Best ways to root out the red flags in a teaching job interview and a school tour? I'm finally ready to get back to the classroom but don't want to end up at another toxic place where admin doesn't look out for the teachers at all. I know to avoid places where janitorial stuff is being ignored or other health and safety issues, but this is only my second interview (worked for 10 years at my old school, left during covid). TIA!

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I’ve been teaching since the Dawn of time, but my niece is a new teacher. She has shared some things from her interviews that have sent red flags to me. Things like them asking: would she be comfortable doing homebound instruction after a full day of work? What kind of after school activities would she be willing to coach or supervise? How would she feel about doing class coverage once a day? Would she be comfortable with a large class size? These kind of questions tell me they are really short staffed and plan to work her to death and guilt her into serving after school somehow. Unbelievably, she did a sample lesson for a district where the interview staff posed as students and gave her a hard time with talking and throwing things. Red flag big time!

I told her and I’ll tell you… a big teacher shortage is coming in the next two years. You can afford to be picky about where you want to teach. The biggest clue about how a school functions, IMO, is the strength of the Principal. If he/she seem week, you know you won’t have their support if something happens with a parent. It also makes the school environment, as a whole, chaotic and usually unprofessional. Just my two cents.

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This is such great advice thank you! I'll definitely be keeping this stuff in mind.

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Ask hypothetical questions:
If a student were to do x, how would you support me? If two teachers are not getting along, how do you settle disputes? What is the discipline procedures for x behaviors?

And ask questions relevant to your own concerns:
What is the atmosphere like during faculty meetings? Can I speak with the department head (or another teacher that would be on my grade level)? How much input will I have with my curriculum? Will I need to work in pace with other teachers of my grade/subject? How do your teachers maintain a positive work/life balance? How do you determine student placement for teachers? Under what circumstances do you allow students to switch classes?

But always ask questions; you are interviewing them, too.

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Ask for a tour of the school and notice how others greet or interact with the principal along the way!

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Some schools don't allow this, but if you can go to the teachers lounge and talk to people. Be straightforward about your concerns and hear what they have to say. Ideally away from admin, but even with them there you should be able to pick up the vibe or morale of the other teachers.

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Observe the cafeteria during lunch, and a passing period. That will tell you the truth; talk to people, but trust what you see more.

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That’s a good tip . I learned the hard way. While touring a potential work place years ago, I found that had put the custodian in the closet for my visit. I’m not sure what the deal was with the guy. I figured that was odd and not a place for me. I wonder if bad students had temporarily been locked up too during my visit. I’ll never know.

Ask a hypothetical how the admin feels about taking off Friday’s on a regular basis. Of course asking for a friend.

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My first school job stopped less than 5 minutes into the interview process and said "Let's be honest, we really need somebody. If you want the job, it's yours." Turns out that job had chronic problems with... EVERYTHING. It was a pretty rough start to a teaching career. I was ready to tear up my teaching license and choose a new career path. When I moved to Virginia, I interviewed with a district for a librarian position. They offered me an English position -- a core class with an SOL. I pointed out that I wasn't certified and they said, "that's fine." That desperation gave me too many vibes of the previous district. I politely declined. (I.E. Ran like hell to find another job). With teacher shortages, districts are getting desperate, but too much desperation is a red flag for me. When they are way too willing to compromise on student safety or instruction, that's a no-go for me.

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