How do you know if the school where you are teaching is the right one for you? How can you tell before you even take a job there? What are some of the key characteristics of effective schools? Here are 10 ways to know if your school is effective.
1. Attitude of the Office Staff
This might seem an odd first choice. However, the first thing that greets you when you enter a school is the office staff. Their actions set the tone for the rest of the school. If the front office is inviting for teachers, parents, and students, then the school leadership values customer service. However, if the office staff is unhappy and rude, you must question whether the school as a whole including its Principal has the correct attitude towards customer service and teamwork. Be wary of schools where the staff is just not approachable. You as a teacher will probably find that if the staff has a pervasive unhelpful attitude they will not provide you with the support you need throughout the year.
2. Attitude of the Principal
Just as with the office staff, you will probably have the ability to meet with the Principal of your school before you actually begin working there. His or her attitude is extremely important for you and the school as a whole. An effective Principal should be open, encouraging, and innovative. They should be student-centered in their decisions. They should also empower teachers while providing with the necessary support and training to grow each year. Principals who are never present, who have horrible customer service, or who are not open to innovation will be difficult to work for and will probably result in many disgruntled employees.
3. Mix of New and Veteran Teachers
New teachers come into a school fired up to teach and innovate. Many of them truly believe that they can make a difference. At the same time, they often have a lot to learn about classroom management and the inner workings of the school system. On the other hand, veteran teachers provide years of experience and understanding of how to effectively manage their classrooms and get things done in the school. At the same time, they are also sometimes stuck in their way of teaching a subject and might be wary of innovation. Only through a mix of the new and old can both learn and grow. This brings me to my next item...
4. Student-Centered Attitude With Core ValuesTo be truly effective, a Principal must create a system of core values which the entire staff shares. To do this, the Principal must involve the teachers and staff each step of the way. A common theme to each of the core values must be a student-centered view of education. When a decision is made in the school, the first thought should always be "What's best for the students?" When everyone shares this belief infighting will lessen and the school can focus on the business of teaching. If a conflict occurs between staff members, then they should first meet and together decide what is best for the students. With this focus there is no doubt that the final decision will be more effective and much easier to accept by all parties.
5. Mentoring Program
Most school districts provide new teachers with a mentor during their first year. Some have very formal mentoring programs and others are more relaxed. However, each school should provide new teachers with an internal mentor. This should happen whether the teacher is fresh out of college or coming from another school district. Effective schools have strong core values that each teacher knows. Only by pairing a new teacher with a mentor who truly believes these core values will the school's mission be fulfilled. On a more practical side, a mentor can help a new teacher learn the ropes. They will introduce them to key office staff and help them navigate the bureaucracy involved with items such as field trips and purchasing classroom items.