Perhaps you’re a teacher on a mission to find the Best School Ever—a place where you feel connected, committed, and valued for your contributions to student achievement and the overall health and wellness of the institution. How do you find the best district, or better, the best school?
It’s a trick question.
I often have people tell me that they can’t wait to take me to the “best restaurant in town” when I come to visit. When I quickly remind them that I’m vegetarian, they frequently shift gears and think of a different option.
We all have unique identities, desires, experiences, and skills, which means the best school for you as a teacher might be a totally different answer than for the person beside you. So the better question for those who want to teach in Arizona is …
What’s the Best Arizona School District to Teach In … for Me?
To determine the answer to this critical question, the best person to answer this is… you! You might be wondering, Why is this so important? Isn’t wanting to be a teacher enough?
Yes and no. There are a lot of reasons for teacher shortages, and a lot of reasons for why 17% of teachers leave the profession in the first five years. However, many experts and researchers agree: if you are in a profession and an environment that is not just the right general career (teacher) but the right fit for your specific circumstances, you will be more likely to stay and more likely to be enthusiastic about the lasting change you’ll make on students and that school.
Finding the right fit is a critical element to work-life satisfaction and quality of life all around, and the OneTeacher team can help you find just that.
What Are My Options?
While creating your own answer to this guiding question, begin by thinking through a few major questions. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a great place to start!
- Type of school: Which type of school feels like the best fit for you?
- Public schools are funded by local, state, and federal government usually admit all students who live within the borders of their district and are required to abide by government curriculum expectations.
- Private schools are funded privately, often including tuition, and they may have any process of admitting students and have control over all parts of curriculum.
- Charter schools are funded publicly (through government, private donors, or for-profit companies) and are privately managed; they may have a specific focus like arts integration or STEM.
- Hybrid districts allow more specific fusions of the options above, such as Denver’s innovation schools.
- Montessori, Waldorf, and other schools follow a specific educational philosophy.
- Grade level: What age group does your personality work best with?
- Early learning: Depending on the district, this usually means pre-k through anywhere from kindergarten to third grade.
- Elementary: Typically kindergarten through 5th or kindergarten through 8th grade.
- Middle school: Typically 6th through 8th grade
- High school: Typically 9th through 12th grade
- Mixed-grade: Special Education teachers, as well as some teachers of “elective” classes like art and foreign language might work in multiple grade levels, or even multiple schools, within one district.
- Alternative high school: Often students 20 years old and younger who are working on credit recovery, getting a GED, or seeking a change in environment from a traditional school model
- Adult education: Most frequently night school, many districts offer classes for adults in English (sometimes as a new language), GED, or other remedial opportunities. Some teachers exclusively teach adult education, while others teach these classes in addition to other grades in the day.
- Or something outside these parameters: ever heard of a micro-school? Or thought about what it’s like to teach in a juvenile facility?
- Content: Is “literacy” enough for you, or do you know you crave teaching a journalism class to high school students of color? Do you want to teach general 4th grade math, or AP Calculus? Do you dream of teaching theater tech at a performing arts high school?
- School structure and support: What type of involvement do you want your administrative staff to have in your classroom? Some school administrators make a point to be in your room providing written or verbal feedback weekly; some school administrators may come into your room only once for your annual review. Some schools have multiple deans and coaches according to grade level and content; some schools leave a lot of leadership to teachers. What would be best for you?
- School focus or theme: Do you have a particular passion or expertise? Many high schools, especially some magnet or charter schools, have special focuses like performing and visual arts, International Baccalaureate, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math).
- Curricular Power: Is it important to you that you design what students learn and when, or to have a trusted curriculum with lots of included support? Some school districts have strict, calendared objectives already provided for you, while others ask you to design what you think is best. Which sits best with you?
- School Social Identity Demographics: What student and community population do you most want to serve? You may be an educator of color who deeply wants to impact a community that you are already a part of. (For example you are Ecuadorian and want to teach in a school with a high Ecuadorian population.) You may have gone to private school and want to teach in a private, Catholic school because you know how to code-switch between the specific expectations and jargon of Catholic schools and want to create a more social justice focused orientation from the inside. You also may be a first generation college student who has a strong desire to influence more students to pursue college.
- Personal Experience: How similar or different do you want your teaching career to be from your own educational experience as a student? Some teachers find it powerful to teach in schools similar to the ones in which they grew up. Some teachers grow up middle or upper class and want to work in a community different than that in which they were raised. Both of these are valid and important reasons to choose a school. If you lean toward wanting to enter a community different from your own, take the time to examine your motivations and the community you wish to join. Having a “savior complex” can be problematic and actually counterproductive to helping students achieve. If you’re considering working in a community different from your own, check out this great advice about being “swift to hear; slow to speak,” and if you’re a white educator working across lines of racial difference, doing some reflection and reading can go a long way in having successful working relationships with the members of your new community.
The Bottom Line
There is no right or wrong answer overall, only a right or not-so-right fit for you.
Let the expert matchmakers at OneTeacher help you find your perfect fit! Contact us today to get started!
What are you doing now to find the best fit for you? How is it going? If you’re already at your “perfect fit” school, how did you decide which school it was? Let us know in the comments!
It can be difficult and time-consuming to find a great school to teach in—Arizona being no exception. OneTeacher is dedicated to matching qualified teachers with Title I schools with vacancies to create the perfect fit for both schools and educators. Call us at (602) 730-0949 to learn more or get started by applying online.