Teachers: Which School is Right for You?
They say teaching is a calling. On the best days and in the most satisfying moments, the rewards are unparalleled. It is probably one of the most important jobs out there. Teachers have a significant hand in shaping the future — and not just for the students in their classrooms — but for the whole world. Because teachers' students grow into adults who become scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, public servants, world leaders, and teachers themselves, their influence is exponential.
But educating the next generation is, to put it mildly, hard work, and the experience can be drastically different depending on where teachers stake their lesson plans and gradebooks.
If you are looking to make a move or are just beginning your teaching career, it is worth putting careful thought into where you go next. With the right support in place, teachers can focus on what they do best and enjoy the many benefits of working with creative young minds. So before you decide what school to make your next home, consider the following…
When you are up for a job at a school, you may be nervous about the interview process. After all, it can be intimidating to meet a slew of new people at a new place where you are unfamiliar with the culture and processes. But it's important to keep in mind that while the school may be interviewing you, you are also interviewing the school. What kinds of questions is the interviewer asking you? Do they align with your values as a person and your philosophy as a teacher?
The culture at a school is constructed by the shared values and interactions among the people inside it. What is the school's mission and philosophy, and do those values exist only on the website, or are they lived out each day? Is the leadership team accessible? Are faculty and staff members kept in the loop about important decisions? Do grade-level or subject-focused teachers work independently or together? Do colleagues genuinely help each other out when they need a hand? Is there a focus on work-life balance and wellness? Knowing the answers to these questions can give you a good sense of the organizational culture.
Commitment to Equity and Inclusion
During an interview, a school should not only effectively communicate to the candidate the importance of its diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts but also examine how the candidate feels about these topics to ensure they hire teachers whose values align. Reflect on an interview by asking yourself how the school addressed this subject. Was it heavily explored or discussed casually (or even dismissively or not at all)? What plans, programs, and policies does the school have in place to support marginalized students and teachers?
Most schools have professional development for their teachers. But how is that time actually spent? Be sure to ask what topics have been covered in the past and what format is used. Are guest speakers brought in? Do faculty members have the chance to present to their colleagues on topics of expertise? Are there opportunities for small-group collaboration and learning? Is there a mentor program in place for new educators? Are there opportunities to attend workshops and conferences? Find out how the school will invest in you as a professional.
The ways that a school acknowledges the enormous amount of work that goes into being a teacher can speak AP-level textbooks about its true stance on faculty appreciation. Some schools give teachers candy around the holidays while others may offer elaborate lunches and gift cards. But more important than the budget behind the benefits is how the efforts are received. Do teachers and staff feel appreciated? Are employees happy to come to work each day? During the interview process or when shadowing a teacher, observe the people around you — or ask them directly — to better understand the energy of the school.
Compassion to Support Your Passion
Teachers are known to give so much of themselves … and then give some more. You will no doubt see the results of your hard work through your students' smiles and strides, but remember to make sure that while you work to meet the needs of your students and the school, your own needs are met as well. Your passion for teaching should be matched by compassion and support at the school where you work.
Looking to Make a Change?
Gilman School is a pre-k through grade 12 all-boys school in Baltimore that doesn't just say the right things; it follows through on those promises, creating a welcoming and supportive work environment that gives teachers and staff the opportunity for joyful days, inspiring experiences, and rewarding careers. Here's what some of the faculty have to say about working at Gilman.
"Gilman is a welcoming community that strikes a wonderful balance for boys between academic rigor and intellectual curiosity. Whether the boys are in the classroom, on the field, or on the stage, the faculty curate 'a love of learning' that supports excellence, strong character, and the Gilman Skills in the greater community." —Shonique Alexander, Assistant Head of School for PK-8, at Gilman since 2004
"I love that Gilman supports professional development opportunities to encourage faculty members to broaden their horizons and bring back that knowledge to their classrooms. I feel supported and encouraged to try new things in my classroom. At Gilman, I appreciate the community of students, scholars, and teachers who communicate and collaborate to explore new ideas, strive for excellence, and continually work to improve both themselves and the world around them." —Sarah Miller, Upper School Classics teacher, at Gilman since 2015
"I love teaching at Gilman because every day is different. Gilman is a place where boys can be themselves. It is a place where they can grow, they can learn, they can express themselves, and a place where they can make friends — friends that I know from my own experience will last a lifetime." —Nick Schloeder, Lower School teacher, at Gilman since 1994, Gilman graduate in 1985
"I love that Gilman is an intellectual community, both within the classroom and outside of it. My colleagues are experts in their fields, and we are all encouraged to continue to learn. This is a community actively engaged in the process of learning and improving." —Beth Knapp, Middle and Upper School English Teacher, at Gilman since 2015