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How do you know which school is the right one?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by _Flowery_, Mar 23, 2016.

  1. _Flowery_

    _Flowery_ New commenter

    Hi everyone

    I am just feeling massively stressed and confused at the moment. I have been teaching for 2 years at the same school on temporary contracts and I have made the decision that I definitely do not want to return there in September. I've had a tough time, for reasons I won't go into here, and I am actively looking for other jobs.

    I've recently applied for 3 jobs in the local area and 1 abroad ... but I feel completely sick about if it came to actually accepting one. I'm terrified of choosing a school and having the same experience that I've had this time around. The school I'm in at the moment has an excellent reputation, but is actually a pretty horrific place to work. So what I'm really asking is whether there is any way of knowing what you're getting yourself into before you commit. Or do you just have to find out? I know I could request a visit to the school for a tour, but I guess there's no way to find out about the nitty gritty, day to day side of things. Just feeling massively anxious, as I obviously definitely need to have a job come September too.
  2. englishteach101

    englishteach101 Occasional commenter

    In my experience you won't know until you've been there at least for a little while. On tours things are presented as positive, the same as on interview days really. Sorry if that wasn't what you wanted to hear!
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  3. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    You absolutely have to go for a look-see. Well, not abroad.

    How do you know? I have no idea. It isn't usually like a chocolate box - now which one shall I have? It's more like you'd kill for chocolate so you don't mind if it's only a strawberry swirl.

    If it has a bad reputation? It may well deserve it. Depends what you care about. There's difficult kids. Then there's difficult colleagues. Or both.

    Good exam results can make for a good reputation but may mean the pressure is horrendous. Go and see the ones locally.

    My favourite ended up being the one where I knew a TA and she talked them into interviewing me. But I didn't know in advance that I'd love it. Sorry. This isn't very helpful.
  4. Middlemarch

    Middlemarch Star commenter

    The short answer is that it's impossible to know for certain. We've had a fair number of threads over the years from people celebrating getting a job at their "dream school" and then later returning and saying they hate it.

    As a result, I urge people never to use the term "dream" anything.
  5. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    A job is a job.

    I'd avoid an academy or a free school.
    Landofla, tennismum and wanet like this.
  6. ValentinoRossi

    ValentinoRossi Star commenter

    As Middlemarch says, it is very difficult to know for certain. So the only advice I would give is to trust your gut instinct.
  7. bombaysapphire

    bombaysapphire Star commenter

    I agree that there isn't a lot to go on. It is a shame that staff turnover information isn't freely available. I would be wary of a school with lots of vacancies.
  8. lindenlea

    lindenlea Star commenter

    It's a job. You can cope with quite a lot if you see it as a financial transaction, even though it's taking a lot of your personal resources to fulfill your side of the deal. I could anyway.
    You can't know until you're there. If teaching is actually making you ill, perhaps you need to look at something beyond the profession but perhaps it's not time to throw in the towel yet.
    Just don't have high expectations of how lovely it's going to be. It isn't. It's a job.
    Use this current experience to help you build some mental armour. You could walk away from this job knowing it can be awful but you will have survived, just about, and you've got 2 years of expeirence under your belt. i think you would start a new job better prepared and more resilient. Good luck.
    Lara mfl 05 and grumpydogwoman like this.
  9. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    In these parts you just need to stand in the Post Office queue for 10 minutes.
    ValentinoRossi and lindenlea like this.
  10. Compassman

    Compassman Star commenter

    That one is going to become increasingly difficult!
    englishteach101 and Camokidmommy like this.
  11. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Yes, I should have said: avoid them while it's still possible so to do.
  12. wanet

    wanet Star commenter

    Going to be hard in the future.

    may have to look at what sort of academy it is.
  13. dominant_tonic

    dominant_tonic Established commenter

    I'm with Middlemarch, you never know really until you've been there a while. But turn it around a bit - if you had to spend another term in your current school, you'd survive. No other school is going to be exactly the same, so you won't be in a worse position.

    Personally, I am happier in schools with difficult catchment areas as a general rule. The school stats are never amazing, but I can relate to the children and vice versa, and I know the type of pressure I would get in an outstanding school, is not the sort I'd thrive under. I would, I think, end up kicking over the traces and telling them to do one if they asked me fill in one more bit of paperwork.

    The school I am currently in, I adore. An okay reputation, in a difficult area with approx. 40% FSM, and the rest of the baggage that comes with that. I have never been professionally more fulfilled. Most staff have been there for ten+ years, some considerably longer - always a good indicator. Looking on paper though, it may be the sort of school you would avoid. The atmosphere is brilliant, and the staff amazing. I wasn't going to even go to this school, now I have everything crossed for a permanent post :)

    Try as much as you can not to worry. Schools are not jails, you can move around you don't have to stay if it is awful. It's all experience, and it is, at the end of the day a job, not a prison sentence. Read up on the School Improvement plans, reports etc, see if staffing is mentioned, and at least go for interview if invited. If it's that bad, you have nothing to lose.
  14. inceywincey

    inceywincey Occasional commenter

    And things change. I took a specialist job which I was very excited about. 6 months later the head left mid-week & new SLT have completely different priorities. I'm doing a very different job to the one I was appointed to.
    I still enjoy teaching but am pretty disillusioned about everything else and am actively looking to move.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  15. _Flowery_

    _Flowery_ New commenter

    I appreciate these responses, thank you.

    The international school I applied to has emailed me today letting me know all about the school and a few bullet-pointed "downsides"!! They were nothing in comparison to teaching in England and it felt amazingly refreshing to have a school be so transparent.
  16. ValentinoRossi

    ValentinoRossi Star commenter

    Hmmm! Why would a school state its "downsides" openly in writing?!
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  17. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    Social media can be similar. Typing a school name into the mumsnet search bar can throw up some interesting information.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  18. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    I have known people accept jobs in schools abroad and once they were there suddenly find out there had been a mistake and they wouldn't be offered the pay rate and perks that were advertised. They take advantage of people not having money for flights home or alternative jobs and accommodation. Just be wary.
  19. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    This is the single biggest issue. The HT changes and you can go from :) to :( in a heartbeat.
    jomaimai and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  20. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    Ask a well established supply teacher who's been around a bit, if such a thing exists these days.

    If you go for interview and notice the staffroom is empty at break and lunchtime that should ring alarm bells, in my opinion. The best schools I've been in have a healthy banter going on in the staffroom - the worst have a tumbleweed next to the water boiler, studying the tumbleweed section of TES Jobs.

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