When Interviewing Your Potential New Principal………

http://www.linkedin.com/news?viewArticle=&articleID=974766192&gid=1359&type=member&item=84546377&articleURL=http%3A%2F%2Fonforb%2Ees%2FvYJSFd&urlhash=6oZ1&goback=%2Egde_1359_member_84546377

Dear New, Experienced and Desperate Teachers,

It is that time of year again- you find out if you get the distinct ‘honor’ of keeping your job or you are being released (the universe’s way of protecting you – in many cases) to look for an even more insane and less lucrative teaching position.  While out there, after the purely pink day of 15 March, make sure YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WANT for your next position.

The brief Forbes piece above by Stephanie Taylor Christensen APPLIES TO YOU as more and more districts and schools are being run as corporations (even non-profits are a corporation!).  Interview your principal and potential new teacher colleagues since you will be spending as much time with them as they will spend with you (and this is why they are interviewing you).  A principal on the verge of retirement, too new and looking to move up the food chain or one with the right degrees but lack of experience can make you wish chalk dust or Expo marker fumes could kill you by October.

Make sure to tour the school during the school day – in fact, show up at 7:30 AM, randomly to see how the morning gets started. If the school is dysfunctional now, after having almost 2/3 of a school year to get it together, you can and should address that during your interview.  Go and meet with teachers – find out how they would rate the principal on follow through, support, etc. Remember, even teachers without pink slips leave a crummy place……..it is like rats on a sinking ship.

Ask to meet with parents in PTA or the similar organization. Find out who is ‘on the board’ if it is a charter school – go to the corporate offices and interview the CEO as you will really find out how everyone is expected to march – or not.  Most charter schools do not want anyone with experience as they have a ‘difficult’ time retraining you (yes, think The Killing Fields) so they will take a newly minted teacher, even one who is a career changer over a teacher with experience.

If you have convictions about teaching philosophy, make sure you match up with the principal and teacher colleagues. Principals tend to offer the sun, moon and solar system, especially to math, science and special ed teachers, only for them to find out it was all a snake oil sales scam.

As scary as this sounds, it is the exact same advice one gives to anyone interviewing for any job.  The difference is teachers seem to think they don’t matter, their life is of little value and tend to have an air of desperation, most especially with pink slips. Having to teach approximately three months after you have been asked to leave is enough to ruin anyones morale.

Good luck out there. May you find your dream teaching job and inspire students to greatness.  May you have the good fortune to be in education at a point in time when things just might improve (it is difficult to imagine them getting worse).  May you have students and parents who put you on a pedestal and parents who actually ‘parent’.  Most of all, I hope you find a good balance between teaching and your own life so you can stay in the profession and see your students off to college!

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3 thoughts on “When Interviewing Your Potential New Principal………

  1. Thanks for your great posts and useful perspective! I’m finishing college and jumping into the teaching profession via the Urban Teacher Center (www.urbanteachercenter.org). What do you think about alternate certification and teacher preparation programs? How is this kind of credential valued compared to the traditional grad. school approach for new teachers?

  2. Dear utcbluedevil,
    I wish I had an ‘answer’ – unfortunately all I have are suggestions. First off, please look at who(m) is on the board of dir. at http://www.urbanteachercenter.org. When I viewed it, only two people have ‘direct’ education experience and they have obviously been out of the classroom for some time. Even though this is a not for profit organization, it is a corporation, with a board of dir. Any corporation has ‘goals’ to meet. Find out what those goals are – do they match your goals? I would listen to the NPR Marketplace interview (Kai Rhysdall??) that is listed under the news section and contact Kai-get his opinion. Have you read the section of the web called Foundational Concepts and Measurable Results? Foundational Concepts has some issues which lead me to concern – and frankly, UTC follows the Michelle Rhee school of thought. This organization clearly states it works with CHARTER MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATIONS. CMO’s have to ‘produce’ results quickly so find out what those results are. May I suggest you read and thoroughly investigate the website. It sounds like it has a very high vision – which will be on your back. The most disconcerting thing I saw on website is quote, “Studies overwhelmingly suggest that teacher quality is the single most important factor in student learning. ” and SUGGEST IS A STRONG WORD OPEN TO INTERPRETATION. The reality is the single most important factor in student learning is parents – and this can be found over and over in real research from Stanford, Harvard, Teachers College at Columbia, etc. There is enough here that I strongly urge you to review it very carefully before you sell your soul. Good luck finding the right teaching situation that will satisfy your needs to help students.

  3. Thanks for your reply! You’ve touched and expanded on a number of points that I also found interesting when exploring UTC’s website. I appreciate your thoroughness – you’ve definitely given me food for thought, both in terms of what UTC says and what I think about these issues. Thanks again!

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