Hello and happy Saturday. I am very excited to write this post because it has been in the making for months, and I truly feel that the information I’ll be sharing with you will be useful, especially if you are starting to interview for positions as a teacher and you need an idea of what to ask.
I consider myself very lucky because I got my first job at a school a few months after graduating from university and by then I was already working at an afterschool, so I’d already had some experience with the whole interviewing thing. Let me tell you, it can be daunting and nobody really prepares you for it. Sure, my parents gave me pointers, but they’re not teachers, so there were things I would discover along the way. During the interview process at that first school, I don’t recall asking many questions, and thankfully I didn’t get any ugly surprises simply because I didn’t ask, but now I have this list with me so that I am sure all the fronts are covered. Let’s get started, shall we?
Uniform/ dress code
I cannot stress how important asking about this is. If you have a uniform, chances are you’ll have to pay it yourself, but at least in those cases, your work clothes and your everyday clothes are separate. I’ve worked at schools where you’re given a lab coat, which is cool because your clothes are protected. When asking about dress code, also ask what they think about tattoos and piercings. A workplace cannot discriminate you for having these, but they might ask you to cover the tattoos and even in some cases to remove the piercings while you’re working. Sure, you can give them a fight about this, but is it worth it? Is this the kind of place you want to be working at? You’re in an interview, you haven’t yet committed to work in this place, and by asking this simple question you might change your mind. Also, if there’s a dress code, remember that you’ll have to buy and wear clothes and that this might impact your lifestyle outside school as well.
This, of course, is a question that you must ask if you’re already pretty certain about the school, but trust me, it’ll save you a headache. Ask about the grading scale, ask about how testing works, and even what happens when a student fails. Be sure you’re at least introduced to as much as you can about grading before you’re even in the classroom so that you avoid making mistakes because you didn’t ask. I once worked at a school in which two different grading systems applied, so I would give qualitative grades to my younger students and quantitative grades to the older ones. In this sense, I’d also ask about the report cards system. Do you have to write a comment for your students for every subject? Do you have to make one general comment? Is there a template or a format the school follows? Asking these questions will help you be organized ahead of time, and not panic when the time to actually grade comes.
Subjects you’ll teach
This one sounds like a no-brainer, but trust me when I say, some teachers get to the classroom and still don’t know what they’ll teach. For example, in the school I’m currently working, the homeroom teacher is in charge of grading ICT. This means that we must create the standards upon which the students will be graded and assign a grade. We also work within the IB framework, so we must design achievements for transdisciplinary skills and give students a grade, but again, the grading system for this is different. When I tell you to ask for the subjects you’ll teach I don’t just mean actually teaching them, but to ask for the subjects you’ll be responsible for and the implications of this.
I think in the States this works differently if you’re an elementary teacher, but in Colombia not all teachers are self-contained, so not all teachers are homeroom teachers. I am both, but then again, this is still something that each school determines. Of course, it is important to ask whether you’ll be a homeroom teacher and what this entails. Usually, homeroom teachers have more work with their class: they’re asked to write general comments about their students, they spend more time with them in the mornings and at certain times of the day, and the school might even assign them other tasks. In some schools, being a homeroom teacher means you get paid a bonus, so also ask about that if applicable.
I think I’ve overwhelmed you enough, so I’ll stop here and I’ll continue with part two of this post some other time. Meanwhile, I want you to think about key questions to ask at any job interview and share them in the comments below.
Love, Miss Camila