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Rocket Launchers

Author(s): Nancy Moreno, PhD, Barbara Tharp, MS, and Judith Dresden, MS.
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Know Your Employer

Know Your Employer
To determine whether you are a good fit for a particular school, you should conduct extensive research about the school (and, if possible, the district). Learn its mission and core values, organizational structure, culture, administrative leadership, demographics, curriculum and extracurricular programs.

A school's mission and core values usually are articulated explicitly in its Mission Statement and School Philosophy. Familiarize yourself with these statements, and give serious thought to concrete examples of how you would be able to support and advance them.

While assessing organizational structure and culture, research the names and backgrounds of the school's principal, assistant principals, department heads and other key personnel. This information can prove very helpful, especially as you may be interviewed by one or more of these individuals.

It also is important to know how decisions are made. Is the school's power structure top-down (decisions are made by the highest levels in the organization) or flat (everyone is invited to contribute to the decision-making process)? Do parents and students have a voice in decisions? How much freedom do teachers have to design their own lessons plans, assignments, and tests? Is the culture open or closed? Student-centered or instructor-centered?

Learn about the student population in terms of size, demographic representation, academic performance, percentage of college-bound students, drop-out rate, and eligibility for special programs.

As you prepare for your interview, focus on the school's academic program and curriculum. What is unique or special about them? How do they address preparation for standardized testing? Are there any potential gaps that you might be able to fill? Do your strengths match the school's curriculum?

In most cases, the school's curriculum reflects the statewide curriculum. In Texas, this is the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS): This information is organized by content area and type of school (elementary, middle school, high school). The TEKS outline the skills and concepts you will be expected to teach. They stipulate the goals and measurable outcomes for assessing learning among a particular student cohort in a particular area (e.g., high school biology). Most states now have standardized assessment of student achievement. In Texas, this test is known as the Texas Assessment of Knowledge Skills (TAKS). You can download Information Booklets organized by content area and grade. If, for example, you select Science Grade 10, you will be able to view introductory material, specific objectives for teaching students science, sample TAKS test questions, and links to teaching resources. Other states may have similar information.