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Questions New Teachers Should Ask — and Schools Should Be Able to Answer

Posted by Kate Seat on Sep 13, 2016 8:00:00 AM
Topics: administration, K-12

While orientation is an important time for new teachers, for administrators, the onboarding process can be a valuable opportunity to communicate their institution's mission and performance expectations. To that end, as an administrator, you should be prepared to answer some specific questions — or make your new employee's transition easier by volunteering the following information. 
After you read the excerpt below, find out what other questions you should be prepared to answer on Education Week Teacher

Questions Teachers Should Ask

1. What support can I expect to receive?

Schools offer new and veteran educators different types of support. Beginning teachers should receive a mentor, and new staff members who have prior teaching experience should have a “buddy.” These initial allies help new teachers navigate the building, noting resources and procedures. Relationships with a mentor develop over time, and should include regular help and feedback in areas such as classroom management and parent conferences. Curriculum maps or pacing guides for the year provide great instructional support by highlighting essential standards, suggesting potential media and texts, and supplying common assessments. Professional Learning Communities can offer some of the best ongoing support; collaborating with fellow colleagues, collecting and comparing data, and regrouping students for targeted interventions can make all teachers more effective. When you start a new job, know that asking about support doesn’t indicate weakness, but rather a desire to be successful. Furthermore, specific follow-up questions demonstrate an understanding of common practices, so don’t be afraid to ask about curriculum-planning documents or professional-learning community expectations.

2. How would you describe the school’s culture?

School culture significantly impacts teacher effectiveness and student achievement, so it’s important to understand the environment you are entering. Also, transitioning to a new workplace is easier if you know the central values of the school. Is collaboration important? If so, make an effort to meet the support staff in the building and brainstorm how you can work together to serve your students. If teachers describe “building relationships” as a key value, then ask them what icebreakers, student inventories, or community contracts they use the first week, and accept that invitation to eat lunch with other staff members. What about innovation or risk-taking? Knowing these are school values alleviates anxiety when trying out the new resource you saw on Twitter. Asking about the school culture is a strong question when you’re in an interview as well, because it helps you decide if the position would be a good fit. And once you’ve accepted a job, seek out those staff members with positive outlooks. They are more likely to offer productive solutions when you face challenges later, and together you can foster the positive qualities of your school.

3. What are the common expectations for teachers?

A staff handbook or new teacher orientation often details many expectations for teachers, especially with regard to lesson planning, dress code, grading, extracurricular duties, and so forth. However, it’s still worthwhile to ask veteran staff members for the “unspoken” expectations, or clarification of those in the handbook. For instance, maybe your detailed lesson plan doesn’t have to be in plain sight as long as your goals and agenda are clearly posted. There are probably certain steps you have to complete before referring a student to the office, such as multiple parent contacts and student conferences. Jeans might be allowed on Fridays, but not athletic pants or shorts. What are the attitudes and beliefs toward homework? Are staff members ever allowed to leave campus during planning? Spend a little time chatting with your experienced colleagues in order to better navigate your new workplace and avoid potential conflicts. Also, if you’re a beginning teacher, sit down with your administration and ask what their expectations are for your first year. More than likely, the conversation will give you a few focused, achievable goals, and a huge sense of relief.

— Cristie Watson via Education Week Teacher
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About Kate Seat

Kate Seat is a former copywriter at MBS. When away from work, she’s either creating one-of-a-kind art dolls, reading or watching way too much tv with her husband, daughter and an irritable chinchilla named Klaus.

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