their answers there are resounding echoes and although I’ve roughly categorised them there is plenty of crossover in what they say.

So, here’s what to look for when you visit a school you’re thinking of applying to for a job:

A Warm Welcome

"A warm welcome from the staff and happy content-looking students." - @resayer

"As I walked through the doors, the office staff were laughing and joking then I got a really warm welcome. In my interview lesson, the TA offered me a brew first and couldn't do enough to help me then the kids just seemed lovely. Lots of smiles of encouragement from interviewers - overall just making the place seem as welcoming as possible. A 'we want you to do well' attitude rather than trying to catch me out, which is then exactly how it has turned out - a very supportive school." - @fandabbydoz

Just a Feeling

"It was the 'feeling' of the culture. It was how people talked about students and each other. Obviously supportive and genuinely caring." - @terryfish

"It was a feeling more than anything else. The way in which staff (both teaching and non-teaching) spoke with each other as well as how they interacted with the students. You can have the shiniest of buildings and equipment but if you don't have the basic positive human relationships as the main ethos of a school then it's not worth it!" - @SamlouJ

"It was a bit like buying a new house. It just felt right. Very much a family feel." - @diankenny

"It was the feel when I went to visit. It was welcoming and the staff were incredibly friendly. The head was off but it seemed calm and everything was running smoothly. I had a tour by a TA and it just felt very natural. Spent about twenty minutes over a break time chatting in the staff room! It was relaxed yet purposeful." - @kathrynmc77

First Impressions Count

"The first person I met was Amy, in the office. She was so friendly, acted like she was truly happy to help. Almost made me feel like we already knew each other. She's got a real skill and welcomes people to our school with such warmth." - @EmmaValerio82

"When I walked into the foyer there was an explosion of children's creative artwork everywhere, books listing the children's certificates of the week for every class, and an outside environment that celebrated childhood and showed how important play was in both key stages. It is a place where I can still enjoy my childhood as an adult. I'm allowed to. Now in my 7th year!" - @natsbailey1

The Headteacher

"The headteacher gave me her vision; it was clear and simple. I felt I knew what she wanted from teachers. Students were calmer than my previous place." - @Mr_Davies_Eng

"The principal was visible in the school which was a HUGE selling point - he visited classes daily, greeted families in the morning and afternoon and obviously had a lot of respect for and from the staff." - @kaz_phi

"I instantly clicked with the headteacher and I could see massive potential in the double RI school I was looking round. I could see that my experience of working in a school that had been in a similar place would be helpful. All the signs were pointing in the right direction. Best move I ever made." - @jessmann11

"For me it was my conversation with the Head. I'd had a really tough time in my previous school and he was very kind and understanding about it. It was also really apparent that we had very similar values, so I knew I could work for him." - @DaisyMay29

"Primarily it was the headteacher - she was definitely someone I knew I could work with. Hard to quantify, but there was definitely a good vibe and a happy ethos and the other staff seemed friendly. Also, it is in the town where I live, so was going to cut a horrid commute!" - @rcoultart

"I was convinced I didn't want to work there before - I wanted a 2 form entry school but when I visited, the head sold it to me. (Flora Barton). She was so enthusiastic, was clearly so passionate about her school, and the children responded to her really well. Our conversation was entirely based on teaching and learning. I remember going back to my previous school and telling my colleague how blown away I was by her, and that's when he told me he used to work with her too, and confirmed that she was great to work for." - @mrsbarlowteach

Behaviour Matters

"It was the students: positive and calm even at lunch. The older students, I noticed, also mingled well with the younger students." - @TJohns85

"450 children were sat in the school hall while the assistant head led assembly. There were no other adults in the room and year six were NOT mucking around! Then the orchestra played as part of the assembly and I was blown away. Also, the fact that it was a six form entry school and teachers shared planning. It was clear that there was an ethos of respect and sharing which would also ease workload." - @LCRteach

Happy, Friendly Staff

"Staff were smiling (always a good sign!), calm atmosphere (but purposeful - people were 'about' but always on their way to or from something and able to explain what and why), and HT was open and honest about positive and negatives of the school. Just a good 'vibe' for want of a better phrase." - @LCWatson01

"It had a sense of calm, instead of intensity. The staff looked healthy not bedraggled." - @natalee_paice

"Every single communication with every single person was polite and kind and good-humoured: not just between me and the Head, PA, Receptionist, HOD and kids giving me tour, but also between staff. For example, in staffroom when I was waiting for different parts of the interview - watching the relationships between staff as they came in and out of staffroom was really positive. Humour was evident throughout - not mocking, satirical humour but just people having fun with each other and ideas. Short answer: the school felt like it was about people and relationships and high aspirations... and it is." - @teacherwithbike

"Existing staff were friendly and welcoming. I've now been here 9 years and can honestly say that even though we have had lots of changes the staff are still as friendly and welcoming as they were then." - @magpie221

The People

"The way I knew I it was the right sort of school for me was more about the people. When I met who was to become my new HOD I could tell that we would get on and that she would give me space to teach the way I wanted. The two students who took me around the college on my first day were open and honest about the school, both its good points and things that weren't so good, for example the fact they have Saturday school but get longer holidays." - @HecticTeacher

"It was all about the staff for me. So positive and all team players. I'd actually seen them all on a night out at the local pub and said to my mate I'd like to work there. Then a job came up." - @MrHeadComputing

Great Atmosphere and Good Vibes

"For me, it was how open everyone was when I first met them. When I looked around, I was welcomed into classes with the head and children we super enthusiastic. There was a positive atmosphere from the first phone call and just good vibes. However, I did know what I was looking for. I wanted a school who were looking to improve and I wanted somewhere which had a strong link and attitude towards well-being and growth mindset. How lessons were taught were also very important to me; I didn't want too many restrictions and some ownership- which was clear I would be allowed. But the winning point was just how open and happy people looked." - @DanMorris90

"Well I was lucky and looked round on World Book Day when everyone was dressed up so it was good vibes anyway. But it was just little things like, on my interview day I was waiting in the staffroom and everyone would come in, speak to me, force me to eat the cake on the table! Everyone was laughing and getting along so well." - @MrTWC

"I'd left a very toxic environment in another school so I was very wary when I visited my new school. Atmosphere was very important. I've been teaching a long time and my antenna is finely tuned! Atmosphere was very positive. Staff are friendly and a good laugh. Head is open, direct and honest. I looked at their twitter feed too and was impressed with their work with parents too."- @weeannieg

"It was the atmosphere - it felt nice going around. The acting head showed me around and was very honest (it's a tough area and attainment is always an issue) but about the positives as well as the challenges - and my experience has proved that she was telling the truth. As I looked around I could see parts of the school practice or ethos that I identified with and felt comfortable with as well as aspects that were new or challenging but that I was excited by. Staff that we met were friendly and welcoming. I heard them laughing together as we walked around and it sounded a happy place to work (it was the Monday of SATs week as well so quite a stressful time!). I do believe first impressions are very powerful in affecting your decisions." - @KatyVaux

"The feel of the place did it for me. The physical building is shocking but the atmosphere was friendly, inviting and purposeful. The headteacher at the time, the staff and governors all made me feel welcome (both during my pre-visit and the interview day itself.) The conversations were around the children and the aspirations for them." - @bethben92

Reputation Precedes

"It probably started before I looked round as I knew of a couple of people who worked there so was able to find out through them what the head was like and how the school was developing (the head was very new and there were things that needed to be changed)." - @rach_b84

"Firstly I already knew the school by reputation and that they had a very low staff turnover - schools I'd worked in in the past had staff who were desperate to leave and that was reflected in their incredibly high turnover which I never think is a good sign!" - @helen25c

The Children

"Loved the ethos of the school, the children were very proud of their school. Really liked the head - he was old school and a true gentleman!" - @klsacker

"I started as a supply teacher so it just grew on me. One thing that struck me was that there were never any tearful or reluctant children being peeled off of parents. When I asked the children if they'd had a good summer holiday, they said they looked forward to coming back to school more." - @JMPNeale

"The impressions I got from both the head and the HoD were very positive (both left within seven months of my arrival!) and the pupils were honest in the Pupil Panel section which was endearing. I've been at interviews where I have withdrawn because things didn't feel right." - @dooranran

"I went round on a Friday afternoon and the students looked happy and engaged. The school was calm but had a bit of a buzz about it. 6th formers showed me around, I could go where I wanted but they were really proud of their school." - @mrsdenyer

"I had already seen the girls at the train station- very confident and lively girls that I knew I would mesh well with in the classroom. Super welcoming environment and the head teacher popped in to see me to say hi because she was off on a trip and couldn't interview me. Just a really relaxed environment which I knew I wanted." - @MrsHaggerNQT

"The first sign was that the older children were the people showing me around without an adult, their responses to questions and the way they spoke about the school and the staff. True honesty and a clear love for the school and those that worked with them." - @APLByrne

Fair Interview

"A very endearing aspect of the interview was that they gave us questions 15 mins before and encouraged us to bring notes in stating they didn't want to catch us out. Despite the challenges I've faced since joining I am really enjoying the freedom the school offers. We are getting a new Head soon too and I think with a few easy changes the school could be one of the best in Wales." - @davowillz

"At interview we were given the questions before the formal part to prepare answers to show our best. Never had it happen before (or since)." - @littlemrsj

Best Fit

"Many reasons: potential that matched my skill set and previous experience; ethos and culture - albeit untapped to some degree; students - I recognised them; Chair of Governors - felt I could work with him well. It felt like 'me' but also like I could really help lift it to what it could be - very exciting!" - @BarlowCaroline

"Just got a feel for the place, good vibe from the head, her philosophy seemed to align with mine. You've got to be on the same page as the head though I think, because they set the climate." - @MrClarkeY6

"Meeting the head, hearing her vision, realising I could help and recognising that she valued what I could do in the classroom. I had been through a horrible time before and she listened." - @BespokePeter

"The feeling I got from faculty, SLT and students was that my kind of approach would be welcomed and valued - a good fit. The school had academic aspirations but were secure enough in their school status that they would let me get there with my own approaches. Gut feeling was that this would be a good fit and turned out that I was right, even better actually." - @MrDeach27

"It felt calm and welcoming, staff and children I saw were smiling. As I went into interview, it felt relaxed like they knew what they were doing, questions were what I would have asked and showed we were a good fit." - @geordiecat2012

Strong Testimony

"The headteacher introduced me to other staff who pretty much all said that they were either proud to work at the school or that it was a great place to work." - @KateHalfpenny1

"I knew someone that worked there so they could give me an honest view of the school and that made a big difference!" - @LAShaw66

"I had a feel of community and support within the staff. Everyone had something positive to say (and you could tell it wasn't faked) I was encouraged to visit and watch classes." - @MissNP_

"One of my friends from my previous school was working in the department, and I was still in regular contact with her, so she gave me an honest appraisal of what the school was like. It was also an instinct thing if I'm honest. I liked the ethos, the students and the way it felt teaching my lesson (to a mixed ability tricky class) so I felt like I'd had a true picture of what it would be like." - @SusanSEnglish

"When I drove past on the way home from other places the car park wasn’t full very early/late. I didn't look round it during the day but the HOD met me after school and they were really friendly. People speak highly if it as a place to work and a middle leader there recommended the school to me. During my interview lots of what SLT were saying clicked with my ethos." - @JenJayneWilson

1 comment:

  1. Two things. 1. Mature trees in the courtyard. The beauty and peace of the setting.
    2. The interview. I was interviewed by the principal, dean, and music teacher. They were the loveliest, funniest, kindest, most articulate people ever, and the rest of the staff were just like them. I didn't feel put on the spot, I felt they were trying to get to know me.
    I called my husband from the parking lot after the interview and told him, "If they offer me the job, I'm taking it. I worked there eight years; the first five were wonderful, and then the climate changed. The seventh year the principal was involuntarily transferred, and I resigned effective the end of the eighth year.
    It's been three years since I left, and 65% of the staff is new since I resigned. They have another new principal. People used to stay at that school for 25 years. So sad.

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