Very few surprises here even though it contradicts common wisdom

Although the job hunt in teaching can be arduous and cause one to become cynical, the research released today by Yellowbrix and commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation helps to explain some of why the job search  is arduous and why cynicism is too often the emotional result teachers are left with from the search.  Of the problems ailing education in America, one of them is the continuous nature of downtrodden teachers who are fearful of speaking with their feet by moving to another school, while in corporate America, people leave jobs regularly. 

Often the job hunt is arduous as most school districts have no genuine idea what they need for teaching staff until the dust settles and the dust never seems to settle until June/July and by then every one is on holiday (if they can afford it) or administrators are not in the mood to interview or there is no way for a teacher to perform a model lesson (yes, it benefits the teacher to know if this is a group of students (s)he desires to work with as much as it benefits the staff and students).  Staffing a school is dependent on actual warm student bodies and this can/does change regularly.

 Teachers forget THEY SHOULD BE INTERVIEWING THE SCHOOL. What is the principal like? Is the principal supportive or are they a snake oil salesperson during the interview?  Does the staff communicate with this person called the principal or is their office a scary zone? When you ask teachers about the principal, what do they say (or not say, which is also an answer)? Does the principal have a spine or are they are widget of the superintendent?  What do you know of the school board – how many of them were ‘political’ appointees with strange agendas all their own?  What do you know of the staff turnover at the school – do they have turn over and why or why not? An important question is, “Why is this position open?” since there can be a variety of reasons.  Do you see parents volunteering at school – why or why not? Parent involvement is an absolute necessity for a well functioning school. If you don’t see it, be scared because there is something wrong with that school.  What is the school lunch program?

Things such as racial and economic profiles of the school can be found on the website. Test scores must be shown. What does not need to be shown but should be  is whether the teachers and administrative staff reflect the racial composition of the school or the economic profile (not that everyone needs to be poor, but let’s face it, kind of difficult to get a person from Wall St. into the ghetto and get their groove on).

When teachers take a job out of desperation, the job can break their soul and that of so many students. Teachers do have brains – they are often fearful of asking too many questions or having expectations as this could ‘cost’ them the job. The other side of this is the job teachers do is far too important for teachers not to have high expectations of the principal and school board, etc.  Based on the high profile items on the list of ‘fixes’ from a teachers perspective, this may be the start of the revolution, if only we can get districts and charter schools to be responsive.